Martin D-18 Acoustic Guitar Review (2022)


I’ve written before that the Martin D-18 and D-28 are two of my 3 favorite acoustic guitars for bluegrass music. However, the D-18 can really handle many musical styles, and is such a high quality and versatile instrument that I decided it deserves its own in-depth review.

Many people have been asking me why I specifically own a D-18 so I wanted to go over the features and benefits that stand out to me over the years.

If you prefer lots of frills and a flashy instrument, the D-18 may not be for you. It looks underwhelming by design – having been modeled after the classic dreadnoughts that bluegrass, folk and early acoustic music are known for. In other words, the D-18’s elegance is subtle and understated, like a lot of Martin guitars.

But the D-18 isn’t just a beautiful acoustic guitar. It also offers excellent value for those seeking a premium quality instrument that will last a lifetime and age beautifully.

So let’s dive right into the Martin D-18 and get more details of how its made and what makes it so great:

Features Of The Martin D-18 Acoustic Guitar

Top 3 Best Guitars for Bluegrass Re...
Top 3 Best Guitars for Bluegrass Revealed (Yamaha? Martin? Taylor? Gibson?)

The Martin D-18 is designed with a complete solid wood construction. It features a sitka spruce top and glossy mahogany sides.

Mahogany as a tonewood is known for its punch and volume, making this a great guitar for soloing and lead playing, as the harder wood will help you cut through the rhythm section of the band with your smoking hot flatpicking licks.

The sitka spruce has an aged top which makes it look like a prewar acoustic. This look has created a divided opinion among users as some players prefer their wood to have more of a modern blonde finish (more common in Taylor guitars, for example). 

Simple, Beautiful Aesthetics

The black antique binding on the guitar’s body is executed with simplicity while still drawing a little attention to itself.

The Martin D-18 features a tortoiseshell pickguard, looking both plain and elevated. The result is understated, yet beautiful aesthetics that perfectly suit this traditional dreadnought style acoustic guitar:

My Top Pick

Martin D-18

  • Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever.
  • An excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more.

The colored pickguard is a beautiful reminder of the prewar days which makes the Martin D-18 an aesthetically pleasing acoustic that pays homage to the history of acoustic music.

Forward Scalloped Bracing

Below the sitka spruce top is the forward scalloped bracing. It’s just like the bracing found on the Martin HD-28 standard.

Recently, Martin has stopped using their standard X tapered bracing and moved over to the scalloped bracing.

Back then in the prewar era (around 1934-1946), scalloped bracing was a common feature found in many Martin guitars.

This is just another example of Martin honoring the traditional acoustic sound, and reaching out to the past to develop a great guitar for the future.

This forward scalloped bracing significantly influences the D-18’s sound, as I’ll discuss in more detail below.

Also, you should know that the Martin D-18 comes with a hard case that is extremely sturdy and can withstand harsh conditions. Martin’s cases are made with the same care and attention to detail that their premium guitars are famous for.

Hardware Specifications

The D-18’s neck, which is made out of select hardwood, connects to the guitar body at the 14th fret. 

It features a strong taper and a low oval shape. The rare end of the neck is designed in a smooth satin finish. 

It comes with a clean black ebony fingerboard along with mother of pearl dot inlays. 

The fretboard comes at a 25.4″ scale length with the nut at 1¾”. The neck and the fingerboard don’t bind. 

In addition, the headstock doesn’t bind too.

Martin D-18 Sound

Guitarists love Martin guitars because of their quality sounds. The D-18 perfectly balances warmth and punchy volume, making it an excellent choice for bluegrass, folk, country and rock music.

To give you an idea of what the Martin D-18 sounds like, here’s a video of me playing my D-18 and covering the Grateful Dead’s song Bertha:

Harmonic Complexity

First off, this guitar has never lost its powerful, awesome, greatly balanced sound.

Obviously, the Martin D-18 is a dreadnought guitar so it’s safe to assume that it is loud, and you’re not going to be disappointed. 

It’s also good news to announce to you that this guitar still maintains its incredible midrange bump.

In addition, it retains an excellent bottom end perfect for walking bass lines.

 The beautiful tone is never overwhelmed by the volume.

Long Sustain

The forward scalloped bracing also improves the volume, bass and projection levels, resulting in very long sustain. The Martin D-18 is responsive to any form of attack. It reacts quickly and accurately to changes when playing. 

When it comes to playing in the mix (or cutting through it), we cannot think of a more top quality guitar.

 It works right with many musicians without impinging the frequencies of the bass guitars.

Warm and Rich Tone

The Martin D-18 performs well, sounding rich and cool while maintaining a beautiful even tone. There’s no doubt that this guitar is a really beautiful choice for recording and even for fingerpickers.  

Playability

The D-18 has become really easy to play as Martin honors the traditional sounds but embraces modern playability standards.

The truth is this latest version comes with an even more playable neck compared to the older versions.
The high-performance neck feels modern:

My Top Pick

Martin D-18

  • Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever.
  • An excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more.

If you played with your eyes closed, you’ll think that it’s your left hand playing the electric guitar instead of an acoustic. 

Fingerboard

No matter how high you fret, you’ll get a clear, crisp tone out of your D-18.

Thus, the Martin D-18 encourages you to take advantage of all areas of the fingerboard, producing great tones regardless of where you’re playing on the fretboard. 

Overall Playability

Consequently, the Martin D-18 is a standard guitar designed to implement the highest playability level. The guitar does not have sharp edges.

This guitar has excellent intonation – a guitar that’s playable with low action while still retaining great tone and sustain.

Truthfully, the acoustics don’t get better than this:

My Top Pick

Martin D-18

  • Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever.
  • An excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more.

Summing Up | Martin D-18 Pros and Cons

Martin D-18 PROS:

  • Incredible craftsmanship
  • Forward scalloped X bracing
  • Oval top performing neck
  • Includes Sturdy case
  • Decently balanced sounds
  • Quality finish

Martin D-18 CONS:

  • High price may be a barrier to entry

Bottom Line | Is a Martin D18 Worth It?

So there you go – the D-18 is undeniably an incredibly iconic and unique acoustic. 

If you’re not yet an owner of any premium Martin guitar, then this I recommend the D-18 hands down. There’s a reason it’s what I own and play myself…

But if you’re still wondering whether Martin guitars are worth it, don’t worry, because I wrote a whole article on the subject. You can read it here.

In closing: if you’re on the hunt for an incredibly balanced, beautifully made and highly responsive guitar, then invest in the Martin D-18. It’s worth it! Happy strumming, fingering, or both!

Corbin Buff

Corbin has played guitar for over a decade, and started writing about it on Acoustic World in an effort to help others. He lives and writes in western Montana.

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