The Martin D18 and D28 acoustics have been staples of the company’s acoustic guitar lineup since the 1960s. However, many players are still confused about their distinction. So what’s the difference between the Martin D18 and D28? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about these two highly revered instruments.
Introducing Martin Dreadnought Guitars
For acoustic guitars, the dreadnought type has become the most popular. The “Dreadnought” guitars, named after the WWI-era battleships, were larger and had a bass-heavy tone that gave them the power to fill a room with music. Dreadnought guitars were invented by Martin in the early 20th century.
Martin began making them for another company before putting their name on them and releasing the D-1 and D-2 in the early 1930s, which evolved into the D18 and D28 a few years later. Frank Henry Martin produced the Dreadnought, and then it became arguably the most important and most influential guitar body ever built.
Martin dreadnought guitars are also referred to as “D-size” guitars or “dreads” by players. Their model numbers begin with “D-” and then a number, such as “D18” or “D28.” The more decorative ornamentation on the instrument, the higher the numeral designation.
Martin D18 vs D28
D18 and D28 guitars are mainly in the same league, except for the tonewoods in their backs and sides. The two dreadnought guitars also have different appointments, where D28 has more cosmetic extras than D18. A typical difference in their appointments includes inlay styles, the headstock shape, and binding.
|BACK MATERIAL||Genuine Mahogany||East Indian Rosewood|
|SIDE MATERIAL||Genuine Mahogany||East Indian Rosewood|
The main difference between the two is the back and side materials or tonewoods. D18 has mahogany back and sides, while D28 has Indian rosewood. The mahogany in D18 produces a warmer and woodier tone, while the rosewood in D28 has a more harmonically dense sound,
For the brace shape, scalloped braces (D18) tend to scoop out the midrange in favor of stronger bass and high treble frequencies. This means that a D18 guitar tends to be louder and more responsive with deeper lows. On the other hand, non-scalloped braces present in D28 tend to draw out the midrange for a more balanced response between all frequencies.
|BINDING||Faux Tortoise||Antique White|
|BRIDGE PIN MATERIAL||Black Plastic||White Plastic|
|BRIDGE PIN DOTS||None||Faux Tortoise|
|ROSETTE||Old Style 18 Multi-Stripe||Multi-Stripe|
Binding is the ornamental strips of plastic, wood, nitrocellulose, or other materials added to the edges of a guitar’s back and top, where they join the sides. It is essentially the border around the guitar and made for aesthetics. D18 guitars have faux tortoise binding (darker), while D28 has an antique white (lighter) one.
The bridge pins of a D18 are made out of black plastic, while those in D28 are made of white plastic. Bridge pins are the ones that secure the guitar’s strings by holding each string’s ball end against the guitar’s bridge plate.
|BACK AND SIDES COLOR||Dark Mahogany||None|
|BACK INLAY MATERIAL||None||Multi-Stripe|
|HEELCAP||Faux Tortoise||Antique White|
|ENDPIECE||Faux Tortoise||Antique White|
Inlay on guitars is a decorative material set into the wooden surface of the instrument using standard inlay techniques. D18 guitars have a dark mahogany color on their back and sides, while D28 guitars don’t. However, D28 has more decorations in its body, particularly the back and endpiece inlays. In this case, D28 has multi-stripe inlays while D18 doesn’t.
Like other appointments, the heel cap and endpiece of D28 are antique white, while those in D18 are faux tortoise.
|FINGERBOARD INLAY STYLE||Old Style 18||Style 28|
|FINGERBOARD INLAY MATERIAL||Abalone||Mother-of-Pearl|
D18 and D28 guitars have their own respective fingerboard inlay styles. The dots in a D18 are mode of abalone, while dots in D28 are made of mother of pearl.
|HEADSTOCK SHAPE||Solid with Square Taper||Solid with Square Taper and Diamond|
Both D18 and D28 guitars have a solid headstock with a square taper, but only the D28 has the back of its headstock carved with a diamond design.
|CASE||Ply Hardshell||Molded Hardshell|
Molded cases that come with D28 guitars are lighter, so it’s ideal for when you’re traveling locally. Even lighter than other hardshell cases, it still offers enough protection.
However, if you want something sturdier, you might want the plywood cases that come with D18 guitars. It’s ideal for when you need to check in your guitar in airplanes. Plywood hardshell cases can also be easily repaired at any repair shop, usually for very little money.
The differences are subtle, but a discerning ear may be able to tell them apart. The D18 has a rounder, more mellow sound than D28. The D28 may not be quite as loud as a D18, but it’s capable of producing ample volume when needed.
It’s no exaggeration to say that sound is one of, if not the most important factor in deciding whether or not a guitar is a good purchase. However, because both guitars are virtually similar in terms of sound, it will be more about your personal preference. It’s best to try it first for yourselves before you can find the best Martin guitar purchase for you.
However, it’s important to note that Martin makes many other models with price points between these two instruments. Hence, it all depends on what type of guitar you’re looking for in terms of sound and quality.
It is difficult to say that a D18 or D28 sounds “better” than the other since they are almost identical. Any differences are mostly matters of taste and not necessarily in quality. If you want one that is cheaper, simpler and has a warmer and woodier tone, then choose D18. But then again, if you want a guitar that has more decorative additions based on the specifications, D28 is your guitar.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.