Today we are looking at a 2006 Martin D-15 Custom dreadnaught acoustic guitar. This model is on the lower end of the Martin spectrum, but is still a pretty nice US-made guitar. The custom part is that this instrument have a spruce top and rosewood sides and back, unlike other Martin D-15 guitars that are made of solid mahogany. These were only made for a few years and were distributed exclusively through Musician’s Friend.
Indeed it is made of some nice woods! It has a mahogany neck, Sitka spruce top, and East Indian rosewood sides and back. The bridge is made of East Indian rosewood too. I am not sure where the fretboard came from, but it is rosewood too. Inside there is D1 A-frame bracing, if you have any idea what that means. Ornamentation is sparse -- the body has a matte finish, a simple rosette and body binding, and a nice-looking faux tortoiseshell pickguard. Unfortunately, it looks kind of cheap if you think about it too much.
The neck is pretty sweet. It has a smooth oval profile, and has a glossy finish. It has the traditional 25 1/2-inch scale 1 11/16-inch width nut. 14 of the 20 frets are clear of the body, and they are well-finished and pretty level. The neck is capped by a rosewood headstock overlay, a gold foil logo, and nice quality chromed sealed-back tuners.
This one is in pretty good shape on its 8th birthday. It just has a few marks, dings, and nicks, and the matte finish has been worn shiny in a few places. The frets are still in great shape, and it sets up nicely with a very low action on light gauge strings. Somewhere along the line someone professionally installed a bone nut, which is not a bad thing. It weighs in at around 4 pounds, 6 ounces in case you are keeping track.
How does it work? Despite its entry-level cost it has a definite Martin character and tone. The dreadnaught body style allows for sufficient power, and the low oval profile neck is fast and easy to handle. The bass is loud and full, and the midrange detail is sweet with a good balance between the two. It is fun to play, and is nice for songwriting, fingerpicking, folk, country and bluegrass. Don’t get me wrong – it is not in the same league as my D-18GE, but it is pretty darned good.
I guess the important thing is how much these things cost. Back when they were new, they had a list price of $1499, and a street price of $999, which included a nice-quality hardshell case. These days they are $500 to $600 used guitars, which is not too bad for a US-made Martin that is built with nice woods. Plus, they have all been getting older and the tops have been loosening up, so they sound better than ever.
Check one out, and if you can get put up with the Spartan appointments, they are a pretty good deal. If appearance is important, save up and buy a D-28. It might take a while…