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The Martin DR: A Martin rosewood dreadnought for the road
Aug 7, 2001 (Updated Jan 28, 2002)
Review by Horswispr
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:easy to play; nice, balanced sound; durable
Cons:sound not as refined as that of a solid wood guitar
The Bottom Line: The DR is a good, easy-playing laminated rosewood dreadnought with a solid spruce top.
The Martin DR is a lot like the previously reviewed DM, except it is made of laminated rosewood, rather than laminated mahogany. Rosewood is more expensive than mahogany, and is known for a slightly fuller sound. Mahogany guitars tend to be punchier in the midrange, and not quite as bassy.
Recommend this product?
Like the DM, the DR is dreadnought-style guitar. It is the same size and shape as Martin's famous D-18, D-28, and D-35 guitars. But the use of laminated wood on the back and sides keeps the cost down, relative to solid wood guitars. Both the DR and DM do feature solid spruce tops.
The DR's neck joins the body at the 14th fret, as is typical of contemporary steel-stringed acoustic guitars. The fingerboard is made of rosewood, another cost-cutting measure. Most of Martin's more expensive dreadnoughts, including the D-28, HD-28, and D-35, feature ebony fingerboards. My D-16 also has a rosewood fingerboard, and the quality IS good, although I'd prefer ebony.
The finish of the DR is matte (they call it "satin"), and the ornamentation is extremely simple: a one-ring herringbone rosette, and minimal purfling. The binding is an understated black color. Overall, the guitar has a rather simple appearance, but it is still fairly nice looking. The DR does feature the familiar Martin tortoise pickguard and the squared Martin headstock.
The retail is about $1099, including case, but you can generally get a Martin DR at Guitar Center for about $799.
I have played several DRs, and I find them to be good guitars, though I must admit I generally prefer the sound of solid wood guitars. Compared to the DM, the sound is a bit bassier, though it is not nearly as full as the sound of a solid wood Martin dreadnought. I would describe the sound as "balanced" but not as "refined" as that of Martin's solid wood guitars.
An interesting comparison is between the Martin DR and the Martin D-15. The D-15 is made of mahogany, which is less expensive than rosewood, and it does NOT have a solid spruce top. It is an all-mahogany guitar, and it IS made of all solid wood. As such, the D-15 has an unusual all-brown appearance. The D-15 sounded a bit woodier and punchier than the DR, while the DR was a bit smoother and bassier, but also a bit less "real," as if it had had an old Ovation guitar for a great-great grandparent.
Which is better? That's a matter of personal taste. I'd certainly recommend you play both (and also the Martin DM) if you're looking for a dreadnought-style guitar in the just-under $1000 price range. Personally, I prefer the sound of the all-solid wood D-15.
On all DRs I've played, the action was set right, and there was minimal fret buzz or other problems. The neck width at the nut is 1 11/16", and the neck feels streamline, for good playability. Intonation was good, even up the neck, and all DRs I've played tuned up easily. The DR is not a heavy guitar, but it appears to be constructed well.
I have played in several different styles on the DR, and it handles each well. It's good with bluegrass, but not as full-sounding as a D-28 or HD-28. With more delicate finger-picking styles, it also sounded good, though I actually liked the sound of the all-mahogany D-15 (which is a tad less expensive) a little more with finger-picking tunes. In terms of playability, the DR was about the same as the D-15 (or my D-16, for that matter).
Martin advertises the DR as a member of their "Road Series" of guitars, meaning, I assume, that it would be a good guitar to take on the road and use at gigs, leaving your precious 1968 D-28 at home, where it won't be damaged.
Given its easy playability and balanced sound, I'd tend to agree that the DR would be a good guitar for performing. If you are playing through a microphone, or using a pick-up, you probably don't need that last degree of sonic perfection provided by Martin's solid wood guitars anyway. I've also heard that the laminated construction makes these guitars a bit more resistant to dings than nicks than are solid wood guitars.
Overall, I recommend you give the DR a look if you're considering the purchase of a guitar in the $1000 price range. Be sure also to play the comparably priced (actually, slightly less expensive) DM, D-15 and OOO15, as well as the Taylor 310, an all-solid wood mahogany guitar that can sometimes be found for under $1000. Guitars are a very personal thing, and you should always play the PARTICULAR instrument you're interested in several times before buying.
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