A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a used D-35 in a local shop. The word “used” is a stretch, as this thing has hardly a scratch on it. Virtually no fret wear. I’ve seen many, many guitars hanging on the wall at Guitar Center in worse shape.
Well, I played it for a while – realizing that, yes, I really do love the Martin sound. I was trying to decide whether I really wanted a Martin or a Taylor – Martin all the way.
I went back to the shop about a week later and put it on layaway. Got it for $1600, by the way. Not the best deal ever, but this one seemed to have something special – at least it spoke to me. That was two long weeks ago, and today I brought it home.
I’m used to my Takamine FD-360sc, which is a very nice high-end Takamine. Both guitars are solid spruce top/rosewood back and sides. The Takamine’s sound is very even and balanced, and a bit on the bright side. When I play these two guitars back-to-back, the Tak just sounds really thin in comparison. The Martin is very warm, and has a beautiful full bottom end that the Takamine just doesn’t have. Very round sound, too. With new strings, it’s bright, but it’s top end still maintains the warm character. Another thing it trumps the Takamine on is punch. If you dig into the Martin, it punches – hard. It fits my playing style very well (mostly strumming with a pick). When I was comparing to the Taylors (a 414ce), the Taylor sound was nice, but it’s very bright and jangly. They’ve got a good bass response, but the overall brightness of the tone wasn’t what I was going for. Again, the warmth of the Martin won me over.
This one was set up with a bit lower action that most factory Martin set-ups I’ve played. It’s perfect for my style, as it is pretty easy to chord, but I can strum hard and it doesn’t buzz. You could probably lower the action a bit if you wanted to. The neck has a satin finish (rest of the guitar is gloss). It seems to get a bit sticky, so I’ll have to get used to that. The shape of the neck is really nice. Thicker than my Takamine which is good – I like thick necks – this is totally a personal preference thing, though. It’s not quite as comfy in my hands as a Taylor neck, or, say, a vintage Telecaster neck, but it’s nice. Intonation is as good as any acoustic I’ve played – pretty much right on. Another thing, I’m used to acoustic with cut-aways, and I do play up pretty high on the fretboard sometimes. Another thing I’ll have to get used to. 90% of the time it won’t be an issue for me.
To me it looks like a guitar should – simple and elegant. It’s got a bit of “bling” for a Martin, which isn’t much bling for most manufactures. I like the binding up the neck, and the ornamentation around the sound hole looks classy. The 3-piece back looks awesome, in my opinion. Build quality is as you would expect from a Martin of this caliber – I’m not going to worry about it breaking down on me. Also – I’ve always loved the look of ebony on the fretboard/bridge. One more thing – I tend to break a lot of strings. I think I’d describe my style as “strum hard and sing harder”. Hopefully the saddle on this is well-made, as I’m sure it is. Time will tell.