Martin D-18 Satin

Spruce Stalwart
Martin D-18 Satin
Price: $2,399

Death, taxes, and spruce on mahogany. There are only so many certainties in life, and these are three. Another is that there will always be spruce-on-mahogany Martin guitars. The newest flagship is the budget-friendly D-18 Satin.

Going spec-for-spec with the august standard D-18, the Satin’s natural-finish Sitka-spruce top boasts arrow-straight grain and moderate silking along with handsome mahogany back and sides, all tastefully framed by binding. The bridge and 25.4″-scale fretboard are ebony, while the saddle and nut are bone. A faux-tortoiseshell pickguard, the company’s Old Style dot inlays, and open-back Grover tuners complete the classic D-18 look. The budget friendliness happens thanks to a haircut in the paint booth; the notion of a “satin finish” has gotten complicated lately – it could mean barely-there, open-pore, or simply sans gloss. This is the latter, and Martin added an aging toner that gives the top a slightly lived-in vibe; the guitar is also offered in Amberburst.

The D-18 Satin sounds and feels like any fan of Martin dreadnoughts would expect. The scalloped forward-shifted X-bracing gives the top plenty of play and accentuates bass response, resulting in a lively guitar that is loud and clear from the bottom to the top. Particularly notable is the gutsy midrange, perfect for stepping out in front of a group of pickers. The modified low-oval mahogany neck fits the hand nicely and offers a comfortable trip up the neck and back down; setup on the tester was medium-low and the guitar played fast and easy. Weighing in just over four pounds, it offers no reason to be set down.

The gloss finish of the standard D-18 has always been a seemingly inalienable feature, but this is, without qualm, a legitimate D-18 – the genuine article, without the gloss.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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