Ditson 111

 One man’s word on…

Martin Ditson Dreadnaught 111 (old spelling of dreadnaught used for this model)

Used Market Price:  $3,300 (Some may be available as new old stock with warranty)

I heard of this model’s imminent release only days before I came to the Martin factory to preview the 2007 models. As a recreation of the very first dreadnaught [sic] guitar it is as cool as they come. Well, actually the very first dreadnought was designed and built at Martin by John Deichman in 1916, at a time when there was great demand for bigger and louder guitars. It became the prototype for a series of large-body instruments built exclusively for the Ditson department stores in Boston and New York, 14 years before Martin offered a dreadnought under its own brand name.

Incidentally, the term dreadnought was a play on words. In one respect it was cashing in on the public’s fascination with the largest class of British battleships during the Great War, named for the colossal HMS Dreadnought (or “fear nothing”). But it was also an inside joke. Martin referred to its 0, 00 and 000 guitar sizes as “Single Aught”, “Double Aught” and “Triple Aught.” Since the new guitar dwarfed all previous designs, it was the biggest Aught of them all. And like those gigantic battleships of old, one could take it into a room full of fiddles, banjos and mandolins and “dread not”.

This special edition is based partly on a 1929 version currently in the Martin Museum and a 1924 version that is the oldest X braced dread still in existence. That was the year Martin changed the dreadnought bracing from a fan pattern designed to work with steel strings and replaced it with a reinforced version of their original X brace pattern. This was the first time Martin’s two most famous inventions, the X brace and the dreadnought, were brought together in the same guitar. Martin chose to commemorate this historic design by offering a modern version of the Ditson model 111. It features an enormous, standard dreadnought body made with the same woods as the original – genuine mahogany topped with clear-as-a-bell Adirondack spruce.

The neck is surprisingly comfortable at a width-at-nut of 1-7/8″ and it has many other features taken from the original Ditson dreads. The Delmer pickguard is identical to that 1924 model and rather alien in appearance compared to modern guards, but one which I feel imparts a great vintage look. The guitar also has special Waverly replica tuners and a reproduction of the Ditson three-line rosette at the soundhole, as well as rare Brazilian rosewood used as body binding, endpiece, heelcap, and headstock faceplate.

For all intents and purposes, this fantastic new model could best be described as a D-18GE in 12-fret form with extra special vintage appointments. It has the adjustable truss rod, modern frets and gloss finish used on contemporary Martins and also has the same level of high-quality tone found in that 14-fret GE. This 12-fret variety does not have the bass swell that one gets out of a 14-fret dread, which sacrifices some midrange strength. Instead it is nicely balanced across all six strings, huge from top to bottom. It has a breathtaking chime when strummed with fingernails, a clear and singing voice when fingerpicked and if you take a flat pick to it your G-run will have a whole new life all its own. Even when strumming lightly I made Martin employees turn with a wide-eyed look of “Wow!” This is a LOT of guitar.

Pros: A top shelf 12-fret dread in the classic style. Huge but balanced voice, as good for fingerpicking as it strums.

Cons: Big body and 1-7/8″ V neck will be impractical for many a pair of hands. Snappy Adirondack on mahogany takes a long while to break in and open up.

Bottom Line: Essentially a D-18S GE, without the hide glue or tucked bracing of the Authentic line. But otherwise as good a vintage style mahogany 12-fretter as is made in this century.

1 Comment

One thought on “Ditson 111

  1. I just purchased Ditson 111; I have a d-18 GE that gets better every time I play it. Now it’s a toss up as to which one to play. The Ditson doesn’t have the low end punch of the GE; but it sure has some wonderful big tones. I have only played the Ditson a couple of times but it definitely is an impressive guitar. Played it along side a CS-D-18-12 and they are a perfect match. They compliment one another very well…and can you say LOUD. If you find one and like a larger neck; it is definitely a great guitar for your collection.

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