10 Best Martin Guitars Review & Buying Guide
When it comes to acoustic guitars, there’s probably no name more revered than Martin. The company began all the way back in 1833, making it the oldest guitar manufacturer in the United States.
Martin Guitars, or C.F. Martin & Company, has been based in Nazareth, PA, for most of its history, and it still builds many of its instruments there. They also maintain a factory in Navojoa, Mexico for more budget options.
Martin guitars have been used by countless famous guitarists in pretty much every genre imaginable. Some of their most famous designs are dreadnoughts like the D-28 and D-35, while they are also well-known for 0-style concert-body guitars and modern cutaway designs.
With so many options, it can be tough to know where to begin. Which is the best Martin guitar for you? Which one should you buy? We’re here to help.
In this comprehensive review and buyer’s guide, we’ll take a look at 10 of the best Martin guitars on the market today. From premium classic dreadnoughts to smaller-sized travel and budget options, there’s a Martin guitar here for everyone.
Let’s get started!
The Best Martin Guitars Reviewed:
- Martin 000-15M – Best for the Money
- Martin LXK2 Little Martin – Best for Beginners
- Martin LX1E Little Martin – Best for Small Hands
- Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar – Best for Strumming
- Martin GPC Special Koa X Series – Best Under $500
- Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought – Best Under $1,000
- Martin D-41 Standard Dreadnought – Premium Pick
- Martin D-15M Dreadnought – Best Under $1,500
- Martin DJRE Dreadnought Junior – Best for Intermediate Players
- Martin 000C12-16E Nylon – Best for Fingerpicking
Martin 000-15M – Best Martin Guitar for the Money
If you’re looking for a great, solid example of what Martin guitars are all about and don’t want to spend several thousand dollars, check out the 000-15M.
The 000-15M features a concert body shape, which is great for fingerpicking and single-note lines. The body is also made of solid genuine mahogany, perfect for warm, deep chords.
One of the great things about the 000-15M is its playability. Having owned one of these guitars, I can attest that it’s a really easy acoustic to play. A big part of the reason for that is the fretboard, which is made of Solid East Indian Rosewood. The rosewood is a perfect complement to the mahogany of the body, which has a darker look and tone than most traditional acoustics.
Some other great features of the 000-15M are a rosewood bridge and bone saddle, along with a bone nut. Acoustic players generally prefer bone to plastic for improved tone and stability. It also comes with Grover nickel open-geared tuners. Grovers are some of the best tuners around, so tuning shouldn’t be an issue with this guitar.
The 000-15M would make a great guitar for someone looking to buy a quality Martin for a reasonable price. Martins can easily go for 3 or 4 grand, while the 000-15M is a little over $1,000. It’s pretty no-frills and doesn’t include any fancy cosmetic finishes or inlays, but it sounds great and plays amazing. It does have a bit of a darker sound, which is great for fingerpicking, but may not be the best choice for someone into percussive strumming. But overall, it’s a really great guitar and value for the money.
- Not overly expensive
- Warm, deep sound
- Bone nut & saddle
- Hard strummers may not enjoy
- Not as loud as a dreadnought
Martin LXK2 Little Martin – Best Martin Guitar for Beginners
If you’re looking for a great acoustic guitar for a child or young adult, you can’t go wrong with the Martin LXK2 Little Martin.
The LXK2 is called the “Little Martin” for a reason – it’s quite small compared to a standard acoustic guitar. The parlor-style body has an overall length of 34” with a shortened scale-length of 23”, which makes it perfect for a smaller child just starting out. It’s also great for adults with smaller hands, or as a nice travel guitar.
Though it’s smaller and less expensive, the LXK2 features the same Martin craftsmanship that goes into all of their instruments. The body is composed of Koa-grained HPL. A dense tropical hardwood, Koa results in a brighter sound with emphasis on the midrange and high-end. This makes these little guitars sound much bigger than they are!
The Little Martin also plays great, thanks to a stratabond neck with a rosewood fretboard. The size and playability makes it a great “pick up and play” guitar. In fact, as an owner of an earlier version of this guitar, I can say that I actually find myself playing it more than my (much more expensive) Martin 000-18!
The LXK2 would make a great guitar for beginners, or for those looking for a great “couch” guitar that you don’t have to worry about banging around. Its smaller size and easy playability is perfect for someone just starting out, especially younger people. For under $400, you get a quality Martin that will stand the test of time. I’ve had mine for over 10 years now, and it’s been all over the country and overseas. I liked it so much I put a pickup in it so I could gig with it too!
- Smaller size & price
- Very playable and reliable
- Bright, projecting sound
- Brighter sound not for everyone
- Some tuning issues
Martin LX1E Little Martin – Best Martin Guitar for Small Hands
The Martin LX1E Little Martin Acousitc-Electric guitar is a versatile pick that offers excellent playability, sound quality, and build quality.
If you like the sound and feel of the LXK2 but want something a bit nicer with electronics inside, take a look at the LX1E Little Martin
The LX1E is the same shape and body style as the previous Little Martin, with a few upgrades. The back and sides are made of mahogany pattern HPL textured finish, while the top is solid sitka spruce. This is the same kind of spruce top you’ll find on the more premium Martin guitars.
The neck of the LX1E is different, as well. It’s made of rust birch laminate and topped by a FSC Richlite fingerboard for smooth playability. It retains a 23” scale length, which is perfect for those with smaller hands.
The biggest difference, though, between the first Little Martin we looked at and the LX1E is the addition of electronics. Martin employs a Fishman Sonitone pickup to amplify this little beast. Fishman is pretty much the standard in acoustic pickups, and they sound great in Martins of all shapes and sizes.
The LX1E Little Martin would make a great guitar for those who enjoy the portability of the Little Martin series and want to be able to play it live as well as around the house. This would make a great guitar to have for fly dates, as an alternate for your main acoustic, or as a quick “grab and go” solution when you don’t want to bring your more expensive instrument to a bar gig. It’s easy to play, affordable, and sounds great. For under $500, you can’t go wrong.
- Upgraded tonewoods
- Fishman electronics
- Perfect portable guitar
- Lacks subtle tone of larger Martins
Check out our guide on the Best Guitars for Small Hands
Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar – Best Martin Guitar for Strumming
If you really want the classic Martin sound, there’s no substitute for the legendary D-28.
The D-28 is probably the most famous model of Martin guitars. They’ve been used by everyone from Hank Williams to Bob Dylan to Jimmy Page. It’s a classic dreadnought style that is perfect for percussive strumming as well as intricate fingerpicking.
The current D-28 model uses solid East Indian rosewood for its back and sides, with a solid Sitka spruce top. This is a classic combination of tonewoods that offers huge projection and precise clarity. A forward-shifted bracing pattern is optimized for soundboard vibration.
The solid hardwood neck is topped by an Ebony fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlays. A modern neck profile offers improved comfort and playability.
The D-28 also comes equipped with top vintage appointments like open-geared tuners, antique white binding, aged toner top and a faux tortoise pickguard. Simply put, this is a very nice guitar.
The D-28 would make a great guitar for someone looking for the classic Martin sound that’s been heard on countless records. It’s got that deep, rich sound without muddiness, and plenty of volume to keep up at any picking session. At just under $3,000, you have to be able to afford it, but you get an instrument that will last a lifetime. There’s no electronics, but those can always be added later, and some players may not want to alter this kind of instrument in any way. Either way, a D-28 is a sound investment that will always be in style.
- Archetypical Martin sound
- Top tonewoods, appointments
- Have to add pickup if desired
Martin GPC Special Koa X Series – Best Martin Guitar Under $500
For a solid acoustic-electric Martin at a great price, check out the GPC Special Koa X Series.
Martin packed a lot of quality features in this guitar. The back, sides and top are made with Martin’s FSC Certified HPL with a Koa pattern. The top is also braced with Sitka spruce in a scalloped X-bracing pattern. This gives the GPC Special Koa X Series a powerful, rich tone that lives up to Martin’s legacy.
The natural birch laminate neck features a high performance taper for ultra comfort. It’s also a very strong neck that provides plenty of sustain. The fingerboard is made of FSC certified Richlite for easy playability. There’s also a convenient cutaway for better access to higher frets.
For live performance, the GPC Special Koa X Series comes equipped with Fishman’s MX system. This system features a preamp mounted underneath the soundhole for easy access to tone and volume controls. As an added bonus, the guitar comes set up with Martin Lifespan strings.
The Martin GPC Special Koa X Series would make a great guitar for singer/songwriters or anyone looking for an affordable acoustic-electric guitar. Its cutaway design makes it easy to play standing up or sitting down, and the Fishman electronics ensure quality sound when plugged in. For around $500, it’s a great deal for the price.
- Strong materials
- Easy cutaway design
- Affordable, with electronics
- Can have temperature issues
- Could need some fret work
Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought – Best Martin Guitar Under $1,000
It’s no secret that Martin guitars can be expensive. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of affordable options. For a solid Martin under $1,000, check out the Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought.
Built in the classic dreadnought style, the DRS1 offers several of the great tones and features of a D-28, at a lighter price point. Its top, back and sides are constructed with sapele, a warm tonewood similar to mahogany but with a little bit more high end.
The neck features a modified low-oval profile for a really smooth feel. A natural oil finish is applied to the Black Richlite fingerboard, making playability a breeze. If you’re moving up from a cheaper acoustic, you’ll love the feel of the DRS1.
The DRS1 is part of Martin’s Road Series, which means it’s built for gigging and equipped with high quality electronics. For this guitar, Martin employs the Fishman Sonitone undersaddle pickup. These pickups are great for live use because they are known for cutting through the mix and limiting feedback.
Other cool appointments for the DRS1 include a white TUSQ nut and Indian Rosewood pattern HPL for the headstock overlay. It also comes with a hardshell case.
The Martin Road Series DRS1 would make a great choice for gigging guitarists looking for a solid, traditional dreadnought acoustic-electric to take out on the road. Aesthetically, it’s pretty basic, but the tone and feel of a Martin is all there. For under $800, it also makes a solid option if you don’t want to take a $3,000 Martin on the road.
- Classic dreadnought in affordable package
- Can be susceptible to weather changes
- Not a ton of features
Martin D-41 Standard Dreadnought – Premium Martin Guitar Pick
If you’re searching for one of the nicest guitars Martin makes and price is no object, have a look at the D-41 Standard Dreadnought.
Like the D-28, the D-41 is a classic dreadnought body design that has been part of Martin’s lineup for decades. According to Martin’s website, though, it’s more than a dreadnought – it’s an heirloom.
From the start, this guitar cuts no corners. The back and sides are made of East Indian Rosewood, while the top is made of traditional Sitka spruce for stellar volume and projection. This top is inlaid with magnificent abalone pearl. Indeed, the whole body features antique white binding for a stunning, yet classy look.
The mahogany neck features a modified low oval shape with a high performance taper for ultimate comfort. The ebony fingerboard includes abalone hexagon inlays that add a really nice touch. For a perfect feel out of the box, the D-41’s 20 medium frets have been Plek’d to ensure smooth playability and response.
The amazing vintage look of this guitar is completed by the rosewood headstock, which features the classic Martin block logo. Martin usually reserves this headstock logo for its top-of-the-line guitars, so you know you’re getting something special. Gold open geared tuners are yet another nice appointment, along with a bone nut and saddle, and an ebony bridge.
At just under 5 grand, the D-41 is not the kind of purchase most people would make lightly. But if you can afford it, you’re truly getting an impeccable instrument that can last generations. As a recording guitar, there’s probably no style it can’t cover, from fast bluegrass strumming to intricate folk fingerpicking. And it just looks beautiful. If you’re looking at guitars in this budget to begin with, you’d expect no less.
- Premium Martin quality
- Stunning look & appointments
- Plek’d frets for perfect feel
- Very expensive
Martin D-15M Dreadnought – Best Martin Guitar Under $1,500
Coming back down to earth after the D-41, let’s look at the D-15M Dreadnought.
Though not as expensive as a D-41 or D-28, the D-15M is nonetheless still a high quality Martin dreadnought. It’s an all-mahogany body that harkens back to the Style 15 models from the 1940’s. This gives the guitar a deeper and darker voice than traditional spruce top acoustic guitars. A smooth satin finish makes for a nice look, as well.
The satin-finished mahogany neck has a modified low oval carve for ultra-smooth and comfortable playability. The fretboard is made of solid East Indian rosewood, perfect for warm and articulate tones.
Other cool features of the D-15M include nickel open geared tuners with butterbean knobs, as well as a bone nut and saddle. A short pattern of diamonds and squares also make for a classic fingerboard inlay.
The Martin D-15M would make a nice guitar for solo singer-songwriters or guitarists. It can also play well with others. The warm sound of the mahogany is a nice complement to the projection of the dreadnought body. For just under $1,500, you may want electronics to come with a guitar like this, but a pickup can always be added later. As a stand-alone acoustic guitar, though, it’s a great instrument for the price.
- All mahogany
- Nice hardware & appointments
- May want electronics
- Could be too dark for some
Martin DJRE Dreadnought Junior – Best for Martin Guitar Intermediate Players
If you’re an intermediate-level player who wants to graduate from a starter acoustic to a Martin, the DJRE Dreadnought Junior would make a great choice.
One difference between the DJRE and other dreadnoughts on this list is that it is 15/16 inches smaller than a full-size dreadnought body. The 24” scale length is also slightly smaller than the standard 25.4” scale length of most “big” Martins. This smaller size is great for those with small hands or adolescents who don’t necessarily want or need an extra-small, parlor-style guitar.
The DJRE makes up for its smaller size with a solid Sitka spruce top for resonant projection that complements the solid Sapele back and sides. A hardwood neck with a Black Richlite fingerboard is a great alternative to ebony with similar appearance and hardness. Hand applied natural oil finish makes for a smooth feel and easy playability.
For electronics, the DJRE comes equipped with the reliable Fishman Sonitone system. This undersaddle pickup will ensure that the DJRE gives a loud and clear sound when plugged into a PA or amp.
Other cool appointments on the DJRE include a TUSQ saddle and White Corian nut, along with chrome tuners. A Delmar tortoise color pickguard completes a nice, traditional dreadnought look.
The Martin DJRE Dreadnought Junior would make a solid option for those looking to dip their toes into the Martin sound without spending an arm and a leg. At just under $600, it’s a great quality dreadnought with nice Fishman electronics. The slightly smaller profile makes it easier to get your hands around, as well.
- Martin quality, affordable
- Slightly smaller dreadnought
- Fishman electronics
- Some quality control issues
- Could use nice set up
Martin 000C12-16E Nylon – Best for Martin Guitar Fingerpicking
If nylon strings are your thing and you’ve got money to spend, definitely consider the Martin 000C12-16E Nylon.
While Martin is traditionally better known for their flat-top acoustic guitars, they make some really nice classical-style guitars as well. The 000C12-16E still comes with a traditional Sitka spruce top for great projection, which complements the softer sound of nylon strings nicely. Mahogany back and sides give the 000C12-16E a well-balanced tone overall.
One cool thing about the 000C12-16E is that the nut-width is set up more like a traditional steel-string guitar. This 1-⅞ width will make this guitar the perfect nylon string guitar for players that are used to playing steel strings.
The neck shape also features a low profile for great comfort, and the ebony fingerboard is a highly playable smooth surface for fingerpicking and single-note runs. A soft cutaway aids in accessing higher frets.
While the 000C12-16E is a great sounding instrument on its own, it also comes equipped with a high quality Fishman Matrix VT Enhance NT1 pickup system. This system is perfectly voiced for nylon-string guitars, and its controls are discreetly located underneath the soundhole.
The 000C12-16E would make a great choice for players used to playing traditional acoustics who want to add a nylon-string guitar to their arsenal. The smaller nut width gives it a different feel than the traditional wider neck of most classical guitars. Top quality tonewoods and hardware make this a fine acoustic instrument. Fishman Matrix electronics take it to the next level as a live guitar. For under $2,000, it offers full Martin quality in a nylon guitar.
- Top tonewoods & appointments
- High quality electronics
- Smaller nut width for easy playability
- Some intonation, tension issues
Check out our full guide on the Best Fingerstyle Guitars
How to Choose the Best Martin Acoustic Guitar – Buying Guide
Now that we’ve looked at ten of the best Martin guitars in depth, here are some other considerations when shopping for a new acoustic.
The shape of a guitar helps determine its overall tone, as well as feel. Personal preference plays a role, as well.
For traditionalists, a full-size dreadnought may be the shape they are most comfortable with. It offers exceptional projection. Many Martin guitars use this style, including the D-28, D-41 and the Road Series DRS1. The DJRE Dreadnought Junior, meanwhile, uses the dreadnought shape but at a slightly reduced size.
Another classic body shape is the concert body. The 000-15M uses this style, as most 000-style guitars. They are known for being great fingerstyle guitars. Some players may want a body with a cutaway, like the Koa Series.
If you’ve got small hands or are buying a guitar for a young person, you may prefer a parlor style body like the Little Martin series. These guitars are about half the size of a dreadnought and they are easy to play.
Steel String Vs Nylon
When you think of classic Martin guitars, flat-top steel-string instruments are generally what comes to mind. But Martin does make some great nylon string guitars, as well, like the 000C12-16E Nylon.
What kind of string you prefer will probably have to do with the kind of music you plan to play. Most popular styles of music are played on steel strings, so they would probably be the more versatile option. From rock to country, bluegrass to blues, there’s not much you can’t do with a great steel string acoustic guitar.
That being said, many players prefer nylon strings for their warmth and soft feel. Other players may just want to add a different option. Nylon strings are typically used for classical and folk styles, but they can easily cover jazz, flamenco and even some rock and blues styles as well.
Build quality is always a concern with any instrument. Fortunately, with Martin guitars you usually don’t have too much to worry about.
Top-of-the-line guitars like the D-28 and D-41 will be made with impeccable build quality in Martin’s Nazareth, PA-based facility. These instruments have great attention to detail, from the construction of the body to any necessary fret work.
In my experience, the “budget” options from Martin still maintain great build quality. They are generally made in Mexico, where labor costs are a bit cheaper. Some cheaper components may be used as well. That being said, they are still great guitars for the money. I’ve had my Little Martin for over 10 years and it’s been gigged everywhere. Not bad for a sub-$500 guitar.
For playability, I’m not sure Martin guitars can be beat, at least when it comes to acoustics. Taylor is close for sure, as well as some smaller boutique brands.
While all of these guitars will play well, there are definitely some differences. Premium options like the D-41 will have impeccable playability, especially with the Plek’d frets.
The 000-style guitars usually make great fingerstyle and single-note guitars, while the dreadnoughts will generally be better for strumming. A nylon string will have a smoother feel than a steel string. Some players may feel the need for a cutaway; others may not.
Price is a factor here, as well. More expensive Martins with ebony or mahogany fretboards will certainly play a bit smoother than more affordable options with the Richlite fingerboard.
Martin guitars definitely have their own sound, especially classic models like the D-28. Its dreadnought style offers a deep but well-balanced tone with maximum projection.
A guitar like the 000-15M will have a darker sound due to its mahogany concert-style body. The D15M will similarly be darker than the average dreadnought. The nylon string will have a softer sound than any of the steel string options.
The smaller, Little Martin guitars will sound brighter and more mid-focused than a full-size acoustic. For some, that may make the guitar sound small; for others it’s the perfect sound to cut through the mix.
Martin guitars used to be mainly for those of a certain income level, but in recent years the company has developed several more affordable models.
Part of the reason Martin can make more affordable instruments now stems from the addition of a facility in Mexico. Some costs are cut, to be sure, but for the most part these are still fine instruments that fit well within Martin’s legacy.
For some, only a U.S.-made Martin is a “real Martin.” While I don’t agree with that, there is an undeniable level of quality in the more premier, PA-made instruments that is more in line with the vintage instruments that made Martin famous.
Ultimately, go with the best guitar for your style and budget. If you’re looking for a travel guitar or first acoustic, you can’t go wrong with a Little Martin that retails for under $500. Some great mid-level options that would make solid gigging guitars include the 000-15M and the Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought. If you’ve got the cash and want the best, go for the D-28, D-41, or the 000C12-16E Nylon.
Recap of the Best Martin Guitars Reviewed
|Best Martin Guitars||Award|
|Martin 000-15M||Best for the Money|
|Martin LXK2 Little Martin||Best for Beginners|
|Martin LX1E Little Martin||Best for Small Hands|
|Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar||Best for Strumming|
|Martin GPC Special Koa X Series||Best Under $500|
|Martin Road Series DRS1 Dreadnought||Best Under $1,000|
|Martin D-41 Standard Dreadnought||Premium Pick|
|Martin D-15M Dreadnought||Best Under $1,500|
|Martin DJRE Dreadnought Junior||Best for Intermediate Players|
|Martin 000C12-16E Nylon||Best for Fingerpicking|
Are Martin Guitars good?
Yes, Martin guitars are good. They are the oldest guitar company in the U.S. for a reason. These instruments have stood the test of time. They’ve been played on countless albums and tours by the world’s biggest artists. While there is some variation in quality depending on price and style, every Martin is a very solid acoustic instrument.
What are Martin Guitars known for?
Martin guitars are known for being some of the best acoustic guitars ever produced. Depending on the style, their guitars can cover pretty much any genre of music where acoustic guitars are used. Their best-known guitars like the D-28 and 000-18 offer a depth of sound that is rarely matched in acoustic instruments.
Do Martin Guitars hold their value?
Perhaps this question is best answered by checking the prices for vintage Martins. Some of their guitars which are now almost 100 years old are still fetching several thousand dollars. Of course, it would take a while for a newer Martin to retain or exceed its value, but it shouldn’t drop much provided the instrument is taken care of properly. The higher-end models generally hold their value more than the budget-friendly options, however.