Martin HD-28 Acoustic Guitar
One of Martin’s best-selling guitars, the HD-28 includes many of the options guitar players and collectors prize in historic Martins. A Sitka spruce top with East Indian rosewood back and sides, all wrapped together in Martin’s classic herringbone inlay.
Since 1976, the Martin HD-28 has been the D-28’s slightly more ornate sibling, with herringbone purfling and scalloped bracing paired with its Indian Rosewood back and sides. The D-28 template just might be what most people think of when imagine an acoustic guitar, thanks in part to its use by thousands of players on stage and in the studio. Sturgill Simpson’s preferred Martin guitar is the HD-28.
The D-28 revolutionized the acoustic guitar world when it was released some 80+ years ago. Martin first started making these larger body guitars that they named Dreadnoughts after the largest British Battle ships of the time. They were first built and sold by Ditson a large sheet music publishing house and musical instrument retailer. These carried the Ditson branding.
The Dreadnought, was the first mass produced large bodied, steel stringed instrument and it was readily adopted by players across the country. For Bluegrass guitarists who needed a louder guitar with a pronounced bass to be heard on a busy stage, the D-28 was a godsend. Projective enough to be heard over multiple instruments without sacrificing tonal quality or detail. Since the D-28 has carved out a place in Bluegrass, Country, Folk, Pop and other genres. The D-28 is the guitar that made Martin highly successful.
When the Ditson company filed bankruptcy, Martin started to build these larger guitars that carried the Martin name and were marketed and distributed directly from Martin. The early versions were called the D-1 and the D-2, later becoming the now famous D-18 and D-28. The “D” is for Dreadnought and the number indicated a Martin style number. The pre-war Martin D-28 featured a Herringbone top inlays and scalloped “X” bracing under the spruce top. These guitars became the standard we all think of when we see a person with a guitar. It is actually hard to remember for some folks when guitars were smaller and were parlor instruments.
As performing musicians played in front of larger audiences, the D-28 played a large role. The Martin D-28 was associated with Hank Williams, the Bill Monroe band and countless other players in Country and Bluegrass. It is still the standard by which many guitars are compared. Martin has made countless version of these guitars. The D-28 in later years started producing the guitar with straight bracing as players were moving to heavier steel strings.
The D-28 and the HD-28 are identical when it comes to measurements. Both are 14-Fret (meaning the neck joins the body at the 14th fret) Martin Dreadnoughts with a long at 25.4″ scale length. Both feature Low Profile necks and 1-11/16″ nut spacings. The D-28 and the HD-28 are both constructed with a solid Sitka Spruce top, 5/16″ X bracing, an ebony fingerboard and bridge, and East Indian Rosewood backs and sides. What all of this is really saying is that, in terms of feel, there is no difference.
There are a few aesthetic differences between the two. The first is that the HD-28 has Herringbone inlays while the D-28 has a simpler black/white striped inlays. Originally all 28 Series guitars had Herringbone inlays. The “H” in HD actually stands for Herringbone. Originally the herringbone binding was taken off of the D-28 as a cost saving measure to keep the guitar affordable to everyday players. Neither guitar has binding on the neck, you would need to move up to style 35 or beyond for more ornate features.
In the mid 1970s Martin released the HD-28 as an answer to the customers who wanted a D-28 that was more reminiscent of the “Golden Era” 28s of the 1930s and ’40s. Martin also uses a decorative Tortoise Shell patterned pick-guard on the HD-28 while the standard D-28 has a more reserved plain black pick-guard. These guitars have been big sellers for Martin for many many years and are workhorses to most working musicians.
Scalloping is a process where a braces are made concave by the luthier who carefully shaves away at the brace, arching it and making the center thinner than either end. The idea behind this is simple. The sound of a guitar is highly dependent on the vibration of the top. The more vibration the top gets, the louder and more bass heavy the guitar will be. Luthiers try to find the “sweet spot” for lack of a better term where there is as little bracing as possible so that the top can vibrate freely but still enough support to keep the guitar stable and structurally sound. A guitar without this shaving away of the braces is refered to as straight braced.
Originally the D-28, and all Martin guitars had scalloped bracing. As the years progressed players began using thicker strings with more tension. To help make sure the guitars could stand up to this increased tension, Martin stopped scalloping them after the mid 1940’s and the standard D-28 has been straight braced ever since. To get a better idea of the difference between straight and scalloped bracing, please refer to the pictures below:
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing a D-28 to an HD-28 is the bass response. Right out of the box the HD will have a louder, fuller bass than a D-28. It may also just be generally louder. As we said, this is all due to the scalloping of the braces. As the wood ages, the sound will age as well. So an older D-18 or D-28 will not be as tight and will likely have a bit more bass response then a new one. Pre-war Martin D-28 featured scallop bracing.
The Martin HD-28 costs a bit more than the Martin D-18. They are both part of Martin’s Standard Series. Both are great guitars and the choice is quite subjective. Martin also sells a HD-28V which has all the features of the HD28 and also has a more forward bracing scheme and a “V” profile neck. They are said to have even more bass response, but I have no played one.
Martin HD-28 Acoustic Guitar
Indian rosewood & sitka spruce dreadnought body with white binding, herringbone top trim, scalloped braces, maple bridge plate, X brace crosses in the modern location (about 1-1/2″ below soundhole), low profile neck (1-11/16″ wide at nut), ebony fretboard with white pearl dot markers, 25.4″ scale, chrome enclosed tuning gears. High gloss finish. Thermoplastic hardshell case.
Plays awesome and has a nice well balanced sound with a slight amount more bass then the non-scaloped braced Martins. Love the Low Profile neck. Weights in at a light 4-lbs 9-ozs!
I blame my recent trip to Nashville for this G.A.S. purchase.
How does it sound? It sounds glorious… Martin says the “worst their guitar will sound is the day it leaves the factory.” As the wood ages and drys a bit the guitar will resonate more and over the years it will improve the tone. Well it sounds great now.
- Construction: Mahogany Blocks/Dovetail Neck Joint
- Body Size: D-14 Fret
- Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
- Rosette: Style 28
- Top Bracing Pattern: Standard ”X” Scalloped
- Top Braces: Solid Sitka Spruce 5/16”
- Back Material: Solid East Indian Rosewood
- Back Purfling: HD Zig-Zag
- Side Material: Solid East Indian Rosewood
- Endpiece: White Boltaron
- Endpiece Inlay: Black/White Boltaron
- Binding: White Boltaron
- Top Inlay Style: Bold Herringbone
- Back Inlay: Black/White Boltaron
- Neck Material: Select Hardwood
- Neck Shape: Low Profile
- Nut Material: Bone
- Headstock: Solid/Diamond/Square Taper
- Headplate: Solid East Indian Rosewood /Raised Gold Foil
- Heelcap: White Boltaron
- Fingerboard Material: Solid Black Ebony
- Scale Length: 25.4”
- Total Length: 40 1/2″
- Body Length: 20″
- Body Width: 15 5/8″
- Body Depth: 4 7/8″
- Number Of Frets Clear: 14
- Number Of Frets Total: 20
- Fingerboard Width At Nut: 1-11/16”
- Fingerboard Width At 12th Fret: 2-1/8”
- Fingerboard Position Inlays: Style 28
- Fingerboard Binding: none
- Finish Back & Sides: Polished Gloss
- Finish Top: Polished Gloss
- Finish Neck: Satin
- Bridge Material: Solid Black Ebony
- Bridge Style: Belly
- Bridge String Spacing: 2-1/8”
- Saddle: 16” Radius/Compensated/Bone
- Tuning Machines: Chrome Enclosed w/ Large Buttons
- Bridge & End Pins: White w/ Black Dots
- Pickguard: Tortoise Color
- Hard Shell Case Included: 640 Molded