This is a classic. It has all the time-honored Martin tones of a dreadnought we have grown to love.
The Martin HD-28 Standard guitar offers the looks of a pre-war guitar with modern playability. It’s a high-quality instrument. If you’re looking to buy a solid wood beautifully made and beautiful sounding guitar, you’re in the right place.
Whilst there are similar guitars at this price point, and of this quality, the Martin HD-28 Standard has a very strong story to tell. It’s a guitar you’re unlikely to regret buying, ever! This Martin HD-28 Review aims to explain why.
So, let’s get this review underway and take a closer look…
The Martin HD-28 Standard is an all solid wood guitar, and the workmanship is flawless. It’s something we expect from a Martin and a guitar at this price point, but it still needs to be said. The grains of the woods and the varnished finish are so beautiful it’s hard to take your eyes off them. The bindings are uniform and perfect. Every part of this guitar sings quality.
It has solid rosewood back and sides with a solid spruce top. The contrast of the coffee-colored rosewood and the lightly stained spruce is simple elegance at its finest.
Straight out of the box, the spruce top appears a little too pristine and light for our taste. However, we know as the years roll by, the spruce top will age and darken to perfection. It’s a journey we long to be on.
The HD-28 Standard has herringbone binding, which is a nod to the pre-war D-28 models. Until 1946 all D-28s were finished this way. The inclusion of herringbone binding is one of the visual differences between the current HD-28 Standard and the D-28 Standard. The other cosmetic difference is that the HD-28 Standard also has a tortoiseshell pickguard, whereas the D-28 Standard has a black pickguard.
Having herringbone binding and the tortoiseshell undoubtedly does make the HD-28 a little less of a plain Jane. Though despite this, it’s overall look remains restrained, classic, and refined. Thankfully, it’s not as blingy and glitzy as the Martin HD-45, which is all a little too Elton John (circa the 1970s) for our taste.
At this point, the zig-zag back purfling warrants a special mention. It’s stunningly beautiful. It turns the whole aesthetic of the guitar into something very special indeed. It’s yet one more example of Martin’s close attention to detail and design.
The spruce top features forward scalloped bracing. The bracing is placed closer to the soundhole, which is a departure from the D-28 Standard that uses standard X tapered bracing. The scalloped bracing is another throwback to the bracing found on Martin D-28s between 1934 to 1946.
The forward scalloped bracing has a fundamental effect on the sound, which we’ll look at in more detail a little later.
Specifications & Hardware
The neck is made from mahogany and joined at the 14th fret. It has 20 frets with a 25.4” scale length. It’s a low-profile neck joined to an ebony fingerboard. The fingerboard has a width of 13/4” at the nut and 21.8” at the 12th fret.
The fingerboard is all business with just simple mother of pearl dot inlays. The side dots are the same. The fretboard has no binding, which is in keeping with the overall aesthetic of most Martin guitars.
The guitar has open gear nickel Grover Sta-Tite tuners paired with butterbean knobs. When combined with the ebony bridge, and bone nut and saddle, you can be assured of it being able to hold its tuning.
There is an electronic version of the HD-28 Standard. It features a Fishman Aura VT pick-up system. We know it sounds great, but there just seems something wrong with putting electronics on an instrument so pure. We understand that there’s no law against it, but it doesn’t make it right.
The HD-28 Standard comes with a quality leather strap and a case that looks strong enough to survive the apocalypse. No corners have been cut with the making of the case. Wherever you take your Martin, including on a plane, you can rest assured that it will arrive in one piece.
The sound is the main reason you’re here, and we can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
Firstly, this is a big guitar with a big body. The upshot of that is, like all dreadnoughts, you won’t be short of volume or bass. Where a lot of the smaller and increasingly popular ¾ sized guitars are found wanting, the Martin HD-28 Standard will very much deliver. There’s no doubt that the HD-28 Standard delivers masses of bass, volume, and projection.
The forward scalloped bracing helps to increase the response at the bottom end. Although the D-28 Standard already has an excellent bass response, the HD-28 Standard is perceivable more present in the lower range. Never the less, it’s a subtle difference and, at no point either overwhelms the balance of the guitar or becomes boomy.
The forward scalloped bracing makes the spruce top less tight in comparison to the D-28 Standard, so it can vibrate a little more freely. This not only helps to increase the volume and bass but additionally increases sustain. The level of sustain is incredible. Frankly, we have no problems at all with the sustain on the D-28, but the HD-28 does sustain for longeerrrr.
Overall, this is a guitar with great balance and an excellent dynamic range and response. The lows are pronounced and almost feel sculptured in their precision. The highs are every bit as precise plus clear and crisp. Yet, at the same time, even the steel strings give the feeling of substance.
The mids sound complex, warm, and well balanced with choral like qualities. They cut through beautifully but without drowning out the lower mids. This leaves the perfect place for the male voice to slot right in.
No wonder the Martin D-28 range has been so popular with artists like Neil Young, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Chris Martin, Elvis Presley and so, so many other famous musicians.
The bottom line is that the HD-28 has all the tonal qualities to make it a great guitar for the fingerpicker or the singer-songwriter. It also has enough of the same strengths as the D-28 to make it a great recording guitar too.
The truth is that the latest HD-28 standard has a more playable neck than Martin guitars of old. The neck feels slimmer, more modern, and closer to something you’d find on an electric guitar. In fact, it feels quite similar to the neck on an 800 series Taylor.
The “high-performance” neck, as Martin calls it, allows you to more freely explore the fingerboard. You feel less constrained to play higher up the neck. Fretting anywhere is easy and will reward you with clean, crisp tones. The fact is that with the action set nice and low, you’ll have to work pretty hard to get the strings to buzz. That’s even with a bit of shoddy technique thrown into the mix!
Before finishing the manufacturing process, every Martin HD-28 is placed in a fret leveling computer-controlled machine. The PLEK machine assists to level frets within tolerances of .001”. It also assists in shaping the nut to perfection.
The result is a guitar optimized for the highest level of playability. There are no sharp edges or catching at all. Intonation and any problems associated with playing when the action is low are also eliminated.
This is all as good as it gets.
Martin HD-28 Pros & Cons
- Superb craftsmanship.
- High-quality tonewoods.
- Herringbone binding.
- Forward scalloped X bracing.
- High-Performance neck.
- Hard case made out of Kryptonite.
More Superb Acoustic Options
And whatever you choose, you will need a set of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings every now and then.
The Martin HD-28 standard is one of those special guitars. It’s a grail guitar we aspire to. Frankly, if the HD-28 Standard doesn’t happen to be your guitar of choice, it could just as easily be any one of Martin’s solid wood guitars.
If you like the classic looks of the pre-war Martin D-28 and also want some extra bass response, increased volume, and sustain, this could very well be the guitar for you. If you’re already looking for this kind of quality instrument, then hopefully, the slightly increased expense over the price of a Martin D-28 Standard shouldn’t prove too much of a barrier.
Before we go, we’ll leave you with this happy thought.
This is a guitar that you’ll buy and will be with you like a faithful friend until it’s passed down to your teary-eyed grateful son or daughter. In turn, they will pass down to their ungrateful son or daughter, who will sell it for beer money.
Enjoy your playing.