Review of Santos Martinez 2000 RB Acoustic
However much of a Metalhead you are, a fine classical guitar is
a must-have - ask Tony Iommi! But where do you start looking if you
want a quality, affordable classical guitar but all your previous
experience lies with whammy bars and pointy headstocks? Giorgio
Serci suggests the Santos Martinez Raymond Burley could well be the
I wasn't sure what to expect from this guitar when I was told it
was being sent to us for review. Professional quality classical
guitars tend to be very expensive instruments and this Santos
Martinez, though it isn't cheap, is nowhere near the price of top
professional classical instruments, yet it has been heaped with
praise since its launch. In fact, this model, the Santos Martinez
2000 RB, recently won the UK's prestigious Music Industries
Association award for 'best classical guitar', which suggested we
had good things in store!
The RB stands for Raymond Burley, the renowned classical
guitarist, who has been actively involved in the creation of this
signature model. This SM2000RB is in fact based on a guitar
hand-built for Raymond by the respected luthier Martin Fleeson in
1985. Santos Martinez are produced and distributed by John Hornby
Skewes (JHS), and manufactured in China. This particular model was
cloned from the Martin Fleeson guitar that Raymond enjoyed playing
for over twenty years before it was time for it to retire.
Straight from its elegant case (included in the price), which is
both sturdy and light, a perfect combination for a guitar destined
to travel, this full size (4/4) classical guitar has a beautiful
natural look, with contrasting wood colours. The top-quality tone
woods used include spruce top, Indonesian rosewood back, sides,
bridge and headstock, ebony fingerboard, red cedar neck with
Spanish heel joint.
Its stunning headstock, featuring an elegant carved pattern
including the Santos Martinez initials, is an eye catcher and makes
this model instantly recognisable. The red cedar neck meets the
upper bout in a fluid and ergonomic manner, with a so-called
Spanish heel joint, which is one of the best designs for maximum
sustain. Both the 52mm bone nut and saddle also ensure this
important sound characteristic.
Its classical neck is really comfortable, with a nut width of
52mm and a scale length of 648mm, so every classical guitarist will
find this guitar great in terms of playability. The action is quite
good, but on our sample could have been lowered ever so slightly,
depending on personal and stylistic preferences. While particularly
indicated for the classical repertoire, this instrument would be
perfect to play Brazilian music such as Bossa Nova, Samba etc and
fingerstyle in general.
The Martinez's tonal palette is quite wide, from a bass-rich but
clear bass register, with a warm and defined mid-range and a sweet
tone quality to the treble strings. In fact this instrument will
satisfy even the most demanding players. Have a listen on our
It took me no time to tune it and to feel at ease with the
action as it came, with a good set-up straight from the factory.
Tuning was made easier also thanks to its accurate classical style
(gold plated) machine heads. The finish on the frets, meanwhile is
very good with no sharp edges and this model has 20 frets on the
treble side, which means that the top note is C, instead of B as
most classical guitars.
As most classical guitars, the SM2000RB doesn't come with a
built-in preamp. This is not necessarily a disadvantage! On the
contrary, built-in pickups can compromise the acoustic tone and
sustain of the instrument. The best means to record a classical
guitar such as this one is by using one or, even better, two
condenser microphones for a pure, acoustic reproduction. Santos
Martinez has recently put on the market a model with a built-in
Fishman pick-up, but as I mentioned above, I would personally have
two separate instruments, one with pick-up (for any live, louder
performances) and one without, for a pure classical tone.
I think this would be a perfect choice guitar for a beginner to
advanced player. Its price is surprisingly low, and the fact that
this was manufactured in China is in my opinion the only reason
why, as the quality of craftsmanship and tone woods and hardware
are excellent. I strongly recommend this guitar as well as catching
one of Raymond's masterful performances, where you can hear this
instrument in action!
Check out the full review inc. video of the Santos
Martinez 2000 RB by Giorgio Serci featured in Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 16.