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Maury's Blog

Wednesday, November 18 2015
Martin D28 vs Martin D35


Martin D-28                                    Martin D-35


2015 has been a good year for the Martin D35. With Martin throwing out all the stops to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the D35 has had a resurgence in popularity among Martin players and I’ve been having more and more conversations about it as the year goes on. Unfortunately while a lot of people are becoming more aware of the model it still seems that a lot of Martin players don’t really understand what it is that makes the D35 worthy of considering when compared to its older brother, the Martin D28. Today we’re going to try to fix that. This article is going to focus a bit more on the D35 than the D28. If you’d like to hear more about the D28 in particular, be sure to check out my previous “D28 Vs HD28” article.

What’s the same?

Cosmetically and structurally, the D28 and the D35 are very similar instruments. They’re both Dreadnought sized 14-Fret long scale instruments. They both have Sitka Spruce tops, East Indian Rosewood back/sides, Standard ‘X’ straight bracing pattern, and a Low Profile neck with a 1-11/16” nut and a 2-1/8” bridge spacing. They have the same finish, pickguard, bridge pins, and tuning machines. Oh, and they both come in Martin 640 Hardshell Thermoplastic Cases.

Before we go too deep into the structural differences between the two instruments, let’s take a quick look at the aesthetic differences. For starters D-35 is one of the few Martin guitars that has a bound neck. It features a distinctive White Boltaron binding running along 3 sides of the fretboard which is matched with a white Boltaron side inlay on the body of the instrument. Taken as a whole these slight cosmetic upgrades give the guitar a classier vibe when compared to the more sparse, workingman's aesthetic on the D-28.


The bound neck of a D-35

The most obvious difference between the D28 and the D35 is the number of pieces of wood used on their backs. The D28, like most Martin instruments, has a symetrical 2 piece back. This construction means that Martin needs bigger pieces of clean Rosewood. As Brazilian Rosewood got harder to find in the early 1960s Martin realized that, rather than simply waste the pieces of Brazilian Rosewood that were rejected for being too small for the D28 they could utilize them on an instrument with a 3 piece back. 

This three piece design necessitated some changes to what at that time were Martin’s standard Dreadnought construction methods. Martin realized quickly that a guitar back is made from 3 pieces of wood with perpendicular grain instead of two it ends up being much stiffer. Their first attempt, which was then known as the X-35, had almost identical back bracing to what was found on a D28. The guitar wound up being far too bassy.  To compensate for this, Martin decided to copy the lighter rear bracing of their 00 sized instruments for the D35 which allowed the back to vibrate as freely as possible without compromising structural integrity.


On the left we have the standard 2-Piece back of a D-28. On the right we have the iconic 3-Piece back of a D-35

Since the guitar’s back was already so lightly braced, Martin decided to keep the ball rolling and lighten the top braces on the D35 as well. At the time almost all Martin dreads were made with 5/16” X braces while smaller bodied instruments were braced with 1/4” braces. Martin decided to take the chance and apply the 1/4” 000 bracing pattern to their new Dreadnought. Three more prototypes later and Martin was ready to unveil the D35 to the world.

But talking about brace thickness in numbers alone is theoretical. What happens “in the field”?

In my own highly subjective opinion, the D-35 does everything the D-28 does but it does it just a bit better. The D-35 has all of the warmth and bass that you’d come to expect from a Martin Dreadnought. The difference is that, along with the typical low end you also get a crystal clear high end response. The highs on the D-35 are loud and sustaining, giving the guitar an incredible balance across the fretboard that you just don’t find in 28 series Dreads. Combine this with the D-35s better harmonic response, giving you a guitar that sounds more nuanced and lively than what came before it.

Although the initial reason for it’s creation was one of necessity, the D35 has become a mainstay in Martin’s lineup for reasons that go beyond financial. With its lighter bracing and eyecatching aesthetics, the D35 meets a need in the Martin lineup, offering an original tone and balance that isn’t found in any other Martin model. Personally I’ve found that it gives a sound that works great for solo guitar/vocal arrangements as well as smaller acoustic groups because of its fuller, more lush sound. The D28, on the other hand, has a more bass oriented tone that I feel works better for larger arrangements where you need to be careful not to step on the toes of the instruments around you.

For those of you who were unsure what the D-35 really offered, I hope this cleared things up.

Which do you prefer, the D-28 or the D-35? Be sure to let us know in the comment section. 


Posted by: Angelo AT 08:30 am   |  Permalink   |  25 Comments  |  Email
I play a D-18 I bought new in 1969 and like the sound pretty well, but am not sure how it compares to the 28's and 35's. I bought it when I had a little more money than I do now and didn't really know much about guitars at the time. If I had, I probably would have bought a D-28, but that's water under the bridge. I appreciated the discussion in this article, which cleared up several questions I had. Thanks, Jim Prater
Posted by Jim Prater on 11/18/2015 - 12:47 PM
I actually like the D-28 and the D-35 about equally. The D-28 sound appeals to me a great deal, and the D-35 aesthetics have always appealed to me - simply stunning. but I'm still a Gibson player, and it's unlikely that I'll ever change! Pete
Posted by Pete Kraemer on 11/18/2015 - 01:16 PM
I play a '68, D-28. I'm the one and only owner and I play professionally, so my guitar has shaped my own sound as much as I've shaped it. Over the years I've cheated on my old Martin and played other guitars for a couple of years before going back to my true love. Whenever I pick up a D-35 in decent shape I find it to have a somewhat larger sound and a bit more sustain...which gets in the way of the way I play with finger picks. I'm reasonably certain, had I started with a D-35 (or a D-18 for that matter) it probably would have shaped my playing to fit the instrument. I love 'em all...just love mine the best.
Posted by Ken Gaines on 11/18/2015 - 05:36 PM
I was without the use of my 1971 Martin D-35, purchased new in February 1972, for 4-1/2 years due to an accident while playing out. I received it back from the factory this past June and I fell in love with it all over again. It's an extremely sweet and well balanced dreadnought.
Posted by Stephen Perge on 11/20/2015 - 09:19 AM
I was or am still in love with this '67 d28 I played at a music store several years ago now. I couldn't afford the $5,000 price tag at the time. Once I had some money, I was looking for one that spoke to me like that '67 did. I found it in the 50th Anniversary, Limited Edition D35e. I absolutely love that guitar, it definitely spoke to me. I pulled it out at a gig last night, and the sound guy said, "I've never seen a Martin as beautiful as that instrument". I'm a lucky guy. Thanks for the article, it was great!
Posted by David Chapa on 07/17/2016 - 10:54 AM
I love my Martin 1972 D-28. I also have a new Martin D-1. Nothing can compare to the D-28 Sound and resonance, especially when playing in open tunings.
Posted by Natalie Buckley Rowland on 01/05/2017 - 03:57 PM
I have a HD28 and a HD35, both of which I built from customized kits from Blues Creek Guitars. The D28 is a Martin kit and the D35 is a Blues Creek kit. I put a pickup in the D28 but left my D35 straight acoustic. The only thing I modified was the bracing. I scalloped it. When I finished the D28 I immediately fell in love with it. The sound coming from that instrument was nothing short of wonderful. Then I built the D35. The three-piece back with herringbone is spectacular, the lows are deep and rich and the highs are unbelievably clean and clear. They are equal in my opinion but I use the D35 simply because it is straight acoustic. I am very proud of both my creations and feel blessed each time I play either.
Posted by Gary Turnage on 07/09/2017 - 10:31 AM
I acquired a 1981 D35 a couple years ago and I love it. I bought it to add a dreadnaught to my inventory and I was searching for a D28 mostly for its reputation and because I didn't know about the D35. From day one, this beauty has impressed. She's beautiful for all the reasons you wrote about here. Thank you for the information and the education!
Posted by Ken Lundberg on 09/23/2017 - 04:24 PM
I purchased a D-35 yesterday. I tried the new D-28 (1-3/4" nut), D-18 and D-35. After two hours of play, both miked and un-miked, I settled on the D-35. Much clearer highs from the 35 with a corresponding pleasant bottom. I am very happy with this guitar.
Posted by Kimball Ferguson on 10/24/2017 - 12:39 PM
I've had two HD-28's at different times. As a singer songwriter I liked them very much but, somehow I just wasn't connected to either. It ended up that I sold them. It wasn't until I got my D-35 that I became completely enamored. It's absolutely wonderful to play and the tone is deep, yet so balanced. The 35 has gorgeous sustain and is excellent for recording. It's a favorite of many recording artists for a good reason.
Posted by JET on 11/14/2017 - 09:48 PM
For the longest time, I couldn't find a guitar I liked better than the HD 28, and over the course of a few years I'd tried out a ton of guitars at various price points. I finally saved up the money, and was about to go buy it until I came across a 1968 D35 that was being sold privately for roughly the same price as an HD28. I luckily wound up with it instead and I haven't looked back. It's absolutely incredible.
Posted by Curtis Meikle on 04/11/2018 - 05:09 PM
I own a 1973 (bot new) K.Suzuki D35 knockoff that has nearly the same sound and feel as a true Martin D35. I, and nearly everyone else who has played the box, loves the music the Suzuki knockoff makes. I was in a GC this afternoon and picked up a Martin D28 and immediately fell in love with the box. It has a rich tone, plays easier and simply feels great in my lap. I almost pulled my VISA card from my wallet. I would have if it had the same look as the D35 - I love that 3 piece back.
Posted by Miki SJ on 04/12/2018 - 05:34 AM
Went to Long & McQuade in Calgary today with every intention of buying a D-28 (after many hours of research and always wanting a Martin). Played the D-28 & the HD28 and loved them both. Hmmm. What to do??!! Then I decided to try the D-35. Oh my GAWD!! I was blown away! As the article states, the lows, mids and highs are so incredibly balanced and articulate. And a beautifully even response from all strings all over the fretboard. To my ear, much more so that the two ‘28's I tried. Needless to say, I walked out with a beautiful new D-35 and haven't put it down. I nice bonus was that Martin mistakenly installed a tortoise shell pick guard instead of the black one it's supposed to come with. Also love the fretboard binding.
Posted by Rob Wilson on 09/22/2018 - 10:13 PM
Hello! I have a D35 50th anniversary (serial 1944506). Great guitar, very good Grover tuners (stays in tune), fantastic sound and as anniversary extra also electro acoustic made (Thinline Gold Plus element + 9 Volt battery). On all the available pictures i see those D35's with a three piece back but my D35/50 has the two piece back (as you say only the D28 should have). Is my two piece back maybe some one rare thing?
Posted by Eric De Wilde on 04/26/2019 - 10:30 AM
Idon't own a D-35 (yet), but I've spent a lot of time playing one at GC. I own a 2016 MMV which I'll be keeping and likely passing on to a grandchild at some point, but the D-35 is definitely my next guitar. I love the tones in all the ranges and like the binding on the neck and 3-piece back. They all combine to make a thoroughly unique-sounding and appearing instrument. I agree with those who say the D-28 is great, but that the D-35 does the high range better. It's going to be my forever guitar.
Posted by andylibby on 05/08/2019 - 11:02 PM
I have long preferred the sound of the D-35, but now I know why. But if I were to buy one, I'd want a custom shop version without the bound fretboard.
Posted by David on 02/18/2020 - 06:43 PM
I have a vintage 1975 Martin D-35 It's a jewel in my guitar collection! I won't take it on the road, I only use it in the studio. All the musicians I work with love it. They always say, "Break out the Martin D-35"
Posted by Charles on 08/02/2020 - 06:03 PM
I've got a 76 tobacco burst d-35 and I'll unlikely find another guitar Martin or otherwise that I love more that that guitar! None in that guitars price range anyway! It has a solid bass response and the highs are crystal clear and shimmering! And I will add the best neck I've ever played. I don't have big hands and that narrow oval on the wide fingerboard is perfectly fast! Not sure I could find a D28 to offer more!
Posted by Cmoore on 09/30/2020 - 06:30 PM
I was looking for a D28 at the several local guitar shops. I played a lot from different stores and even two at one store. They all sounded the same but different. The D28 sounds great and plays easy. Then I happened to notice at GC a D35. After a couple strums and scales this was what I wanted. I saw a 1998 centennial on Craig's List. We met in public I played it for a bit. I bought it. Easy playing and, I couldn't believe it could sound fuller than the D28, but it did. The three piece back is cool.
Posted by Tim on 02/01/2021 - 08:15 PM
Awesome post.
Posted by LarryRab on 07/26/2021 - 07:18 AM
In 1963 I lived on the same dorm floor as Michael Martin Murphey at NorthTexasStateUniv. He put Goya nylon strings on my old 1950's Harmony Mahogany and taught me to play folk music. He had a Martin D28 that his granddad gave him and I always wanted one. After I got back from Nam in ‘69, I moved to England, got married, and came back to the states on vacation and saw "Murph" on the Johnny Carson Show playing Wild Fire! I hooked up with him and he put me on to a music store in Austin, where I went to buy a D28 like his. It was 1974 and the guy showed me the D35,($575 w/blue hard case) fell in love and been playing it ever since! I see MMM every time he comes close to Houston to renew old friendships! Semper Fi & God bless America! Jerry
Posted by Jerry Glazener on 12/15/2021 - 05:41 PM
I've got a 76 shade top D-35 that my dad bought new, that I've been the proud owner of since around 1992. I've had probably 6 other high end acoustics through the years and nothing compares! The D-35 is perfectly balanced and so easy to play! I think it plays better than my American telecaster and is a lot faster! My dad had the hands of an overweight 12 year old girl and the wide large neck was never a problem! Its just a fast smooth tone cannon that I've been nothing short of blessed to own!
Posted by Chris Moore on 02/03/2022 - 09:15 AM
I have a ‘69 D-35 I bought from a friend in ‘71 after my Gibson J45 was ruined in a car wreck (I had a femur broken!). I've loved it forever and have been playing the dooky out of it during Covid because all electric band gigs were cancelled. I took it to my local shop to get the frets dressed and the guy said that after all this time the block has shrunk and the sound is diminished. I had to agree that I think it used to sound better. Sadly Martin doesn't honor its lifetime guarantee and it will cost $1,200 to fix. Yikes! I said I'd just stick with the dressing for now.
Posted by Michael Monagan on 06/11/2022 - 08:35 PM
I have a 1958 D 28 that's was my dad's. He bought it new in 1958. It has double pick guards. It is an amazing instrument and the sound will make your arm hairs stand up! I love this thing! He also had a D35 that he gave to my brother. It ended up getting damaged and trashed. That is really sad. The D28 is in good hands and will always remain safe and well taken care of.
Posted by Jimmy Armstrong on 07/01/2022 - 07:26 PM
I had my pick of 6 brand new 1974 D-35's and got the pick of the litter. Gorgeous instrument I made my piano bar living with for 17 years. I'm a light strummer and finger picker, and I love the clarity of the high end and a low end that never seems muddy with extra light gauge strings.
Posted by John Johnston on 02/22/2023 - 03:27 PM

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