Martin D-16 Adirondack Review

AG 225 September 2011

Posted by Scott Nygaard

Since C.F. Martin and Co.’s use of Adirondack spruce tops on its Golden Era instruments is the primary reason for Adirondack’s current popularity, it was an obvious choice to include a new Adirondack-top Martin dreadnought in this review. We chose a D-16 Adirondack, which is basically a D-18 with a mortise-and-tenon neck joint and slightly modified bracing. Martin primarily uses Sitka spruce on its standard models, but it also makes a 16-series Adirondack-top guitar with East Indian rosewood back and sides, the HD-16R, and uses Adirondack tops on its Authentic, Golden Era, and Marquis series, as well as many limited editions and signature models.

The Adirondack top on the D-16 Adirondack we received is fairly wide grained, but Martin’s use of a gloss finish and yellowish vintage toner on the top, combined with a rosewood coverplate on the headstock, ebony fingerboard, and dark brown tortoise pickguard, makes this guitar more distinctive than some of Martin’s more standard models (a sunburst finish is also available, for an additional cost). As with some of Martin’s vintage-oriented models (the Authentic and Golden Era, for example), the neck width on the D-16 Adirondack is 13/4 inches, with Martin’s “Modified V” neck shape, which provides a slight V shape that vintage enthusiasts will be comfortable with, but without the sharp V that can impede hand positions that place the thumb in the middle of the neck. Overall, the neck felt a little chunky when I tried to wrap my thumb around to fret bass notes, but was otherwise very comfortable in all positions, aided undoubtedly by its satin finish. The factory setup was excellent, superbly playable and buzz-free, although I’d probably raise the action a touch if I was going to turn it into a bluegrass road warrior.

I’ve occasionally heard the inimitable sound of a classic Martin dreadnought described as “unbalanced,” and if that is true, then the D-16 fits that description, but only because its bass sound is so big and rich that it dominates the rest of the guitar’s range. I couldn’t imagine wanting a fatter low end on open-position G chords and bass runs, and the D-16 delighted in dropped-D tuning. The treble strings could have benefited from a tweak of the truss rod or raised action, sounding slightly thin in comparison to the fat bottom and rich midrange and requiring me to back off on my attack a bit. But this could also improve as the instrument ages. Speaking of age, the D-16 Adirondack held its own when compared to an oft-played 14-year-old Sitka spruce and mahogany D-18V, which was a bit more balanced than the D-16 but lacked the D-16’s powerful bass as well as some of its volume and projection. Whether this is due to the D-16’s Adirondack top, Adirondack braces, or some other factor, it’s difficult to know. But if you’ve been bitten by the Adirondack bug, you should definitely audition the D-16 Adirondack.

SPECS: Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Select hardwood neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Hybrid scalloped X-bracing. 25.4-inch scale length 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 1/4-inch string spacing at saddle. Chrome closed-back tuners. Gloss body finish (with vintage toner on top). Satin-finished neck. Martin SP Lifespan medium-gauge phosphor-bronze strings. Left-handed version available. Made in USA.

PRICE: $2,699 list/$1,999 street.

MAKER: Martin Guitars: (610) 759-2837;

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar September 2011

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