D18 Report


I’ve had my D18 for a month or so now, and it’s been quite an adjustment, so here’s my report.

The dynamics on this guitar are so different from what I’ve been used to with my Takamine and Tayor, I feel like I’ve had to relearn how to play to some degree. The guitar has some great tones, but they can’t simply be beaten out of it. She responds much more nicely to a light touch. I find myself with a lighter pick grip for almost all my rhythm playing, now. And without all those rumbling overtones of rosewood, it sure is difficult to cover up slopply play. I’ve had to go back and clean up my pickin’ on several songs I thought I already had down.

The reward, of course, for handling her just right is a crystal clear ringing tone. I started trying some recording with it this week, and it records beautifully. It just about EQ’s itself.

I feel like I’m still learning what the guitar can do, but she’s definitely growing on me.


I have a D-18 GE as well. I was shocked at how easy it is to record the thing. It just sounds “right.” I just posted in another section how I am a sucker for complex overtones, but I usually end up coming back to Mahogany. Mine likes a subtle touch too, but I can whomp on it when needed and it just seems to love it.
I’ll see if I can attach something… when I first got the guitar I recorded it solo at the request of a co-worker. I used two CHEAP condenser mics: one on the lower bout and the other at the 12th fret. There are no effects or eq on the sound except a boatload of reverb (trying to match the sound of Alex Lifeson’s 12 string live sound as much as I could). I think the sound of the guitar just jumps for such a quick and simple recording.

Edit: Ooops, mp3s can’t be directly uploaded… bummer. Take my word for it… they record great.


I wouldn’t say my guitar can’t be played hard, but it takes a different attack than my Takamine required. After the first night of taking my new guitar out to a jam, my wife asked why I was playing so hard. I guess I was really used to trying to get volume out of my Tak, and was just laying into the treble strings on the D18.

I’m rethinking my pick choice, now, too. Been swiching back and forth between Wegen bluegrass and tortoise. I really liked the Wegen on my Tak, but the Martin seems to respond better to the tortoise.


I’m probably playing too hard too. If your wife ever makes it to Texas I’d like her opinion :smiley:
It’s hard not to wail on it some days. It just growls. My Mom actually named it for me… “The Beast.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it doesn’t sound as good when I am digging in from the front as it does from my vantage point.

I am usaing a Wegen 1.4, but it’s odd. Some days I love it and some days I waver. I don’t have tortoise (thank you spell checker, I mangled that word) but decided on trying a blue chip. I haven’t ordered it yet, but if it’s really a keeper, it’ll be worth the money (unless of course I lose it).


Maybe I missed it on the other forum, but did you get a new one or a used one and if you don’t mind saying how much did you pick her up for?


Hi Oldhat, good to see you on the new site!
I think your question was to Larry, but I’ll give my info. Mine is a 2002 D-18GE sunburst. Structurally it is good, but there was some excessive pick wear. I think for it’s condition, it was slightly overpriced at $2400, but it was on consignment and there was no wiggle to the price. I loved the sound and the way it played, so I bought it. I think I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of it. It’s a keeper. In a way, it’s nice having it pre-loved, as I don’t jump out of my shoes if I or someone else dings it.


I was wondering what happened to oldhat, too. Glad you made the jump. We’re missing some other regulars like Aaron and zlwilliams, too.

My guitar is a 2005 standard D-18 and I paid $1300 and change. The guitar is really starting to grow on me. I swear it’s louder now than when I bought it. I don’t know if the guitar itself has changed from playing it every day, or if I’ve just become more efficient at playing it, but I’m liking it.


Thanks for the report on both guitars!

Yeah it took me awhile to get caught up and make the move here…Ben and I passed back and forth a text or so and he said the new site was going live and I was so busy that I have just gotten around to making the switch.

Not to hijack your thread but I was texting our host letting him know that I had bought a fishing boat and that he was more than welcome to come bass fishing with me…He lives about 20 minutes from me, and 5 minutes away from Old Hickory Lake which is a premier fishing lake in tn and I drive right past his place to get there…of which I landed a nice 5lb largemouth on last week!..so the point is is that I have been fishing my butt off for the past 3 weeks and little if any guitar playing has been done by me…you guys know how us boys and our new toys go…man I am in my 40’s and retired…I never realized that I would get this sore from slinging crankbaits all day!

Now back on the Martins. I tell you what, you know how you get “that sound”…well It pretty much drives me crazy when I don’t get “that sound” and I tend to go through strings like they are going out of style to maintain “that sound” so make sure you buy plenty of strings for the D18 you just got as mine tends to keep “that sound” from maybe 20-30 hours of playing time…speaking of that, Guitar Center (of which I rarely buy anything from) did have a special that Martin was running on strings…I think it was 5 packs for $19.99…I asked the guy if there was a limit and he said “no”…so I told him to give me $200 worth of the Sp’s.

I’ve rambled on here and I have hijacked your thread but you deserve it because you and Ben both added new D18’s over the past few months/month and I did not so you deserve out of envy to get your thread hijacked and for me to ramble on!



Been fishin’, huh. Well, I guess that is one of the three excused absences from banjobenclark.com. (The other two are hunting and flying).

I can relate to what you’re saying about wanting to constantly change strings, not only because I want the sound of the new strings, but also because I like testing out different string brands on the new guitar.

This guitar sure was a big step up in tone from my Takamine and I’m fortunate to have it, but it’s still nowhere near as nice as Ben or Mike’s GE model. GAS is a pernicious disease - I’ve got a nice Martin and I’m still coveting other guitars!


— Begin quote from "ldpayton"

This guitar sure was a big step up in tone from my Takamine and I’m fortunate to have it, but it’s still nowhere near as nice as Ben or Mike’s GE model. GAS is a pernicious disease. - I’ve got a nice Martin and I’m still coveting other guitars!

— End quote

An odd thing happened to me in my GAS activities… As I get new guitars in search of “the one” guitar to rule them all, my appreciation for my others grows. I mean, I had some humble ones early on, but the ones I currently have are good for different reasons. I sometimes seem to be a bit contrarian with them as well. Sometimes I enjoy fingerpicking on my adirondack dreadnaught and flat picking on the sitka OM. That’s not the way it’s “supposed” to work, but I like what I like. I was planning on selling my OM when I got a “better” one to replace it, but I never did. The “better” guitar is great, but I still like my OM. I still have my Tak, because I can take it anywhere or loan it to anyone and not worry about it. If you are like me, I would bet that if I sent you my GE, you’d have things or applications that you like about yours better than mine. The difference in tone is huge from a beginner guitar to a nice Martin like the one you have, but from that point as you start adding little tweaks, the differences become less with every addition. They just have different voices, and you may already have that perfect voice developing in the guitar you already have (and with flat picking it can change quickly). I’m not saying to call off the search that GAS inspires. But I am saying that you have what seems to be a great guitar. Enjoy it, because you may never find one that suits you better.


Hi everyone I’m new to this forum but it looks good to me!
I’ve recently purchased a 2001, Martin D-18GE and it is a real cannon and at last I can hear what I’m playing in the band. The sound is amazing and seems to be “the” Bluegrass sound. I have a 1979 D28 and a 2001 CEO 5 also, and the D18GE is far superior in sound quality and volume to both…However I am quite concerned how soft the lacquer is. Just the slightest knock will leave a dent or mark whereas the other instruments are quite forgiving. Does anyone think the same or know if this is relative to the model and as it should be? I did think at one point that it had been over sprayed but is probably not the case.
Also I am a little concerned that the the bridge may have been taken off at some point and re glued badly. All Martin guitars I’ve owned and seen have really clean glue lines around the bond area of the bridge but this one is definitely messy.
The set up is fine with a good steep break angle and playability is good.

Any comments would be very welcome.

Great stuff and thanks Banjo Ben

Thanks from “Sunny” England (joke)



Hi Martin,
I’m glad you like the GE. I have a 2002 GE. To the best of my knowledge, the finish on the GE is standard nitro lacquer with an aging toner on the top. You could search the unofficial martin guitar forum to see if they do anything special for the finish treatment. I bought mine used, and it has quite a few minor dings. It does seem to mark fairly easily, but I don’t know if it is more so than other guitars with nitro finishes. If I had to guess, I think mine seems on the thinner side of Martins I own. If yours is very susceptible, it could be that when it was buffed, it ended up thinner than most guitars (it’s a hand-done process). It could also that the finish was exposed to conditions or chemicals that have made it softer. If your finish is thinner than most, that may not be a totally bad thing… on some higher end guitars, they use a thinner finish to help push the tone to the limit. If you have some dings or chips that bother you or have exposed wood, drop-fill repairs can be done to where they are near impossible to see. It is time consuming as you have to let the lacquer cure, but it is a very simple process.
As far as the bridge being re-glued, it’s a bummer they did a messy job. Mine had the “wings” re-glued as well. That seems a bit early (10 to 11 years) for needing this to be done, but it can happen quite easily with exposure to heat (such as in a parked car). If there is good news to the messiness of the glue job, it would be that whoever did it obviously used sufficient glue since there is squeeze-out.
Sorry for the aesthetic problems, but I’m glad you have a cannon that plays well. Mine is a bit dinged up as well, but I look at it as a positive… I am more inclined to play it out and I don’t pucker when someone else wants to play it.


Thanks Mike that is very reassuring. I don’t mind what a guitar looks like and in fact I like the scratches that occur over the years …feels more authentic…every scratch tells a story kind of thing, but I gigged with it for the first time last Wednesday and is really dinged and marked as a result already. I felt that it was kind of fragile compared to my other Martin guitars. I was being ultra careful to avoid collisions on stage. We use a single mic in our band and choreography has been worked out really well but we always seem to bash into each other eventually. I was unsure at that point whether I would keep the guitar or not because of the thickness and shape of the neck and playability, so wanted to protect it as best I could so as to be able to sell it if needed. …Now…well I think it’s a keeper and I’ll stop being afraid of it and just play!

Have you compared the GE directly with Collings guitars, Bourgois or Santa Cruz and how How did it compare? I played a Tony Rice signature model Dread at a Bluegrass festival in the UK and remember it felt really nice to play but I don’t remember the sound making me smile like the GE.

Thanks again for your comments

Cheers Martin


As it happens I did do an A/B comparison between a Collings mahogany dread (perhaps a D1A) and a GE. Between those two, the GE was louder, they both had great tone, but they were considerably different. Talking about tone is like dancing about architecture (not my phrase, I saw it somewhere along the line), but if it makes any sense, the GE had more attitude. I liked them both, but the GE was preferable to my ear. If I were not picking either/or, I liked them both very much. I don’t remember the differences in their action, as neither was unusual and I usually modify that over time to my liking. The neck profiles were both enjoyable. My main guitar I had played for years was a Martin V-neck, so it feels good to me. I bought the GE, but I wouldn’t have faulted anyone who picked the Collings. At that same visit I also got to play a D-18 authentic. The tone was killer, and it was super responsive. However I wasn’t sure I would get used to the neck profile. In retrospect, I think I would have, but it was a pretty pricey chunk of wood.


Had a full day yesterday just playing and getting used to the guitar. It really does sound good. It has a real “crack” when you lay into a good old favourite G run or two but has so much tone even when played gently. One of the guys in our band has a D18 VS and when played hard it seems to crumble and sounds cluttered and generally a mess…The GE however seems to just get louder without losing any of its tone. Is this what to expect with an Adi top?

So now the guitar has been played a bit, gigged too and the strings are well worn in and bordering on dead (same strings it came with)…It sounds even more authentic than it did and I’m well happy. The finish is still bothering me though…It shouldn’t I know but until a Luthier sees it and says that it is normal I’ll not really rest. …Question…The neck finish on mine is high gloss from the heel to the top of the headstock on the back, then matte on the edges (by the tuners) and top and front of the headstock. …Is this right?..I ask because this is where the lacquer is really soft. Just a touch with the side of my nail will leave a mark which seems to be below the top surface of lacquer and can’t be removed with polish or cutting. I was a sprayer for many years and this is like the top coat has been applied without de-greasing or keying the layer below. Again if this is right then I’m not really bothered but if someone along the line has had a part respray done then I’d like to know about it. The thing that stood out to me when I bought this (used/privately) was the smell…The inside smelled as new as if it had just come from the factory,…and the outside as if it had newly been sprayed…Not in a solvent way but just…well new!
Oh yes, it has the most unusual (for a Martin guitar) headstock wood grain colouring…one half is very dark and the other half light…I’ve not seen this before. It is quite attractive and stands out from the crowd …Looks great and as if it was an original feature…Just unusual for Martin…If I could figure out how to upload a photo I would.

I’l stop moaning now and just get on with it!!!

Thanks Martin


Hi Martin,
The playing portion of the neck is polished on mine as well (and matte on other neck areas). I tried a nail scratch test. I am pretty sure I could scratch it with my nail if I dug in, but a medium-light drag of the nail does not mark the finish in any way. Some people polish out headstocks and such, but they come matte from the factory.
BTW, it sounds like you have a guitar with alot of nice features.
Have a good one,


Great! Thanks Mike for all your help. I’ll crack on and play the thing for a few months during festival season and report back after. I’ll let some other people play it and post their comments.

Cheers and thanks again.



— Begin quote from "maggot"

The GE however seems to just get louder without losing any of its tone. Is this what to expect with an Adi top?

— End quote

Sorry I missed the above in my previous post. That is in line with what I understand and have seen. Adi is stiffer than most other top woods, and so it can be made thinner and still have more headroom for heavy attack. I have a sitka topped guitar that doesn’t break up when played hard, but it still doesn’t seem to enjoy it the way adi does. On the other hand, I have found I like the tone I get from a medium touch on adi.


For what it’s worth, Gruhn’s has 2 of the new spec (1 3/4" nut, scalloped, low profile neck) D-18s in stock.


Hard to stop window shopping, ain’t it Mike? :smiley:

I’ve been GASing for a Bourgeois Slope D somethin’ fierce lately. This one went for $2200 recently. :frowning: