THE REVIEW IS ON THE OLDER 1990'S VERSION D-2R WITH A STRIPPED EBONY FINGERBOARD AND BRIDGE, NOT THE NEWER VERSION WITH A MICARTA FINGERBOARD AND BRIDGE.
Recommend this product?
Let me start by saying that I totally dislike using my "credentials" as a means to either try to talk you into buying a guitar, or try to make myself sound like a guitar know-it-all. My apologies if that's how it comes off sounding. That's not why I write guitar reviews.
The deal is; I've spent most of my years on this little ball of carbon repairing, selling, collecting and teaching about guitars. I have also been in the perfect position, since I've worked at several major music stores, to have played just about every acoustic and electric guitar out there. From the finest hand-mades, rare & vintage models, concept guitars, and just about everything you can name, I've played or owned. Yessssir, I think I've played em all now. So let me tell you about the D-2R and why you should consider one for your next guitar purchase.
In my humble epinion, the D-2R, which pays tribute to most of the Martin D-28's appointments, is a Martin MISTAKE. The reason I say this is that the D-2R is a D-28 killer for $1500. less (list price). Most folks know that the D-28 (Dreadnought sized, style 28) has been Martin's flagship model since the early 30's. It has also been the role model for several other famous guitar manufacturers to base their designs on.
The D-2R has some new features which make it sturdier, easier to adjust, and be as resonant as a D-28 for unbelievably low money. It is a serious instrument which is truly a joy to play and hear.
In my eyes, Martin builds the D-2R the way ALL acoustic guitars should be built; with a well-crafted laminate (yes, I said LAMINATE) 3-ply back & sides, and an excellent grade of solid Sitka spruce on top. (Although the word "laminate" was once a dirty word in the guitar biz, I assure you... it is NOT anymore!!! Laminates, when made properly, are stronger, as light, and almost as acoustically reflective as solid woods, but are not as crack-prone as the solid woods are.
However, this is NOT the case concerning guitar tops which are typically solid Spruce. Solid top tone woods, like Spruce, Cedar, and Mahogany, are what's found on most better guitars. Unfortunately, these woods are crack-prone, especially during the colder/drier months. (I HEAVILY ADVISE TAKING EXTRA PRECAUTIONS TO HUMIDIFY ALL YOUR GUITARS DURING THE DRY SEASON).
Mated to the underside of the D-2R's spruce top is Martin's relatively new "A-frame" brace pattern, which reinforces the the solid top very well. I received my used D-2R with a very slight belly to the top, right behind the bridge, (like you'd expect to see on most acoustics that are a few years old), but this has not affected the action or intonation in any adverse way. It has remained stable through many different changes in atmospheric conditions, and I check it often.
This new A-frame design is a bit different from the standard Martin brace pattern which uses the normal (tried & true) X brace pattern, and as an option, scallops each main top brace to make them lighter (scalloped on the HD-28 model), thus, more resonant (supposedly!). **There is much hubbub about scalloped bracing in old Martins which I've never really been able to quantify. I can tell you one fact about scalloped braces, though; they are definitely weaker, and chances are if you have an old Martin with scalloped braces, the braces have needed repair at some point in its life. This should never be a problem with the D-2R.
Anyway, this new series of Martin also utilizes their new neck mortise (joint). This is another wonderful improvement because instead of the neck being glued into the neck block, it's now actually bolted onto the neck block. This allows the neck to be reset with what I'd call a "major adjustment" more than a "repair" when the time comes... and it will come! Of course we all know what a neck reset on an old D-28 costs these days.
Aside from the new mortise, Martin uses their low profile one-piece neck, which I must admit, is very comfortable and is not "electric-ee" feeling like Taylors tend to be. Also, there is an adjustable truss rod which Martin has been using in most of their instruments since 1985. It adjusts from inside the sound hole with an ordinary 5mm Allen wrench and is VERY effective.
AS FOR THE TONE... I'll try not to use a jillion adjectives here like some cheesy eBay ad to make the D-2R sound like the best guitar in the world, B U T... it is really awe-inspiring. It truly has all the thundering piano-like bottom and bell-like highs of a D-28 along with an incredible amount of volume. The D-2R and the D-28 are so similar in voice and volume that I dare you to shut your eyes and try to distinguish between the two!
Besides the huge wonderful voice of this instrument, another thing which I always listen for in my guitars is how well it intonates. I personally have a varied playing style, which moderates from light to med-heavy. Every D-2R I've ever played, including the one I am reviewing, has excellent intonation (when using D'addario EJ-16 strings). From octaves that play wonderfully in tune with no tonal beading to harmonic vs. fretted notes which are "right on" and also don't harmonically bead together. The intonation was excellent almost everywhere! (due to the way D-2Rs are voiced, the way the frets are crowned, and a host of other nuances, the intonation on the D-2R seems to be somewhat "forgiving", like an old 1930's Martin). This is something you just don't get with most medium-priced hand-made guitars these days.
The D-2R is an exceptional buy, and if Mr. Martin is smart, he'll yank it from next year's line-up so this model can't hurt their D-28 sales. : )
If you're thinking about purchasing a Martin rosewood dread, GO TRY ONE OF THESE NOW BEFORE ANYONE FINDS OUT HOW GREAT THEY ARE OR MARTIN CHANGES THE DESIGN (AND THEY CRANK THEIR PRICE!!!) I hope you've enjoyed this... The Gee-tah Guy
PS. Oh yeah, try to test drive one of these guitars with a fresh set of normal PHOSPHOR bronze strings. (not DR's, Elixers or Daddario EXPs)
THIS JUST IN- The folks at Martin must have heard me because the newest D-2Rs no longer have ebony fingerboards and bridges. THEY NOW HAVE MICARTA (plastic) BRIDGES, SADDLES, AND FINGERBOARDS..... YUK!!!! This may not be as bad as it sounds. I will try to find one and review it asap.
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