With its virtual absence of conventional waisting and lowsplayed bottom bouts, the D-Style achieves what few makers previously have – a dreadnought that apes neither a square-shouldered Martin nor a slope-shouldered Gibson.
If there is a visual link to any pre-existing acoustic, it is, bizarrely, Martin's little Backpacker. Have a butcher's at that and you'll see exactly what we mean.
The D-Style Mahogany, using a Sitka spruce top and African mahogany back and sides, is the cheapest Baden, yet it shares similar trim to the top-range offerings, the cosmetic theme being simple elegance.
This is exemplified by the back-matching mahogany rosette which constitutes the circumference of the soundhole, and the body binding is similarly co-ordinated, with the addition of a light-wood coachline strip around the rims.
The unfussy 'grinning-mouth' bridge, the peghead overlay with its etched logo and the fingerboard are all rosewood, the last so carefully bound that it's nigh-on impossible to detect the edging strips.
Indeed we queried whether it was, instead, a bound look achieved with pocketed frets, but TJ says all his boards are conventionally bound, though he is considering adding 'pinstripe' purfling to visually accentuate the binding.
While not carrying any front markers, the fretboard does have the essential side dots for reference.
A quirky detail, intersecting the soundhole just under the top of the fretboard, is a small hole with a white triangular insert. Does it have any practical function?
"No," says TJ. "This 'keystone' is our identity mark – we use Keystone dealer programs, Keystone artists, etc. It also points to the dovetail neck joint and creates the opportunity to have a discussion about hand-made guitars."
Whereas the body is (beautifully) lacquered in highgloss polyurethane, the one-piece 644mm-scale mahogany neck, aside from the glossed headstock overlay, is satin, taking on a lowgloss sheen the more the guitar is played.
Super-slick and, incidentally, carrying a second strap button at the heel, the span is a regular 43mm at the nut with an evenly rounded profile (graduating from 22mm to 24mm deep) that's a little fuller than on many acoustics these days but still immensely comfortable.
The overall grip and feel are somewhat reminiscent of a Lowden – an entirely positive comparison. String spacing at the bridge is a mainstream 55mm, which is good for both general playing and uncramped fingerstyle.
This is a dreadnought that performs very persuasively. Blending warmth and brightness in pretty much equal measure – without the tonal dryness that can be a characteristic of mahoganybacked flattops – the top end sings with a sweet edge all the way up the 'board, while the bass response is resonantly rounded yet clear and well defined.
Volume and projectional bite are well up to snuff, and the dynamics feel supple whether you are strumming or picking.