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Martin D-18 StreetLegend
 
A satin-finished version of the classic dreadnought with a well-worn look.
June 21, 2023
 

As one of Martin’s longest-running models, the D-18 needs little introduction. The fundamental template of a dreadnought body with mahogany back and sides, a spruce top, and simple appointments has been offered in countless versions by Martin itself, and the design is one of the most copied of all time. Earlier this year, Martin introduced a new variation of its Standard series D-18 with a satin finish in place of the typical high-gloss finish (there is also a satin version of the D-28, which we’ll feature in the near future). This new option is interesting in many ways. For starters, it allows players on a budget to save about $400 compared to a regular model. In addition, the satin models are available in three different looks: Standard natural, Amberburst, and StreetLegend. We recently had a chance to check out the D-18 StreetLegend, which simulates the worn look of a vintage guitar that’s been played hard for decades. In this video, San Francisco Bay Area flatpicking guitarist Jim Nunally and I demonstrate the guitar.

I first saw the D-18 StreetLegend at the NAMM show last April, but despite knowing what to expect, I gasped a bit when inspecting the simulated finish wear for the first time. I say “simulated,” because in contrast to instruments that have had wear patterns physically applied with a variety of tools, Martin relies on digital microburst technology applied by a special printer to simulate the wear that long-time playing would create. What looks like the wear typical of a guitar that has seen decades of use and abuse is part of the finish only; it can’t be felt with a finger, and it has absolutely no effect on the actual structure of the guitar. The D-18 StreetLegend’s appearance is bound to be polarizing, but while a close inspection reveals the truth, looking at the guitar from a distance will easily fool a viewer, as the wear patterns and coloring appear very realistic. And players who don’t like the worn appearance have standard and amberburst versions of the satin finish to choose from. 

Our demo guitar was built with the high-level of craftsmanship and quality of materials you would expect of a Standard series Martin. The instrument has Martin’s familiar High-Performance Taper neck, giving it a somewhat more contemporary feel than a vintage D-18. Jim and I both noted the guitar’s light weight, which contributed to the resonant tonal character inherent to a good mahogany dreadnought. Playing the D-18 StreetLegend was very satisfying. The guitar had a big dynamic range, was quick to respond, and offered the tonal flexibility D-18s are often praised for. Jim felt that for flatpicking, the action could have been higher, but I appreciated the great playability when playing fingerstyle. 

Martin’s move to offer satin finishes on some of its iconic models can only be called a success. Regardless of whether you choose the StreetLegend or one of the more traditional appearances, the result is a great-sounding D-18 that lacks nothing in comparison to a regular version of the model. Ultimately, players in the market for a genuine Martin D-18 now have more options and can save money; what’s not to like?

SPECS: 14-fret dreadnought body. Solid spruce top. Scalloped and forward-shifted X-bracing. Solid genuine mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⅛-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel open-gear tuning machines. Also available in satin and Amberburst finishes. Made in the USA. $2,399 (list). Martinguitar.com

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    ● 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
 
 
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