12 Best Martin Guitars in 2018
Few names tend to grab guitarists attention like Martin. The C.F. Martin & Company has produced quality instruments since 1883, and while they’ve always sounded fantastic, it’s safe to say they’ve honed their craft over the years.
Top-tier Martin guitars become family heirlooms, but you don’t have to take out a loan to purchase one. There are several things you’ll need to keep in mind, however, before deciding which is the best Martin guitar for your playing style and budget.
Our guide will highlight the most important things you need to consider before selecting one, so continue reading to find out what tips our experts offer and what they think of the top 12 guitars that Martin currently produces.
Top 12 Martin Guitars Ultimate Table
|Design||Name||Style||Scale Length||Rating (1-5)|
|1. Martin DRS2 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar||Acoustic-Electric||25.4”||5.0|
|2. Martin D12X1AE 12-String Acoustic-Electric Guitar||Acoustic-Electric||25.4”||4.9|
|3. Martin D-15M||Acoustic||25.4”||4.9|
|4. Martin LXK2 Little Martin Koa Pattern HPL Top with Padded Gigbag||Acoustic||23”||4.8|
|5. Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural||Acoustic-Electric||25.4”||4.7|
|6. Martin LX1E Acoustic Guitar||Acoustic-Electric||23”||4.5|
|7. Martin LXM Little Martin||Acoustic||23”||4.3|
|8. Martin Standard Series D-35 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar||Acoustic||25.4”||4.1|
|9. Martin X Series 2015 DX1AE Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural||Acoustic-Electric||25.4”||4.0|
|10. Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar||Acoustic||24”||4.0|
|11. Martin D-28 – Natural||Acoustic||25.4”||4.0|
|12. Martin 000RS1 Road Series Acoustic/Electric||Acoustic-Electric||25.4”||4.0|
Acoustic or Electric?
The hardest part of buying a new guitar isn’t necessarily choosing a size or even finding the right finish to suit your style. It comes down to one simple question. Do you want a true acoustic guitar or do you envision an amp in your future? Thankfully, you can have the best of both worlds these days as many of our options for best Martin guitar are acoustic-electric models.
If you’re wondering what the differences are between the two, it all comes to the electronics. Acoustic-electrics do require a 9-volt battery and “may” require a little more upkeep if something happens to short out. That’s rare with Martin guitars, so it comes down to how you plan to play if you’re on the fence. If you plan on just playing solo or doing sing-a-longs by the fire, you don’t need an electric-acoustic, but if you play gigs, it’s certainly something to consider.
Acoustic guitars are made out of wood, but the type of wood varies greatly depending on the manufacturer and how much you’re willing to spend. Martin’s guitars aren’t cheap to begin with as they are high-quality instruments, but some can cost thousands of dollars due to the wood used on top. Top of the line instruments will also have “solid” builds whereas others use laminate or HPL in the case of Martin guitars.
- Sitka Spruce – This common type of tonewood is the most popular option on the market these days. It’s used on Martin guitars and instruments from manufacturers big and small due to its availability, strength, and dynamic range.
- Sapele – Sapele is right behind Sitka when it comes to popularity and availability, but may not be as “bright” as Sitka depending on the style of guitar. It has a mellow tone that’s more restrained that similar tonewoods.
- Mahogany – If you opt for mahogany tonewood, you may pay a pretty penny, and there are a couple of exotic variants as well. Guitars with a mahogany top will have a warmer tone with a balanced sound – you will notice a difference.
Scale Length & Body
The scale length is the distance between the nut and the saddle on a guitar. There are acoustics with short scales and long scales although most of the ones on our list are of average length at 25.4” which is standard across the board. So what does that mean for you? Not much if you have “regular” sized arms for an adult, but it makes a huge difference if you are younger or uncomfortable playing a full-sized guitar. If that’s the case, you’ll want to look for a guitar with a shorter scale.
With guitar sizes, scale length is just half the battle although it’s directly tied to the body of your instrument. Martin uses a scale that ranges from a 0 to a Grand J for their 6-string guitars with the 14/20 fret setup. The 0 Tenor has a total length of 35 1/4” with a depth of 4” while the Grand J is a whopper at 41 1/2” and a depth of 4 7/8”. In other words, Martin has a size and style for everyone, so when in doubt, check their chart for the overall dimensions.
Top 5 Best Martin Guitar Reviews
This full-sized beauty is a midrange guitar from Martin, but one that offers up a full-bodied sound. Don’t be fooled by that tag either, as Martin’s midrangers are the equivalent of other companies flagship model acoustic guitars.
The Martin DRS2 is a Dreadnought that’s part acoustic, part electric. It has the standard fret layout with the popular Sitka Spruce top and X-1 bracing. The back and sides are made from solid Sapele while the fingerboard is black richlite. It’s quick, and the Fishman Sonitone tech ensures your audience will be able to hear every note and you won’t have to sit dead in front of a microphone. As you’d expect, the hardware is top-notch with white Corian nuts and a Tusq saddle to go along with chrome tuners on the head.
This guitar has a standard scale length of 25.4” and the Dreadnought style makes it a hair larger than most overall, but not quite as large as a jump or slope-shouldered Dreadnought. It comes complete with a hard case to keep your new baby safe and sports the companies amazing warranty to boot.
This particular guitar is not going to be for everyone, especially those who are new to guitars. That’s not because of the size or sound, however; it’s due to the fact it has extra strings. Twelve of them to be exact as the Martin D12X1AE is a 12-string acoustic-electric.
It’s safe to say 12-string guitars are not for everyone and require a high level of skill to play. If you’re a master of this variant, you need an outstanding instrument like the Martin D12X1AE. Like our first pick, this one is in the Dreadnought class and has Fishman tech baked in which allows you to project your tunes through an amplifier. It’s an environmentally friendly guitar as well made from sustainable wood sourced responsibly from the forests. This guitar has 20 frets, a scale length of 25.4” and the bridge string spacing’s set to 2 5/16”.
All you’ll need to get going with this guitar is a 9-volt battery for the pickup and a tuner unless you’re skilled enough to do it by ear. It’s a great value given its size and quality of construction with only one drawback as it does not come with a case – just a simple box.
Now we’re going to kick things up a notch or two. The Martin D-15M is a full-sized instrument with 6-strings and a standard scale length of 25.4”. While that may not sound impressive, one look at the guitar shows what sets it apart as there isn’t a shred of Sitka Spruce or Sapele on the D-15M.
The Martin D-15M is arguably the most beautiful guitar on our list depending on how you feel about the design of your instrument. The top is made from solid mahogany so you can expect a warm tone throughout considering the sides and back are “bookmatched” to the top. This means the wood’s cut in a specific manner, so it has a uniform, matching pattern across the body. The neck is also made from mahogany while the fingerboard is rosewood with 14 clear frets out of the total 20.
Unlike some of Martin’s newer guitars, the D-15M is made right here in the USA, handcrafted by artisans and tuned to perfection. Needless to say, it will sound great once pulled from its box, and you get it dialed in. It also comes with a nice hardshell guitar case, a definite perk as those can cost a pretty penny without the guitar.
Sometimes big things come in very small packages. That’s the case with the Martin LXK2, a guitar that’s a bit shorter than the rest. While far from an actual mini or travel guitar, it’s easier to play for guitarists that have trouble with Dreadnought, Concert, and Jumbo-sized instruments.
The Martin LXK2 has a scale length of 23” with 20 frets and a mortise & tenon neck joint. The top wood matches the back and sides with a Koa pattern as it’s made from Hawaiian hardwood that grows in an island forest. It still has Sitka Spruce bracing where it counts. The sounds it produces are just as beautiful as the guitar itself and its lefty friend to boot. That means you can string it left-handed, so you don’t need to buy a guitar built for your dominant hand. That’s a nice touch, and so is the padded gig bag that comes with the LXK2.
While it would have been nice to have an ebony fretboard on this mini, richlite helps keep the cost low on this model. As long as you’re comfortable with the size, there’s no downside to the Koa Pattern LXK2, and it’s a great option for students looking for a stunner that won’t break the bank.
DRS2 or the DRS1? That’s a question worth asking when caught between the two Martin Road Series guitars. We’ve already covered the DRS2, and while the Martin DRS1 is a Dreadnaught that shares plenty of similarities, there is one significant difference between the two.
Both the Martin DRS1 and the DRS2 are both acoustic-electric guitars. The difference lies in the top wood as the DRS1 has a Sapele top, sides and back and the DRS2 has a Sitka Spruce top. In a nutshell, it will sound “slightly” different and has a darker hue with more wood grain to gaze at. It’s left-handed friendly like many of the company’s guitars and has a total of 20 D-14 frets with the neck meets the body at the 14th fret. The fingerboard is FSC certified richlite while the bridge string spacing’s set to 2 5/32” across the board.
The Martin DRS1 Dreadnought Guitar is beautiful instrument and definitely an option when it comes to the best Martin guitar. It gives you a lot of bang for your buck, and while it’s far from entry-level, we feel it’s a suitable choice for beginners or guitarists looking for an acoustic-electric model from the company.