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J185cat

Martin Custom Shop D28 vs Luthiers Choice AJ Comparison

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Finally getting around to this.  The two guitars; a 2020 Martin CS D28.  Non thermally aged Adirondack top over 5/16 scalloped Adi braces in the “Golden Era” bracing pattern. A 2003 LC AJ with Adi top over Brazilian RW.  Not sure about the bracing but suspect it is Sitka.  BRW fretboard also. 

So let me start here.  The D28 has a slight problem.  About a week after receiving the guitar I was sitting on the sofa with the guitar beside me. When I picked it up to strum a little bit I noticed a slight little clink/ clink sound.  Moved the guitar back and forth and noticed it again.  At first I thought there was something loose inside the body so turned it upside and moved it around, nothing there.  After going through all the standard checks I was convinced the sound was coming from the truss rod cavity where neck joins body.  The truss rod nut was not loose so I thought it might be a broken washer or something.  Took it to a local Martin warranty repair guy who has worked on tons of Martins.  He heard it, went thru his checks and decided the truss rod was okay.  His thought was maybe a glob of glue had somehow broken off in there.  He also didn’t think Martin would be willing to cover this.  Okay!  Should I start a thread “More Proof of  Martin Shoddy Workmanship” or post an X-ray of a glob of glue in the truss rod cavity?  Nah, I ain’t that guy.  I know these guitars are made by humans from living materials and stuff happens.  Let me state this is a slight issue that does not impact playing or sound but I may get a second opinion anyway.

Now moving on.  When I first opened the case of the D28 I thought they had sent the wrong guitar.  One of the whitest tops I have ever seen.  Thought it might be a European spruce.  But a closer look and you could see the red stripes of the Adi.  When i strummed the first cord my wife was in the room and she immediately said “that sound like your AJ.”  And you know she not far off.  Two dynamic, resonate guitars with copious volume and powerful bass.  There are of course differences.  The AJ has an immediate impact.  You can feel and hear the punch right away.  The AJ has plenty of harmonic content but it is not as pronounced or sustained.  The D 28 tends to bloom the notes and then ring on longer.  The D28 can fill a room with sound with all that is going on.  It is a very pleasant mellow sound but does take some getting used too.  The AJ to me is more controlled.  I think it has a great balance between punch and warmth. Single notes also stand out more on the AJ. As you would expect some songs and playing styles seem to work a little better on each one respective.

I have gone on too long so to sum up.  The AJ is still my favorite guitar as it has been from the first day I received it.  The D28 is a wonderful guitar also, a different voice but not as much as you would think.  If it were my only guitar I could be very happy.  One last thing.  I have 5 Gibsons and for me, emphasis on me, all of them play easier than the D28.  I have smaller hands but it is not scale or string spacing or setup.  I think it is fret board radius.  Martin has a flatter 16” profile and since my fingers don’t come down at as much of a right angle I think that is the difference.

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Thanks for the summary. I have wanted either an AJ or a D-28 for a long time, but not having been able to make up my mind, I have bought neither.

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 A D-28 Standard has 5/16 non-scalloped bracing. I'm sure you know that, so its gonna be a supped up D-28.

Edited by Sgt. Pepper

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Yes, the scalloped bracing was what I was looking for.  My previous experience with Adi is that it takes this wood a good while to break in, it’s very stiff.  So will be interesting to see what she sounds like in a couple of years.  I have played a late 60’s D35 that was much more bass heavy to the point of overwhelming and I hope she doesn’t head in that direction.  I don’t think it will.

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The  28 Std I used to own sounded killer. My second D-35 which is a 50th Anniversary model (although I'm sure it was just a Std 35 made 50 years after the first ones were made) sounds better than the first one I owned. But 35's have 1/4 non-scalloped bracing, so the top gets to move a little bit more. My second 18 Std sounds better that the first one I used to own. 18's are supposed to have 5/16 scalloped bracing. My 41 has scalloped 5/16 bracing, is the pimp if the crew.

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9 hours ago, J185cat said:

I’ve never tried to post pictures.  I’ll look into it.  Also wasn’t too sure about posting pictures of a Martin on the Gibson site.

It can be done - we see our Gibsons clearer when once in a while having a Mart. on the pages. 

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11 hours ago, J185cat said:

I’ve never tried to post pictures.  I’ll look into it.  Also wasn’t too sure about posting pictures of a Martin on the Gibson site.

The are free photo hosting sites. It's pretty easy. Create an account, it will tell you how to upload pictures, and then paste the link to the picture here. The forum does a good job of recognizing and displaying a couple of types of links automatically, so you don't have to mess with anything else. Here's the site some here use.

https://imgur.com/

 

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16 hours ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

.........My 41 has scalloped 5/16 bracing, is the pimp if the crew.

Gotta love being too far removed from mainstream to understand slang. 

  • Haha 1

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18 hours ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

The  28 Std I used to own sounded killer. My second D-35 which is a 50th Anniversary model (although I'm sure it was just a Std 35 made 50 years after the first ones were made) sounds better than the first one I owned. But 35's have 1/4 non-scalloped bracing, so the top gets to move a little bit more. My second 18 Std sounds better that the first one I used to own. 18's are supposed to have 5/16 scalloped bracing. My 41 has scalloped 5/16 bracing, is the pimp if the crew.

 I am clueless as to what that last sentence means.  But my favorite Martin D-18s have been those built from sometime in late-1944 into early-1947.  I have to assume it is the slight taper, non-scalloped bracing they used during that fairly short window.  Then again, I am also a fan of the tall non-scalloped bracing Gibson used in the 1930s - in the L-00, L1 and such and the less delicate version in the J35 and Smecks (at least after the very first ones).   That bracing is probably the main reason I went with the Fairbanks take on the Smeck rather than the Gibson versions.

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18 minutes ago, zombywoof said:

 I am clueless as to what that last sentence means.  But my favorite Martin D-18s have been those built from sometime in late-1944 into early-1947.  I have to assume it is the slight taper, non-scalloped bracing they used during that fairly short window.  Then again, I am also a fan of the tall non-scalloped bracing Gibson used in the 1930s - in the L-00, L1 and such and the less delicate version in the J35 and Smecks (at least after the very first ones).   That bracing is probably the main reason I went with the Fairbanks take on the Smeck rather than the Gibson versions.

It means the D-41 is the top dog of the bunch.
 
They said aw-reety
An' they was aw-righty
An' I was a zomby for you, little lady...
Edited by Sgt. Pepper

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14 hours ago, J185cat said:

I’ve never tried to post pictures.  I’ll look into it.  Also wasn’t too sure about posting pictures of a Martin on the Gibson site.

Why not post one when you can post 5. I didn't have the D-35 at the time of the group photo. L - R, D-15M, J-12-16GT, D-18, 000-28, D-41. All standard models.

eZiIjqe.jpg

0mOE3ob.jpg

50th Ann. D-35

Edited by Sgt. Pepper

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2 hours ago, zombywoof said:

 I am clueless as to what that last sentence means.  But my favorite Martin D-18s have been those built from sometime in late-1944 into early-1947.  I have to assume it is the slight taper, non-scalloped bracing they used during that fairly short window.  Then again, I am also a fan of the tall non-scalloped bracing Gibson used in the 1930s - in the L-00, L1 and such and the less delicate version in the J35 and Smecks (at least after the very first ones).   That bracing is probably the main reason I went with the Fairbanks take on the Smeck rather than the Gibson versions.

As I am sure you know, the tapered braced Martins of the late 40s never got the enthusiasm in the rural traditional acoustic music world that the earlier stuff did and actually the 50s stuff either. I am a great lover of the wonderful clear tone of most all vintage instruments, but I have examples of both D-28s and D-18s of both types and I can certainly hear the difference.  I guess truth in advertising requires me to say that I actually prefer pre 1945 and post 1950s for playing in string bands -- which is mostly what did before the pandemic. 

Here are a couple of RW examples -- 39 D-28 (scalloped), 48 D-28 (tapered), and 36 AJ (for reference).  All of these in my judgement are excellent sonic examples.  I can do the same demo mahogany (D-18s) but my RSSD is not here and I don't have carefully created demo available for comparison.  If anyone would like to hear it, I can put up the D-18s.

1939 D-28

1948 D-28

1936 Advanced Jumbo

 

Best,

-Tom

 

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1 hour ago, tpbiii said:

As I am sure you know, the tapered braced Martins of the late 40s never got the enthusiasm in the rural traditional acoustic music world that the earlier stuff did and actually the 50s stuff either. I am a great lover of the wonderful clear tone of most all vintage instruments, but I have examples of both D-28s and D-18s of both types and I can certainly hear the difference.  I guess truth in advertising requires me to say that I actually prefer pre 1945 and post 1950s for playing in string bands -- which is mostly what did before the pandemic. 

Here are a couple of RW examples -- 39 D-28 (scalloped), 48 D-28 (tapered), and 36 AJ (for reference).  All of these in my judgement are excellent sonic examples.  I can do the same demo mahogany (D-18s) but my RSSD is not here and I don't have carefully created demo available for comparison.  If anyone would like to hear it, I can put up the D-18s.

1939 D-28

1948 D-28

1936 Advanced Jumbo

Best,

-Tom

 

All 3 sound differnet.

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Interesting tpbiii, of the three demos I would say my AJ sounds closer to yours than my D28 does to either of your two.  Now I am listening on on iPhone so there is that.  Also the D28 is just months old.  I think both of yours have a drier/cleaner tone than mine but guess that is not unexpected.  Hope someday there will be someone out there to appreciate the few guitars I have as much as you do those you have collected.

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4 hours ago, tpbiii said:

As I am sure you know, the tapered braced Martins of the late 40s never got the enthusiasm in the rural traditional acoustic music world that the earlier stuff did and actually the 50s stuff either. I am a great lover of the wonderful clear tone of most all vintage instruments, but I have examples of both D-28s and D-18s of both types and I can certainly hear the difference.  I guess truth in advertising requires me to say that I actually prefer pre 1945 and post 1950s for playing in string bands -- which is mostly what did before the pandemic. 

1939 D-28

1948 D-28

1936 Advanced Jumbo

 

Best,

-Tom

 

 

I never got the hang of a flatpick so I approached Martins like I did everything else - I fingerpicked 'em.   For whatever reason those Martins in between the scalloped and the more radically tapered  bracing just worked for  me.   But I did enjoy playing in groups with a flatpicker.  

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1 hour ago, zombywoof said:

 

I never got the hang of a flatpick so I approached Martins like I did everything else - I fingerpicked 'em.   For whatever reason those Martins in between the scalloped and the more radically tapered  bracing just worked for  me.   But I did enjoy playing in groups with a flatpicker.  

 

Well historically you could have some really D-18 from that period for not too much money.  I think maybe not anymore.

Regardless of tonal nuance, I don't bond well with Martin dreads for my most common finger style -- alternating thumb with finger picks.  I generally need to get more noise from the guitar because I generally play in loud-ish  acoustic environments -- not that I never play quieter and naked (fingers that is) in public, but seldom and I don't seek it out.  A lot of the folk and gospel that I do that way is fast and loud, and I really pop the back beat.   Martin's signature large midrange tends to overpower the other nuance when I do it.  I prefer Gibsons -- Banners and small 30s stuff.  The more sparse midranges on even the classic Js work well for me -- making them more flexible.  Different strokes.

I do hand with some old folkies (guilty) and they love the 00s.

Best,

-Tom

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7 hours ago, tpbiii said:

As I am sure you know, the tapered braced Martins of the late 40s never got the enthusiasm in the rural traditional acoustic music world that the earlier stuff did and actually the 50s stuff either. I am a great lover of the wonderful clear tone of most all vintage instruments, but I have examples of both D-28s and D-18s of both types and I can certainly hear the difference.  I guess truth in advertising requires me to say that I actually prefer pre 1945 and post 1950s for playing in string bands -- which is mostly what did before the pandemic. 

Here are a couple of RW examples -- 39 D-28 (scalloped), 48 D-28 (tapered), and 36 AJ (for reference).  All of these in my judgement are excellent sonic examples.  I can do the same demo mahogany (D-18s) but my RSSD is not here and I don't have carefully created demo available for comparison.  If anyone would like to hear it, I can put up the D-18s.

1939 D-28

1948 D-28

1936 Advanced Jumbo

 

Best,

-Tom

 

To my ear, the AJ really makes you sit up and pay attention. The '39 D-28 is a close second, though different. The '48 D-28 is fairly dull in comparison to the other two.

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1 hour ago, tpbiii said:

 

Well historically you could have some really D-18 from that period for not too much money.  I think maybe not anymore.

Regardless of tonal nuance, I don't bond well with Martin dreads for my most common finger style -- alternating thumb with finger picks.  I generally need to get more noise from the guitar because I generally play in loud-ish  acoustic environments -- not that I never play quieter and naked (fingers that is) in public, but seldom and I don't seek it out.  A lot of the folk and gospel that I do that way is fast and loud, and I really pop the back beat.   Martin's signature large midrange tends to overpower the other nuance when I do it.  I prefer Gibsons -- Banners and small 30s stuff.  The more sparse midranges on even the classic Js work well for me -- making them more flexible.  Different strokes.

I do hand with some old folkies (guilty) and they love the 00s.

Best,

-Tom

 

Well, it should be duly noted that I do not own a Martin.  Gibsons, Harmonys, Schmidts, a couple of Kay Kraft/Kays,  NYC Epi flattop as well as the Fairbanks but nary a Martin to be seen (although my wife owns a Martin D12 28).  I just can't seem to cozy up to them.  

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44 minutes ago, zombywoof said:

 

Well, it should be duly noted that I do not own a Martin.  Gibsons, Harmonys, Schmidts, a couple of Kay Kraft/Kays,  NYC Epi flattop as well as the Fairbanks but nary a Martin to be seen (although my wife owns a Martin D12 28).  I just can't seem to cozy up to them.  

I have Gibsons, Harmonys, Schmidts, Kay Krafts, Kays, a Japanese Texan, -- nothing new though.  Mine were a managed 40-year retirement investment -- so I hope I don't come across as just a rich guy showing off.  But all those sounds were just an included and motivating benefit.  60 years ago in my folk revival days, Martin did not exist.  It is/was a great adventure. 

I don't have a clear image in my mind of what kind of stuff you do.   You seem like a really interesting guy -- maybe I have not been observant enough?  Odds are you are a better musician than me.

Best,

-Tom

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9 hours ago, tpbiii said:

I have Gibsons, Harmonys, Schmidts, Kay Krafts, Kays, a Japanese Texan, -- nothing new though.  Mine were a managed 40-year retirement investment -- so I hope I don't come across as just a rich guy showing off.  But all those sounds were just an included and motivating benefit.  60 years ago in my folk revival days, Martin did not exist.  It is/was a great adventure. 

I don't have a clear image in my mind of what kind of stuff you do.   You seem like a really interesting guy -- maybe I have not been observant enough?  Odds are you are a better musician than me.

Best,

-Tom

 

I am one of those players who while never becoming as good as I wanted to be but is not half as bad as I think I am.  But from what I have heard in the videos you have posted. you can play me under the table.   Me, I am undisciplined to the point of just keeping my head above sloppy.    But the way I look at it, your style is a combination of strengths and weaknesses.   That is my story and I am sticking to it.

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Thanks Tom,  You always share your excellent collection,   and you are a wealth of knowledge on older guitars 

Im not going to bring it up,  but you also have the best 00-17 war time guitar I ever heard! It been a few years 

but that guitar's sound, I can still hear it...........cheers

 

 

Also IMO the 1/4 inch bracing on the D-35 is not enough and that sound is not for me...IMHO  Their are luthiers around that won't shave braces on  d-35's 

that will on 5/16  bracings.  IMO 

 

*** I would like to add that the luthier I use will shave braces but only on 70's models Martins,   that I know of........

 

Edited by ratherbwalkn

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2 hours ago, ratherbwalkn said:

Thanks Tom,  You always share your excellent collection,   and you are a wealth of knowledge on older guitars 

Im not going to bring it up,  but you also have the best 00-17 war time guitar I ever heard! It been a few years 

but that guitar's sound, I can still hear it...........cheers

 

 

Also IMO the 1/4 inch bracing on the D-35 is not enough and that sound is not for me...IMHO  Their are luthiers around that won't shave braces on  d-35's 

that will on 5/16  bracings.  IMO 

 

*** I would like to add that the luthier I use will shave braces but only on 70's models Martins,   that I know of........

 

I've owned two D-35's and the one I have now sounds amazing. Martins aren't for everyone the same as Gibson's aren't for everyone.

Martin will scallop a D-35 with 1/4 bracing its called a HD-35.

Edited by Sgt. Pepper

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I have a Gibson Banner SJ RW fried top and a Martin CS-D41-15 RW fried top. Next time the Martin needs changed, I’ll put same style strings on both and compare. 

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