Martin D-28 vs. HD-28

Symposium Compares and Contrasts the Iconic Martin Dreadnoughts

To scallop or not to scallop, that is the bracing question

Aaron Short Music, February 8, 2021, featuring Aaron Short, NYC, Maury Rutch of Maury’s Music, in Coaldale, PA and T Spoon Phillips of Brooklyn, NY

Here are better examples of the difference physical differences between scalloped bracing used on the HD-28 and most other modern Martins, and non-scalloped bracing used on the D-28 and D-35.

Scalloped vs Non Scalloped Braces onemanz.com

Martin scalloped bracing diagram onemanz.com

Exaggerated relief showing the “suspension bridge shaping of scalloped braces and tone bars used on a 14-fret Martin Dreadnought

Martin Guitars 2021 Offerings for Winter NAMM




Martin Offers New Models at Most Pricing Tiers for Winter NAMM 2021

UPDATED Monday 10:00 AM after a talk with Fred Greene at Martin and with guitarist Craig Thatcher providing some demo playing.

From the modest OXK Concert Uke to the Magnificent D-35 David Gilmour signature models,  there is much to admire

In a scaled-down offering for a scaled-down NAMM Show, the 2021 Martin guitars still offer plenty of excitement. And none are more thrilling for me than the long-awaited David Gilmour signature models.

Designed by Martin’s Fred Greene and David Gilmour in a close collaboration, the D-35 David Gilmour its companion D-35 David Gilmour 12 String are inspired by some iconic Martins that the guitarist has played and loved since he first skyrocketed to superstardom with Pink Floyd. These include a pre-war Martin D-18, and the two instruments he used to record the immortal classic, Wish You Were Here – a 1969 D-35 and 1971 D12-28. And I wish both where here with me right this very minute! But you can click below to read about why I feel that way, in my twin reviews.

Click on Photos to Enlarge

Martin D-35 David GilmourMartin D-35 David Gilmour onemanz clear back

Martin D-35 David Gilmour 12 String

Martin D-35 David Gilmour 12 String Guitar onemanz clear

For the forward-thinking 16 Series, Martin has released the new Grand J-16E 12 String made with all solid tonewoods including East Indian back and sides and a Sitka spruce top with scalloped bracing, It is unusual for Martin to put scalloped bracing on a twelve-string guitar, not to mention giving it a long-scale neck. And these are not typical Martin braces.  Having Martin’s largest soundboard, they are progressively scalloped, so they taper shallower as they expand toward the sides, and it has an additional tone bar below the bridge. But then this guitar is unique even for a Grand J, as it is the first one made with 000 depth to side, considerably shallower than other Grand J guitars  like the Pete Seeger baritone models and the CEO-8. Despite having less depth, which makes it more comfortable for the player, it still has a full and complex voice that reminded me of a harpsichord, and brought to mind Leo Kottke’s early albums.

Martin had great success with using the 000 depth on their Dreadnought and Grand Performance sizes in the 16 Series of acoustic electric performance instruments and the more affordable Road Series as well. So I am looking forward to giving this one a test drive as soon as possible. The Grand J-16E 12 string comes standard with Fishman’s Matrix VT Enhance NT2, fine-tuned for guitars with shallow sound chambers.

Grand J-16E 12 StringMartin Grand J-16E 12 String onemanz

Martin Grand J-16E 12 String back onemanz

As for the Road Series, two gorgeous debutantes are the D-13E Ziricote and the GPC-13E Ziricote. Both have the 000 depth and Fishman MX-T electronics that offer a volume and tone wheel inside the sound hole on the bass side, as well as an on-board tuner hidden on the treble side.

D-13E ZiricoteMartin D-13E Ziricote front onemanz

Martin D-13E Ziricote back onemanz

Ziricote is a dense hard wood from tropical America, and when used as a solid tonewood it has great thickness to the tone and pronounced bass response. But here, it is being used as a cosmetic veneer, laid down over top a core of solid khaya, also called African mahogany, which does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to enhancing the tone of the spruce soundboard. But there is also a layer of ziricote on the inside, which does add its influence. Having now heard one of these guitars, they do sound darker and fuller in the low mids than the Style 13 Martins with koa veneer, which also use a kyaya core. And they offer a very different look, as ziricote has dramatic grain patterns often resembling Rorschach drawings, and rich, dark colors that rival the wildest rosewoods. As with the SC-13E (see my article in the new issue of Martin – The Journal of American Guitars) these new ziricote Martins have the kind of hypnotic beauty that can lead a guitarist to sit for long periods of time just admiring the amazing back and sides.

GPC-13E ZiricoteMartin GPC-13E Ziricote front onemanz

Martin GPC-13E Ziricote back onemanz

The Journal of American Guitars issue for 2021 is dedicated primarily to environmental sustainability of precious natural resources like wood. And Martin has released a model dedicated to exactly that proposition. The 00L Earth is a short-scale, slope shoulder Grand Concert guitar made entirely from wood certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council, including quartersawn sapele with perfect copper banding, and Sitka spruce from a sustainable timber forest. And it contains no plastic. But it also contains a stunning piece of artwork of Mother Earth printed on the top, created by artist Robert F. Goetzl. There is also a high-end FSC Ukulele, a Concert size instrument with all FSC Certified woods, including Big Leaf mahogany for the back, sides, and top, just like the professional level ukes from the 1920s, and ebony for the fingerboard and bridge. It has a lovely and surprisingly warm tone for the size, but also has the comfortable Concert size string scale with plenty of room for the fretting hand.

00L EarthMartin 00L Earth full One Man's Guitar onemanz

Concert Uke FSC Martin concer uke fsc_front onemanz

Rounding out this winter’s Martin lineup is a new Junior Series guitar with a dreadnought shape and the fabulous Streetmaster styling from the 15 Series, and a matching T1 Uke Streetmaster, made from mahogany (sapele) with the same sort of styling. The mahogany top imparts a terrific bottom end on the DJr. that makes it sound like a much larger guitar. And it has a USB port, to go direct from the Fishman pickup to your PC recording software! The Tenor size uke has a pretty, woody tone.

DJR-10EMartin djr-10e-streetmaster front onemanz

T1 Uke StreetmasterMartin T1 uke-streetmaster_front onemanzThere is an even more-affordable ukulele in the X Series, the OXK Concert Uke with a glorious koa pattern. But being made from Martin’s High Pressure Laminate, it looks way more expensive than it is while being the ideal travel instrument, virtually impervious to weather, spills, or the heat from a campfire.

OXK Concert UkeMartin 0XK uke_front onemanz

A pretty great showing for an officially scaled-down release!

I am not allowed to comment on what didn’t come out. But I will say I must now look forward to 2022 with even greater anticipation. And I am hoping we might see something from the postponed releases in July for Summer NAMM.

Visit Martin Guitars and check out their redesigned website!

Martin D-35 (2018)

The one many people have been curious to hear, the D-35 (2018) makeover is a winner

With the change to forward-shifted bracing the new it has a meatier undertone and slightly fatter trebles, but it is still a uniquely articulate dreadnought

The written reviews of all the new Martins will appear starting later this week. I am doing all the videos first for a change.

Martin’s Standard Series Has Been Standardized For 2018

C. F. Martin & Co. unveils a “reimagined Standard Series” for Winter NAMM 2018

The D-45 gets new binding and Style 28 returns to its roots while embracing Martin’s vision of its future.

More New Old Martins

The entire Standard Series that defines Martin guitars to the world has been uniformly converted to vintage guitar aesthetics achieved by applying Aging Toner to the Sitka spruce tops. While the Standard Style 18 and 21 models retain the faux tortoise binding of their predecessors, those made in Style 28, 35, 36, 40, 41, 42, and 45 all sport the Antique White binding introduced on select models in recent years.

Martin Standard Style 28 (2018) Martin Standard 000-28 (2018) Martin Standard Style 28 tuners

Photos: The 000-28 (2018) replaces the last hold-out of the old Standard Series (click to enlarge)

Gone are the stark white bindings and the last of the black pick guards. Gone too are the tops with the natural French vanilla color slowly yellowing across the years as sunlight tans them toward butterscotch and onto pumpkin orange as the decades roll by. The appearance of the Aging Toner has been formulated to fall somewhere between Martin’s previous offerings of vintage-esque hues, and lands more in the butterscotch spectrum than not. Many of the new Standard Series models can be ordered with a Sunburst top or an Ambertone top.

Diamonds in the Black

Similar to the makeover given to Standard Style 18 a few years back, which combined Martin’s modern High Performance Neck with the scalloped forward-shifted bracing, tonewoods, and open-back tuners of the old Vintage Series 18s, the domino dots and black and white line inlay of last year’s 28s have been retired in favor of the bold herringbone trim around the top, and the diamond position markers gleaming from the black ebony fretboards of the (soon to be) extinct Vintage Series 28s. And the entire Standard Series will likewise be getting the High Performance Neck. Their marketing data suggests it is the best way to guarantee Martin’s cash flow remains very much in the black.

The High Performance Neck combines a Modified Low Oval shaping to the neck itself with a fretboard that has the High Performance Taper, measuring 1-3/4” wide at the nut, and 2-1/8” at the 12th fret – specs that have become the industry standard among popular guitarmakers. It does appear that Martin has made its last 1-11/16” Low Profile neck, other than on possible future special or limited editions.

That the HD-28 was being remade with the HP Neck in the image of the HD-28V has been known to me for some time now. But whether they would be uniformly remaking all the 28s was an open question until quite recently.

As the man with his name on the headstock, CEO Chris Martin remains intimately involved with many of the decisions that lead to just which Martin guitars end up for sale and when they will appear before the public. For example, it was his fourth quarter decision to withhold certain models from last year’s Winter NAMM until the Summer show. And even then, the revamped Standard D-28 (2017) didn’t get the go light until the last minute.

I was among those holding my breath as to just what exactly would be the final specs of the new Standard Series Martins when they were displayed at the Winter NAMM trade show on January 25, 2018.

One interesting tidbit, the 00-28 and 000-28 are keeping the Style 28 back strip, while the others are moving to the vintagesque zig-zag back strip used on 28s in the pre-WWII years. I had to wait until today’s executive luncheon ended to confirm this is indeed the way things will be at NAMM.

According one of those well-fed execs, “If an H appears in the model name (i.e. HD-28,) then it will have a zig-zag back strip…if no H, it will get a checkerboard pattern,” which appeared on contemporary Style 28 models since the late 1940s.

 

Martin Standard 28 back strips (2018)

Photos: A tale of two 28 back strips (click to enlarge)

The H designation once signified herringbone trim and scalloped bracing. In the new Style 28, some guitars with both of those features do not get the H. And yes this does mean the OM-28 (2018) has surrendered its 1930s zig-zag for the 1950s checkerboard. But it and most of the Standard Series instruments with (2018) in the name get an upgrade in tuners, to Schaller GrandTune™ machines. Style 35 guitars retain the chrome enclosed Grover Rotomatics associated with Style 35 throughout its lifetime.

It Is What It Is

Change often comes slowly at Martin Guitars, while some of their biggest fans have a hard time accepting any change at all.

The loss of grained ivoroid bindings from the OM-42 or the additions of Antique White binding and Aging Toner to the top-of-the-line D-45 may seem like sacrilege to some (who had no intention of ever buying a D-45 anyway,) but it is the change to forward-shifted bracing on the HD-28, D-35, D-41, and D-45 that may prove much more controversial in practical terms, just as it has been for the D-28 2017 model that appeared at Summer NAMM.

The term forward-shifted bracing refers to where Martin placed the X brace in relation to the bridge plate on Dreadnought models made in the 1930s. It is often said to be one inch from the sound hole, but it is all about the flexibility of the spruce soundboard around bridge plate, father down the top from the X, which matters. That is where the majority of the sound-producing energy is transferred from the guitar strings to the musical instrument.

The bracing was moved nearer the bridge plate sometime in 1938, to a position now called “rear-shifted bracing.” And then it was brought forward a little bit at a time until the late ’50s, when it reached the position that was considered the “standard position.” That is, until now.

Moving the center of the main X brace that little bit farther away from the bridge plate on a Dreadnought-size guitar increases bass response noticeably, while adding more echoy resonance to the voice in general.

Martin going all-in on forward-shifted bracing (not including 12-string models) will bring further uniformity to the Standard Series, while also severing ties with the Martins made in the final 40 years of the twentieth century, at least when it comes to the brace position. There is no doubt it changes the voice of a guitar. But it will be left to the individual guitarist as to whether that is a good thing or not.

Likewise, the Company is all in on the take-it-or-leave-it stance concerning the High Performance Neck.

While the playability and feel of the HP Neck allows their ship-of-the-line Martins to enter into direct competition with makers like Collings, Huss & Dalton, and Taylor Guitars, not all guitarists are happy with the new Martin neck. They will have to look to Martins outside of the Standard Series when seeking a vintage style V neck, or they must look to the Custom Shop if they want a new Martin with the Low Profile neck from the old Standard Series.

Martin D-45 (2018) detail Martin D-45 (2018) Martin D-45 (2018) head

Photos: The new D-45 (2018) has vintage looks and modern construction (click to enlarge)

C. F. Martin IV’s Legacy





It can be argued that this reimagined Standard Series may be the most important event in the continued success of the Chris Martin’s family business, since his great-grandfather, Frank Henry Martin, brought the Company into the twentieth-century and piloted it through the Great Depression. It took many years of trial and error to bring all these specs into one unified collection of reasonably-priced, professional-level guitars.

Now in his 60s, today’s Mr. Martin is gearing up to follow his long-time friend Dick Boak into retirement. He will be remembered for leading his Company out of one economic slump and through several others, by embracing and respecting Martin tradition while also introducing and championing modern technologies, and alternate and environmentally responsible materials, often combining the traditional with the futuristic to break new ground that will prove to be sound bedrock for his business to build upon for many years to come.

For guitarists who long for Martin guitars made more like the old timers, he has provided the excellent Authentic Series of meticulous vintage Martin recreations. And for those who want Martin to boldly step outside of their tried and true designs, there are the many special editions and Chris’ own CEO Series.

And now, his transformation of the Standard Series that began with the D-18 makeover in 2012 has come to fruition. By infusing many aesthetic features of old Frank Henry’s pre-war Martins with the modern technology like the High Performance neck, made possible in part by Martin’s exclusive two-way adjustable steel truss rod, the effort to return Martin’s Standard Series to its rightful place as the industry standard for top flight acoustic guitars is fully realized. It may very well be among the wisest moves Chris Martin could make as he prepares for the on-coming century of Martin guitars.

Check back soon, as we will be writing about other new Martins as soon as I am given the permission to start blabbing!

In the mean time…

Check out the new Standard Series Martins and their public spec sheets below

Martin Modes in Review OM-21 Ambertone (2018

All guitars listed have new specs, or are wholly new to the Martin catalog for 2018.

D-45 (2018)

D-42 (2018)

D-41 (2018)

D-35 (2018)

D-35E (2018)

HD-35 (2018)

HD-28 (2018)

HD-28E (2018)

HDC-28E (2018)

HD12-28 (2018)

GP-28E (2018)

GPC-28E (2018)

GPC-35E (2018)

J-40 (2018)

M-36 (2018)

OM-42 (2018)

OM-35E (2018)

OM-28 (2018)

OM-28E (2018)

OMC-28E (2018)

OM-21 (2018)

000-42 (2018)

000–28 (2018)

00-28 (2018)

 

 

 

 

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