Martin 000JR-10E Shawn Mendes review: a strong entry into the signature acoustic guitar market
With its scaled-down form factor, and a host of Mendes-inspired visual appointments, this guitar is tailor-made for the Shawn Mendes superfan – but is it more than just a signature instrument?
Martin 000JR-10E Shawn Mendes. Image: Adam Gasson
A collaboration between one of the acoustic guitar world’s most revered brands and one of the most prominent artists in pop right now comes with a certain degree of expectations. Straight out of the gigbag the Martin 000JR-10E Shawn Mendes has a lot to prove.
And even looking at the spec sheet it’s an interesting project, even without the megastar associations. Mendes’ guitar of choice is a 1959 000 but here they’ve opted to use the downsized 000 Jr body size, making it better suited to smaller bodies and hands to get to grips with.
What’s more, the guitar is one of Martin’s most sustainable guitars ever – all the woods are FSC-certified, and even the gigbag is made using recycled plastic. Then there are the visual appointments that mark this out as a signature guitar.
Most notably these include a pair of laser-etched swallows on the wings of the bridge – inspired by Mendes’s distinctive hand tattoo. But eyebrows will also be raised by the musician’s signature on the 3rd fret (as opposed to the usual 12th) which is apparently inspired by John Mayer’s decision to have the signature all the way up on the 20th fret for his Martin OMJM model. It’s an interesting twist, but one which complements custom cross-style inlays the rest of the length of the fingerboard.
What’s more, apparently even hidden song lyrics laser-etched inside the guitar’s body. We say apparently because they’re hidden so well that, despite our best efforts, we can’t seem to find them anywhere. Short of dismantling the thing to check, which would be a bit extreme and something of a waste of a perfectly good acoustic guitar, you might have to just have to make do with knowing that they’re in there somewhere.
Upon taking the 000JR-10E out of its shipping box, the attention to detail becomes immediately apparent. The gigbag (made with recycled post-consumer polyester) feels plus and solid, nicely padded, a lovely shade of blue and stitched with both Mendes’ signature and the Martin logo.
Unzipping the gigbag, and the biggest compliment that we can give this scaled-down, fully FSC-certified instrument is that it feels like a Martin guitar – the classic and understated aesthetic only enhanced by the selection of subtle Mendes appointments upon closer inspection.
Without doubt, the guitar’s small size, 24” scale length and uber-light weight makes this an alluring proposition for beginners, younger players or players with smaller hands, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t have a home on the guitar rack of more seasoned players who simply appreciate a smaller instrument.
And yet, while its small form factor might have you believe this acoustic would have a similarly subdued sound to match, its tonal projection is anything but.
Sure, while the 000JR-10E doesn’t have the low-end boom of a dreadnought, for example – Martin might be able to work magic but you can’t defy physics unfortunately – its frequency spectrum is rich and balanced, with a high-end sheen that’s just tailor-designed for fingerstyle playing.
And on that note, one of the best ways to test out an artist’s signature model is by playing along to one of their tracks. This allows you, the player, to both metaphorically put yourself into the shoes of the artist, and to, more tangibly, see how the instrument sounds in comparison to the artist’s actual playing.
So we fire up Spotify, and jam along to Señorita, Shawn Mendes’s 2019 smash hit with Camila Cabello. Its fingerstyle acoustic guitar and relatively simple chord progression – Am, C, F, E – provides a fantastic opportunity to examine the 000JR-10E’s sound and feel a little closer.
Now, given that song was recorded before this guitar was released and as such was almost certainly not the guitar used on the record, we would expect to have to tweak things in the box to get it to sit nicely in the song – but nothing of it.
Playing that fingerstyle chord progression in our humble review space sounds as though it’s been lifted directly from the track. It’s a testament to the meticulousness with which Martin have tried to replicate the sound of Mendes’ guitar on record with the 000JR-10E.
And while the unplugged sounds will be enough for many, it’s no pure bedroom/studio strummer – with Fishman Sonitone electronic on board, this could be an attractive option on the radar of gigging guitarists.
That said, these electronics come by way of a minimalist piezo pickup inside the soundhole, with only two controls for Volume and Tone, so hardcore or more serious gigging musicians may be happier with a guitar with more kitted-out electronics. Simplicity is a far-too-often undervalued trait, mind.
In use, the 000JR-10E sounds rich and bold plugged in, albeit with some ever-so-slight EQ tweaking needed to really bring out the desirable frequencies a little more. That said, the guitar sounds absolutely spot on straight out of the box unplugged, so what’s a little tweaking in the grand scheme of things?
Elsewhere, we’re impressed with the out-of the box set-up, with the action sat in that sweet spot of low enough for easy fretting but not so low that fret buzz becomes an issue. The chrome enclosed-gear tuning machines might not look the most exciting, but they’re rock solid and allow for ultra-precise adjustments to tuning.
All in all, the 000JR-10E is a strong offering, and one of the more enticing signature acoustic guitars available right now. Its sound is bold despite its size, and its visual appointments are the icing on the cake. And the cherry on top of that: the guitar is offered in both right- and left-handed configurations, so Mendes-loving southpaws can rest assured they’ve been catered for.
The 000JR-10E sits at the lower end of the mid-range price bracket at $799, but features a list of appointments and specs that could easily justify a $1,000-plus price tag. If you’re a singer-songwriter or acoustic guitar player in the market for a downsized strummer, the 000JR-10E makes for a strong offering. And if you’ve got a penchant for Shawn Mendes, too, well, there’s scarcely a better option on the market.
- PRICE $799/£875
- DESCRIPTION Six-string 000-sized acoustic guitar
- BUILD Sitka spruce top, sapele back and sides, 14 frets to the body, 20-fret FSC-certified ebony fingerboard and bridge, mortise and tenon neck joint, tortoise pickguard, mother-of-pearl pattern with multi-stripe rosette, custom fretboard inlays with Shawn Mendes signature at 3rd fret
- HARDWARE Chrome Enclosed Gear tuners
- ELECTRONICS Fishman Sonitone
- SCALE LENGTH 24” (609.6mm)
- NUT WIDTH 1 and ¾”
- FINISH Natural
- LEFT-HANDERS Yes
- CONTACT martinguitar.com