Five Great Inexpensive Solid Wood Alternatives To The Martin D-18

The Blueridge BR-140

Probably Every Guitarists Wants To Own A D-18

The Martin D-18 is an iconic instrument, and has been since it's debut in the early part of last century. The popularity of the no-frills design and the stunning woody tone of the mahogany and spruce combination in a dreadnought body has never lost its appeal. It's probably never going to lose its appeal and charm either. Nothing else sounds like the specific combination of woods and the relative design.

Because the combination of a solid mahogany body with a solid spruce top provides a high velocity of sound, the D-18 has always been a guitar which was terrific for picking out leads, solos, or melodies on. There's not a guitar application, however, the D-18 is not also wonderful for; and there are lots of fine solid mahogany body instruments to choose from, some of them rather expensive. In this article we're going to look at the least expensive of them though, as many a man and woman want a D-18 like instrument, and can't afford to purchase something as amazing as a Martin D-18GE.

Probably every guitarist would love to own a Martin D-18, even some of the dedicated electric artists or classical artists enjoy thumping out a bit of folk or bluegrass music here and there, or strumming some chords and playing some classic public domain song everyone knows around a campfire. It's just not practical to own everything you'd like to own, and it's not possible either. The guitars in this article, however, will be stunningly affordable.

Purchase a Brand New Blueridge BR-140 on!

The Blueridge BR-140

The Blueridge BR-140

Without a trace of hyperbole or exaggeration, one of the worst things I've done in my life was sell my Martin D-18. I've never stopped regretting it, but when I think of this guitar, the Blueridge Br-140, I know that I can almost certainly at some point or another come up with enough money to get one of these, and relive the joy I had playing my D-18; without exaggerating at all, I want to own a BR-140

For less than six hundred dollars at the time of this writing, the BR-140 can be had. Oh yes of course it is made in China, guitar builders in China don't face the grotesque over-regulation of everything regarding guitar building materials that US guitar builders do, and so they can sell this terrific guitar at such an obscenely low price to me or to you or to anyone with the money to pay for it.

The people at Blueridge have studied the Martin D-18 inside and out. This guitar, the BR-140, is going to be as much a D-18 than some of the poorest examples of the Martin D-18 from the years Martin had slipped in production quality. It's an amazing instrument, this Blueridge dreadnought, and absolutely a "high X" braced guitar built to be both tonally and visually stunning. In fact, it's got a lot more inlay on it than a D-18 does, so some persons may think it a more beautiful guitar. No, it won't hold the resale value a Martin does, but as time goes on, these Blueridge guitars are gaining both reputation and market share - and next time I buy a D-18 or a guitar like one, I'm not planning to sell the thing ever. Exact specifications are as follows:

  • Select solid Sitka spruce top
  • Hand-carved forward X-pattern parabolic braces
  • Choice solid mahogany back and sides
  • Traditional dreadnought body size
  • Slim mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Dovetail neck joint at 14th fret
  • 1-11/16" nut width
  • 25-1/2" scale length
  • Rosewood headstock overlay
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Unique abalone and pearl headstock inlay
  • Fine black and white soundboard purfling
  • Pearl dot fingerboard inlay
  • Bone nut and saddle
  • Black body binding
  • Aged natural finish
  • Dalmatian tortoise pickguard
  • Vintage-style 14:1 ratio nickel-plated tuners

Takamine TF-340 SBG Flatpicker Dreadnought

Takamine TF-340 SBG Flatpicker Dreadnought - With Brad Davis

Takamine TF-340 SBG Flatpicker Dreadnought

This Takamine instrument is likely as fine a mahogany body guitar as is made in Japan, and it's likely better than a lot of the D-18's around, but certainly not all of them. While it isn't exactly inexpensive, it is less expensive than the baseline model of Martin D-18, and so it will be the most pricey instrument on this list.

Everyone knows Takamine makes some really good guitars, and besides that, they sometimes make some extremely interesting guitars with some really alternative tonewoods too. This instrument, however, is all about being traditional, even though it can't actually be traditional as it's made in Japan and from a manufacturer that largely copies Martin designs - but still this particular guitar stands above the crowd.

Takamine calls this the "flatpicker" dreadnought, and no doubt their luthiers know how to build a guitar to be outstanding for flatpicking, and with the velocity of sound mahogany bodies with spruce tops can produce, there's no doubt in my mind this guitar will excel at the job, especially when in the hands of some of the world's best flatpickers, men like Brad Davis, who does endorse Takamine. Incidentally, Mr. Brad Davis also believes Takamine's electronics to be the very best there are for plugged in acoustic playing, and I'd not doubt him either. I'm pricing this guitar from $1, 734. - $1750. So while it's not exactly inexpensive, it's less expensive than a Martin D-18, and the D-18 is almost impossible to find with electronics. Further specifications are as follows:

  • Dreadnought body
  • Solid spruce top
  • Solid mahogany back and sides
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Antique Nickel Open Gear tuners
  • Concentric Rings rosette
  • Pearl dot inlay fretboard positioning markers
  • Gloss natural top finish
  • Cool TubeĀ® CTP-2 pre-amp

The Alvarez MD60 Guitar

Alvarez Masterworks MD60 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

Alvarez MD60 Guitar by the unknown tamed guitar player

The Alvarez MD60 Guitar

When it comes to acoustic guitars, I'm a bit of a guitar snob, but one of the stories I tell people is about the time I fell in love with a $600 used Alvarez. The loss of my Martin D-18 was a big part of all that, as the scratched up, beat up old Alvarez sounded just like one to me, and was a fine guitar for sure, just kinda beat up. I don't care much about how beat looking a guitar is if it plays and sounds like a dream, and this one did. I so wanted to buy it, but you know how it goes, sometimes you just don't have the money for something, and so you spend years and years thinking about the thing you wanted which you'll never see again, and could not get.

I don't think the guitar of my memory, the Alvarez, was an MD60, as the one I recall was built to look just like a D-18. The MD60 has its own look to it, a more modern sort of look, but insofar as its composition, it is D-18 like in that it's a dreadnought with Sitka spruce top, and in this case, African mahogany (solid) back and sides. I'll bet the Alvarez MD60 is a hell of a fine guitar. Now not all the MD60's have the Venetian cutaway, that's an option. One thing of interest, the Alvarez MD60 has a dovetail neck joint, and one shouldn't much expect that from such a low cost guitar, but then again the previous two mentioned both also have a dovetail neck joint. One thing I spotted quickly on the web is that sometimes the Alvarez MD60 comes with a Western Red Cedar top instead of a spruce top - and that's a game changer here, throwing that instrument, should it have the western red cedar top, out of the D-18 copy category. I have no problem with the western red cedar top myself, but if one is shopping for a guitar which is like a D-18, they should be certain they get the spruce top. I'm pricing this guitar for $569.00 on the web - but that is WITHOUT a hard shell case, and such a guitar deserves a hard shell case, so if you want one of those with it, plan on spending more. Other specifications are as follows:

  • Body Style: Dreadnought
  • Solid mahogany back
  • Solid spruce or cedar top
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 12 F diagonal fingerboard inlay
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Maple body binding
  • Abalone rosette
  • Die cast nickel tuning machines
  • Satin finish
  • Includes gig bag

Tanglewood All-Solid Wood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar with Solid Spruce Top, Solid Mahogany Back & Sides (TW15-BK-CE)

The Tanglewood TW15-BK-CE

Tanglewood All-Solid Wood Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar with Solid Spruce Top, Solid Mahogany Back & Sides (TW15-BK-CE)

One of the newer brands of instruments in the field is a company named Tanglewood. Now I've never got to lay hands or eyes on any of these, but I've read a lot about them online. These are reported to be fine guitars for the money.

Make no mistake, Tanglewood may be a company based out of the United Kingdom, but the guitars are built in China. As previously discussed with Blueridge instruments, there's no reason to hold being made in China against a guitar. The Chinese don't face the overly regulated hurdles the Americans and Canadians have to jump through in order to get materials and build a guitar, and they don't likely have to worry about a scumbag president like Obama having their factories raided for supporting the opposing candidate, these are all just dying empire American problems, but the Chinese can build a nice guitar, and sell it to Americans at an extremely reasonable price which the Americans can not match.

There's not a whole lot of information to be had about these Tanglewood guitars on the web, and I assume it is because they're rather new. This one is acoustic/electric, and comes with Fishman pre-amp and pickup. It's certain to be an excellent guitar for performing on stage, or playing unplugged at home or on the road.

I want the reader to understand for sure here I've never seen or had my hands on a Tanglewood guitar. I've no reason to doubt they're less than terrific buys for the money, but I've not seen or played one. I am personally in favor of the Blueridge insofar as this article goes from having talked to a lot of persons who play the kind of tunes I play who assure me of it's quality. This Tanglewood guitar, however, comes as an acoustic/electric - and that is where I assume its higher price comes from. I'm pricing these on the web, on, at $803.00. I found a video, but the video about the guitar is uninspiring, and hopefully sometime I'll find a better one.

The Yamaha A3M Acoustic-Electric Guitar


The Yamaha AM3 Guitar

The Yamaha A3M Acoustic-Electric Guitar

In my time I bet I've handled and played hundreds of Yamaha guitars. Yamaha makes exceptional guitars, really, and for the money they are really tough to beat - very tight competitors with Takamine guitars is what they are. It's really a toss up when it comes to comparing Japan's two major guitar manufacturers, which one you like best is probably the best one for you. I've always been amazed at what a truly good guitar Yamaha guitars are for what one has to pay for one - and on the used market, you can often get a stupendous deal on one.

When it comes to an all solid wood guitar, there's no such thing as a bad one, they're all good guitars at that point, although sometimes one might could use some improvement towards the attaining of your musical goals due to your tastes. I'm told the A3M is one of Yamaha's very most popular guitars, and how could it not be? It's a dreadnought with a solid mahogany back and sides body, and a solid spruce top, and it sales for a terrific price new, and the current price on is $799.00. Oh the Takamine I presented might be a better guitar, but it's meant to be, Yamaha offers one in that price range too, one meant to compete with the Takamine. This guitar can be every bit as good though, and only some Hot Rodding of the guitar is needed.

This guitar is a guitar with options, you can get it for less than the $799.00 so long as you get one without the electronics and the Venetian cutaway. They are available just like that for around two hundred dollars less. The Yamaha in that configuration then competes directly with the Alvarez listed above. No need to ever let a D-18 owner look down on you when you've got any of these fine guitars, you only need to be able to play louder than he or she does, and cleaner, and then you appear the one with the superior instrument - and you might have that anyway, as no two guitars are ever equal.


Thanks for reading. All thoughts or comments pertaining to the subject are much appreciated. Always shop around when considering the purchase of something as fine as an all solid wood guitar, but sometimes be aware the one you have in your hands may be the best one there for you to have. All of these are great instruments, and all of them inexpensive when compared to the Martin D-18. The Blueridge would be my pick here for the money, but that's only my personal opinion, and the Takamine I listed may best the D-18 at times. Thanks Again.

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Sparklea profile image

Sparklea 2 years ago from Upstate New York

Wesman Todd: I am going to show this hub to my husband. Your knowledge is so impressive. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information, which provides valuable advice to anyone who loves guitars.

You are an excellent writer. I also enjoy your brutal honesty on FB. You are such a unique individual. God bless and have a great day. Sparklea :)

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 2 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks very very much! I'm hoping to kick another good guitar article out today - I'm really scatterbrained and kinda ADHD...and spend too much time on that Facebook! :)

Sparklea profile image

Sparklea 2 years ago from Upstate New York

LOL, my husband lovingly nicknamed me "OCD" because I am like a pogo stick bouncing from one thing to another. Also trying to write a book on top of being on the hubs and Facebook. I just read an article that said, Focus on ONE thing at a time. Then you will have one thing done instead of several 'started' projects. I try to do that, but then the phone rings or one of our four wonderful cats interrupt me. That being said, it's great to be alive! Blessings....

hope you get your additional guitar article done!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 2 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Exactly. Soon as I get a paragraph done...I think of something else I had planned to do, need to do, and I can't sit still for long anyway....but so long as the internet connection and computer hold together, with the aide of a six pack of beer I can sit still longer, and I'll get one in today.

Some days I'm at a complete and total loss as to having a subject to even consider writing about....but right now I've got several ideas about things that may be successful enough, and so I got to strike while the iron is hot :)

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