Published On: Fri, May 21st, 2010

Mariner JX-6SB Masthead

Nothing wrong with plain, understated guitars, but these two swashbuckling Mariners bring a welcome taste of Nashville back into the acoustic market. Review by Jerry Uwins

Mariner E-6DR ESO Dreadnought

Industry veteran and former Peavey Europe boss Ken Achard‘s Mariner project was launched a year ago. Originally, all the guitars – the arched-back Archives, all-solid-wood Mastheads and more upmarket Esos – were made in a small Korean factory.


Due largely to limited capacity in the face of growing demand, production of the Masthead and Eso Series has been moved to China resulting in significant three-figure price reductions while, says Achard, ‘maintaining quality excellence’. Along the way, new models have come on stream, one of which is our Masthead JX-6SB slope dread.


Whether one calls this a slope-shoulder dreadnought or, in Gibson terminology, an Advanced Jumbo, the J-45 influences are clear to see, though they’re topped by Mariner‘s distinctive, decidedly non-Gibsonesque hallmark – the Harptone-like scooped headstock.


Construction of the timelessly elegant body is all-solid spruce and mahogany, bound in maple with multi-ply wood purfling, including the ‘target’ endpin inlay that features on all Mariners. With its obligatory vintage sunburst top, the instrument’s all-gloss coat is lustrously buffed, the back, sides and neck are stained to a deep brown while the top boasts an abalone-inlaid soundhole rosette.


The dark tortie pickguard isn’t placed quite accurately against the circumference of the rosette, but that’s about the only cosmetic flaw in this fine-looking guitar. The internals are very tidily fashioned, too.


Mariner JX-6SB Masthead

 The 642mm-scale mahogany neck carries a suitably ’30s-style set of open-geared chrome Grover Sta-Tites and is secured – as on all Mariners – by a glued ‘Locktail’ joint which combines a traditional dovetail with twin mahogany reinforcing inserts for extra stability.


Of regular width, the neck has a maple-bound fingerboard and is fashioned to a shallow ‘C’ profile which feels speedy and instantly comfortable. Well-dressed, smooth-ended medium-width frets and a good set-up add to the enjoyment.





Mariner E-6DR ESO DreadnoughtIn the manner of many freshly minted all-solid-acoustics, the first strum suggested that this slope dread wouldn’t be very forthcoming. Volume was up to scratch but the dynamics seemed tight and the tone somewhat characterless.


A good dose of playing in, though, is changing this. More punch has emerged, there’s a better sense of headroom, and the sound is more responsive.


There’s still further to go, and time may unlock a little more underlying resilience and, hopefully, more warmth, which is presently a little shy for this style and size of instrument.


When we reviewed a couple of early Korean Mariners last year, the sound - or the slight shyness thereof - was a point we made, and this remains an area to bear in mind. However, these Chinese-made examples come across as far more accomplished instruments in all other respects - the necks especially are excellent - and weighed along with their attractive new lower prices they are both, of their respective styles, instruments to be seriously considered.

Build Quality Playability Sound Value Vibe Score
18 19 15 18 14 84

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