Martin D15M Review – Series 15 All Mahogany Dreadnought

In the world of acoustic guitars, Martin is a legend--this is the company that pioneered the dreadnought body and also had a hand in popularizing guitars with solid mahogany tops. The Martin D-15M is a guitar that combines classic, elegant design with unmatched playability.

Things To Consider Before Buying a Quality Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

The Martin D15M isn't the most expensive acoustic guitar out there, but it's still a significant investment for most players. Before buying a guitar like this one, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • What tonewoods are best for your sound? By the time you buy a higher-end guitar, you probably have an idea of the sound you prefer. Does your music sound best when played on a bright, spruce-topped guitar, or would you prefer the darker warmth of mahogany or cedar?
  • What playability features do you value? Players with larger hands might prefer thicker necks, and those who value fast playability might prefer a neck with satin finish.
  • How important is comfort? Plenty of players choose dreadnoughts for their versatile sound, but some dreadnoughts are more comfortable and easier to handle than others.
  • Do you need electronics? Many people who perform regularly prefer an easier way to plug in and play.

Our Picks for Review

Guitar

Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Martin

D-15M

Cell

Alternative

Martin

D-18

Cell

Alternative

Taylor

224 CE-K

Cell

Alternative

Blueridge

BR-160

Cell

Martin D15M Guitar

PRO's & CON's of Martin D15M

Before we launch into our review of the Martin D15M, let's look at some of this guitar's pros and cons

Pros

  • Solid genuine mahogany top, back and sides gives you beautifully warm tone
  • Low-oval neck with satin finish has a fast and comfortable feel
  • Fairly affordable price for the quality makes it a great value
  • Unique design is more comfortable to play than most dreadnoughts

Cons

  • The price may put it out of reach for some buyers
  • It does not come with electronics

Features and Benefits

Tonewood Configuration

Tonewoods are one of the most important factors when it comes to the sound of a Martin guitar or any other, and mahogany has a beautifully warm and sound with a pronounced midrange and ample lows. As mahogany has steadily been becoming more scarce, more luthiers are turning to alternatives like African mahogany and sapele. But many guitarists agree that genuine mahogany has a sound that simply can't be replicated. Even the neck itself is made of solid genuine mahogany.

Of course, this tonewood choice isn't ideal for everyone--solid spruce is a common tonewood choice, especially for players who prefer a brighter tone. If you want to learn a bit more about mahogany as a tonewood, this video provides an excellent introduction.

Bracing And Sound Quality

Many newer Martin guitars use scalloped X bracing. The X-braced build is a mainstay in the acoustic guitar world, but some builders prefer scalloped bracing. Scalloping refers to a process where part of the wood bracing within the guitar is scraped away, resulting in a scalloped appearance. This process results in a sound where some of the midrange frequencies are "scooped" out, which gives you more pronounced highs and more noticeable lows.

In a guitar with a spruce top, scalloped bracing may result in a sound where highs are too pronounced. However, mahogany is a very midrange-focused tonewood, so scalloped bracing often gives you just enough tonal balance. However, tone is a very personal choice, especially when you're investing in a quality guitar. If you're looking to see if the sound of the D-15M is right for you, this video gives you a good idea of what it might be like to play one.


Neck

The neck of the Martin D15M deserves its own discussion, due in part to its unique joint. Most acoustic guitars use a simple dovetail joint. A simple dovetail neck is especially rigid, which absorbs less energy from each string. This results in a fuller, more natural sound.

Like most contemporary Martin guitar builds, the Martin D-15M is made with Martin's signature mortise and tennon joint. Compared to a simple dovetail neck, and mortise and tennon neck joint is easier to adjust in case of damage or excessive wear. Some players believe that a mortise and tennon joint is superior, while others argue that a simple dovetail neck creates a better sound.

Ultimately, the difference between a dovetail neck and a mortise ans tennon is fairly minimal when it comes to sound--bracing, tonewood choices, and body shape all have a greater impact. Unless you have a very strong preference for a simple dovetail, the dovetail neck vs. mortise and tennon question isn't a major one. If you want to know what the process of installing this neck joint looks like, this video shows how it's made.

The mahogany neck of the D-15M is made with the Martin modified low-profile shape. This neck shape is comfortable for most players--it has the slim, fast feel that many modern players prefer, but it has a thick enough feel for those who prefer the feel of a vintage acoustic. Like the rest of the body, it has a satin finish, which is fast-playing and doesn't have the sticky feel of a gloss neck. The fingerboard is made of beautiful solid East Indian rosewood, and it comes with understated diamond and square fingerboard inlay. Indian rosewood is a commonly-used wood for fretboards, and it helps create a warm yet articulate sound.

Other Appointments

Martin is a builder of quality guitars, and this one is no different. The D15M's appointments help round out its understated yet elegant appearance. Its tuning machines are open-geared nickel with vintage butterbean knobs. As many players know, the right tuning machines mean a lot when it comes to tuning stability, and these quality Martin-made tuners will help you avoid any tuning issues.

The bridge is made of solid East Indian rosewood, which offers a beautiful contrast to the mahogany top. The nut and compensated saddle are made of bone, which helps create impressive sustain. Up close, bone is a distinctly beautiful material, and it adds to this guitar's vintage good looks. This video offers a helpful comparison of bone and other nut materials.

Social Proof of the Guitar

Before selecting the D-15M, it's a good idea to get a sense of what other players have to say about it. This is especially helpful if you can't try out the guitar in person. Here are some of the Martin D-15M we've found online.

Martin D-15M Review 01

This concise Martin D-15M review covers what many players seem to like about this guitar--it has a beautiful, warm sound, and all-mahogany guitars (especially those made of solid wood) are somewhat hard to find.

Martin D-15M Review 02

This Martin D-15M review is a useful one because it compares this guitar to the Gibson J-200, another popular guitar. Like many other players, this person appreciates the sound of genuine mahogany.

Martin D-15M Review 03

This review writer is someone who primarily plays electric guitars, but they appreciated the feel and sound of the D-15M.

Alternatives to Martin D-15M

Before choosing a guitar, it's also wise to compare a few alternatives. Here are three guitars you might want to consider alongside the D-15M:

Martin D-18

How it Compares to Martin d15M

  • Like the D-15M, it's made of all solid wood
  • Sitka spruce top is a bit brighter
  • Ebony fingerboard (as compared to the solid East Indian rosewood of the D-15M)
  • Also has scalloped X-bracing

Review

Plenty of professional guitarists choose Martin, and the D-18 is an excellent choice if you have more to spend. This guitar is also a dreadnought with a modified low oval neck profile. However, it's made with a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides. This classic tonewood configuration is ideal for just about any musical genre. If you prefer a spruce-topped Martin guitar, make sure you check this guitar out!

Taylor 224 CE-K

How it Compares to Martin D15M

  • Laminated back and sides won't have the same full sound as the solid wood of the Martin D15
  • Solid koa top has a distinctly bright tone
  • Grand auditorium body is easier to handle than a dreadnought
  • Professional-class electronics make it easy to plug in and play

Review

Like Martin, Taylor is a highly respected manufacturer of acoustic guitars. This one comes equipped with Taylor's Expression System 2 electronics, and its grand auditorium body is smaller and easier to handle than a dreadnought. This guitar has a solid koa top and laminated koa back and sides, a sapele neck, and an ebony neck.

If you prefer a guitar with electronics and are looking to spend about the same as the D15M, make sure you give this one a look.

Blueridge BR-160

How it Compares to Martin D15M

  • Forward-shifted X-bracing may give it an amplified bass response
  • Spruce and rosewood build has a slightly brighter sound than mahogany
  • Slim mahogany neck is comfortable and fast-playing
  • It also does not come with electronics
  • Detailed but understated fingerboard inlay completes its distinctive look

Review

Blueridge may not have the same long-standing reputation as Martin or Taylor, but their instruments are well-built and high-quality. The BR-160 is a dreadnought with a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Santos rosewood back and sides. Rosewood gives it a more detailed sound than the warmth of mahogany. Its forward-shifted bracing also helps increase your bass response.

If you want a vintage-inspired dreadnought that's a little different from the D-15M, make sure you check out this guitar!

In Conclusion

If you love dreadnought sound and prefer the warm tone of mahogany, the Martin D-15 M is an excellent choice. With a comfortable neck profile and a full, balanced sound, it works beautifully in a band or as a solo instrument. Plus, as Martin acoustics go, this one is at a fairly accessible price point. Click here to check it out!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *