The Aspen AD25 is a late seventies Martin clone that is well made, with a surprisingly rich tone and plays quite well. Generally good value for a small acoustic guitar. The challenge, given its age, will be to find one in good condition.
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Overall Rating: 8.4 (out of 10)
The Aspen AD25 has a surprisingly rich tone for a small acoustic guitar. There is nothing stunning about it ... it just plays well and sounds much better than you would expect.
As you might guess from the logo design, Aspen guitars were around in the 1970's. The one pictured was 'Made in Japan' in 1977. It appears that Aspen guitars were later manufactured in Korea, resulting in a slight reduction in production standards / quality control.
[ From research on the net, it appears that the Serial Number (25774186), bottom line in the photo (at left), decodes to: Model 25, Year 77, Guitar Number 4186.]
The story goes that the Aspen range were distributed in the USA out of Fort Worth, Texas and were among the brands that earned the nick-name 'Lawsuit Guitars'. In this case because they all too closely resembled various Martin acoustic guitar models.
From what little I have managed to discover online, Aspen guitars are classified as a 'Non-Brand' and are therefore not really considered a collectible. So even though this guitar certainly qualifies to be called 70's 'Vintage', it has little intrinsic value (at time of writing) other than its condition, playability and tone as a guitar.
Aside from the one that I now have, I can recall only ever seeing/playing one other Aspen (you can't miss/forget that logo) ... and as you might expect, that was long ago, back in the early eighties. Though I didn't pay any attention to the model number at the time, I do recall that I also liked playing that guitar and was impressed by its tone.
Much of the information available from Internet searches appears to be hear-say or repeated rumour ... and therefore essentially un-substantiated. If anyone has any factual and/or verifiable information about the Aspen guitar range, I would be very interested to add it to this page. Please send to
Playing the Aspen AD25 (8/10)
For while I used the Aspen primarily for non-standard tunings. Among other things, this slightly reduced the tension on the neck and bridge (my way of being kind to an older beast). Then later it became the 'car guitar' ;-)
The Aspen is well set up, though the 1st (high E) string is a little close to the edge of the fretboard and requires some getting use to. One tends to pull the string off the fretboard all too easily. Replacing the nut with one that has more appropriate string spacing for the AD25 guitar neck would help greatly.
Aside from that, it plays well, with good intonation across the length of the fretboard. Overall, the neck is a tad too narrow for my liking, and would be better suited to smaller hands. Of course that probably does make it a good beginner's or kid's guitar.
Aspen AD25 Sound (8/10)
Summed up as surprisingly good. The age of the guitar's timbers may actually be an advantage here. Being a small guitar and therefore on the shallow side, the tone is richer than you might expect (with good strings).
But of course the lack of internal physical volume means that it doesn't have a lot of bottom end or projection. The guitar's natural brightness does however make playing harmonics particularly pleasing.
A good set of strings (menioned later) is essential or it will quite likely sound very ordinary indeed.
Build Quality / Workmanship (8/10)
The build quality of the Aspen AD25 is surprisingly good for a clone. There is no sign of the typical messy gluing, roughly finished braces and sharp fret edges commonly associated with modern / cheap / Chinese knock-offs. The AD25's neck is actually very well finished.
Now that I've put a piezo pickup / preamp / tuner in it, I can say that the sides are definitely laminated (the polite term for 'plywood'). Since the top soundboard is laminated (see photo, upper-left), I think it's safe to assume the back is also laminated.
The AD25 that I have, looks like it has never seen a the inside of a guitar case (or even a guitar bag for that matter). When I first got this particular AD25, it had several severe scuffs, was covered in all manner of dirt and even splashes of paint. One of the tuning pegs was only held in place by the string. The AD25 never the less cleaned up quite nicely.
Note: Because the AD25 that I have was fairly beaten up when I got it, my modifications will have had little to no effect on its value. I wouldn't recommend mods to any similar guitar that was in good to excellent condition. It may still become a collectible one day.
This is all just to point out that even with what would appear to have been quite a hard life (particularly for an acoustic guitar), the AD25 still delivers a great sound and has no apparent structural issues.
Strings for the Aspen AD25
Again ... My preference is the light gauge D'Addario Phosphor Bronze series strings. They work well with the Aspen providing a nice bright but still rich tone.
If you purchase through eBay links on my pages, I get a tiny commission - thanks!
Value for Money(9/10)
Aspen guitars in general are (based also on other owners' comments) excellent value for money ... this assumes that you have or can find one in good condition. This makes them an excellent option as a traveling guitar, for example: to take with you when you don't want to risk your expensive 'brand-name' acoustic being left in a car. Or perhaps as a beginner's or student's guitar.
If looking to buy one ... wherever possible, I would make this a 'try before you buy' exercise, because the guitar's condition might vary considerably after around years.
- Playability - 8 / 10
- Sound - 8 / 10
- Build Quality - 8 / 10
- Durability & Reliability - 9 / 10
- Value for Money - 9 /10
- Overall Average Score ... 8.4 / 10
Your comments and contributions are greatly appreciated!
190714 - (Excellent) - Hi, I enjoyed reading this. My Aspen AD25 was bought new around 1977 from the music store that I took lessons at, it cost around $160 then. The serial # starts as 2576, so I guess it was built in 1976. I have kept it all these years and would never part with it even though I prefer the larger sound of a larger guitar now. After 40+ years of playing, the frets are worn almost to the wood in the most popular spots, I've broken the entire neck off, broken half the head stock off, broken the original nut, and have one tuner held in place with string tension only, but Elmer's glue fixed the breaks and it still plays reasonably well!
Your AD25 sounds a bit like me, should be written off, but somehow remains held together by some glue and sheer determination ;-)
180526 - (comment only) - I have an Aspen Ad25 made in Japan that I've had since I was about 7, I'm now 28. It's in decent condition considering age, where I got it, and ware and tear from life. I'm trying to get more info on it. I have the serial number ... can u help?
I think this is about the third request for information (and/or offer to buy an Aspen guitar) that I have received relating to the Aspen AD25. And sadly, there really is not a lot of info available out there. What I've posted on this page took a lot of digging to uncover. Sadly, because these guitars are not (yet?) deemed worthy of collection, apart from their owners, nobody seems to give a shit.
Occasionally those trying to sell an Aspen try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and claim the Aspen AD25 (and other Aspens) to be rare / collectible / vintage (etc., etc.,) and all-round wonderful acoustic instruments.
That can be viewed as either marketing hype or just wishful thinking. Perhaps their quality and true value may become better appreciated at some point. But until some solid provenance comes to light, don't hold your breath.
Also, bear in mind that there may well be legal reasons (e.g. supression orders or similar) for no manufacturer or manufacturing information being available for these guitars. This situation may well have resulted from litigation and a resulting legal settlement (though that is absolutely speculation on my part).
And lastly the Aspen AD28 (apparently, a fairly good copy of the Martin D28) tends to be the more highly prized (and priced) Aspen model.
Incept Date: Wizard - 140407
Last Update: Wizard - 191008