Martin updates its iconic dreadnought for contemporary players.
by Teja Gerken
September 25, 2017
The Martin D-28 is the most famous steel-string flattop guitar of all time. Since its introduction in 1931, the guitar has gone through many iterations, and while different eras have had distinctive design details, the model has stayed fundamentally true to the 14-fret version that replaced the original 12-fret dreadnought in 1934. Not only is the D-28 the most frequently copied steel-string guitar, Martin itself has offered numerous variations of the model, many of which have taken their cues from the revered pre-WWII “herringbone” version, while some have included contemporary features such as pickups, cutaways, slim necks, etc. A basic Standard Series D-28 has always been at the heart of Martin’s dreadnought line, and this year the company decided to update its standard D-28. We had a chance to check out the new D-28 (2017), one of the very first to leave the factory.
The D-28 (2017) is about refinement rather than innovation. The guitar is built with a beautiful Sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides that are gorgeously rich in color. Speaking of color, the finish on the guitar’s top includes Martin’s “aged toner,” which gives the top a rich honey-like hue similar to older instruments. The body’s white binding is also “antiqued,” one of the most obvious things that distinguish the instrument from recent Standard Series D-28s. The instrument’s appointments are similar to other post-WWII models, with black-and-white purfling, a multi-ring rosette, and mother-of-pearl dots in the fingerboard. It has non-scalloped bracing like its predecessor, but the bracing is now forward-shifted, as it was on certain vintage-era instruments. In another vintage touch, the guitar now has open-back tuners. In a move away from the past, the D-28 (2017) has Martin’s High Performance Taper neck with a modified low oval profile. Combined with a slightly wider width of 1¾ inches at the nut, these specs feel much more contemporary than most older D-28s.
The D-28 (2017) is a great playing and sounding guitar. Martin’s use of the PLEK setup technology results in buzz-free action that is low and comfortable but allows you to really dig in when flatpicking. The guitar is loud and punchy when played hard, but also displays a tonal complexity when played softer. Overall, the instrument is a pleasing update on Martin’s standard D-28, making it clear why this model has been an everlasting favorite.
SPECS: 14-fret dreadnought body. Solid Sitka spruce top with non-scalloped, forward-shifted X-bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Hardwood neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Open-geared tuning machines. Made in the USA. $3,299 (list). Martinguitar.com
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