I'm still shopping for a new instrument. It's a sickness. The National Association of Music Merchants just had their annual trade show, and a lot of interesting new gear debuted.
One item that caught my eye is the Martin LXM Tres. It's very similar to the Martin tenor guitar I've been circling, but unlike the four-stringed tenor, the Tres has three courses of two strings. It's a traditional instrument in Cuban (and later Puerto Rican) music.
And they are neat, and only around $400. And it's probably a good example of something I don't need, as it would take a remarkable turn of events for me to get a gig playing Afro-Cuban music. But it's a sign of the times that a major guitar company is producing something like this, which I've never seen used outside of that particular niche of ethnic music.
Since I'm a huge nerd who wonders about this kind of stuff , I look at this instrument and wonder whether the tres would work in other styles of music, too. Martin's advertising department is all over this, noting that it could also be tuned like a mountain dulcimer. Dulcimers are still played in old-time music, but suffer from a lack of volume --- less of a problem with a guitar body. Tune it DDAADD and you'd have an good instrument for Irish folk ---- use the lower courses for a bagpipe-like drone, and run your melodies primarily on the top D course.