At the end of September 2022, an opportunity arose to purchase a good condition used Maton SRS70C, which according to the Maton PR is a truly wonderful solid timbers instrument and therefore a most worthy upgrade (or so one would think). I'd been contemplating an upgrade for decades, so when opportunity knocked, I almost kicked down the door by accident.
When I auditioned the guitar at the seller's place, I just loved it.
When I got it home and after a thorough clean, disinfection and new strings (... mm ... it was a bit nasty), I sat the SRS70C on the couch and placed the EM125C beside it. Immediately noticing the remarkable dimensional similarities.
In fact, the EM125C and SRS70C are geometrically identical to within a fraction of a mm.
Just for the hell of it, I strummed across the strings on both guitars at the 5th fret, then at the 12th fret. You know where this is going don't you?
Yes, they sounded identical too.
So while the SRS70C has obvious 'on paper' improvements (Solid Timbers, AP5 Pro, Grover Machines, Bone Nut and Saddle, etc.), the main thing going for it, from a strictly practical perspective, is about 20 years less wear and tear.
Which is the same as saying - if you could find/buy an EM125C (225/325) that had spent much of its life in a closet - well, why wouldn't you - and pocket the $500+ savings over a used SRS70C.
So the actual differences are:
|Top: "A" Grade Solid Sitka Spruce|
|Rosette: Mosaic||Rosette: Sapele Ring|
|No Binding:||Black Outer Binding|
|Back & Sides: Queensland Maple||Back & Sides:
|Neck: Queensland Maple|
|Headstock: Queensland Maple|
|Fingerboard & Bridge: Rosewood w Dot Inlays||Fingerboard & Bridge: Streaky Ebony w Dot Inlays|
|Nut & Saddle:
(glass filled Nylon)
|Nut & Saddle:
Not alcohol safe!
|AP4 System||AP5 Pro System
an actual improvement
w Gold M
|Pick Guard: Tortoiseshell
w Gold M
|Machine Heads: Chrome Unbranded||Machine Heads: Chrome Grover Rotomatic|
|Hard Case was an optional extra||Sold with:
Maton Hard Case
My Maton EM125C presently remains gainfully employed and in continued use for trying out alternate tunings.
Lastly ... on acoustic recording ... it would appear that the same mic strategy should work for most Maton acoustic guitars. A handy thing to know.
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The Maton EM125C (discontinued) is a finely made six string acoustic guitar with a cutaway (that's the 'C' in the model number) which also, in this case, has active electronics.About Review and Description articles, click to expand
The standard active electronics was the (not very impressive) 3 Band AP4. This comprised of an under the bridge Piezo Pickup, Preamp with Volume Control and only very basic 3 Band EQ (Treble, Mid, Bass).
At the time of purchase, it was possible to upgrade to the considerably more expensive AP5 preamp (3 Band Equalization with variable mid frequency). However for a considerable time it was not possible to obtain the previous AP5 or current AP5 Pro components on their own (i.e. sold seperately).
The list price of the EM125C back then (September 1999) was around AUD $1,250 (without case), so while this guitar may have been considered an 'entry level' Maton, it was not at all a cheap or budget instrument.
The Maton EM125C was quickly superseded by the 225, then 325 series, so you will only find one of these as a 'pre-loved' guitar. Depending on the guitar's condition, one might expect to pay anywhere between AUD $700 and $1,400 for an EM125C. They didn't come standard with a case in those days.
Note 2: After purchasing a used Maton SRS70C and discovering that I'd been wrong all these years, I thought I'd provide some additional information for those who are thinking of:
(1) Getting a used EM125C as a starter Maton guitar or
(2) Upgrading from an EM125C, 225C, 325C to an SRS70C.
Trust me, This Will Change EVERYthing !! - U-choob jokes aside, see the sidebar, below the picture >>>
Playing the Maton EM125C
As it happens the neck radius and general setup of Maton guitars happens to suit my hands and playing style, so there is an obvious preferential bias on my part. Suffice to say that, like most* Maton guitars, the EM125C left the factory in 'Ready to Gig' condition. No fretboard work or neck adjustments required.
In fact, it still hasn't had any neck related work in the years that I've had it ... So I guess it won't really come as a surprise if I say that I still love playing this guitar. It gets a work out at least several times a week.
The EM125C is a dreadnought sized instrument, what I call a 'boy's guitar', in that it's a tad too large to be comfortable for most females, though not at all a monster. I have included measurements with the EM125C specifications below.
Maton EM125C Sound
Bottom line ... I bought this guitar for it's acoustic sound and how it played. I tried out quite a few guitars (including other Matons) before deciding on the EM125C. And - it does mic up very well too (just FYI).
The Maton EM125C had the right balance of brightness/presence and richness of tone. I use a lot of harmonics in my acoustic playing and this guitar makes them sing. Which also means that it doesn't sound muddy when mic'd up.
The guitar projects quite cleanly. It isn't overly loud, but you can give it a thrashing without it getting boomy. Be warned though, both you and the audience will get to hear all your mistakes ... even the quiet ones ;-)
I guess it is fortunate that I bought this guitar for it's acoustic sound, because the standard AP4 active electronics were always one aspect of the EM125C that I found totally underwhelming.
So underwhelming in fact, that I customised the guitar by adding a standard single coil pick up (recently replaced by a dual rail pickup).
Out of respect for the quality of the guitar, I made sure that this was not a hack job. The output of the single coil pick up is integrated into the active circuitry, and thus is also controlled by the Volume and EQ settings. The mod includes two very tiny SPST sliding switches, giving four options:
- Piezo Pickup (standard / normal sound)
- Piezo + Single Coil
- Single Coil Pickup
- All Off
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Piezo + Single Coil option is my preferred active/electric sound. A setting that rarely gets changed.
At the time of purchase, it was possible to upgrade to the AP5 (3 Band EQ with variable Mid Frequency), which I thought may have made an improvement. At the time though, there was no way to make a comparison.
Unlike today, where you can buy a Piezo Pick Up kit for acoustic guitars with Volume Control, 4 or 5 Band EQ, plus a built-in tuner for under AUD $50, back then (late 90's) an upgrade to the AP5 was around another $200 (or one sixth of the cost of the guitar).
Should you read a few related forum articles, you might find there are others who have also found the AP4 to be somewhat under-powered and disappointing. I'm still looking into ways to either boost the output (so that it is at least comparable to that of my other acoustic guitars) or replacing it altogether with a newer system (that also has a tuner).
Since I have already modified the guitar, replacing the electronics seems a relatively minor step. Admittedly, now having an AXE-FX III to put it through (with all the EQ/Gain options), that is a disincentive to make further changes.
Build Quality / Workmanship (10/10) - Durability / Reliability (10/10)
The build quality and workmanship are typical of Maton guitars of that era and can be summed up in a word ... Excellent. The Maton EM125C has never faltered in all the years that I've owned it.
The set up of the guitar was pretty much right from the start. The finishing of fret edges, fret levels and the like, made it a pleasure to play ... and it still is.
It plays just as well today as the day I first tried it out in the shop years ago ... it has never required more than the occasional set of new strings and a good clean. So top marks for reliability.
Strings for the EM125C
My personal preference are the light gauge D'Addario Phosphor Bronze series strings. Nice and bright but can also deliver a rich tone. They do oxidise fairly quickly, but I'm prepared to put up with some dark smudges on my finger tips to get the sound that I want.
Value for Money
I'd have to say the EM125C was excellent value for money in it's day. You could pay a lot more for major brand acoustic guitars that didn't sound/play nearly as well as this one.
I actually tried out some more expensive Maton acoustics, and the EM125C was as good or better than most. The only other Maton guitar in the shop that beat the EM125C hands down was a (then) $5,000 limited 'Anniversary Edition' Maton acoustic. That guitar was and still is, as they say, in an entirely different league.
Would I pay around AUD $1,000 for an old EM125C today? ... hmm ... it's borderline. Probably not with the crappy AP4 electronics.
Not that long ago, for a few hundred dollars more [sounding like an update of an old Trinity movie title](say around AUD $1,300 when on sale) you could get a nice new Maton with an equally great sound and marginally better active electronics. That time seems to have passed and most of the new Maton acoustic guitars seem to retail at well over AUD $2K (but usually with a case and also solid timber back & sides).
The price hike does however make the old M125 Matons (without the cutaway & AP4) look a whole lot better from a value perspective, given they could be upgraded to an active beast relatively easily with some good third party electronics from Godin or Fishman.
Having at last upgraded to an SRS70C, I'm going to keep the EM125C for now. There are just too many things that I like about this guitar.
About my Maton Guitars - Click to expand
Maton EM125C Specifications
Please note that the specs below appear to have varied slightly from time to time and therefore may not be definitive. You may find guitars offered for sale that vary in detail. This series includes the M125 (Natural Series) version, no cutaway or active electronics.
|Soundboard:||"A" Grade Solid Sitka Spruce|
|Back & Sides:||Queensland Maple|
|Fingerboard:||Rosewood with Dot Inlays|
|Pick Guard:||Black with Gold "M"|
|Machine Heads:||Chrome Diecast with faux pale green vintage style|
- Playability - 9 / 10
- Sound - 8 / 10 (let down only by the electronics, does not apply to the M125 which does not have active electronics)
- Build Quality & Workmanship - 10 / 10
- Durability & Reliability - 10 / 10
- Value for Money - 10 /10 (originally, not necessarily now)
- Overall Average Score ... 9 / 10
Your comments and contributions are greatly appreciated!
230828 - (Excellent) - I might note the individual looking to value his mint condition Coolabah only needs to check general pricing from sale platforms. I also have a 74 Coolabah. With electronics should go for AU $3K, without in mint condition $2.2K. Mine is not mint because I've played the critter to death. And still do most days. Also have an M125 natural which is heaven sent.
Editor's Note: I'm thinking the earlier Maton guitars are actually becoming exceptional value in a world where materials and labour prices seem to have gone totally nuts. I'll be keeping my EM125C for the foreseeable future.
220810 - (Excellent) - Thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive analysis. I have an M125 and can totally concur with your article. Only regret is not getting the cutaway, but other than that, I love it and play it often. It's the guitar that rapidly improved my playing and thus joy and desire to continue. I was upgrading from a $69 Valencia classical, so it was quite the change lol. Love to read others also still love their M125's. Bought new in December 2001 from Troys House of Music. Built 06/2001.
Editor's Note: Thanks for the note. Glad you are enjoying the guitar. I think I have been considering an upgrade from the EM125C ever since an old school and jamming mate gave me a play on his collectors Anniversary Edition Maton. But, it's just not a priority when what you've got does such a good job.
220529 - (Not Useful ) - I have a maton coolibah guitar bought in march 1974 but no one can tell me how much its value. It is in mint condition as it has been used very little.
Editor's Note: Well, that's just really sad. I'm a misanthropist (or misanthrope - take your pick :-) ... largely because of people like the one who just left the above note (10:02 am, east coast Aussie time, Sunday May 29, 2022). Seriously? I wonder if they've tried the maton web site? ... nah, that would be too obvious. The given rating has not been tabulated, because I'm mean and won't suffer fools.
190111 - (Excellent) - Excellent!!
Editor's Note: Your contributions are appreciated - even brief ones :-)
Incept Date: Wizard - 140118
Last Update: Wizard - 230828