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Vintage Martin D-28 comparisons

MrBoZiffer

Senior Member
Messages
456
I've got a '73 D-28. I'm more of an electric guitar player and this is currently my only acoustic. I really love it, but I know my ear is not as refined when it comes to acoustics. But, like I said, I still really enjoy the sound of it.

However, I'm interested to know why 50's and 60's Martins cost so much more than the 70's models. For instance a 50's D-28 could cost up to, or over, $10k. What's so different about these guitars than my '73 D-28? I know they were using Brazilian rosewood up until '69, but there has to be more to it than that... or maybe not, knowing how the vintage market works. :NUTS

I'm thinking it must come down to some other differences in materials, craftsmanship, and scarcity. I'm guessing the production numbers were far greater in the 70's. As far as I know Martin has always been owned and operated by Martin. But I could be wrong.

Btw, I'm not interested in buying another D-28, mine is great, I'm just curious about Martin's production history during this time period. So fill me in. :)
 
Messages
12,052
I've got a '73 D-28. I'm more of an electric guitar player and this is currently my only acoustic. I really love it, but I know my ear is not as refined when it comes to acoustics. But, like I said, I still really enjoy the sound of it.

However, I'm interested to know why 50's and 60's Martins cost so much more than the 70's models. For instance a 50's D-28 could cost up to, or over, $10k. What's so different about these guitars than my '73 D-28? I know they were using Brazilian rosewood up until '69, but there has to be more to it than that... or maybe not, knowing how the vintage market works. :NUTS

I'm thinking it must come down to some other differences in materials, craftsmanship, and scarcity. I'm guessing the production numbers were far greater in the 70's. As far as I know Martin has always been owned and operated by Martin. But I could be wrong.

Btw, I'm not interested in buying another D-28, mine is great, I'm just curious about Martin's production history during this time period. So fill me in. :)

I think that there are several sources which go into the details regarding what Martin did in the 70's (prolific, but not as well made-Readers Digest version). I have a 1959 Martin and it's an OK guitar.It is not as well made as the pre WWII guitars(arguably, some of their best manufacturing/tone). That said, some one may be able to point to the history lesson you're looking for. I suspect the materials will play a role as well, as you have already stated.
 

zombywoof

Member
Messages
4,551
Alot of it stems from "facts" folks like to toss around like rising production numbers, shortages of good wood and what have you. Also the 1970s in general is seen as the nadir of guitar building in America. I know a couple of folks who tell me they owned 1970s Martins on which the bridges were slightly off screwing up intonation. Stories like this can kill a guitar builder's reputation.

I am no expert on Martin history but the biggest change in the D-28 came when Martin stopped using scalloped braces in their guitars (they also dropped the herringbone trim which alot of folks liked).

The change in bracing design is only good or bad depending on personal preferences. I actually prefer the non-scallop braced guitars cuz they have a tighter bass and are less boomy sounding.
 

MrBoZiffer

Senior Member
Messages
456
That's interesting about the bracing... when did they make that change? Was that post-war change or a 70's change?
 

zombywoof

Member
Messages
4,551
That's interesting about the bracing... when did they make that change? Was that post-war change or a 70's change?
The bracing was changed in late 1944. Not 100% positive but I believe the first guitar to go back to scalloped bracing was the HD-28 which was introduced in the mid-1970s.

I think the only other structural change would have been in the mid-1960s when a new the truss rod design was used.
 

Blue Bee

Member
Messages
3,909
after '69 alot of martins were real dogs... got better around the '80's. just like the gibsons.
 

thewhit

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,626
Brazilian Rosewood is the main factor because of it's tonal quality, scarcity and lack of a rival replacement wood, in the marketplace. This, of course is a subjective, but widely held, view.

In and around the 70's many manufacturers were experiencing ownership changes, in some cases quality control issues, model changes and business models were evolving. Martin during this time, had trouble with shrinking pick guards that caused cracking in a lot of guitars and the coveted Brazilian Rosewood had been restricted by the C.I.T.E.S treaty. Several companies began experimenting with new woods and basically the 70's were a transitional period.

As I remember, the vintage market really took off because the current models and quality of the day were not up to par with 50's and 60's models, so many began buying used. Of course those inventories started to dry up, so naturally prices began to go up as well while some new inventory went languishing on the racks.

So in answer to your question, seventies guitars are hit and miss in quality and a good one is a good one regardless of when it was made but the general consensus is that you had to go through a bunch of unattractive step- sisters to get a real date.
 

Jahn

Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
28,931
also, 70's Martins used huge rosewood bridgeplates instead of tiny maple ones - put a mirror in your 70's Martin and revel in the footprint. cuts down on repair requests, but some folks think it robs tone. i like my '72 D-28S just fine, but yes it has a bridgeplate the size of texas. here's a "henkelgram" of my Martin to give you an idea - stuff some xmas lights in there, cover the holes, then take a long exposure pic of it in the dark and bingo, hello interior bracing!



Compare that to my '46 J-45, which has a miniscule bridgeplate (and yes, some funky bridge action on my J45, it's got some mojo working in there)

 

MrBoZiffer

Senior Member
Messages
456
Good info, thanks everyone!

Jahn, those are some cool pics. I'll check out the bridgeplate... I didn't know it was rosewood.
 

stucker

Member
Messages
1,182
Martin used Adirondak spruce tops on their pre-war guitars as opposed to the Sitka spruce used on newer models. The Adirondak top is stiffer and tends to make the notes more distinct and project much better than the softer Sitka spruce. The Adironak spruce started to become scarce and Martin stopped using it, but I'm not sure of the exact time period (1950s?).

Adirondak spruce has recovered somewhat and is available now on high end guitars. The Martin D18GE has it and is a wonderful sounding guitar.

I have a Merril C28 (copy of a pre-war D28 with Adirondak top and Honduran rosewood back/sides instead of the Barzillian) that sounds fabulous. It has the bigger bottom end and rich overtones of a good rosewood guitar. But when you play higher up the neck on the G, B and E strings there is more clarity and projection than any modern D28 I have ever played.

I think the Adirondak top may make more tonal difference than the type of rosewood used on the back and sides.
 

Shemp

Member
Messages
981
Brazilian Rosewood, hide glue versus titebond, small bridgeplate, different braces, adirondack spruce versus Sitka.... there's many differences that add up to big $$.
 

zombywoof

Member
Messages
4,551
I am willing to be that if most of us were blindfolded we would not be able to hear much of a difference between a guitar with Brazillian rosewood back and sides and one made with Indian rosewood.
 




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