Martin acoustic guitars are considered to be the gold standard for tone by countless accomplished guitarists. But even if you've decided to get a Martin, you have another decision to make -- which model to choose. Today, we'll be comparing two of the most legendary Martin guitars around -- the Martin D18 vs D28.
Introducing the Products
The D18 has a classic look that's sure to appeal to any acoustic guitarist. It's best known for its ability to situate itself perfectly in any mix. While it has plenty of presence, it won't overpower lead guitars, vocals, or other instruments, and it's an ideal choice for recording. Here are some of the key specs to know:
Here are some pros and cons of the Martin D18:
Pros & Cons of martin D18
The Martin D28 is one of the few acoustic guitars that enjoys a slightly better reputation than the D18. Its rosewood back and sides give it powerful projection and a beautifully defined bass end. After all, Martin is credited with the invention of the dreadnaught acoustic guitar, and the D28 is the perfect example of the quintessential dreadnaught. Here are the specs you should know:
Here are some of the Martin D28 pros and cons to consider:
Pros & Cons of martin D28
Features Face to Face
In this section, we'll take a closer look at important features:
Body Shape and Construction
At first glance, the D18 and the D28 look very similar. Both are dreadnoughts made in Martin's D-14 body shape. And as is the case with most classic Martin guitars, neither has a cutaway. Both are made with a dovetail neck joint. It may sound like an inconsequential detail, but a dovetail neck joint involves more wood-on-wood contact than a bolt-on neck. That contact results in more energy being transferred from the neck to the body, which in turn results in a fuller, more resonant sound. Both have a scale length of 25.4".The two guitars differ in terms of bracing. We'll go into more detail in the standout features section, but the D-18 has non-scalloped, forward-shifted X bracing. The Martin D-18 has forward-shifted scalloped X bracing. The forward-shifted bracing, as the name suggests, is shifted toward the front of the soundboard. This means that more of the soundboard is left to vibrate freely. The forward shift may also mean that a guitar has a deeper bass response. Both bracing styles are designed to enhance resonance and loudness, but the non-scalloped bracing tends to be a little more durable.
The Winner: Both Martin guitars are very similar when it comes to shape and general construction. We think the D-28 may be a bit more durable, so we think it wins this round.
The tonewood used for the back and sides of these guitars is the main difference between them. Both guitars have a top made of solid Sitka spruce for excellent responsiveness and projection. Both also have an ebony fingerboard and bridge. The D18, though, has a back and sides made of genuine mahogany. The fact that Martin clarifies that mahogany is genuine is important -- as mahogany becomes more scarce, lots of manufacturers are finding substitutes. (African mahogany, or khaya, is a prominent one.) Some of these woods are decent, but their tone is distinctly different from that of true mahogany. Mahogany is famous for its slightly darker, warmer tonality. Sometimes, it's even described as being slightly "fuzzy," or a little less tight than rosewood. Depending on your tonal goals, this may be an advantage.
The D28, on the other hand, has East Indian rosewood back and sides. Rosewood is one of the most sought-after materials when it comes to guitars, and it's become increasingly rare. This wood is known for its defined low end, sparkling highs, and overall complexity. It also has a distinctly beautiful grain. The Martin guitar company generally treats rosewood as a superior tonewood to mahogany, but we don't think one or the other is best. It all depends on the kind of sound you need for your music. After all, plenty of legendary guitars like the Gibson J-45 are made with mahogany instead of rosewood.
As a side note, though, you may have noticed that Martin lists the necks of both the Martin D18 and D28 as being made from "select hardwood." The brand tends to use what wood they have available, and it's sure to be high quality. But it is a bit of a disadvantage that you won't know what neck material you're getting, especially at this price point.
The Winner: We think this D-18 vs D-28 question is a toss-up -- the best guitar depends on what you're looking for.
Sound Quality and Playability
When it comes to playability, the D18 and the D28 are pretty much identical. They have the same shape as well as the same neck profile. Both necks are made with the Martin modified low oval profile and the High Performance neck taper. This is fairly significant, as many vintage acoustic guitars have thicker necks that can hinder playability. Both the Martin D18 and the D28 have satin-finished necks -- a key playability feature you don't often see on lower-end guitars. Gloss necks can get a little bit sticky, which can hinder your speed while playing.
In terms of sound quality, both the D18 and the D28 offer brilliantly detailed tone with the very present bass end that Martin is known for. The D28 is a little brighter in tone, while the D18 is a little bit warmer. If you want to hear them and decide for yourself, check out this video comparison of the D18 and the D28.
You can get the Martin D-18 or the Martin D-28 with electronics if you wish. Both models are listed by Martin as having optional electronics, and you can choose from a variety of state-of-the-art systems. Here are the ones you can choose from:
The Winner: We think this Martin D-18 vs D-28 question is also a toss-up. Both are equally playable, and any judgment of sound quality really comes down to your preferences.
Finish and Appointments
Both the D18 and the D28 are part of Martin's Standard Series, so it follows that they will be similarly appointed. Both have bone nuts and saddles. Bone is the classic, vintage material for both the nut and the saddle. Some players prefer modern composite materials like Tusq or Nubone, but if you're in search of timeless acoustic guitar tone, bone is a great choice. Both guitars also have nickel open-gear tuners with butterbean knobs.
They do have slightly different binding, though. The Martin D18 is bound with faux tortoise material for a more understated look, while the D28 has contrasting vintage white binding. Both guitars have minimal fretboard inlays to show off the beautiful ebony on the fretboard, but their inlay styles are different. You might not expect to find abalone on a typically understated Martin guitar, but the D18 comes with "Old Style 18" inlays -- small abalone dots. The Martin D28 has the more traditional mother of pearl dot inlays. Each one has a slightly different multi-stripe rosette.
Like most high-end guitars, both the Martin D28 and the Martin D18 come with hardshell cases. Their finishes are worth mentioning, as Martin uses a unique toner that may not be to every player's liking. Both natural-finish guitars have a gloss finish, and the tops of each are treated with Martin's aging toner. This toner is designed to darken over time to an amber color, which will give your guitar the appearance of a vintage, pre-war instrument.
If the natural look isn't for you, the D28 comes in a couple of other finish options. The Sunburst finish is a classic dark sunburst that some manufacturers might call tobacco sunburst. The other is Ambertone, a lighter, reddish sunburst that's close to the color of iced tea. Since most of Martin's acoustic guitars come in a natural finish, this is a somewhat surprising departure.
The Winner: The appointments on the D-18 vs D-28 are very similar, but we think the D-28 wins this round because it comes in more finish options.
As you've already seen if you've looked into both of these guitars, the Martin D18 and the Martin D28 are very similar when it comes to their specs. However, there are a couple of standout features to consider:
When it comes to the question of the Martin D18 vs D28, there's no wrong answer. Any Martin guitar will have a beautiful full sound, and most are suited for just about any genre of music. Here are our recommendations for who should use each guitar:
We recommend the Martin D-18 if:
We think the Martin D-18 is a fantastic choice for artists in all genres. Click here to check it out!
We recommend the Martin D28 if:
We think the Martin D28 is the guitar of a lifetime. Click here to check it out!