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Thread: Martin D-18 or 28?

  1. #1
    Registered User Rex Hart's Avatar
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    Default Martin D-18 or 28?

    I have been looking for a 50's or 60's Martin D-18. All of a sudden they seem to be more desirable than an D-28. I was talking with a banjo playing friend of mine and he thought the reason was because Lester played a D-28 and the generation that grew up with Flatt and Scruggs music are growing older and the newer generation pickers are flat pickers therefore desiring the D-18 which is more suited to flat picking. Was just curious to all fellow café members, which is your preference?
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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I wonder about the mandolin content. Anyhow, here're my thoughts: To most BG lovers, the D-28 seems to be the best sounding all around guitar. The mahogany D-18 tends to sound more crispy, even a bit nasal as compared to the generally richer (or even boomy, in some cases) sounding rosewood D-28. Doc Watson, Clarence White and David Grier, at least for a while, preferred a D-18 for solo playing, maybe because the drier sounding D-18 tends to separate notes particularly well (and Clarence's D-28 wasn't set up properly). However, some D-28s are just great for everything; give me a (non-scalloped) 1945 D-28 and I'd be happy. Now, the differences between older and newer Martins are another story. BTW, Lester Flatt did play a D-18 with the early Foggy Mt. Boys.
    Last edited by Hendrik Ahrend; Feb-28-2014 at 5:29pm.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I don't know if 18's are more desirable than say a 28 of the same vintage, And don't forget about the little obscure D-21!,Too me they are all great instruments with different tonal qualities for each one plus add the wood combos! If your real lucky ya can find some of each with the super rare Adirondak "red spruce" top or in 53 "engleman spruce top"! Just like all the pre 1947 Martins had just red spruce! "I think that's the correct date?" It'll alldepepend on your budget and what sound your looking for. Best O'Luck

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  7. #4

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I am not sure if 1950's/60's D-18 are more desirable that D-28's. I do know that D-18's are less expensive.

    Some players prefer the tone of D18's. Some prefer D-28's. I don't think one is inherently more suited for flat picking, as they are both quintessential bluegrass guitars.

    Personally, I tend to gravitate to D-18's. However, the very best vintage (pre-war) Martins I have played have been D-28's.

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  9. #5
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    They each have their place. D-28's seem to be more popular for players who sing with their guitar. The scoop in the midrange gives a natural pocket for the vocals.

    For the soloist, I think a D-18 has more of the qualities that readers of this forum would likely appreciate. D-18's are typically drier, woodier, more mid-rangey, and have a more pronounced note separation.

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  11. #6

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Both are bigger than an mandolin. (obligatory mandolin content?)


    IMHO, a vintage D-18 is THE BG guitar! The 28's not bad, but it's the 18 that really drives.

    Ok, ok. If I was being economically-minded and someone offered me a vintage 28 or 18, I'd take the 28. If I played primarily rhythm, I'd take the 28. But if I was flatpicking, I'd take an 18 most any day. That said, I would not turn down either. I think that, in the fairest assessment, they are like two sides of the same (bluegrass) coin.

    There may be a generational difference. I've heard older relatives and friends refer to rosewood as the "only" or emphatically the "best" wood and seen them view mahogany as something you might only buy if you couldn't afford rosewood. I know that sentiment is not universal, but I've seen it. When I bought my first 'good' guitar, I let my ears decide, and I picked the 18 over the 28. I've too have noticed an increased enthusiasm for the 18 over the 28. It may also have something to do with how many variations Martin has produced in the last decade or two. 18 (pre-2012), 18 (2012), 18P, 18V, 18GE, 18 Authentic (2 versions), etc. All of them are good, and some are great, and they all come in at a lower price than the comparable 28, especially where the comparable 28 has used Braz. or Madi.

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Both are nice. Both have their own sound (aptly described above). Tony Rice has not done too bad flatpicking leads on a '28, and probably the single best (to my ears) old Martin I ever heard in person was Norman Blake's old 1933 shade-top D-28 12-fretter. Then again... I'm kind of partial to 1945 D-18's... listen to some early Doc to get the tone of those. Can hardly go wrong with either... in fact, you definitely need both

    Would add the early (pre-65) 60's D-18's are frequently wonderful.
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    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Really, Martin guitars are highly individual--some are great, many are very good, and there are a few that were just totally lackluster (like they were stuffed with socks) that I have heard. If I HAVE to generalize and compare a great D18 to a great D28, then it is most likely that the D18 will sound more crisp and airy with more note separation when chorded, and the D28s will sound fuller with more of a blend in the notes when chorded. I've played a few really special D18s that have a good amount of complexity in the tone and a few D28s that sounded very dry which is the direct opposite of what is usually expected of them.

    Also, maybe do not write off a recent used custom shop lightweight Martin that is broken in that was built with hide glue, scalloped Adirondack red spruce braces, and choice, very resonate woods. I'm now a believer in how good those can be!

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  17. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Generalizations aren't worth a damn -- including this one…

    I have a '57 D-18 and a '70 D-41 (which is a D-28 with more abalone inlaid into it, IMHO). Mahogany guitars tend to have more treble emphasis than rosewood guitars, but there is so much individual variance among different guitars -- based on the individual wood used in construction, their history (how much have they been played, etc.), their set-ups -- not to mention strings, picks, playing techniques, and other unidentified variables.

    So play as many of the ones you can afford, as you can get your hands on, and pick the one that's closest to the sound and feel you want. I just helped a friend pick out a guitar last weekend (always ready to help someone else spend his money!). Jim was trading in a '69 D-28, looking for a smaller-body guitar because of some shoulder pain playing a dreadnaught. He played a Martin 00-18, several Larrivees, ended up with a 000-size Huss & Dalton, rosewood body. As I told him, "No wrong choices, just pick the one that suits you."
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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I've got both and to me it's really hard to tell which is better. Yeah sure Lester had that 50' D28 but he also used a D18 before he got the D28. And Earl seemed to always be picking on a D18. Monroe seemed to prefer the D28 as he provide one for his guitarist if he wanted to use it and most did up until 1966 when it went "missing". But a few have stood beside Monroe with their vintage D18 too. I've seen Del McCoury using both. So to get down to it there really is no "best" answer. Price does enter into it. Generally the 50's/60's D18 is about half the price of the same year D28. You find you a killer 50's D18 and D28 and you'll see what I mean. And don't forget those 50's/60's D21 models. Known as the best of both worlds. Sometimes I prefer my '58 D21 over my D18 or D28.

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  21. #11
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    If I'm playing into a mic I prefer a D18. If I'm playing in a non amplified situation I prefer a D28. Each has different voices , tones, and volumes. If I'm playing with another guitar player I like to play what isn't there so the woods compliment each other. R/
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  22. #12

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    each guitar is unique

    however

    first and foremost bracing can make a huge difference-scalloped especially-rear or forward shifted
    a lightly built and nicely braced 18 is a superb guitar, just a bit more middy or less bassy than a 28.

    second

    while BG might be all that many think of, there's a world of other music

    and for me, I love the deeper bass and sparkle of rosewood, and would chose it over the comparably built 18-and I have
    especially for fingerpicking and slide, I love that big bass whomp with a thumb pick, or without.
    35s have even more, imho. but can be a bit flabby for flatpicking. I have never played a 35 I didn't like, however.

    and, I use my 28s for BG, and they do very nicely, especially the Addy topped one.

    finally, 28s have ebony boards and bridges and, rosewood backs and sides, which, on the whole, imho, is always more beautiful than 'hog (excluding exotic quilted 'hog).

    the 28 really is/was the flagship of dreads, imho-and the reason is they seem to me more alive, bigger sounding.

    and fwiw, I have been mightily impressed with the modern (post 1986) guitars and especially those since 2000-simply, a lot of guitar for the money, great sound and feel-and an adjustable truss rod-not a bad thing at all.

    while a fifties martin is unto itself, I would recommend the new authentics. the '41 D-28 with Addy/ Maddy is simply more than what you pay for-a superb vintage sounding guitar. from my recent shopping, a 50's 18 is still less than a 28, condition being comparable. The 50s were kinda that last period before martin production really boomed in the 60s. there are fewer, and prices reflect that. I don't know that they are superior. Probably indeed in terms of overall quality of woods.

    I have always thought of a 21 as the economy model 28 (which it was for a very long time) , but there are some great ones, and the only real difference is trim, and nothing else that matters. I would chose a 21 over an 18, because......it has the rosewood sparkle.

    I think the new standard D18s are superb, great bracing and possibly the best in decades. The Authentics more so.

    I really would strongly recommend that you try some of the new ones. although they don't have the age mojo, strictly as musical instruments they are possibly better.

    its a matter of what you like in terms of sound and looks and feel, and possibly, 'prestige', and that's all there is to it.
    Last edited by stevedenver; Mar-04-2014 at 7:21pm.

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  24. #13

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Ideally, you'd have both, but if I could only have one it would be the 'hog. Just personal preference - it's a bit brighter and maybe more versatile in other styles of music.

    Consider a Collings OM18 if you've got the cash. I prefer that over either of the Martin Dreds.

  25. #14
    Registered User Rex Hart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Thanks all for the advice. As far as mandolin content, just look at the classifieds. I believe they list guitars on there also. There is just something about the looks of a vintage guitar that attracts me... how the wood has turned a pumpkin yellow and the weight, feel and that great tone. Now to find one in my birth year! I recently had the chance to play the D-28 that Doyle Lawson used on the Model Church album. What a hoss! It had the brightness of a D-18 along with the low tones that rosewood brings. Out of my price range though.
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  26. #15

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I see the dilemma as a "factory fresh vs. vintage." I you had a brand new D-18, and a new HD-28, you be able to better flesh out the differences. As the years & miles do what they do, it surely blurs the lines. I've got an HD28, and an HD35, but still want a D-18. If I hit the Powerball, I'd get a D-45 Stephen Stills too!

  27. #16
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Quote Originally Posted by barry View Post
    They each have their place. D-28's seem to be more popular for players who sing with their guitar. The scoop in the midrange gives a natural pocket for the vocals.

    For the soloist, I think a D-18 has more of the qualities that readers of this forum would likely appreciate. D-18's are typically drier, woodier, more mid-rangey, and have a more pronounced note separation.
    Excellent generalization here, and by Cheryl as well.
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  28. #17
    Registered User John Duncan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    1941 Martin D-45.

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  29. #18
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I have played some amazing pre war examples of both. These truly special guitars both seem to have unlimited power and are awesome at playing both rhythm and soloing. Both would be a great guitar for any situation. Also I have played some amazing wartime and late 40s to late 50s examples of both that were also fantastic. Heck, a great guitar is a great guitar. I will say that generally speaking, i tend to prefer the D-18s. Thats what I own and play. I love the warmth, clarity, and power that only an old Martin gives.
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  30. #19
    Tony Bare
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    When I bought my first "good" guitar I played lots of different brands and models. I finally narrowed it down to a D28 or HD 28. If I was just going to hammer out bluegrass rythum and bass runs it would have been the D28. The straight braces give it volume and bass which is what bluegrass pickers want. The HD 28 has scalloped braces. It has the highs and lows of the D28 but with added midrange. The strings are more balanced. I play a little folk, a little blues, a little gospel and a little bluegrass. To my ear the HD28 is more suited to a wide variety of music without sacrificing on any. Finger picking or flat picking sounds equally good. When I bought mine I was impressed with the D16 which I was told was a HD28 without the fancy herringbone purfling. Mine is loud and the top is so active that it tends to "woof" if I am not very careful with my distance when playing into a mic. Don't have any experience with the D18 so I can't compare.
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  31. #20
    Registered User Burk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    Personalty I think if your buying a new Martin you should buy a D-18. I have a Martin D-18 GE With Adirondak "red spruce" Top which sounded better than any new 28 I played. 2 years ago my friend bought a new D-18 and played every guitar in Elderly and the D-18 sounded the best. I think its the mahogany. Vintage Martin's are probably a different story. There's my 2 cents.
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    Registered User GreenMTBoy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I am just recovering from my last episode of I gotta have a new guitar flu.
    I wound up finding a sweet 86 HD -28 in good shape for a pretty good price $1500.
    Bought it from the original owner ,I replaced the stock tuners with a set of Waverly Butter Bean tuners,they are so nice !
    I was going to get a D18 but this one Shivers my timbers !

  33. #22

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I have found the D28 to be perfect when you want a D28. And when you want a D18, then only a D18 will do.

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  35. #23

    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I think that this settles the 'Rosewood v. Mahogany' question once and for all.

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  37. #24
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I like my 000-16........

  38. #25
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin D-18 or 28?

    I like a d28 to be the most versatile. I think a d28 sounds better flat picked than a d18 sounds strummed. They're both great though.

    I sing and play a lot and I feel sort of alone with a d18, the d28 helps you sing and stays by your side. That's the main reason I chose a d28. I like the straight braced ones

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