Martin D-15 Special review

A quality dread without the dreaded price tag

  • £1450

MusicRadar Verdict

This D-15 Special is well named. A classic old-school-style voice that will no doubt mature into quite a serious dread.

Pros

  • +

    Subdued tones will appear to plenty of players.

Cons

  • -

    Modern appearance won't be for everyone.

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If you're looking for a quality, all-solid wood dread from the company that created the beast 100 years ago, this model deserves your attention.

The new D-15 Special is part of a trio of late summer releases - including the DR Centennial and a 000-15 Special. We have the acoustic version; the electro costs £1,635.

As reflected in the price, our D-15 Special is made at Martin's Nazareth HQ. Our full-size Special, in Martin's 15 Series, should be all-mahogany but it isn't: the 'Special' bit on this, and the 000-15 Special, is the Sitka spruce (not mahogany) top.

The D-15 Special's sprayed lacquer matt finish gives the same utilitarian vibe as the standard 15 Series, but with its clean Sitka top and just a single black edge binding (top only), it has quite a modernistic appearance contrasted with the abalone 'Golden Era'-style diamonds and squares on the rosewood 'board with matching rosewood bridge. Top bracing is non-scalloped, the neck profile is the 'modified low oval' with standard taper, while the tuners are open-backed Grovers. The D-15 Special features bone and generic die-cast tuners.

Sounds

The D-15 Special is very similar in feel to the recently-released DR Centennial and not a million miles away in sound, either: a little 'smaller', slightly less powerful and a little sweeter in the high-end. There's more difference between the Taylor 410e-R and the DR Centennial than there is between this Special and the Centennial. We don't hear a vastly different range of tones, either.

The D-15 is a little more subdued, but not in a bad way - plenty of players would be more than happy here and will have a noticeable saving in terms of cash outlay. With playing time under its belt, we'd expect some maturing, and our older reference DC-16GTE, which sounds a little wider with less mid-range clout, gives some indication of what to expect.

Dave Burrluck is one of the world’s most experienced guitar journalists, who started writing back in the '80s for International Musician and Recording World, co-founded The Guitar Magazine and has been the Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist magazine for the past two decades. Along the way, Dave has been the sole author of The PRS Guitar Book and The Player's Guide to Guitar Maintenance as well as contributing to numerous other books on the electric guitar. Dave is an active gigging and recording musician and still finds time to make, repair and mod guitars, not least for Guitarist’s The Mod Squad.