Saturday, October 18, 2014

2002 Martin D-17 Acoustic Guitar Review


I am a big fan of Martin guitars, and given a choice I will pick one of their instruments over similar models from other makers. Today we are looking at something a little different from them, the all-mahogany D-17.

The first thing too note is that this is not the same guitar as the currently produced D-17M, nor the D-15M, which is similar in appearance. They discontinued this model many years back, but this particular instrument has a little bit of history behind it.

This guitar has a serial number that dates it to 2002 because it was started back then discovered last year somewhere in their huge factory, long after the model had been discontinued. Martin went ahead and finished it up and shipped it out to a guitar shop in Ohio, where it was finally retailed.

This D-17 features a glossy finish over its solid mahogany top, sides and back. This is different than the current D-17M, which uses a Sitka spruce top that is tinted to look like mahogany (and the cheaper-looking satin finish on the sides and back). This instrument has a classy faux tortoise shell binding black and white purfling around the top, and the rosette is the 17 type.

The neck on this guitar is hand-carved mahogany with a low oval profile, and it is topped with a black micarta fretboard that kind of looks like ebony. The front of the headstock has a nice piece of East Indian rosewood laminated onto it, and the Martin logo is presented in gold foil, which matches the gold-plated sealed tuners.

This was a fairly expensive guitar (list price around $2000), and the craftsmanship is worthy of the price. The fretwork is very good, all of the joints are solid and even, and the finish is clear and even (but not too thick). If you ever have the chance to go to the Martin Factory tour in Eastern Pennsylvania, make sure that you go. The pride that their employees have in what they are doing is impressive, and the facility is unbelievable.

It plays very easily, and the sound is unique when compared to other Martin dreadnaughts. There is more bass than my D-18 or HD-28, but the tone is still even and it has a very sweet sound. It has a relatively narrow 1 11/16-inch nut, and it is well-suited to either strumming of flat picking. I would prefer a bit wider nut for fingerpicking, though. It is a good bluegrass or blues guitar, but it also has a versatile enough tone that it could be used for jazz too, if that is your thing.

It is a winner.

This D-17 came with the original factory hardshell case, which is about as nice as they come. Things like this really round out the package and reinforce the quality of the instrument, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I was not be able to hold onto this fine instrument as I have two killer Martins (D-18 Golden Era and HD-28V Custom) that are just not getting enough play time. So I moved it along to a better home – too many guitars, and not enough time!



  1. Hm....more bass than your other dreadnaughts? How was the fundamental note and overtones? I have not had the pleasure of playing one of these...

  2. Well, Corey, the bass volume is the highlight. It is a solid instrument but its balance, fundamental tone and overtones are not even close to my D-18. But it cost half as much, too...

  3. I was the person who purchased this guitar from the Ohio guitar shop. It is a beautiful work of art with a great sound. Hated to part with it but felt it needed a better home at the time. I'd buy it back in a minute if I could.