Martin D18 or D28 for drop and open tunings?

Dirtybluegene

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I know the old D28 vs D18 thing has been done to death, but I play pretty much exclusively in open D tuning (or lower) without a pick, so I'm after some opinions specific to this. I love the big boomy bass of my DX1 but the treble response is muddy and weak and I'm looking to upgrade.

Yes- it's a case of try and let your ears decide etc. but I'm a lefty in Australia- there is nothing here to try in store, even right handed. I spoke with a dealer today- to get one in- 18 months! I would usually never buy an acoustic without buying, but if nothing pops up in the used market, there aren't many options.

Any thoughts??
 

JamesAM

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hey there. if you want some samples, check out some of the youtube demo videos from Carter Vintage guitars featuring either billy strings or molly tuttle from about 5 years ago - if you just google "billy strings d-28" and click the videos link, they'll be there. They play both D-18s and D-28s, with some in drop-d. There's one video of Billy strings playing wild bill jones in drop-d on a pre-war herringbone where the bass basically pushes the mic to its limit. powerful. Unfortunately, almost all of them are with a pick, so take that for what it's worth.

I've owned both D-18 and an HD-28, and still have the D-18. In generalities, here's what you can expect (keep in mind this will vary literally from guitar to guitar):

- D-18: much more balanced and less boomy in the bass, but the bass is still there. you'll get better individual note separation. If you play a lot of chords in drop-d and want the notes to be heard instead of felt, this may be your better option. If you do fingerstyle arpeggiation on the bass strings with no nails, this might also be your better option.

- D-28: lot of bass here, and a lot of overtones between individual notes. if you want to leverage the low end power that drop-d can provide, this will do it. some call it mushy, others call it lush - it depends on your application. If you're playing without a heavy pick and with fingers, this might be too mushy for you.

I preferred the D-18's crispness and projection. The notes kind of fly out of the D-18, but rumble around a bit inside the HD-28 before they leave the soundhole. Not better or worse, just different.

TL;DR: if you like heavy, booming bass, try the D-28. if you like balanced note separation but still a decent amoutn of bass, try the D-18. This will vary from individual instrument to individual instrument.

Good luck in the search.
 

kuch

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Hey DBG
My assortment is a little different
I have a D-28, 000-28EC, and a 000-18 E retro

Both of the 28's A/B are practically the same in sound with the D just a lil bit "richer". If you don't play with a pick I wouldn't say that either is "booming".
In comparison, the 18 is a little cleaner and brighter, but overall I much prefer the 28's, finger or pick

I've played some Hawaiian slack key-mostly fingerpick- on all 3 guitars and in my opinion the D-28 wins out over the 000-28, but not by very much.

I'm an older guy with some minor shoulder issues and I've "loaned" my D-28 for the past several years to my son since the 000's are so much more comfortable to play...

Have fun in your journey....
 

Boreas

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hey there. if you want some samples, check out some of the youtube demo videos from Carter Vintage guitars featuring either billy strings or molly tuttle from about 5 years ago - if you just google "billy strings d-28" and click the videos link, they'll be there. They play both D-18s and D-28s, with some in drop-d. There's one video of Billy strings playing wild bill jones in drop-d on a pre-war herringbone where the bass basically pushes the mic to its limit. powerful. Unfortunately, almost all of them are with a pick, so take that for what it's worth.

I've owned both D-18 and an HD-28, and still have the D-18. In generalities, here's what you can expect (keep in mind this will vary literally from guitar to guitar):

- D-18: much more balanced and less boomy in the bass, but the bass is still there. you'll get better individual note separation. If you play a lot of chords in drop-d and want the notes to be heard instead of felt, this may be your better option. If you do fingerstyle arpeggiation on the bass strings with no nails, this might also be your better option.

- D-28: lot of bass here, and a lot of overtones between individual notes. if you want to leverage the low end power that drop-d can provide, this will do it. some call it mushy, others call it lush - it depends on your application. If you're playing without a heavy pick and with fingers, this might be too mushy for you.

I preferred the D-18's crispness and projection. The notes kind of fly out of the D-18, but rumble around a bit inside the HD-28 before they leave the soundhole. Not better or worse, just different.

TL;DR: if you like heavy, booming bass, try the D-28. if you like balanced note separation but still a decent amoutn of bass, try the D-18. This will vary from individual instrument to individual instrument.

Good luck in the search.

I agree with this assessment. In every model I have tried, I have preferred the mahogany body over the rosewood. My main reason is tactile - the mahogany body is as light as a balloon and you FEEL every note you play. They just feel alive. But if someone offered me a 21+ series, I wouldn't turn it down. They have different voices and sing different songs.

But my overall favorite is a 00-18. If you already own a D model, I would suggest a 000-18.
 

brookdalebill

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I find considerable differences between 18 and 28s.
18’s sound brighter and clearer.
28s sustain longer, and are somewhat louder.
For drop D stuff, I’d prefer a 28.
For strumming, and vocal accompaniment, I prefer 18s.
I prefer 28s for single note soloing, a la Stephen Stills.
Mr. Stills is a master of tunings, and soloing on 28’s.
Just my opinions.
 

Chiogtr4x

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I find considerable differences between 18 and 28s.
18’s sound brighter and clearer.
28s sustain longer, and are somewhat louder.
For drop D stuff, I’d prefer a 28.
For strumming, and vocal accompaniment, I prefer 18s.
I prefer 28s for single note soloing, a la Stephen Stills.
Mr. Stills is a master of tunings, and soloing on 28’s.
Just my opinions.

"Suite Judy Blue Eyes"
One 'sitar acoustic' is tuned ( low > high)
EEEEBE
Stills is really a guitar genius IMO - that first CSN, he's pretty much playing everything but drums
 

telepraise

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I have both and agree the others' posts here. James sums up the differences very thoroughly in post #2. Considering that you only play with fingers and love the thundering bass but want fatter trebles, I would say go with rosewood, especially in new guitars. As they age past 50 years, the differences between mahogany and rosewood are less pronounced than when new. Either way, your going to be spending an arm and a leg to get a Martin in Australia. You might be able to commission a build with a native luthier who can voice the guitar to get the sound you're looking for for about the same money.
 

Freeman Keller

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My take on all of this. I own an old D-18 but I hardly every play it. I am a fingerstyle player who plays mostly blues and what John Fahey called "American Primative". I play in open tunings a lot - D, G, C and dropped D. I have a few guitars that are more slide oriented but I play slide on everything.

In my opinion the dread does not tune down well. It is so bassy to start with and just gets worse as you lower the bottom strings. Somewhere around two semi tones down I feel that the open strings are getting pretty muddy sounding (yes I run heavier strings when I down tune). And the weak treble just gets weaker.

So, there are really two questions here. Is a dreadnaught in general a good guitar for down tuning? In my opinion a smaller bodied guitar (00,000, OM) is better balanced.

Second question - can you hear and identify the difference between rosewood and mahogany? Some claim they do, some very good blind tests indicate they don't. Only you can decide that for yourself.
 

Boreas

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My take on all of this. I own an old D-18 but I hardly every play it. I am a fingerstyle player who plays mostly blues and what John Fahey called "American Primative". I play in open tunings a lot - D, G, C and dropped D. I have a few guitars that are more slide oriented but I play slide on everything.

In my opinion the dread does not tune down well. It is so bassy to start with and just gets worse as you lower the bottom strings. Somewhere around two semi tones down I feel that the open strings are getting pretty muddy sounding (yes I run heavier strings when I down tune). And the weak treble just gets weaker.

So, there are really two questions here. Is a dreadnaught in general a good guitar for down tuning? In my opinion a smaller bodied guitar (00,000, OM) is better balanced.

Second question - can you hear and identify the difference between rosewood and mahogany? Some claim they do, some very good blind tests indicate they don't. Only you can decide that for yourself.
The usual blind tests can be a bit misleading as well as the sound is coming from a different direction, typically with the sound hole pointed toward you (or the microphone). Obviously, it is simpler to tell the wood material just by holding the guitar and playing it. Mahogany is much lighter and tends to vibrate more. But perhaps part of the reason people feel they can hear the difference is because the soundhole is pointed away from their ears when they play, and the body wood is much closer to their ears - so I believe the orientation of the instrument makes a difference as well. My guitars sound much better when someone else is playing them, and not always because of the quality of the player! I would like to try one of those guitars with a soundhole on the top side bout pointing toward your ears.
 

Dirtybluegene

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hey there. if you want some samples, check out some of the youtube demo videos from Carter Vintage guitars featuring either billy strings or molly tuttle from about 5 years ago - if you just google "billy strings d-28" and click the videos link, they'll be there. They play both D-18s and D-28s, with some in drop-d. There's one video of Billy strings playing wild bill jones in drop-d on a pre-war herringbone where the bass basically pushes the mic to its limit. powerful. Unfortunately, almost all of them are with a pick, so take that for what it's worth.

I've owned both D-18 and an HD-28, and still have the D-18. In generalities, here's what you can expect (keep in mind this will vary literally from guitar to guitar):

- D-18: much more balanced and less boomy in the bass, but the bass is still there. you'll get better individual note separation. If you play a lot of chords in drop-d and want the notes to be heard instead of felt, this may be your better option. If you do fingerstyle arpeggiation on the bass strings with no nails, this might also be your better option.

- D-28: lot of bass here, and a lot of overtones between individual notes. if you want to leverage the low end power that drop-d can provide, this will do it. some call it mushy, others call it lush - it depends on your application. If you're playing without a heavy pick and with fingers, this might be too mushy for you.

I preferred the D-18's crispness and projection. The notes kind of fly out of the D-18, but rumble around a bit inside the HD-28 before they leave the soundhole. Not better or worse, just different.

TL;DR: if you like heavy, booming bass, try the D-28. if you like balanced note separation but still a decent amoutn of bass, try the D-18. This will vary from individual instrument to individual instrument.

Good luck in the search.
Thanks for this- great details and descriptions. I had been leaning towards D18, but the 28 is looking like a contender based on your info. Luckily I'm not in a hurry, just the research stage. Wish I could get my hands on both to try out- I think I'd be able to decide easily.
 

Dirtybluegene

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I find considerable differences between 18 and 28s.
18’s sound brighter and clearer.
28s sustain longer, and are somewhat louder.
For drop D stuff, I’d prefer a 28.
For strumming, and vocal accompaniment, I prefer 18s.
I prefer 28s for single note soloing, a la Stephen Stills.
Mr. Stills is a master of tunings, and soloing on 28’s.
Just my opinions.
One of my all time favourite acoustic tones is Stills on Black Queen (old D45?)!!! Monstrous! Martin fantasy land with those guys.
 

Dirtybluegene

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I have both and agree the others' posts here. James sums up the differences very thoroughly in post #2. Considering that you only play with fingers and love the thundering bass but want fatter trebles, I would say go with rosewood, especially in new guitars. As they age past 50 years, the differences between mahogany and rosewood are less pronounced than when new. Either way, your going to be spending an arm and a leg to get a Martin in Australia. You might be able to commission a build with a native luthier who can voice the guitar to get the sound you're looking for for about the same money.
Thanks- yes, my other option is to look at local luthiers.
Gerard Gilet is sort of nearby- I played what I think was a D28 clone of his about 15 years ago... should have snaffled it when I had the chance. He doesn't do any Martin style dreads according to his website any more, but he might be good to talk with.
 

bottlenecker

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I know the old D28 vs D18 thing has been done to death, but I play pretty much exclusively in open D tuning (or lower) without a pick, so I'm after some opinions specific to this. I love the big boomy bass of my DX1 but the treble response is muddy and weak and I'm looking to upgrade.

Yes- it's a case of try and let your ears decide etc. but I'm a lefty in Australia- there is nothing here to try in store, even right handed. I spoke with a dealer today- to get one in- 18 months! I would usually never buy an acoustic without buying, but if nothing pops up in the used market, there aren't many options.

Any thoughts??

Coming from a DX1 they are both cannons. There is a much bigger difference between a DX1 and either standard series dred than between a D-18 and D-28.
If I want the most/biggest bass, I have found I have to try individual examples, but the midrange character seems pretty consistent by model.
JamesAM's descriptions above are consistent with the D-18s and D-28s I've played and listened to. My oversimplification is that I notice a D-18 has a little more of a midrange, and a D-28 is more scooped in the middle. HD-28 is even more scooped.
 

jrblue

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Regluar or dropped, you name it, give me a good D-18 over a D-28 any day of the week. I do think that at some times, Martin has treated its 18 series as a deliberately "budget" version rather than building to the virtues and capabilities of good mahogany B&S, but a decent 18 model is to my ears a wonderful thing. I may be an outlier, but to my ears the resonance and clarity of a good D-18 is freferable to the busy, jacked-up harmonics and boomy bass of a D-28. Most of us do not need, and I for one do not even want the sound that was once necessary for guitar players working either fully acoustically or going through a single mike with the rest of the band. Who needs to "cut" anymore? I like the clear brightness and strong, tight fundamentals (of mahogany B&S) more than the classic D-28 sound, though both are terrific, of course.
 

Dirtybluegene

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Regluar or dropped, you name it, give me a good D-18 over a D-28 any day of the week. I do think that at some times, Martin has treated its 18 series as a deliberately "budget" version rather than building to the virtues and capabilities of good mahogany B&S, but a decent 18 model is to my ears a wonderful thing. I may be an outlier, but to my ears the resonance and clarity of a good D-18 is freferable to the busy, jacked-up harmonics and boomy bass of a D-28. Most of us do not need, and I for one do not even want the sound that was once necessary for guitar players working either fully acoustically or going through a single mike with the rest of the band. Who needs to "cut" anymore? I like the clear brightness and strong, tight fundamentals (of mahogany B&S) more than the classic D-28 sound, though both are terrific, of course.
Good point about the intended use. It won't be used in a band situation or even mic'd up/ pickup. Recording and home use and something to hold on to for the rest of my life. The 18 is what I've assumed I've wanted for so long, based on so many things, including the rave reviews of the current standard series. Not being able to try one really sucks.
I've been checking out Australian luthier Joe Gallacher, who looks to use all the right materials and styles. Could be a better option. Anyone had experience with his guitars?
 

39martind18

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I've seen that, and your name gives the details! I'd love to hear the story of that guitar. How long have you had it?
I've had it going on 50 years, bought from the original owner, who purchased it as NOS right after Pearl Harbor in 1941 in San Diego. The original owner's name was Choice Pearson, and he carried the guitar on a succession of ships all over the Pacific during WWII. Afterwards, he came back to Texas and formed a band that played live on radio in the late 40s in the Amarillo, Lubbock and Santa Fe, NM areas. When I met Choice, he was a campus policeman at UT Arlington. One night, at the Girl's Dorm, he showed me the D18, but indicated he wasn't willing to sell it, but didn't mind discussing it. It took two years of gentle, insistent pressure until he agreed to selling it to me, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks for asking!
 

Dirtybluegene

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I've had it going on 50 years, bought from the original owner, who purchased it as NOS right after Pearl Harbor in 1941 in San Diego. The original owner's name was Choice Pearson, and he carried the guitar on a succession of ships all over the Pacific during WWII. Afterwards, he came back to Texas and formed a band that played live on radio in the late 40s in the Amarillo, Lubbock and Santa Fe, NM areas. When I met Choice, he was a campus policeman at UT Arlington. One night, at the Girl's Dorm, he showed me the D18, but indicated he wasn't willing to sell it, but didn't mind discussing it. It took two years of gentle, insistent pressure until he agreed to selling it to me, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks for asking!
Wow. It's great that you know its history and its original owner. I love these stories.
 




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