Martin D-28 Authentic 1941

Our review gets to the heart of the heart of Martin’s Authentic Series: The D-28 Authentic 1941

D-28 Authentic 1941 specs include: 14-fret dreadnought body; made in vintage Style 28 with solid woods throughout, including Madagascar rosewood back and sides, Adirondack spruce top, ebony bridge and fingerboard, mahogany neck with a hand-carved vintage V profile, 1-11/16″ width, and period correct T-bar reinforcement; fine herringbone top trim; diamonds and squares fingerboard markers; glued-in long saddle of fossilized ivory; Authentic Series scalloped braces; rear-shifted X brace; tucked bridge plate; hot hide glue construction

A D-28 Like Back in the Day

There are many fine steel-string acoustic guitars available around the world. Most of them are, to a greater or lesser extent, imitations of the instruments designed and created in the 1930s and 1940s at C.F. Martin & Co., in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. To many, these priceless instruments represent the Stradivarius of acoustic guitars. And now, the guitars offered in Martin’s Authentic Series are made more like pre-war Martins than any Martin since the 1st Marine Division invaded Guadalcanal.

Martin D-28 Authentic 1941

all photos: T. Fair

The flagship of this mighty musical force is the D-28 Authentic 1941. It is an exacting replication of a specific 1941 D-28 residing in the Martin Museum, which was subjected to every quantitative test imaginable, including high resolution imaging technology, thanks to the CAT scan machine of the Smithsonian Institute. The result is a guitar that goes way beyond the normal nod to vintage Martins, as it really is like something out of a time capsule.

That being said, it should be pointed out that new Authentic Series guitars made in Style 28 feature a back and sides of Madagascar rosewood, rather than Brazilian rosewood, the endangered species used at Martin until 1969. While Brazilian harvested in earlier eras is still available, using some of Martin’s dwindling, legal stash would add many thousands of dollars to the list price.

While it is a bit drier and chimier, Madagascar rosewood makes an excellent choice for the exquisite 28s in the Authentic Series, and manages to keep the price of an otherwise vintage Martin clone well within the purse of the common musician.

And what a clone it is! In my opinion, the two examples of the D-28A 1941 I have had in my hands so far are some of the most tonally impressive modern-day, 14-fret dreadnoughts I have ever played.

Vital Signs

Tone, dynamics and playability matter most to me when judging a guitar. This guitar gets top marks in all three areas.

When it comes to tone, it had me at the first strum, because of its ringing purity, impressive depth, effortless volume, and its expansive, open, room-filling presence. As vintage guitar collector and show organizer Gary Burnette likes to say, “A great guitar doesn’t need two years or twenty years to sound great. It sounds great right out of the box.” That description fits this D-28 Authentic 1941 perfectly. This isn’t just a good vintage D-28 reissue; it’s a great guitar.

When it comes to dynamics, it sounds lovely when played with a very light touch. The clear and pretty ring of the barely-picked notes provides as much Wow Factor as the thrilling power that leaps from the sound hole when played full out. Having been built with a thinner back, sides and top than other modern Martins, as well as sporting a period-correct T-bar for the neck reinforcement, it feels light in the hand and on the lap. It also has a thinner headstock, a thinner ebony fingerboard, and thinner wings on the ebony bridge. Even the finish is thinner than modern Martins.

It is an entertainment onto itself to test how lightly it can be played and how, even in its infancy, the guitar already breathes and rings with such woody life and glittering beauty, and how it reacts to the slightest waggle of a resonating string.

One does not need to dig in, or attack it – but they can do exactly that. And that is one of the Holy Grail check marks; it responds so well to a nuanced touch, yet it can be driven beyond the limits of most responsive guitars, only to ask, “Is that all you got?” Even with a brand new and very stiff Adirondack spruce top, it has such wonderful depth, and loves to ride full throttle under a heavy hand. I shudder to think how much that will increase when the top starts to break in and both the attack ceiling and that enormous cellar of three-dimensional tonal space expands even further.

But then, that really does start to read like the description of a pre-war Martin – finely tuned dynamics that respond to the player’s slightest nuance, with enormous power and headroom, and almost mystical in how huge its tonal landscape. Did I mention it is a great guitar?

Playability is different from one musician to the next. I found this guitar surprisingly comfortable for having a vintage feel to the neck, so much so that it goes virtually unnoticed while playing. The shape is carved to be as close as possible to that found on the guitar it was modeled from. I would say this is a classic example of a Martin dreadnought neck from this era. It does not have the baseball bat bulk of the necks from the mid-30s, and it doesn’t have that pointy, boney, skinny feeling of the necks from the mid-50s. While the width is 1-11/16” at the nut, it never feels cramped. The V is of moderate dimensions, being neither too pointed nor too fat.

People who dislike V necks may be surprised at how nice it feels. Those who lament that this guitar does not have a 1-3/4” neck may be more surprised at how this particular Authentic neck still has some mass to it, so the fretting hand doesn’t collapse on itself down in the first position.

 D-28 Auttentic 1941 spruce

 D-28 Authentic 1941 ebony bridge

 D-28 Authentic 1941 headstock

 D-28 Authentic 1941 tuners

 Adirondack spruce

 Vintage ebony bridge

 Authentic logo

 Waverly tuners

Attention to the Smallest Detail

On the outside, the D-28A 1941 has the appearance of a classic ‘bone D-28, with fine herringbone trim around the edge of the top, diamonds and squares fingerboard markers made from solid abalone shell, a long, glued-in saddle made from fossilized ivory, which to my ear helps new Adirondack spruce sound a bit warmer and a bit less brittle than cow bone saddles, and the entire body has been finished with a toner that makes even the grained ivoroid binding appear to be over 70 years old.

On the inside, there are found the bones of the ‘bone. Those ribs might fool a forensic expert specializing in vintage Martins, as each of the Authentic Series guitars have Adirondack spruce bracing virtually identical to pre-war Martins. Each has back braces of the same height, tone bars with the same scalloping angles, and a unique X brace of the correct size, carving and specific position corresponding to the exact year and model of the vintage Martin it is based upon. And not only is the maple bridge plate tucked in under the X brace, a practice Martin abandoned in the late 1940s, this one has been meticulously shaped to resemble the exact bridge plate on the 1941 D-28 in the Martin Museum.

Rear-Shifted Bracing

Sometime in the late 1930s, Martin moved back the X brace on 14-fret dreadnoughts from the forwarded-shifted position. No one knows exactly when or why. But we do know that the placement of the X brace under the top, in relation to the sound hole, has a great deal to do with a guitar’s voice and what sort of bass response it provides, which also influences the mid-range and treble. All other things being equal, forward-shifted bracing tends to produce a lot of boom and woof in the low end of a dreadnought. Set the X brace back a half an inch or so, and the top vibrates differently. There is a decrease in that thick and powerful umph coming out from the bottom of the voice, but in exchange one gains greater definition to the fundamental notes across all six strings.

The X brace position in 1941 was even farther back than modern dreadnoughts. It is a very good placement for a guitar with flexible scalloped braces on such a thin top. It has great depth in the bass, but the lowest notes remain nicely defined. The A string is meaty, and the low E string still has plenty of boom, but both stand out from all that resonant, glowing tone emanating from underneath them. The voice is drenched with overtones, without being swamped by them. And the sustain of the high harmonics triggered by the fundamentals is breathtaking.

A Lot of D-28 for the Money

I can completely understand if someone buys and loves a D-28 Marquis, with its forward-shifted braces, 1-3/4” modified V neck, and dark, lush sound that comes from Indian rosewood back and sides, especially at a price about $1,500 less than this new Martin, after dealer discounts. It is itself a fine guitar.

D-28 Authentic 1941 Madagascar rosewood

The Marquis is a monster of a guitar, no doubt. The Authentic is, well, more Authentic. It has a more open basement under the top voice. It has more chime and is less dark and somber, which can be accounted for by the Madagascar rosewood compared to the Indian rosewood. But compared to the D-28 Marquis Madagascar, the Authentic has a more open barn door and deeper inner-space. It just sounds HUGE, but so open, even when played lightly. And it does not require as much muscle to get the top going once a player decides to dig in.

A major difference for me is the neck. The Marquis is 1-3/4″ with a Modified V profile that has a meaty, round barrel due to the 1930s neck heel, which influences the shape all way down the neck. And it has 2-5/16″ string spacing.

Necks will always be a matter of personal preference. Because of the difference in width, it is not comparing apples to apples, but I find the Marquis neck just too fat for my comfort, even if I like wider string spacing for fingerpicking.

I can certainly understand why someone would prefer the now-discontinued D-28A 1937, with its Brazilian rosewood back and sides, forward-shifted braces, and its big-barrel 1-3/4” neck – if they could find one, and had twenty or thirty grand to spend. But even that guitar didn’t benefit from the recent scientific investigations into the minute details of how they really made them in the 1930s. I do not remember the D-28 Golden Era or the D-28A 1937 being this lightly built, with a top this lively right out of the box.

In any case, with a street price just over $5,000, the D-28A 1941 is an incredible bargain, considering what a spectacular guitar one is getting for their money. The only seller of an actual 1941 D-28 I can find on the open market is asking $85,000 sight unseen.

If you throw out all the comparisons to pre-war Martins you are still left with an extremely responsive, powerful, beautiful, resonant, colorful, chimey dreadnought made from Madagascar rosewood and Adirondack spruce that can go toe to toe with any rosewood dreadnought made today.

It should be no secret to anyone that I have a personal preference for Martin guitars and those made in the Martin style. I am even more in favor of the very best examples. So, in case my opinion of the D-28A 1941 hasn’t been made clear, I will say this. If I didn’t recently acquire a neckless 1966 D-28 with a crushed side and had it restored to pre-war specs by the retired Martin employees now running Brothers Music Shop, in Wind Gap, PA, I would have bought a D-28A 1941 the day I played the prototype. And I may end up with one eventually anyway. It really is that good a rosewood dreadnought.

Conclusion

The Martin D-28 is the most copied guitar in history. Martin alone has no fewer than 10 different versions of the D-28 available in their current catalog, with varying prices and levels of vintage appointments.

Many luthiers from small workshops to major manufacturers have come out with their own take on the D-28, and many include the specs they think matter most when trying to capture some of that legendary vintage vibe, sound and feel that made pre-war Martins so famous.

Well, this is Martin’s own attempt to make a D-28 as close to how they made them back in the day, as realistically possible. And they have done an amazing job, especially considering the relatively low price tag. Yes, Brazilian rosewood would have been very nice. But it simply would have put these guitars out of sight.

The D-28 1941 Authentic is not a collectable museum piece to be locked in a closet to protect the investment required to own one. It is an exquisite, yet practical musical instrument that can and shall be played, recorded and enjoyed.

They are made in the Martin Custom Shop, by a specially-trained team. So Martin cannot roll them off the line like the guitars from the Standard Series. But as they start to get out into guitar shops, I expect to see many players putting up for sale as many guitars as it takes to cover the cost of their new D-28A 1941.

List Price $7,900

Call your Martin dealer for actual price!

And that is one man’s word on…

The Martin D-28 Authentic 1941

Read more about C.F. Martin & Co. HERE

Read our primer about Martin Model Designations and Naming Conventions HERE

The official spec sheet can be found HERE

27 Comments

27 thoughts on “Martin D-28 Authentic 1941

  1. I was lucky enough to play a D28A 1941 and a D28A 1931 a month ago, side by side. I must say they were the best dreadnoughts I have ever played. They dwarfed a HD28V I played along with them (and the HD28V is an awesome guitar!).

    I could clearly notice the differences between the 1931 and the 1941. I am saving to buy one of them, but I must say I would have to play them again to decide which one. I liked the deep resonance and note separation of the 1931, but I’m not sure if it’s deep bass would be just too overwhelming. The 1941 feels more and sound more the regular dreadnought we learned to love.

    • Hello Wanderley and thank you for your input!

      I just got home from a rehearsal where I sat next to a D-28A 1931, the very same one I was playing in the video review I did for Maury’s Music. I get to hear this guitar pretty much once a week.

      Since I and the other side man are playing OMs having that rounded bass of the 12-fret dread is an ideal companion amongst our guitar trio.

      That bassy thing we hear in dreadnoughts sound sound much more pronounced to the player than to the listernet, even only a few feet away. That is because it the player’s ear is right over the sound hole and because they can FEEL the bass response coming through the back and sides of the guitar.

      Sometimes the 14-fret dreads sound bassy to my ear, because the mid-range doesn’t jump out as much as the treble strings or the low E string, in terms of the fundamental note off the string. On a 12-fret dread the mid-range is more up in line with the other strings, sort of like an extra large OM, but then that throb you get from the extra sound chamber under the slopped shoulders does seem to permeate farther into the mid-range when it comes to that resonant undertone.

      And with the forward braces on the ’31 and the rear-shifted braces on the ’41 that extra deep throb is even more exaggerated when comparing the two guitars. So I can see why some will feel it is too much bass, while others will find the ’41 doesn’t have quite the same woof their ears look for in a rosewood dread.

      We are fortunately to have both of them available to choose between. But I do not envy you the choice.

      I don’t think I will ever end up with a 12-fret dread because I find 14-frets are’nt enough as it is. And I really do LOVE the ’41, every one I have played.

      • Hello,

        Thank you for your quick reply. It is a tough task indeed choosing between two outstanding models.

        I did notice that, like our own voice, a particular guitar does sound different when we play it and when someone else plays it.

        I liked your ’31 analogy to the “extra large OM”. I have a 000-28EC and I appreciate its balance. I noticed, however, that the trebles on the ’31 stand out. The ’41 indeed seems to have a “tighter” sound, in the absence of a better word (I find it very difficult to describe sound!).

        I’ll definitely need to play them both again before I make up my mind. The ’41 is a more pleasant to play guitar than the ’31, but the involving sound of the ’31 is hard to forget!

        • It is my belief that one reason sound is difficult to describe is that music is a relatively late development in humans. So adequate language was never developed, back when language was first getting started.

          This is why I so often turn to metaphor related to the other senses, like sight (bright, dark, colorful, pallet, smoky and so on) or taste (rich, sweet, dry, lush, full-bodied, etc.) or tactile (smooth, jagged, snappy, brittle, plump.)

          Some hear rosewood as brighter than mahogany, others hear it the other way around. Clearly, their ears are focusing on different attributes that translate in their brain as “bright.”

          I think you do better than most in your descriptions overall, as tone is also about tightness or openness, bassy and trebley, etc.

          To me the rear-shifted sound is tighter in terms of how focused the bass is, and the treble too. The forward shifted sound may not change much in terms of the top note, but the echoy undertone swells up and out around those top notes. Making everything seem fatter, spread out yet thicker at the same time. Add to that the normal differences in the 12-fret vs 14-fret sound and again, a tough choice any way you look at it, as each will have things the other does not, or not as much or in the same way.

          • Thank you once again for enriching my observations. I’ll have to wait until my next trip to the US (in a few months) to test the two guitars again. In the meantime, I’ll continue to read reviews and watching to videos. I’ll most definitely keep you posted.

            All the best!

            Wanderley

          • Good Day,

            Well, I was originally in the market for an Authentic ’37, but after reading the review, maybe the ’41 is in order!!
            How would you compare the 2 in terms of tone? Are they quite similar or quite different? I have always gravitated towards rear shifted bracing, more for the open, airy bass…but in review, the ’41 seems to have a great open, airy bass!!! What to do!!!?

            Tim

          • Some folks who have had a chance to play both said one thing, in terms of which one was darker or meatier or more or open or more resonant, and other said the opposite.

            The fact is the ’37 had forward-shifted braces and the ’41 has rear-shifted braces. From my experience the ’42 has less woof out of the bottom end woofer. And as a result, the fundamental notes themselves stand up and out from the bass. But it still has plenty of warm, dark bottom end.

            The other facts are the ’37 has a much fatter neck and wider string spacing. That may matter more to people than the tonal differences between the X-brace position in relations to the bridge plate.

  2. So we’ll written! The best I have ever read. You are a gifted man. Thank you and I’ll keep an eye on your site all the time.

    John

    • Well thank you, John, for taking the time to say such a thing. I call em like I see em. Please come back, and feel free to add any comments, suggestions or opinions you may wish to share.

  3. I see you’ve got the bug to potentially buy this one, so that’s encouraging that it must be an excellent guitar.

    From the spec sheet, it seems to share a lot of the same framework as the CS-21-11, which you own. Does the CS-21 compare to the new authentic D-28? I’ve never had the opportunity to play a CS-21, but I have played the D-28 and found the tone pleasing.

    I’m a 1.75″ nut width guy though and could find a used CS-21 without too much trouble. Interested in your thoughts.

    • Welcome back to One Man’s Guitar, Mike!

      Well, the way I hear it, the 28A has a fuller, warmer, darker voice. It is a good example of a classic Style 28 guitar – full bodied, woody with serious presence in the dark shadows of the lower undertone.

      The 21-11 remains unlike any other Martin dread, which is part of its appeal. It has the open spaces you hear in vintage dreads, but has much clearer skies and drier air, as it were, under the top voice, than even a D-18A.

      The 21-11 is still a Madagascar rosewood guitar and has that particular rosewoody complexity, but the undertone is not as thick as a typical Martin dread, and over all it is a very crisp, chimey, clear fundamental and a very open and echoy cellar with a lot of light reaching way down inside the voice.

      The sympathetics are more the leaping harmonic type, than the wallowy undertone type. It little to no woof quotient. And for my final metaphor of the day, the 21-11 is leaner fillet compared to marbled fat in the Style 28 rib eye sound. I do not see the 21-11 as a more affordable version of either the 28A or the Museum edition. It is about as different from either as a 60s D-21 is from a 60s D-28, and even then leans toward a mahogany-ish high harmonic ring thing.

      As it happens, I am expecting to do a full expose on the CS-21-11, at my One Man’s Guitar, but that will be later in November. So stay tuned.

  4. I just received the guitar, and boy this one is really nice.

    I would love to post a review on your website, but I just read yours again and boy it really nails exactly what I would say, Your write up is as good as you’re playing.

    So here I am, happy as a pig in slop. Anyway, thank you. You definitely helped me with this decision.

    • Well, thank you Paul, for the nice compliment. And congratulations on your new D-28A 1941! May the two of you make beautiful music high on the hog.

    • I don’t think you would be disappointed with one. It’s the easiest playing new Martin I’ve played. The action is like butter. The new Martin Monel strings are killer on it too.

    • :) I did get a good chuckle out of this comment, George, having read your comment about the D-45S Authentic 1936 just a moment before.

      • Congratulations, Mike! Wonderful, it not surprising news. I think these will ultimately prove extremely popular, now that they are finally getting into the shops.

  5. Just picked up the D-28 Authentic 1941today. Wow, what a cannon. I’m looking forward to a couple of jam sessions next week.

  6. “even in its infancy, the guitar already breathes and rings with such woody life and glittering beauty” Amen to that. I have owned numerous D-28 variations (none vintage), a D-18A 1937 (great guitar in it’s own right), Collings and Santa Cruz guitars and this one is the favorite dread I’ve owned due to it’s outstanding tone and playability. I find it very well balanced and just love playing it. Thanks for the review.

    • That is quite an array of guitars, Terry! And now the D-28A 1941 as well? I hereby induct you into the Order of the Lucky Dog. Congratulations :)

    • Well, to clarify that a bit, the only dread out of the bunch that I currently own is the ’41 D28A. The others have been bought, sold and traded over the past several years in the seemingly unending quest for “the one”. I think I have found it with this one as the neck fits my hand perfectly and it is a great guitar tonally right off the bat and will get even better. Which is hard for me to believe actually and makes it a keeper. So I am definitely a member of the Order of the Lucky Dog as a result!

      • Indeed!

        I went through a similar tour of OMs, including Collings and Bourgeois, Schoenberg and others. Ultimately went the Custom Shop way. But it sure is a great feeling when you get THE neck with THE tone. Be sure and report back as you two get to know each other, and that top breaks in.

  7. Just to let you know, your overview on the D-28A in general and as compared to the D28 Marquis was absolutely spot on. My friend traded in his D28 Marquis for the 41 D-28A plus some cash and is absolutely happy with his decision. I also got a chance to play his new D-28A at a social get together and I loved the sound and playability of the D-28A. Made me a little jealous but I still love my D-41 special.

    • Well, Richard, the D-41 is no wallflower when it comes to guitars. It seems to me like your Martin and your friend’s should compliment each other very well, and make for some pretty great duets.

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