Martin D-18 vs D-28 Acoustic Guitars


The Martin D-18 and D-28 are two of the most popular American-made dreadnought acoustic guitars of all time. In this article, I’ll directly compare the features and tones of both guitars so you can decide which is the best model for you.

Quick Comparison

The Martin D-18 acoustic guitar has mahogany back and sides, whereas the Martin D-28 has rosewood back and sides. The D-18 sounds warmer and fuller compared to the D-28 which sounds brighter and richer. Both guitars have the same necks and body shapes. The D-28 is more expensive than the D-18.

Here is a full list of the main feature differences between the D-18 and D-28.

FeatureMartin D-18Martin D-28
Back and SidesSolid MahoganySolid East Indian Rosewood
Scalloped BracingYesNo
BindingFaux TortoiseAntique White
InlaysAbaloneMother of Pearl
RosetteOld Style 18 Multi-StripeMulti-Stripe
Headstock Shape Square TaperSquare Taper and Diamond
CasePly HardshellMolded Hardshell
Martin D-18 vs Martin D-28 acoustic guitars

Martin D-18

Martin D-28

Tonal Differences

There are two main differences in specification which cause the D-18 and D-28 to sound different:

  • The D-18 has mahogany back and sides whereas the D-28 has rosewood back and sides
  • The D-18 has scalloped X-bracing whereas the D-28 has non-scalloped X-bracing

Whilst the scalloped vs non-scalloped bracing does make a difference to the overall tone of the guitar, it’s mainly the back and side woods which cause these two guitars to sound different from one another.

The mahogany back and sides found on the D-18 give it a warm and full sounding tone, compared to the rosewood back and sides on the D-28 which give it a richer and brighter tone.

Mahogany gives the D-18 more mid-range emphasis, whereas rosewood gives the D-28 more treble and bass emphasis. Rosewood is also richer in overtones making it very popular for fingerstyle.

Here is a diagram comparing the EQ balance of these woods.

If you want to learn more about the differences between these woods, check out my article comparing rosewood and mahogany guitars.

The scalloped bracing is designed to scoop the mid-range frequencies slightly which makes the D-18 have a flatter EQ compared to if it were just to have non-scalloped bracing.

However, the D-18 doesn’t have a “scooped” mid-range overall due to the mahogany back and sides which boost the mid-range slightly. Hence, the D-18 has a pretty flat EQ with fairly balanced bass, mids and treble. The D-28 on the other hand does have a scooped mid-range due to the rosewood back and sides.

Check out this YouTube video to hear the sound difference between the D-18 and D-28.

Other Differences

The D-28 is around $400 more expensive than the D-18 in the USA and around £400 more expensive in the UK. This is primarily because rosewood is a more expensive material compared to mahogany.

Rosewood has always been rarer and more difficult to export but since the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) tightened regulations a few years ago it has become even more expensive to get into the USA.

Rosewood is also heavier than mahogany so the D-28 is slightly heavier.

  • The average Martin D-18 guitar weighs 4.2 lbs
  • The average Martin D-28 guitar weighs 4.7 lbs

There are also a couple of other notable differences between the D-18 and D-28 which helps to justify the price difference:

  • The D-28 comes with an upgraded molded-hardshell case whereas the D-18 has a cheaper ply-hardshell case
  • The D-28 has mother of pearl inlays whereas the D-18 has abalone inlays
  • The D-28 has an Old Style 18 Multi-Stripe Rosette whilst the D-18 has a standard Multi-Stripe Rosette
  • The D-28 has antique white binding and the D-18 has faux tortoise binding

Similarities

The Martin D-18 and D-28 feel the same to play, except for the slight weight difference. They have the same:

  • Scale length
  • Body shape and size
  • Neck
  • String gauge
  • Tuning machines

Other key cosmetic similarities include the spruce top, mahogany neck, gloss body finish, satin neck finish, tortoise pickguard and headstock logo. Apart from the obvious difference in color on the back and sides, these guitars look very similar.

Full Specification List

Below are tables listing the specifications for the Martin D-18 and D-28. I have also listed the specifications for the “Modern Deluxe” versions of each guitar in the next table.

If you want to check the current prices of each model, here are links to Guitar Center:

Martin D-18 vs D-28

FeatureMartin D-18Martin D-28
Body SizeD-14 FretD-14 Fret
Body FinishGlossGloss
BracingForward-Shifted X-BracingForward-Shifted X-Bracing
Scalloped BracingYesNo
Brace Size0.31”0.31”
TopSolid Sitka SpruceSolid Sitka Spruce
Back and SidesSolid MahoganySolid East Indian Rosewood
NeckMahoganyMahogany
Scale25.4”25.4”
Frets2020
Nut Width1.75”1.75”
Fingerboard Width (12th Fret)2.13”2.13”
Bridge String Spacing2.16”2.16”
Neck ShapeModified Low OvalModified Low Oval
Neck TaperHigh Performance TaperHigh Performance Taper
Neck JointDovetailDovetail
Neck Joint Position14th Fret14th Fret
Neck FinishSatinSatin
BridgeEbony – Modern BellyEbony – Modern Belly
SaddleCompensated BoneCompensated Bone
Saddle Radius16”16”
BindingFaux TortoiseAntique White
PickguardTortoiseTortoise
InlaysAbaloneMother of Pearl
RosetteOld Style 18 Multi-StripeMulti-Stripe
Headstock ShapeSolid w/ Square TaperSolid w/ Square Taper and Diamond
Headstock MaterialSolid East Indian RosewoodSolid East Indian Rosewood
Headstock LogoScript Old Style OverlayScript Old Style Overlay
Tuning MachinesNickel Open GearNickel Open Gear
StringsMedium (0.013)Medium (0.013)
CasePly HardshellMolded Hardshell
Left-Hand AvailableYesYes
Average Price$2600$3000

Martin D-18 Modern Deluxe vs D-28 Modern Deluxe

FeatureMartin D-18 Modern DeluxeMartin D-28 Modern Deluxe
Body SizeD-14 FretD-14 Fret
Body FinishGlossGloss
BracingForward-Shifted X-BracingForward-Shifted X-Bracing
Scalloped BracingYesYes
Brace Size0.31”0.31”
TopSolid Sitka SpruceSolid Sitka Spruce
Back and SidesSolid MahoganySolid East Indian Rosewood
NeckMahoganyMahogany
Scale25.4”25.4”
Frets2020
Nut Width1.75”1.75”
Fingerboard Width (12th Fret)2.13”2.13”
Bridge String Spacing2.16”2.16”
Neck ShapeVintage DeluxeVintage Deluxe
Neck TaperHigh Performance TaperHigh Performance Taper
Neck JointDovetailDovetail
Neck Joint Position14th Fret14th Fret
Neck FinishSatinSatin
BridgeEbony – Modern BellyEbony – Modern Belly
SaddleCompensated BoneCompensated Bone
Saddle Radius16”16”
BindingEast Indian RosewoodEuropean Flamed Maple
PickguardTortoiseTortoise
InlaysAbaloneAbalone
RosetteOld Style 18 Multi-StripeStyle 28 Multi-Stripe
Headstock ShapeSolid w/ Square TaperSolid w/ Square Taper and Diamond
Headstock MaterialEast Indian RosewoodEast Indian Rosewood
Headstock LogoStylised Script OverlayStylised Script Overlay
Tuning MachinesGold Open GearGold Open Gear
StringsMedium (0.013)Medium (0.013)
CasePly HardshellPly Hardshell
Left-Hand AvailableYesYes
Average Price$3600$4000

Check out my comparison between the Martin D-28 and HD-28.

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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