Martin D28 Review – Standard Series Dreadnought

When it comes to acoustic guitars, the Martin D-28 is legendary. It's been in production since the 1930s, and its popularity still doesn't seem to be waning. Though it's somewhat plain in terms of looks, the Standard Series New D-28 Guitar delivers tone that's hard to beat.

Martin Guitar D-28 has been the first choice for years of many legendary players like Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Beatles, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and countless others. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Hank Williams, Martin Guitar Company came out with Martin Limited Edition D-28HW Guitar with 150 pieces.

In this Martin D-28 review, we'll look at why this is a standout among high-end guitars and help you decide whether it's the right choice for you.

Things to Consider Before Buying a High-End Acoustic Guitar

A high-end acoustic guitar is a major investment, both financially and in terms of your growth as a player. Before you buy, here are some things to think about:

  • Consider whether it's right for you -- Make sure you listen to demos before buying. When you invest this much, you'll want to make sure the guitar's sound is right for the kind of music you play.
  • Think about whether you need electronics -- High-end guitars often come with high-end electronics. If you intend to perform with the guitar, you might want to look for one with electronics.
  • Consider body style -- Body style has a huge impact on tone as well as handling. Make sure you choose the right body style for both tone and ease of playing/handling.
  • Don't let the brand be the only thing that sways you -- Plenty of people buy high-end guitars just based on the brand. Don't let this be the only thing that makes your decision for you.

Our Picks for Review

Guitar

Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Martin

D28

Cell

Alternative

Martin

HD-28E

Cell

Alternative

Gibson

Acoustic Hummingbird M

Cell

Alternative

Taylor

414CE-R

Cell

Martin D28 Guitar

PRO's & CON's of Martin D28

But first, let's look at some pros and cons:

Pros

  • Many consider the D28 to be the standard when it comes to dreadnought sound
  • Forward-shifted X bracing improves bass response even more
  • It's an extremely playable guitar and is good for strumming or picking

Cons

  • It's very expensive, which may be an obstacle for some players
  • It doesn't come with electronics, which may be a problem if you want to play live
  • Forward-shifted bracing is great for tone, but it does make the guitar less durable

Features and Benefits

While a guitar's reputation can be a factor in your buying decision, it shouldn't be the only factor. In this section, we'll take a deeper look at some of the D28's features.

Tonewoods and Sound Quality

Spruce and rosewood have long been a classic tonewood configuration for an acoustic guitar, and this is what you'll find on the all-solid-wood D28. East Indian rosewood is especially rare, but it's used in back and sides of many higher-end guitars because of its superb tonal qualities. East Indian Rosewood creates sparkling highs and deep yet defined lows. It also has a truly beautiful grain.

D28 has Sitka spruce top, which is one of the most sought after, responsive soundboard materials. The soundboard is also treated with an aging toner, which will gradually give the D28 the look of a classic older dreadnought

Fingerboard material doesn't contribute as much to the tone as body wood. However, the D28's ebony fingerboard has several advantages. Ebony has a very clear attack, which helps contribute to the D28's surprisingly defined low end. This wood also doesn't require a finish, so it feels slick and makes it easy to move up and down the fingerboard.

The result of this tonewood configuration is a guitar with a remarkably balanced tone. Notably, while it has the deep bass response that comes with the dreadnought body shape, the bass is focused rather than boomy. If you want to hear it for yourself, check out this video demo.

Bracing

The D28 is made with forward-shifted X bracing. This is an innovation that moves the "X" in the bracing closer to the guitar's soundhole. This frees up more of the soundboard and allows it to move freely. This freer motion means the guitar is more responsive, and it often increases both volume and bass response. If you aren't sure whether this type of bracing is for you, this video demo compares forward-shifted, rear-shifted, and standard bracing in Martin guitars.

Playability

Most people who play the D28 have commented that this guitar is a highly playable instrument. One of the most important factors for playability is the neck, and the D28 has a neck that Martin calls a modified low oval neck. This neck is slim enough to remain very playable, but it's thick enough to add something to the tone. It's slightly thicker than the average electric guitar neck.

The High Performance Taper neck is a little slimmer than standard acoustic guitar necks. This makes it easier to move up and down the neck, and it makes fretting notes and chords especially easy as you move toward the guitar body.

If you're interested in this neck shape and others from Martin, this video from the manufacturer itself offers a brief history of how Martin developed the High-Performance Taper neck.

Other Appointments

On a guitar of this caliber, you don't have to worry about cheap tuners causing tuning stability issues. The New D-28 comes with nickel open-gear tuners, which help create its vintage-inspired look.

The bridge is also made of solid ebony, which matches the fingerboard. Ebony is also a hard and durable wood, so you likely won't have to worry about the bridge becoming marred over time. 

The string spacing is suited ideally to fingerpicking style, but even if you flat pick or strum, the guitar feels like its made for this style of play. The string spacing is 54.5 mm at bridge and 38.5 mm at nut.

Lastly, the nut and saddle of the D28 are both made of bone. Bone nuts help preserve tuning stability, and they are known for producing quality tone. The bone nut and saddle are self-lubricating, meaning you won't run the risks of strings sticking and negatively affecting intonation. If you want to hear about how bone nuts compare to other popular nut and saddle materials, this video offers a great explanation of the differences.

Social Proof of the Guitar

Short of playing the guitar yourself before buying, the best thing you can do to help you make a decision is to see what other players have to say. We've gathered a few reviews from across the web.

Martin D28 - Review 01

This review does a great job of explaining how this guitar plays well across several genres. Plus, any guitarist who is constantly looking for their next guitar is likely to find this buyer's story encouraging--they found that this guitar stopped them from constantly looking for new ones to buy.

Martin D28 - Review 02

This Martin D-28 review likely echoes the feelings of many buyers--for a lot of players, it's a "bucket list" guitar. The review also underscores the difference between mid-range guitars and guitars like this one.

Martin D28 - Review 03

This is a very succinct review, but it sums up what many owners think about the D28--"I should have bought this guitar first."

Alternatives to Martin D-28

Any time you're considering buying a guitar, it helps to weigh it against some potential alternatives at the same price point. Here are a few guitars to consider alongside the D28.

Martin HD-28E

How it Compares to Martin D28

  • It comes with electronics, making it a good choice for playing live
  • It has scalloped bracing for strong high-end and low-end response
  • It looks a lot like the D28
  • It's somewhat more expensive due to the electronics

Review

This guitar sounds similar to the D28 in terms of the name, and it's also similar in tone. The HD-28E is kind of like an acoustic-electric version of the D28--it comes with Fishman Aura VT Enhance Electronics.

It does have an important difference in terms of sound--its forward-shifted X bracing is scalloped, so it has a little more high-end presence along with the focused bass response the D28 is known for. If you like the D28 but wish it came with electronics, make sure you give this guitar a look

Gibson Acoustic Hummingbird M

How it Compares to Martin D28

  • Walnut sound a bit different from the D28's Indian Rosewood back and sides
  • Comes with electronics, making it easier to play live
  • Has a cutaway for easier fret access, although this may reduce some of the guitar's resonance
  • Is somewhat less expensive than the D28

Review

This guitar is a novel take on Gibson's classic Hummingbird. It has a solid Sitka spruce top and walnut back and sides. Walnut is an interesting tonewood, and it sounds like a mix of rosewood and mahogany, with a brighter treble sound. This guitar has a cutaway for easier fret access, and it comes with L.R. Baggs VTC electronics.

If you want a high-end acoustic-electric but want to spend a little less, make sure you check this guitar out.

Taylor 414CE-R

How it Compares to Martin D28

  • Taylor sound might be better suited for those playing pop and contemporary music
  • Smaller body may be easier to handle
  • Same tonewood configuration as the D28 with Sitka Spruce top and Indian Rosewood back and sides. 
  • Comes with electronics for playing live
  • Is slightly less expensive than the D28

Review

Taylor guitars have an excellent reputation, as do Martin guitars. However, Taylor guitars have a brighter, more "modern" sound, while the Martin D-28 produces classic dreadnought tone. This guitar also features Taylor's new V-class bracing, which allows the soundboard to vibrate more freely and create a more responsive playing experience.

It has the same tonewood configuration as the Martin, but it has a smaller grand auditorium body with a cutaway. It also comes with Taylor's Expression System 2 electronics. If you want a high-end guitar but are seeking a more modern sound, make sure you check out this one.

In Conclusion

The D28 is a classic guitar for a reason. Its powerful, balanced tone has stood the test of time, and it works well across many musical genres. While it is expensive, it's a great choice for those who want the pinnacle of dreadnought sound. If you want a guitar that can do everything from folk to bluegrass to rock, the Martin D-28 is a guitar worth owning. Click here to check it out!

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