If you're looking for a new guitar that looks and sounds like you've been playing it for 80 years, you have just found your holy grail of guitars. 1937 was an excellent year for guitars, with a perfect storm of craftsmanship, innovation, and materials. The Aged version of the D-28 Authentic 1937 includes all of the goodness that comes with Martin's Authentic Series instruments, like hide glue construction and hand-scalloped X-bracing. Nick Jennison Reviews
When it comes to electric guitars, there seems to be a point of diminishing returns when it comes to price. Once you get up past a few thousand pounds' worth, guitars don't seem to get that much "better." They might look better, have fancier appointments or a cool backstory, but when it comes to the job of being an instrument? The improvements become incrementally smaller the more money you spend. For acoustic guitars, this absolutely does not seem to be the case. It seems like every little refinement—if done right—leads to huge returns in tone.
This is a preface of sorts because the subject of this review is costly, but very much worth its monstrous price tag. The Martin D-28 Authentic Aged is the result of the herculean efforts of the biggest brains at the Martin factory. It's an exact recreation of a particularly sweet 1937 D-28 from their museum, down to not only the construction, not only the worn finish, down to the molecular level.
Artificially ageing woods has been a practice that a number of manufacturers have tried to perfect over the years, but according to the folks at Martin, they've cracked it and now have the capability to age freshly cut timbers to a specific year! It's a pretty outlandish claim, but Martin is not one to make claims like this without good cause. What I will say is that, while I have no way of knowing whether this process actually produces timbers that are eligible for a bus pass, I CAN say that the results - as seen in this guitar - are absolutely spectacular.
The D-28 shape occupies something of a sweet spot in the Martin range, with a great balance of detail and power that lends itself to a whole range of playing styles, and nowhere is this more evident than on the Authentic Aged model. Every note blooms with rich harmonics, and aggressive flatpicking and strumming are delivered with massive authority, but without so much as a hint of barky-ness or boomy-ness - just wonderful, crystal clarity all the way across the entire dynamic range. It's inspiring stuff!
Under the hand, this guitar feels like a piece of history. There's something in the finish and the neck profile that feels like picking up a museum piece - which makes sense, given that's essentially what this guitar is! It's not a modern guitar with crazy low action and great big tall frets, so you will need to work a little to play it, but the payoff is very, very worth it.
Ok, so all that is very nice, but this is a guitar that's close to a five-figure price tag. It can't be worth that much money, surely? Well, that's a question I can't answer for you. What I will say is that, after half an hour with this guitar, I was thinking very hard about selling my car to buy one. It's legitimately that good. If you can justify the outlay, this is a guitar that could easily become a family heirloom - and it's only going to get better with time.
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