Martin has been at the forefront of acoustic guitar manufacturing for decades. The guitars they produce are composed of the highest quality materials and are renowned for their playability.
There are many differences between the individual models of Martin guitars. In this article, I will list the best that they have to offer, and they point out the qualities that each model possesses.
Best Martin Guitars for Fingerpicking, Playing Chords and More
Constructed with sapele top, back and sides, the D-10E is a solid wood Dreadnought guitar which has a rich sound. Its mother-of-pearl fingerboard inlays are bordered by multi-stripe rosette, making the guitar a joy to play.
This guitar also has amplification capabilities provided by the the built in Fishman MX-T electronics package, which delivers a clear output without losing the details of the guitar’s sound. There is a built in soundhole tuner which automatically mutes the output when you switch it on to avoid unwanted string noise.
The D-10E has a big, powerful tonal output which produces rich bass notes and some clarity in the mid-high frequencies. The crisp sound it produces when fingerpicked is ideal for bluegrass, modern country and delta style blues.
A softshell case is also included with the guitar. All in all, this is one of the best Martin guitars under $1000.
The D-X2E is an electo-acoustic guitar which sounds as good as it looks. This model is an improved version of the popular DX1KAE guitar. The back and sides are constructed from premium koa which has been subjected to high pressure laminate to create a smooth feel underhand.
Fishman MX electronics provide the electrical output and the guitar is strung with Martin’s authentic acoustic lifespan 2.0 strings which produce a strong resonant sound when combined with the D-X2E. The overall fullness of the guitar’s tone is due in part to the scalloped X bracing which sits underneath the Sitka spruce top.
Intonation shouldn’t be an issue with this guitar as it’s built with a compensated TUSQ saddle which works to add stability to the neck and body. A padded gig bad which has endpin protectors and a waterproof exterior is included with the D-X2E.
The LX1E Little Martin is a guitar designed for mobility and travel, making it the best Martin for small hands. Despite its smaller, lightweight design, this guitar produces a remarkable array of tones with nearly as much power as larger alternatives. It may be the smallest guitar that Martin produces, but it has an abundance of character.
Composed of a solid Sitka spruce top and mahogany high-pressure laminate back and sides, the LX1E Little Martin is a compact and robust guitar. The neck design makes it easy to reach the higher frets. Appearance wise, the guitar is classy and understated, with a warm satin finish complimenting the natural shades.
When plugged in, the guitar sounds much bigger due to the Fishman Sonitone pickup which emphasizes the fullness of the mid-tones. The padded gig bag which accompanies the LX1E is makes this guitar the perfect option for traveling musicians, buskers or for playing songs around the campfire.
One of the more expensive models on this list, the D-15M is an acoustic guitar of the highest quality in terms of sound, playability and aesthetics, making it one of the best Martin guitars under $2000. A tribute to Martin’s vintage Style 15 models from the 1940s, this guitar features an A-frame X-braced mahogany dreadnought body.
The D-15M produces deep and rich overtones with a powerful projection. It’s darker in tone compared to typical spruce-topped guitars, and is ideal for accompanying a lighter sounding instrument due to the thick sound it produces.
The design of the D15M is elegant and simplistic. It has a smooth satin finish for improved comfort and a single-ring rosette adds a touch of class to its appearance.
This guitar doesn’t have built-in electronics, but the large projection makes it loud enough for playing with accompaniment. The modified low oval neck design combined with a solid East Indian rosewood fingerboard make the D15M difficult to put down once you start playing. A hardshell case is included for safe and convenient storage.
The Martin GPC-X2E is a grand performance sized guitar which has a sapele top, cutaway body and Macassar pattern back and sides. The resulting sound which the guitar produces is impeccably clear in the mid-tones and has a good overall balance.
The X Series was originally produced by Martin two decades ago, in an attempt to use eco-friendly materials but still produce their high standard of sound and comfort. The GPX-X2E carries on this legacy. The fingerboard is smooth and makes for effortless movement around the frets. The scalloped X-bracing adds stability to the tone of the guitar.
The Fishman MX system is installed in the soundhole of the GPG-X2E. This pickup amplifies the expressive sounds of the guitar and retains its natural airy qualities. A chrome closed gear tuner is also installed, and the guitar comes equipped with a protective gig bag for easy transportation.
The old cliché of saving the best until last may well be apparent here. The final addition to this list is the D-18. Appearance wise, it looks understated and smart, but you would probably struggle to differentiate it from other acoustic guitars. The sound and playability is where the D-18 really excels, though.
Composed from mahogany and authentic Sitka spruce, this guitar produces a vibrant, warm tone with incredible clarity. The dreadnought body and 14-fret design make for wide projection and ultimate comfort.
The D-18 lends itself to both intricate, understated playing and more energetic styles. It’s a versatile option for recording, and sounds amazing when coupled with a small-diaphragm condenser microphone to really bring out the finer details of the guitar.
The D-18 is a recording engineer’s dream, due to its ability to naturally sit in the mix without much need for EQ or other forms of processing. It sparkles in the high-tones, and produces a tight, focused low frequency response. It really doesn’t matter what genre you play, the D-18’s irresistible tone will slot in nicely.
Martin Guitars & Their Differences
With all of the aspects of Martin guitars, it can be difficult to understand the differences between the models. They produce an extensive catalogue of acoustic guitars which all have certain qualities and lend themselves to particular styles of playing. The names of the models tell us a lot about the guitar.
The model names of Martin guitars follow a certain formula, as you may have already noticed. The name is split into two halves and separated by a dash. The first half of the name is a letter, and the second a number.
This isn’t just a throwaway designation – the letter refers to the physical dimensions of the acoustic guitar, while the number which comes after the dash signifies the style of the instrument, or the visual appearance and the materials it is composed from.
For example D-28 would stand for a dreadnought body in the style which Martin has labeled as 28 – meaning a combination of rosewood back and sides, spruce for the top and an ebony fret board. OM-45 stands for an Orchestra Model in style 45, which is made of top grade rosewood, a spruce top, and abalone fret markers.
Factors to Keep in Mind
The particular sections which make up a Martin acoustic guitar are largely responsible for the overall tone, playability and appearance of the instrument. Each of these sections is made from specifically chosen materials in order to produce the desired results.
Below are the three main components of a Martin guitar, and the reasons certain materials are used to make them.
The top of the guitar (or soundboard) is where the tone begins. This is commonly made from woods such as mahogany, maple or Sitka spruce. This is because these woods are known to impart powerful, clear tones.
Back & Sides
The back and sides of an acoustic guitar add flavor to its sound. They basically decorate the tone which has been established by the top. Woods such as Sitka spruce, cedar or rosewood are commonly used for this part of the guitar.
The neck of a Martin guitar determines how comfortable is will be to play. This is the part of a guitar which our hand will come into contact with most frequently, so it needs to be smooth and strong. Maple is a common choice because it provides these qualities and is able to amplify the wood of the body.
Essentially, Martin acoustic guitars need to tick three boxes. These are comfort, sound and appearance.
Every guitarist’s preferences in all of these categories will vary, so it’s important to know what you want from a Martin guitar. I personally would value playability over appearance, but this isn’t the same for everyone.
It’s therefore important to play a variety of guitars when you get the opportunity. There are many showrooms which allow you to test out different types of guitars so you can start to learn about which qualities are important for you. By doing this, you can also learn about the strings, amplifiers and other pieces of equipment you prefer.