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Old June 29th, 2008, 01:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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D-18 vs D-28 vs HD-28 perspectives

As of 2 weeks ago, I can say I own a Martin D-18, D-28, & HD-28. I can finally comment on the differences, both subtle and noticable from my point of view. I bought my HD-28 early 1995, and pranced around with that thing proud as anyone can imagine. A couple years ago, I sprung for a Santa Cruz D, and designated the HD28 as my official camping/road axe. About a year ago, I started selling odd and ends on ebay with the intent to raise enough coin to buy my son's music teacher a Martin (we love him). I scored a truely great example of what a D-18 is supposed to sound like. I was *** blown away. The plain little D-18 not only smoked my HD28, she also smoked my Santa Cruz. 1st thing to state, the obvious of course, the HD28 & Cruz are both Rosewood sides and back while the D-18 is Mahog B & S. However, the D-18's responsiveness was so much better it was glaring... more than just the choice of wood. So, I packed the Cruz & HD28 to one of the best guitar dudes on the planet (right here in Ojai calif) for some splainin & setup. The short version made longer: my Cruz needed a saddle replacement (was too low) and the HD28 simply wasn't an outstanding example of what an HD-28 should be (not crap just not great). So, call me a kook as my wife does, I rushed out and bought a D-28 from Elderly ($1710 to my door, I was shocked how great their price was, pure impulse). Outta the box the D-28 is awesome! Every bit the guitar the cruz is for half the coin! Here's the technical differences that i believe made a discernable difference to me in tone:

D-28, D-18, & Santa Cruz D all are traditional tapered bracing (I forget what Martin calls it exactly) 5/16" spruce. The HD-28's bracing is 1/4", and they scoop out the center calling it scalloped. The bracing has much less wood due to thickness and scalloping, and allows the top to move more freely producing alot more Bass. For me now, having the chance to A/B/C these beauties for days on end, I feel the HD-28 is a bit muddy while the D28 is punchy and tight. I like the D-28 better! That said, I haven't whipped her out in a jam circle & I'm hoping to jam with the D28 soon. My guess is, in a group, I might like the HD's tone because she helps round out the bottom end and compliments the mandolin and fiddle very nicely. I never felt inadequate in a jam circle with the HD28! The key here in my sophmoric opinion is application! Now the crown jewel: The D-18 simply sparkles and shines and resonates. She's unique, she's beautiful, she should catch any players ear an make ya fall in love. I believe the D-18 is more responsive than the others, and a sweet light touch is all you need for her to ring out for day's like church bells :) However, I tend to play like a sledge hammer hitting concrete which can be counterproductive to the D-18. She wants me to play her more softly, and that's good for me as I am always trying to get better & become more versatile. In the end, for me, it took more than an hour in the shop to really understand the differences of these great guitars, and hopefully I've shed some light for anyone thinking about acquiring one. All 4 are great. BTW, I ebayed the HD-28 as I don't play enough in jams to justify her.

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Old June 29th, 2008, 03:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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In the end, for me, it took more than an hour in the shop to really understand the differences of these great guitars, and hopefully I've shed some light for anyone thinking about acquiring one.
PK
I've spent hours and I still haven't figured it out!

I never had the chance to play an HD-28, but a lot of people call it the Holy Grail guitar. I've also heard that it's a bit too muddy so your review doesn't surprise me. A good example of why it's so important to play before you pay.

I liked the D-28 over the D-18, but the neck on the D-18V is fantastic.

I also liked the the neck on the D-16 LSH (large sound hole), nice and wide for finger picking.

Thanks for sharing your experience, I trust your opinion more than anything on Harmony Central!
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Old June 29th, 2008, 09:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The bottom line: you can't really go wrong with any of these wonderful guitars. I always figured I'd end up with an HD-28, but in the end I chose a D-35 because it spoke to me and becuase it had a slight edge over the HD-28 in the "chime" department (think piano overtones!). I haven't had the chance to sample a D-18, which in my younger days was the "holy grail" of dream guitars. Reactions change with age and experience. Still, though, I can't imagine any of these guitars being less than wonderful.
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Old June 30th, 2008, 05:31 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree with you on the D18. I used to be a Rosewood guy but after I played one of the D18's I changed my tastes. From what I'm reading everywhere, genuine South American Mahogany will soon be hard to get, prices will go up and eventually it will go the way of Brazilian Rosewood.
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Old June 30th, 2008, 08:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Steffey brought up the other great Martin: the D-35. I found that it sounded more like a Gibson, more of a "round" sound (sorry, it's a silly adjective but the best I could do!). A fine guitar in it's own right.

Depending on my mood, the time of day and the phase of the moon, my preference changes between the 28, 18 & 35.
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Old June 30th, 2008, 08:32 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I like the notion of "round" sound, actually. I know what you mean. The balance between the highs, meds and lows is astounding...and my guitar hasn't begun to open up completely yet! I can't wait to hear what's going to happen. Also, talking about moods, I sometimes surprise myself when I think of the D16GT I traded in for the 35. I went from hog to rosewood, and while I certainly can't imagine (now) being without the 35, I sometimes miss the dark boom of the hog... Maybe an 18 is in my future?!?
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Old July 1st, 2008, 07:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I haven't played the 35, and I understand it has 1/4" standard bracing. The 35 by design should fall between the HD28 & D28 regarding tonal range. All this analysis is subjective to the player's ear coupled with the individual guitar itself as a good/better/fantastic example of the model. My wife, a fantastic sculptor & painter (and tolerant of my guitar obsession) made this comment when she heard me A/B the D28 vs D18: "Ooh, chocolate & vanilla. I like them both"! Very appropriate I thought. :)

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Old July 1st, 2008, 11:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I have a D-18 I bought new in 1976. In the time I've owned it, I've had a number of other great acoustics, but never one that sounded anywhere near as good. I was told once that to you have to play an acoustic hard and loud for a long time, for the guitar to really start to sing, and that's held true for this one.
I've thought of selling it and picking up a smaller bodied guitar, and played a Taylor that I thought of trading it for, but I just can't part with it. It sounds better every time I play it.
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Old July 2nd, 2008, 10:28 AM   #9 (permalink)
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PK, you pretty much nailed the differences.

Quote:
My guess is, in a group, I might like the HD's tone because she helps round out the bottom end and compliments the mandolin and fiddle very nicely.
Your guess is right, which is what the HD-28 was designed for, a bluegrass quartet. I play acoustic folk and the HD is too boomy, dark, whatever.

Quote:
D-18 simply sparkles and shines and resonates. She's unique, she's beautiful, she should catch any players ear an make ya fall in love. I believe the D-18 is more responsive than the others, and a sweet light touch is all you need for her to ring out for day's like church bells
This is why soloist such as Norman Blake prefer the D-18. The 28s are too dark for his style of playing.

You're also right about the sledgehammer approach not working on the 18. I have a friend who plays like that. He plays a Taylor, so I don't mind if he beats it up. The 28 should server you better, or perhaps a 35.
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Old July 2nd, 2008, 10:38 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I have a 1992 D-16H thats a solid wood mohoghany back and sides. It will blow away a lot of D-28s and HD-28s. I remember I a few years back I went to upgrade my martin and get a real bluegrass guitar, a 28. Well after playing hundreds of Martin guitar at dozens of stores I realized I couldn't find a guitar that was better than that old beat up d-16h I already had. I could find guitars that sounded different. I really like rosewood for flat picking, but strumming or simple melody stuff I think I prefer Mohoghany.
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Old July 2nd, 2008, 11:14 AM   #11 (permalink)
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You hit a few important points.

Setup for sure. My HD-28 is awesome, but its former owner did not believe me as far as how badly it needed a setup. His loss, my gain. I had the fortune of playing 5 new and used HD-28s in the 48 hours prior to my purchase. The dud had bridge repairs and drips of glue were obvious. The rest had subtle differences but one new and one used had some shimmer and balanced tone with my used and opened up copy as the standout. My guess was the best new copy would probably end up like my used one.

You don't have to convince me of the value of D-18s. One of the true to die for guitars I've experienced is an old D-18 that has runout that most buys would not tolerate today, but wow does it have nice tone. There is just the mahogany difference too. I have an 00-18V and it has a kind of tone the D-18s have that I am sure has to come from the wood. I think anybody interested in acoustics has to try that instrument. It is especially sweet via the tone and 00 size.

On Martins in general.... I play a lot of nice guitars via shopping with a deep pocket friend and a bluegrass music assoc. I belong to. Not all Martins are real winners but many are good, some superb. They're also had for much less money (especially used) than others. The perfect example would be my HD. It was not $1700 even with its setup and if it's not the Collings, Santa Cruz, Bourgeois or similar I sometime play with it is no way a fraction of them but was had at a fraction of the cost.

Something else I like about Martins. I think many of the similar models are going for more of something. More bass, more treble, more mid tone, more percussive or staccato tone. Sometimes I just love that more, but I parted with 5 guitars in 10 months and my 2 Martins are sticking with me because they have general comfy and consistent tone that does not tire.
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Old July 3rd, 2008, 10:58 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I like the notion of "round" sound, actually. I know what you mean.
Thanks, I'm glad someone got it!
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Old August 6th, 2008, 11:33 AM   #13 (permalink)
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D versus 0's

The only Martins I have played were D** models. How do they fit into the size scheme off the 0, 00, 000, 0000 model numbering system?
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Old August 6th, 2008, 10:24 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I've heard of people saying theyve played dead sounding 28s before, until last week Ive never heard a bad sounding Martin guitar ( not counting their lower end stuff). Well, I played a dud Hd-28 last week. Let me tell you, that thing was completely dead and lifeless. I couldnt believe it was an HD 28.

Before then, I would have ordered one before playing it. Now I will not even consider it.
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Old August 7th, 2008, 08:22 AM   #15 (permalink)
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The only Martins I have played were D** models. How do they fit into the size scheme off the 0, 00, 000, 0000 model numbering system?
The "D", or dreadnought, has a bigger body.... deeper too. I've never owned an orchestra or parlor sized guitar, but I have notice an increase in thier popularity lately.

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Old August 7th, 2008, 10:30 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I know what you mean. I played a KOA D-45 a while back, $6000+ guit, I wouldn't have given them $500 for. It was a DOGG. Tinny and lifeless. I'll never buy an acoustic without pickin' on it first.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 08:56 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Howdy,

I've had my D-28 for 11 years now and it's wonderful. I'd like to get a Martin 'hog, though.

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Old October 22nd, 2008, 12:20 PM   #18 (permalink)
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It's hard to beat a good Standard D-18. After having mine for about a year I thought that maybe I should get a D-18V instead but after playing many D-18V and GE's I've yet to find one that sounds better than my 2003 D-18. I think I just prefer the sound of the straight bracing.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 12:48 PM   #19 (permalink)
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The mahogany-top D-15 is another interesting variation, how does it stack up in you guys' view?
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 01:53 PM   #20 (permalink)
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The mahogany-top D-15 is another interesting variation, how does it stack up in you guys' view?
I had a girlfriend with a small '60s mahogany-top Martin. Sounded like she kept her socks in it.
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