Martin D-15 is among the quality midrange guitars from the Martin’s 15 Series collection. These guitars are inspired by the Style 15 instruments from the 1940s, but with unique design and body shape. For the D-15, it has the classic dreadnought body with dark mahogany for the top, back, and sides, as well as the neck.
This is a very simple guitar, which seems to have nothing special to it. However, after playing the instrument, I’m surprised at how the Martin sound resonates from it. I’m giving a full review of the guitar below, including all its positives and negatives.
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- The guitar sounds like a dream, especially when fingerpicking
- Easy to play with deep tones that are absolutely amazing
- No fret buzzes and stays in tune for months
- Sustain is superb, with neck very comfortable to play
- Action could go a bit lower, but it doesn’t mean it’s very high
- Need a little professional setup before you can start jamming with it
- Doesn’t give a pristine sound with sparkly character for the top end register
Design & Construction
Don’t get turned off easily by the simple flair of the Martin D-15, because it has more to it than its looks. It’s made of all-mahogany with a soft satin finish, so you can see a natural and very relaxed appearance of the guitar. The topwood features a non-scalloped X-bracing and you can really feel the vibrations in your chest.
The neck is a standard taper modified low oval, which is again made of Mahogany and satin finish. It features an East Indian rosewood fretboard divided into 20 frets with diamonds and squares short pattern abalone inlays. Though it’s a non-cutaway, the neck joins the body at 14th fret.
It has a lightweight build with 25.4-inch scale length. The fretboard has 16-inch radius, a width of 1 11/16-inch at the nut and 2 1/8-inch at the 12th fret. The bridge string spacing is also 2 1/8-inch. You’ll get a vintage-looking faux tortoise pickguard that complements to the multi-stripe single-ring rosette.
It features a solid with square taper headstock made of East Indian rosewood like the fretboard. You can see the script old-style logo and nickel open-geared tuning machines with butterbean knobs. It has the belly-style black ebony bridge and end pins, bone nut and compensated bone saddle.
It’s strung with Acoustic Lifespan® 2.0 Light – 92/8 Phosphor Bronze medium strings, which are among the best strings for an acoustic guitar. The D-15 doesn’t have electronics onboard, but if you want a cutaway/acoustic-electric version of this guitar, then, go for the DC-15ME. Since that version comes with Fishman Matrix VT Enhance electronics, of course, it’s also priced higher than the D-15.
Playability & Performance
The outstanding craftsmanship and great tonewood used should provide excellent playability of the guitar. If not, then, it will be a total disappointment. No need to break-in the instrument as it’s almost playable out of the box. It just needs a few adjustments to get it to play to its fullest potential.
The neck feels right and very comfortable to play. While a lot of the reviews said that the action is spot on, my guitar has a bit higher action. Not that high, though, since I only made an easy adjustment to the truss rod to get the perfect action.
For an experienced guitarist like me, I have all the tools and a quick adjustment of the action is just a breeze. However, if you are new to guitars, you should have a professional set it up for you. Most guitars need to setup, but most Martins are playable out of the box. It’s just up to the player to adjust a few things for better performance.
After the quick setup and setting the tuning, the guitar is now ready to take on different playing styles, whether strumming, fingerpicking, fingerstyle, and flatpicking. For me, this is like the Orangewood Oliver Jr. Mahogany that sounded way better when fingerpicking and flatpicking, than strumming.
With the straight neck and great satin finish on the neck, moving up and down the fretboard is just effortless. Though it’s a non-cutaway, it’s not that challenging to access the upper frets. The frets are well-made and the edges are properly polished, so no cuts nor discomfort while doing fast play.
I like to especially mention the nickel tuners with butterbean knobs that make tuning very easy. It holds the tune tight and true. And, in my experience, I just made a few tweaks of the tuners and I easily get the perfect tune. So, even if you’re playing it until forever, you don’t have to worry about detuning.
If there’s one word you can describe the Martin D-15, that would be “warm.” As an all-mahogany guitar, you can expect the warm, rich and full tone out of the D-15. Since it’s a dreadnought, it has a very good resonance with nice projection. You can get great volume, too.
This guitar is versatile as the player. If you like fingerpicking or flatpicking, D-15 gives you the lovable sound you can’t resist but continue playing. While strumming gives you good tonal quality too, I love how it sounds when it’s fingerpicked.
The non-scalloped bracing helps you get great vibrations from the topwood, which contributes to a well-balanced tone. You’ll achieve subtle overtones with nice and soft highs. Though the sound output isn’t that boomy, you won’t be disappointed by the bass response it has.
Value for Money
As simple as it is, you don’t need to raise your eyebrow immediately after checking its price tag. First, it’s a Martin, and as a product of a well-known guitar company, though it’s a midrange guitar, you won’t get disappointed. And, second, it’s better to pick it up and play it first, than regret for not having tried this wonderful instrument.
While I say that it needs a quick professional setup, most guitars need to be properly set up to get the best out of them. So, it’s not a big deal. The craftsmanship, the finish, and the hardware are all excellent. I don’t have anything to say about the looks.
Aside from the playability, the sound is also excellent. So, will you still look for other guitars if you’ll get a Martin sound, looks, and playability from the D-15?
It’s not a surprise that another Martin guitar fits anyone’s budget and style. Not because it bears a great name, but because it leaves up the promise of great playability, tonality, and built. Martin D-15 isn’t highly rated and sought after by most players for no reason.
Though my guitar has a higher action, it’s easy to tweak to achieve the string height that I prefer. Other than that, this guitar is a joy to play. Especially for blues players, having this guitar is like a weapon for them. D-15 offers the best sound you expect from a Martin guitar.
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