Martin Retro Acoustic Guitar Strings Review (Update 2024)

Martin Retro Strings Review
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You know, there was a time when I’d stubbornly cling to a set of guitar strings way past their prime, trying to squeeze out every last note before grudgingly replacing them. But I’ve learned the hard way that fresh strings can breathe new life into an old guitar.

Recently, I’ve been putting the Martin Retro strings through their paces on my Martin mahogany dreadnought, and I have to say, I’m really digging their warm, vintage-y vibe. These nickel-plated beauties have a unique tonal character that’s both mellow and articulate.

And from what I’ve experienced so far, they seem to hold their tone longer than typical bronze strings. Let me tell you a bit more about my hands-on impressions of these unconventional strings.

Martin Retro Acoustic MM10 Extra-Light-Gauge Guitar Strings, Monel Nickel

Martin Retro Strings Review: Discovering Acoustic Elegance

Martin MM12 Retro Acoustic Guitar Strings

  • Made from monel, a nickel-copper alloy
  • Designed with Martin’s naturally corrosion-resistant materials
  • Best for rigorous practice and performance
  • Incredible tone, no matter what you play

Longevity and Durability

The thing I’ve always appreciated about the Martin Retro strings, especially the MM12 light gauge set, is their quality and how darn tough they are.

As someone who frequently plays fingerstyle with a heavy attack, I’ve trashed plenty of string sets in my day. But these Martin Monel strings seem to shrug off my most aggressive pick-hand antics.

The secret sauce is that nickel and copper alloy blend that allows it to fight against the toughest pick attacks without easily wearing out.

These materials are known for their durability, so you know that they won’t be easily susceptible to breakage. Also, these martin strings are wrapped with Monel coating, which is known for being naturally corrosion resistant.

I’ve had some of these Martin retro light strings on my parlor guitar for months now, and they’re still holding up great with minimal tarnishing or dullness creeping in.

So if you’re a heavy hitter who has a habit of wearing out strings fast, you owe it to yourself to try these tough, corrosion-resistant Monel strings. They might just save you money in the long run!

Performance and Tonal Character

Aside from its quality, Martin guitars and strings are known for their impressive performance and Retro strings are no exception.

Martin Retro Acoustic Guitar Strings Review
Image Credit: m_hask

The combination of nickel and copper allows it to reduce vibration to ensure tonal quality with every strum. Even when I’m feeling particularly aggressive with my pick, these strings still deliver that clear and warm guitar sound that I find truly enviable.

I also appreciate how Martin Retros performs better and smoother than most bronze or phosphor bronze strings, allowing my guitars to unveil their voice truly. This is thanks to Martin’s special Monel wrap wire, which gives these strings a unique character.

Speaking of character, these Monel strings deliver a warm vintage tone that I find perfect for most acoustic guitars. Whether I’m playing unplugged or through an amp, I can always count on Martin Retro acoustic strings to help me get the most out of my instruments.

Of course, no string is perfect, and Martin Retros are no exception. Some guitarists have reported that the strings can lose their brightness over time, and I’ve noticed this as well.

However, I find that even when they start to mellow out, they still maintain a lovely warmth that I enjoy.

String Gauge Options

Another reason why I love the Martin Retro Strings is their impressive range of string gauges, so you’re bound to find one that best suits you.

Retro String Gauges & Tension
Martin Retro String Gauges & Tension Chart

From the above guitar string gauge chart, you can see that the Martin Retro Acoustic Guitar Strings offers a wide selection of coated strings in the light to medium range. That makes it perfect for acoustic guitars, whether the player is an absolute beginner or a skilled guitarist.

I’ve always believed that finding the right string gauge is crucial for getting the best tone out of your guitar. While there’s a belief that the heavier gauge will produce a better sound, that’s not always the case if the added tension makes it extremely hard to fret.

This variety of options makes their Retro Monel strings suitable for a wide range of acoustic guitars and playing styles. I’ve personally tried both the 11-52 and 12-54 sets on my various instruments, and I’ve been impressed with how each one brings out the unique character of each guitar.

So, if you’re in the market for a new set of acoustic strings and want to explore the warm, vintage-inspired sound of Monel, be sure to check out Martin’s impressive range of gauges.

Note: Whenever experimenting with a different string gauge, it’s crucial to ensure your guitar’s setup aligns properly with the tension and dimensions of the new strings.

Recommended For

When it comes to guitar strings, personal preference plays a significant role. While I highly recommend the Martin Retro Monel Strings for a wide range of guitar players, they are most suitable for Americana and Bluegrass styles.

Light gauge strings are perfect for beginners, especially considering the lower tension and easier playability. On the other hand, experienced players may prefer heavier gauges for better control over their instruments.

Martin Monel Guitar Strings
Image Credit: mg_indonesia

When selecting the right gauge, consider the size of your acoustic guitar; smaller bodies pair well with light gauges, while larger or jumbo-sized guitars benefit from medium to heavier gauge strings.

There’s no doubt that the Martin Retro Monel Strings is a versatile set that’s meant for guitarists of different skill sets, as well as for different guitar styles like fingerpicking, country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, and blues.

Pros and Cons

Things I Like

  • Uses premium and durable materials
  • Monel wrap wire construction potentially increases string life
  • Available in a wide range of gauges
  • Helps reduce vibration to deliver overall tonal clarity
  • Deliver a unique playing experience compared to traditional strings

Things I Don’t

  • Slightly more expensive than some other common strings
  • Require a period of adjustment for players used to the feel and tone of traditional string types
  • Initial brightness can dissipate quicker than phosphor bronze strings

Martin Retro Strings vs. Phosphor Bronze: A Comparative Analysis

The distinct tonal characteristics, longevity, and playability differences between Retro Strings and Phosphor Bronze Strings make it crucial for guitarists to know which option best suits their playing style and preferences.

AspectMartin Retro StringsPhosphor Bronze Strings
ToneOffers a warm, vintage tone with a wide tonal paletteKnown for clarity, brightness, and a traditional sound
QualityHigh-quality construction with Monel wrap wireWell-established quality with a bright and clear sound
MaterialMonel wrapped steel (Nickel/Copper alloy)Phosphor bronze (92% copper and 8% tin phosphide)
LongevityNaturally corrosion-resistant, potentially longer lifeDurability may vary and may require more frequent changes
DurabilityResistant to corrosion, maintains tone over timeProne to oxidation and may lose brightness quicker
PerformanceReduces pick attack impact, neutral and balanced soundOffers clarity and brightness, suitable for various styles
Suitable GenresAmericana, Bluegrass, fingerpicking, folk, bluesVersatile, suitable for a wide range of musical genres
Player TypeIdeal for players seeking a unique, vintage-inspired soundSuited for those preferring a traditional, bright tone
PricingGenerally priced competitively with other premium stringsStandard pricing, widely available in the market

In my experience, Martin Retro Strings offer a distinct tonal character that sets them apart from traditional phosphor bronze strings.

Ultimately, the choice between different types of strings depends on personal preference, playing style, and the desired tonal characteristics of each individual guitarist.

Now, check out the demo of Retro & Authentic acoustic strings from Martin Guitar:

YouTube video

About the Author

Content Writer and Founder of
Founder & Editor

Thomas M., the founder of Guitar Top Review, boasts 15+ years of guitar experience and was a church band member in L.A. Transitioning from piano to acoustic guitar, his first love remains his Taylor GS Mini. Alongside like-minded hobbyist friends, he launched the site, driven by a deep love for music that transcends professional boundaries.

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