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.
Aspen Guitars Year of Manufacture
From research on the net, it appears that the Aspen Guitar 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 currently classified as a 'Non-Brand' and are therefore not really considered as 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 non-brand guitar. This situation is likely to remain for as long as the Martin company and related legal contingencies exist.
Aside from the one that I had for roughly 10 years [sold in June of 2020], I can recall only ever seeing/playing one other Aspen (you can't miss and/or 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 suspect, given the size that it was an AD25), I do recall that I also really liked playing that guitar and was impressed by its tone.
Much of the information available from Internet searches appears to be hear-say, urban myth or repeated rumour ... and therefore essentially unsubstantiated. 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 a while I used the Aspen primarily for nonstandard 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' - you know - handy to have at the laundromat ;-)
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 narrow 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 (mentioned 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 knockoffs. 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 Aspen AD25 that I had, looked like it had 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 had 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 delivered a great sound and had no apparent structural issues.
Strings for the Aspen AD25
Again ... My preference are the light gauge D'Addario Phosphor Bronze series strings. They work well with the Aspen providing a nice bright but still rich tone.
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 travelling guitar, for example: to take with you when you don't want to risk your expensive 'name-brand' 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!
230115 - (Excellent) - I was given a D25 SN: 2575 0255 about 30 some years ago for my son to play. I've looked for information all over the internet and this is the most I've ever seen. I was thinking about selling it, but now I think I'll just keep it until I find someone that needs a guitar - CM.
Editor's Note: That could be the origin of a most excellent tradition ... perhaps leave a note about the instrument's history in its case or bag. Sorry, I volunteer at a local museum, I can't help myself ...
221030 - (Excellent) - What guitar model and size is the AD25 modelled after?
Is it a copy of a Martin, or a covert size guitar, or a 000?.
Editor's Note: Hi there - Since Aspen's legal problems were with the Martin Co., I suspect the issue is actually described right there in the guitar's name: AD25 (Aspen D25). Now, I haven't seen a real Martin D25, but given that Martin won the legal case, I'd say the Aspen AD25 must be more than just 'similar' in appearance, if you catch my drift.
There is insanely little factual info around about Aspen and their guitars, so I hope that proves adequate ...
221027 - (Excellent) - Very helpful and informative ... thanks for your effort.
Editor's Note: Your welcome ...
221006 - (Excellent) - You did this almost forgotten guitar a very kind service. Anyone who loves music should understand that this is not a snob's high end guitar, but it still plays a role in lower end well made guitars.
Thank you for your well put together article.
In our brand/bullshit-centric world, it can be easy to forget that the wheel has in fact been reinvented many times over - and often exceptionally well. We humans do way more copying than creating ...
210722 - (Excellent) - Great article! I've had my Aspen D 25 for 35 years now, that I bought from a friend for $60 and was wondering about the history of this guitar. I find your article to be spot on. Mine is in great shape and sounds amazing. As a professional guitarist of 40+ years this guitar is stellar in my humble opinion. SN: 2575XXXX
I hope your Aspen continues to serve you well and you have many more years to appreciate it ...
210722 - (Excellent) - I bought my Aspen AD25 in the fall of 1976. I had just turned 18 and moved to Cali. Upon getting my first pay day I found a music store in San Diego. I spent 4 to 5 hours that day playing almost everything they had to offer. My truth is at that time I knew very little about guitars as a whole so I went through most of what they had from top of the line Martins and everything in between.
Bottom line - of All the guits I played, price not being an issue, I fell in love with the rich deep tone of my Aspen. Yeah I could have got any guit I wanted that day but I couldn't resist the sound it had over anything else I played. To this day I still have her and I still get many complements from my jammin buddies and others that have heard her sound. Since first getting her till today I've played, bought, an sold a number of guits but I've never let go of her and never will. She's still in great shape and her sound only gets richer. Till my time ends I will step on stage or just jam with anyone and know she's gonna sing beautiful with Any guitar we jam with. Awesome for just 200 + in 1976 ...Tumbleweed Road
I have a suspicion that we might be from an era where loyalty was more of 'a thing'. Also of course, unlike us, guitars really never lose their shape ;-)) - Thanks for writing.
210722 - (Excellent) - I have a 6 string and just purchased a matching 12 string both are in my opinion in very good condition I would be happy to share pictures and years of ownership <email removed>. Also I sold my 6 string to a friend and bought it back 6 months later for 10 dollars less then bought a 12 string on eBay and am waiting for it to arrive.
Actually, I'd love to see some pics of your Aspen guitars. I've always found that new instruments peak one's interest in playing (at least for a while). After you've had some time with the 12 string, consider restringing with D'Addario EJ41 12-String Phosphor Bronze 009-045. These strings are my new best friend ;-) - just be wary that the octave G is only .008", so don't over stretch it (if like me, you pre-stretch your strings).
210313 - (Excellent) - I have an Aspen D25 that I received as new in 1975, Serial Number 2575XXXX. I am so pleased to have found your review. I concur with your assessments regarding quality of workmanship, playability, and tone. I am by no means an accomplished guitarist, but I do enjoy pulling it out of the case every now and then. I actually sold it to a friend in the mid 80s, and then bought it back a year later. I am glad I did. I know it is not a highly valued guitar, but as has been said before, every real man has to have a guitar. Thanks again for your review.
It's great to have cool high tech toys, but it's better to have stuff that you can enjoy whenever the mood takes you. And it is generally less expensive.
210313 - (Excellent) - It is nice to learn more about these wonderfully sounding guitars. I currently own 3 Aspen acoustics: One 6 string classical 1977 LC7. A 1976 AD3512 and a 6 string 1975 Cat's Eye.
Thanks for that. It hadn't occurred to me that they might also have made classical instruments. I no longer have my Aspen. I lent it to someone during a COVID lock-down, who ... well ... ended up having to buy it ... if you catch my drift ;-)
201230 - (Excellent) - Hi. I have an AH30 serial no. 30750439 so assume made in 1975. I think I bought it in 1987 for £25. It was a little sorry for it's self, but with some TLC has been a real companion and I love the tone, especially with the light strings. I found your page whilst spending some time researching whether it was viable to refret as it getting harder to get clean notes. Great page. Thanks, Erik H - UK
Yet again, that phrase 'I love the tone'. That does seem to be a consistent remark about Aspen guitars.
As for that most challenging task of refretting - the bottom line is that - from strictly value based perspective, it's just not worth it. You would almost certainly not recover the cost of refretting, if the instrument were sold. That said, what's it worth to you? I often hang on to and fix stuff because it means something to me, regardless of its actual 'worldly value'. Let me know how it plays out, so to speak ;-)
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 have been 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. suppression 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 - 230815