The Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar: a good candidate for the acoustic blues player?

Mar 10, 2005 (Updated Dec 2, 2009)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:solid construction; woody, warm sound; good for blues playing; relatively inexpensive for a 28-series Martin

Cons:a bit lacking in volume, liquidity and sustain

The Bottom Line: The Martin 000-28 is a solid little guitar with a woody sound. It is not among my personal favorites, but it is a good rosewood Martin for under $2000 (discounted).

The Martin 000-28 is a relatively small acoustic guitar, similar to the OM-style guitars I've been playing and reviewing lately, but with a skinnier fingerboard and shorter scale-length.

The 000-28 has solid Indian rosewood back and sides and a solid Sitka spruce top. The fingerboard is made of high quality ebony. There are 14 frets to the body, as is the case with most acoustic guitars, and the neck-to-body joint is dovetail (not bolted), as it is with most of Martin's more expensive guitars.

Appointments include large dot fingerboard markers, style 28 back purfling, and a style 28 rosette. The neck is unbound, meaning that the side of the fingerboard is black, not white or some other color. I like that. The pickguard on this guitar is black, rather than the slightly more familiar tortoise.

The scale length of the 000-28 is 24.9", which is slightly shorter than the 25.4" of most Martins. Neck width is a relatively slender 1 11/16" at the nut. Most of Martin's OMs have a 1 3/4" neck width at the nut, while their standard dreadnoughts (the D-28, for example) have a 1 11/16" neck width. The neck is the "low profile" design, making it a bit easier to play than the bulkier neck of some Martins. The top bracing of the 000-18 is NON-scalloped 5/16", which I believe is the same bracing used on the larger D-28. The bracing on most of Martin's smaller (OM and 00 especially) guitars is 1/4" scalloped. The heavier bracing on this guitar would be expected to lead to a solid instrument, but one that might suffer a bit in liquidity, sustain and treble response, compared to the 1/4" scalloped braced small guitars. Retail price of the 000-28 is $2749 (I believe it was $2599 a couple of years ago), meaning you can probably get one for about $1900.

So how did it all come off?

Actually, the sound was pretty much what might be expected, based on how the guitar is constructed. It was dark, woody, and reasonably loud, but it didn't have the volume, responsiveness, liquidity or sustain of a Martin OM-28V or 00-18V.

The woodiness lent itself well to blues playing, but I missed the airiness of the scalloped braced guitars on some fingerpicking tunes. When I did a straightforward 12-bar blues progression in E, the guitar sounded in its element: woody, solid, and non-wimpy. But when I switched to fingerpicking with a capo on, I missed the delicacy and responsiveness of the OM-style guitars I'd been playing recently.

Bluegrassed, the 000-28 sounded pretty good, but the volume wasn't as great, nor was the bass as resonant, as on your average Martin HD-28, or even my Santa Cruz OM.

The overall impression was of a solid, straightforward instrument, but not one that made me wax poetic.

Playability of the 000-28 was pretty good. The skinnier 1 11/16" neck and "low profile" (fingerboard to back of neck) design might appeal to those who have small hands, or to those who find the 1 3/4" wide necks of many OMs too cumbersome. Intonation was good, and the action was about average for a Martin, which is to say medium-low.

A couple of interesting comparisons would be between the 000-28 and the OM-21, and between the 000-28 and the 000-16SGT.

The OM-21 is another relatively inexpensive, small rosewood guitar from Martin. It's sort of a bargain OM, with conservative ornamentation and a rosewood fingerboard. If memory serves, 000-28 and OM-21 are fairly similar in overall character, but the OM-21 is perhaps a tiny bit livelier sounding, possibly due to its lighter (1/4" scalloped) bracing. The 000-28 might be a bit easier to play, due to its shorter scale length and ebony fingerboard. The OM-21 costs about $300 less than the 000-28.

The 000-16SGT is a smaller mahogany (not rosewood) guitar with 12 frets free of the body instead of the usual 14. I said in my review of that guitar that it might be a good choice for someone who favors playing the blues. The larger body cavity and lighter bracing means that the 000-16SGT is a bit more responsive, relative to the 000-28. But the sound is also a bit less warm in the bass and lower midrange, since it's a mahogany, rather than rosewood, guitar. The 000-16SGT costs about $800 less than the 000-28.

When I reviewed the Martin 000-28EC (Eric Clapton), I said it was a good guitar, but a bit too expensive for what it does. In the $3000 range, I much prefer the Martin OM-28V and the Santa Cruz OM (and now, the Collings OM-2H and OM-2HE). In that review, I suggested that the Martin 000-28 might be a good and more cost-effective alternative. I recently played a Martin 000-28EC side by side with a Martin 000-28. The 000-28EC IS more liquid and it has better sustain as well. The regular 000-28 is more woody sounding. Ironically, considering that Clapton is a blues player, the regular 28 came off (to me) as more of a blues guitar, while the 000-28EC came off as more of an all-purpose guitar.

In any case, the 000-28 is not the right guitar for me, but it is a solid, well-built Martin rosewood guitar for under $2000. If you like a pithy, warm, woody sound and don't need big-time liquidity, sustain and volume, check it out, especially if you prefer the easier-playing (for some) 1 11/16" wide fingerboard to the 1 3/4" of most OMs. Many Collings OMs come with 1 11/16" wide fingerboards, but their sound is at the opposite end of the spectrum relative to the 000-28: light, lively, and slightly bass-shy.

As always, play the INDIVIDUAL instrument you're considering before buying.

Happy picking!

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