This is a Martin D28 review. The D28 is an iconic acoustic guitar that a lot of people feel very strongly about, and this review will reflect that fact. It may have a high price tag, but the D28 is one of the highest quality acoustic instruments in production. It is a thing of beauty.
About the manufacturer
Martin Guitars is among the oldest guitar manufacturers in the world. Established in 1833 by C. F. Martin, they have since become one of the premier acoustic guitar manufacturers in the world. There is scarecely a piece of the musical history of the last 150 years, particularly in America, that isn’t touched in some way by the Martin name. This is particularly true in folk, Americana, and bluegrass, where Martin guitars are ubiquitous, being played by a disproportionate number of those genres’ top players.
Martin acoustics – and in particular their dreadnaught acoustics – are known for rich tones with great stain and a deep, complex harmonic presence. This is largely due to the high-quality woods they use in the construction of their guitars. For that reason, Martin guitars are not cheap, particularly Martins that date prior to 1960. There is no question, however, that they are worth their price, as they produce some of the finest sounds – from delicate to booming – of any acoustic guitars made anywhere in the world.
The construction of Martin guitars is quite famous. They helped to pioneer modern bracing in the 19th century – being the first company to mass produce guitars featuring x-bracing – and they are well known for using only the best, finest tonewoods in their guitars. The D28 – one of the most well known of all of Martin’s models – is no exception.
The D28 features dense, dark, rich East Indean rosewood, solid pieces of which make up the back and sides of the guitar. Its neck is also made of rosewood, and it houses a dark ebony fretboard. In contrast to the darkness of the rosewood and ebony, the D28’s top is solid spruce, selected especially for its harmonic properties.
All together, there isn’t a guitar in the world that has better, more harmonically rich materials than the Martin D28.
How does it look?
This guitar is flat out gorgeous. It does not come in multiple finishes. There are no sunburst D28’s. Its aesthetic is simple, straightforward, but uniquely beautiful – it is the sum of its parts, which are some of the most attractive woods you will ever see.
The fact that none of this guitar is laminate – and the quality of the woods involved – ensures that, from top to bottom, from front to back, it is as beautiful to look at as it is to listen to. The grain on the nearly blonde spruce top is gorgeous, and really pops with respect to the depth and darkness of the East Indian rosewood’s equally as attractive grain. This is the kind of guitar you can play everyday of your life, but it is also the kind of guitar you could put behind glass and look at as a visual work of art.
How does it sound?
The sound of the D28 is famous. It is big, resonant, rich. It is loud. It projects extremely well in unamplified situations, and in any situation is brings a nuance and a sense of complexity that most other acoustic guitars are simply lacking. This particular model of Martin’s is less bass-driven than some other models, but it is also slightly more bassy than some of them.
The reason the D28 is so popular is that its sound, as big and bold as it is, is quite balanced. It shines, of course, when it is strummed hard and loud, but it also handles fingerpicking extremely well. And articulate flatpicking finds a home here too – it may be rich sounding, but the notes ring clear and true.
How does it feel?
There are a few things to say about the way this Martin feels. First, it is big. It is a dreadnaught – a full-size, large-bodies acoustic guitar. And it feels like one. It is a presence on your lap. When you play it, you need to wrap yourself around it, and it can feel a little like hugging a tree. It is, in that respect, vey substantial. Many people enjoy that about dreadnaughts, although some find their size prohibitively unwieldy.
The other thing to say about this guitar, and about all Martin guitars, is that when it comes to playability, it is hard to find a better acoustic guitar. Their necks are of a very high quality, which means that their action (the distance between the strings and the frets) can be set rather low without producing a string buzz. This, of course, needs to be done by a qualified professional – as it involves removing and sanding the saddle and adjusting the neck’s truss rod – but if you are a fan of low action, it can be had on this guitar without sacrificing too much in the way of tone.
There is no other way to say it – this guitar is rather expensive, especially if you’re looking at high-quality guitars for the first time. It is clear that you are buying something that people think is professional quality. It is also clear that those people are right.
This guitar is not just expensive; it is of a tremendously high quality. There is nothing wrong with bargain guitars – some of them are great values, delivering a lot of guitar for the price – but it simply isn’t possible to find this much guitar for any less money than you will need to pay to own a D28. Is it a good value? That is a relative question. Is it worth the money? Undoubtedly, it is.
This Martin D28 review has done what I think any review of that guitar has to do – applaud the sheer quality of the instrument. The bottom line – and after that there is nothing left to say – is that there is no better acoustic guitar in the world than the Martin D28, and if your budget allows for its price tag, it out to be at the top of your list.