Martin’s latest D-18 marries vintage specs with a cutaway and custom electronics.
by Teja Gerken
August 01, 2016
The D-18 is one of the Martin Guitar Co.’s most iconic models. First introduced in the 1930s, the mahogany dreadnought is prized for its clear, bright tone. Over the years, Martin has offered many variations of the D-18, including models with exact vintage specs, different bracing and neck dimensions, cutaways, and electronics, but its latest version, the DC-18E, is like no other D-18 Martin has built.
Introduced earlier this year as part of Martin’s Standard Series, the DC-18E’s dreadnought body includes a cutaway as well as the forward-shifted and scalloped X-bracing found on prewar D-18s, which has also been used on several vintage-style reissues over the years. Rather than the pronounced V-shape neck found on many vintage dreadnoughts, the DC-18E’s neck has a modified low-oval shape with Martin’s “high performance taper.” With light-gauge strings and low action, the guitar was comfortable and easy to play. The mahogany and Sitka spruce used to build the guitar we checked out were of high quality and offered beautiful coloring and grain, and the guitar’s fit and finish was perfect all around.
The DC-18E includes Fishman’s Aura VT electronics system, an exclusive package offered on several Martin models. The setup consists of two pickups: an Acoustic Matrix under the saddle and a soundboard transducer mounted to the bridge plate inside the top. A single Fishman Aura image enhances the undersaddle pickup sound, and there are controls mounted on the inside edge of the soundhole for volume and tone, as well as an “Enhance” control for adding the soundboard transducer to the Acoustic Matrix. The system is powered by a nine-volt battery accessible via a compartment below the endpin jack.
While the guitar’s look and feel are definitely 21st century, the DC-18E offers vintage tone: loud, with great dynamic range and a nice complexity. Plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp, the DC-18E sounded full and natural, even using only the undersaddle Acoustic Matrix pickup. Adding the soundboard transducer shaped the amplified sound with more body resonance and brightness.
Overall, the DC-18E would be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a dreadnought with vintage acoustic tone, access to the upper fretboard, and high-quality amplification.
SPECS: Dreadnought body with cutaway. Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid mahogany 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 saddle. Open-gear tuning machines. Made in the USA. $3,899. Martinguitar.com
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