Martin C1K Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

5 Aug 2023

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

It took a few years on Got A Ukulele, but today completes something of a trio. This is the Martin C1K Concert Ukulele.

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele

Martin are a brand synonymous with the ukulele with original models going back to the early part of the last century. When I got into the ukulele world they released a few instruments that were made (shock horror) in Mexico not USA and this seemed enough to enrage the ukulele police and trad Martin fans. Naturally I like a counterpoint and took a look at one very early on in the form of the Martin T1K Tenor Ukulele. I really liked it and regret selling it to this day. Later on I looked at the Martin S1 soprano and liked that one too. I didn't consider either of them to be 'total killer' instruments, but I certainly didn't understand the bad press that some Martin fans gave them as they were still extremely decent, very well made and sounded great. To this day (well until today) I had never even seen this Concert in the flesh, so I bought it!


Unlike the S1 which is made from mahogany this is more of a sister ukulele to the T1K as like that one this is made from all solid Hawaiian koa. Some of the detractors of the T1K pointed out that the koa is quite plain and pale, and I agreed on that front. This one is a bit more more interesting, but it's hardly AAA grade koa and still quite simple. In fact would many people know it's koa? That said - they do vary quite a lot and it's hardly awful to look at, particularly the back! In certain lights i'm seeing a touch of flame in the top too.  Shape wise this is a very traditional double bout Martin shape... naturally....

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele body

The bridge material has changed on these over the years This is a very traditional slot bridge made from sipo wood. It seems when the CITES furore happened regarding rosewood Martin, like many brands moved to alternatives, but they didn't move back when things were relaxed. It's very tidy though and fitted with a compensated Tusq saddle. Spacing here is 41mm.

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele bridge

Like others from Martin in this series there is very little in the way of decoration. All you get is a stark screen print sound hole ring, but as someone with a penchant for plain instruments this largely suits me even if it does look a bit 'cheap'.  The finish is a hand rubbed satin that is so thin you'd think there wasn't one. Again, I don't personally consider that to be such a bad thing, but my experience with the tenor is that it is easily marked by fingernails!

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele decor

Inside is very tidy with notched linings and very low profile braces. 

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele inside

The neck isn't specified and Martin list it as 'Select Hardwood'. Oh come on, it's not hard to tell us what it is, surely! On the plus side it's satin, extremely smooth and carved from on piece. Like other Martins it's fitted to the body with a dovetail joint and is extremely neat and smart looking at the heel. The neck also tapers down to an average 35mm nut but with wider than average string spacing at 30mm G to A. The back profile is also shallow which all adds up to a comfortable neck for these hands.

The fingerboard is made of Sipo wood too, another change for the worse I think as it's quite a soft wood and also much paler than I would like.  It's shaped at the sound hole end like most Martin ukes. It's fitted with 17 incredibly skinny frets joined very traditionally at the 12th. It's not edge bound, but they are all dressed very well. Position dots are in typical Martin style, so very small pale dots at the 5th, double 7th and the 10th. These are repeated on the side with extra dots at the 3rd, 12th and 15th. I like that.

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele neck

Beyond the Tusq nut is the usual Martin headstock shape. Not all crown shapes are equal and there is something about the slim taper at the nut end of Martin headstocks that I really both like the look and feel of.  It's faced in more Koa and employs that Martin trait I will never quite understand of applying the logo in a kind of 'greetings card' sticker. It looks cheap and from personal experience does not stand up to clip on tuners very well. I really wish they would change this.

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele headstock

The tuners are excellent Grover brand open gears with small white buttons. No complaints and I'm pleased these original models are still using these as opposed to the more recent Martin move the the Graph Tech planetary tuners and their QC issues. These ain't gonna snap!

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele tuners

Finishing the deal are a set of Martin fluoro strings and the usual Martin gig bag, made by TKL and of very good quality. And the asking price is around $499 in the USA and are available in the UK for about £545. The price of Martin ukuleles always causes debate, and whilst they are not at the cheapest end I actually kind of get it when you consider the excellent and exacting build quality. This is Kiwaya levels of finish and precision.

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele back

So largely excellent so far. I love the feel of it in the hands on account of that thin rubbed finish. It's also very light at 510g and balances perfectly. Setup too is great.

Volume first of all, much like the T1K is just superb. This packs a tremendous punch which is actually I find with all Martin instruments. They use light builds and, of course, know what they are doing in this regard! Sustain too is very good meaning you will get more character in your playing.  Things are looking good.

Tone wise it's the clarity that stands out to me - it has a cut glass crispness to the sound which is never muddy. It's certainly on the brighter side of things, but there is a koa richness going on with it too. Strummed it creates a harmonic jangle that allows me to use all of my usual review buzzwords! Peppy, jangly, bouncy, zingy! Just what a rhythmical instrument should display. If you play old timey tunes that rely on the fast jazz turnarounds this will suit you down to the ground.

But the thing about concerts is that 'halfway house' thing between the rhythmical soprano and more melodic tenor. So here you also get the benefit of very clear, bell like melodies when played fingerpicked all over the neck. I love it this way too, and the comfort of the neck and good sustain is certainly a boon in this style.

Taking them both together, you get a fine workhorse of an instrument that will likely suit all comers!

So all in all really not much to dislike here. Pretty much flawless in the build though I'd choose a different fingerboard wood and change the headstock logo. Sound is just great too with all the punch and bark you would want coupled with great clarity and character, what's not to like? Well, I guess the price is still going to challenge people. I can see where the money is though. 

Highly recommended.


Model: Martin C1K
Scale: Concert
Body: All Hawaiian Koa
Bridge: Sipo slot style
Saddle: Tusq
Spacing at saddle: 41mm
Finish: Hand rubbed satin
Neck: 'Select Hardwood...'
Fingerboard: Sipo
Frets: 17, joined at 12th
Nut: Tusq
Nut width: 35mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Grover gears
Strings: Martin
Extras: Branded gig bag
Weight: 510g
Country of origin: Mexico
Price: £545


Exacting build
Excellent smooth finish
Great tuners
Superb volume and punch
Great sustain
Clarity of tone


Sipo fingerboard looks cheap
Greeting card sticker logo


Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 9.5 out of 10
Value for money - 8.5 out of 10









  1. "So all in all really not much to like here." 😮

    1. I think you are looking at this the wrong way. I agree with Barry on the fretboard wood, and the undisclosed neck wood, and especially the horrid logo sticker (I have two Martins with these stickers, an S1 and an 000-18 guitar, and they are both coming off – I'd gladly pay $100 more for a proper silkscreen). But rather than be annoyed by these questionable decisions, I've decided I don't really care. Both the ukulele and the guitar feel incredible, and more importantly, sound incredible.

      I have a lot of ukuleles, and I've owned quite a few more, including vintage Martins and Kamakas, a newer Kiwaya, etc. I have been playing for a long time, starting with my Mom's old Favilla soprano back in 1960, when I was three (made in Brooklyn; which I still have). I have had several opportunities to play the C1K and I will be buying one.

  2. Hi Barry, I love the Mexican line of Martin ukuleles. You give this Martin concert a 9.5 on it sound but give the tenor version a 9.0 on sound. Just wondering why the difference? Love your site and reviews and I am going to by you a beer now.

    1. 11 years between reviews I suppose so my ear has changed. But I think I considered the tenor a touch to bright for my tenor tastes. This absolutely nails what a concert is supposed to sound like

  3. Any chance you will do the Martin OXK Concert, which is a high pressure laminate? It's quite a bit cheaper than the solid wood version, so I'm curious as to how the sound stacks up.


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