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Martin D-18 Authentic 1939
 
A great vintage-accurate mahogany dreadnought.
January 25, 2023
 

Martin D-18s sometimes reside in the shadows of their rosewood cousins, but the mahogany dreadnought is one of the company’s most iconic models. Typically featuring a brighter sound and greater tonal balance, D-18s have their own sonic virtues, and late 1930s D-18s are among the most valued instruments among bluegrass lead guitarists. 14-fret D-18s have been in continuous production since 1934, but gradual changes to the guitar’s construction have resulted in variations in sound and feel, depending on what era a D-18 is from. Martin has long offered vintage-style reissues of the model, and last year, the company introduced one of the most accurate recreations of a specific version when it introduced the D-18 Authentic 1939. I had a chance to take the instrument for a spin in the Peghead Nation video studio. 

As with the Martin D-28 Authentic 1937 that we demoed recently, the D-18 Authentic 1939 is based on a specific instrument, in this case a D-18 that is part of Martin’s in-house museum. Built with gorgeous genuine mahogany back and sides and a spectacular Adirondack spruce top, the guitar features the fundamental style-18 ingredients. The model uses hide-glue construction, accurate 1939 rearward-shifted scalloped X-bracing, a non-adjustable truss rod, and Martin’s thin Vintage Gloss finish. It also features a period-correct body shape (the molds used to build dreadnoughts have changed ever so slightly over the decades, resulting in slight differences), and authentically shaped neck barrel and heel. By definition, D-18s are simply appointed guitars, and the D-18 Authentic 1939 has the expected black-and-white rosette, tortoise body binding, dot position markers, etc. Martin’s Authentic line has always impressed with impeccable craftsmanship, and our demo guitar is no exception.

The first thing many players will notice about the D-18 Authentic 1939 is its beefy neck dimensions. Although it features a standard width of 1¹¹/₁₆-inches at the nut, the profile is much deeper than most has a rounded, rather than V-shaped profile. Even by vintage standards, this is a chunky neck, and players with large hands and those who like a neck that fills the fretting hand will be right at home. The guitar was set up with medium-gauge strings and medium-height action, which requires a little effort, but gives you high headroom and clean tones even with a heavy attack. Speaking of attack, the D-18 Authentic 1939 has a dynamic flexibility that allows it to develop complex tones anywhere from soft fingerstyle playing to brash strumming with a heavy pick. Single-note lines jump out with a lovely sparkle, chords have definition, rather than being washed-out, and the guitar is able to develop great volume. 

The D-18 Authentic 1939 is an impressive guitar. There are many interpretations of vintage-style D-18s available in today’s market, but this guitar leaves no doubt that Martin still knows how to deliver the goods. Compared with many boutique makers, the instrument offers an exceptional value, and I’d recommend checking it out.

SPECS: 14-fret dreadnought body. Solid Vintage Tone System–treated Adirondack spruce top. Scalloped and rearward-shifted Adirondack spruce X-bracing. Solid genuine mahogany back and sides. Genuine mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¹¹/₁₆-inch nut width. 2⅛-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel Waverly tuning machines. Made in the USA. $5,699 (list). Martinguitar.com

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© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com
 
 
    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com