If you’re in the market for a smaller body acoustic guitar, you’ve probably come across two really popular options – The Little Martin and the Baby Taylor. Coming from two of the biggest names in acoustic guitars, both of these instruments have their respective fans. But which one is better? Which one should you get? In this comprehensive Little Martin vs Baby Talor review, we’ll pit these two tiny beasts head-to-head so you can decide which one is best for you.
Little Martin Overview
The first Little Martin model was introduced in the early 2000’s, and it’s been a steady seller ever since. These little guys are known for their louder-than-expected volume and prominent midrange. The current model that we’ll be looking at is the LX1E, which features electronics.
The back and sides of the LX1E 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 made of rust birch laminate and topped by a FSC Richlite fingerboard for smooth playability. It uses a 23” scale length, which is perfect for those with smaller hands.
Another cool feature on the LX1E is the inclusion 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.
Other cool appointments on the LX1E include a White Corian nut, a TUSQ saddle, and Gotoh tuners.
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.
Baby Taylor Overview
The Baby Taylor has been around in some form since 1996, and like the Little Martin, it’s been a popular option for smaller scale acoustic guitars. Also like the LX1E, it includes electronics.
The BT2e is a ¾ size acoustic guitar in a traditional dreadnought shape. The small size of this guitar makes it a great first guitar for a younger student just starting out. It’s also great for those with small hands, or as a travel guitar.
The top of the BT2e is made of Tropical American Mahogany, a warm tonewood that balances out the smaller body. The back and sides are made of layered sapele.
Though it’s much more affordable than many of Taylor’s guitars, the BT2e still plays like a Taylor should, thanks to its mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard.
Other cool features of the BT2e include a TUSQ nut and Micarta saddle. An ebony bridge is also a classy touch.
Little Martin vs Baby Taylor Highlights
Since these guitars share the same body size and type, they have several similarities. The ¾ scale size, the build quality, price, and use of electronics are a few of those. But there are also key differences, including different tonewoods and pickup systems.
Let’s take a look at some key differences and similarities between these two guitars.
Little Martin vs Baby Taylor Similarities:
- Smaller ¾ body size
- Similar shapes
- Both have electronics
- Both use mahogany
Little Martin vs Baby Taylor Differences:
- Different use of tonewoods
- Different pickup systems
- Different scale lengths, # of frets
- Different bracing
Little Martin vs Baby Taylor: Full Comparison
Now that we’ve looked at some of the key differences between the Little Martin and Baby Taylor, let’s explore some important considerations in depth.
As far as acoustic guitar brands go, it’s tough to top Martin and Taylor. Outside of maybe Gibson, they are the biggest names in acoustic guitars, and they’ve been played by countless professionals and amateurs over the years.
Whether or not you prefer Martin to Taylor or vice-versa is a matter of personal taste. Both companies are known for having great build quality, playability and sound.
For traditionalists, it may be tough to beat the Martin name. They are by far the older brand – going back to the 19th century – and their guitars were used on some of the earliest recorded music. While the Little Martin is not necessarily going to have the same tone as a vintage D-28, for many just having the Martin name on the headstock connects them to an American legend.
Though it’s definitely more of a modern brand, Taylor has still built up quite a loyal following. Their instruments are known for their easy playability and brighter sound, and their ergonomic design makes them great live guitars. While Martin has been living off its name for several decades, Taylor has built its brand from the ground up to earn a spot alongside the top dogs.
Overall, since both of these brands have stellar reputations, we’ll call this a toss-up.
If you’ve ever played a top-of-the-line Taylor or Martin, then you know what kind of build quality these brands are capable of. Though these smaller size guitars are more affordable, they still retain the high build quality that these brands are known for. Just check out all the 5 star reviews for these guitars as evidence of that.
One of the big selling points to Taylor guitars is their build quality. The company has been a pioneer in many innovative techniques like lasers, computer mills and other high tech machinery.
Taylor currently has factories in southern California and northern Mexico. While some of their more affordable guitars are manufactured in Mexico, they are still high quality instruments. That being said, don’t expect the Baby Taylor to have the same build quality as a top-of-the-line Taylor that sells for thousands more.
If Taylor uses more modern techniques to build their guitars, Martin relies on “tried and true” traditional methods that have worked for over 100 years. Neither approach is necessarily “better,” just a different way of doing things.
In my experience, the “budget” options from Martin like the Little Martin series 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. Like Taylor, you shouldn’t expect the same quality that you would get from a $3,000 Martin D-35. 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.
The Little Martin uses a Modified-O shape similar to a dreadnought, while the Baby Taylor features the classic dreadnought shape. This style offers the most volume and projection, which helps these guitars sound bigger than they are. Both necks meet the body at the 14th fret, which is typical for most full-size acoustics. However, parlor-style guitars with smaller bodies like these are often built with necks that meet the body at the 12th fret. The difference is more about feel, but having a little bit of extra room on the fretboard can be nice.
When it comes to body shape, there aren’t too many striking differences in these guitars. If you’re shopping for a guitar of this size and shape, you know what you’re getting into. These aren’t large guitars, and because of the scale length a cutaway isn’t really necessary. If you want something in-between the ¾ size and the full-size, the Taylor GS Mini-e Koa may be a good option.
The Little Martin and the Baby Taylor are both ¾ the size of a regular dreadnought acoustic. In person, they definitely look and feel much smaller than a typical acoustic. This body style is perfect for beginners like children who can’t handle a full-size guitar. It’s also great for those with smaller hands due to its smaller scale length. The Baby Taylor uses a 22.75” scale length, while the Little Martin uses a 23” scale length.
The smaller size of these instruments also makes them great travel guitars. They will fit in the overhead bin of an airplane, or in the back of any sized vehicle. The addition of electronics makes them a great option for fly-dates, or as another option along with or instead of a more expensive acoustic. Anyone who has toured with a band also knows that space is at a premium, especially if you’re traveling by van. Smaller is always welcome.
Because of the smaller size, these instruments won’t have quite the richness and depth of a full-size acoustic. If you’re shopping for one of these, you probably understand that, but there are still reviews trying to compare apples to oranges.
In many ways, these guitars will play easier than a full-size acoustic guitar. The smaller scale length and slim neck profile can feel like a bit of a cheat code for those used to larger acoustics with higher action.
For its neck, the Baby Taylor uses Tropical American Mahogany with an Ebony fingerboard. Taylor guitars are known for having easy playability, and the BT2e is no exception. These guitars come set up with low action and ebony is a classic surface for smooth playability.
The Little Martin, meanwhile, features a Rust Stratabond neck with a Richlite fingerboard. Richlite is a darker wood similar to ebony, and it’s also a very smooth surface.
One difference between the Baby Taylor and Little Martin is the number of frets. The Taylor features 19 frets, while the Martin has twenty. For an acoustic guitar, this difference could be negligible, but if you plan to stand up and shred all the way to the top of the neck, it’s something to consider.
Both of these guitars are really comfortable and easy to play. If you’re a beginner, or have smaller hands, you’ll definitely enjoy an easier playing experience compared to a full-size acoustic guitar.
We know that these guitars will play easy, but how do they sound? Really good, actually!
One thing that surprises many people about these guitars is how big and loud they sound for their size. Much of that has to do with the tonewoods used. The Little Martin features Mahogany Pattern HPL for its back and sides, with a Solid Sitka spruce top. The spruce adds resonance and projection while balancing the warmth of the mahogany.
The Baby Taylor also employs mahogany, but for its top. Its back and sides are made of sapele, which is also a warm and mellow tonewood. This combination gives the BT2e a really well-balanced tone overall.
Though Taylor’s are generally known for their brightness and Martin’s are known for their richness and depth, those generalities don’t apply as much here. If anything, the Little Martin may be brighter than the Baby Taylor. But, they are both fairly bright guitars overall, especially in comparison to full-size dreadnoughts.
The other big factor in the sound of these guitars is their electronics. The Baby Taylor uses Taylor’s Expression System Baby (ES-B) to amplify the instrument. This system employs undersaddle sensors to capture more of the true tone of the guitar. An onboard preamp also provides volume and tone controls.
The Little Martin, meanwhile, uses Fishman’s Sonitone pickup system. Fishman pickups sound great in Martin guitars historically, so this is definitely a classic match.
Both of these guitars will have a brighter, more mid-focused sound, but because of the combination of mahogany and sapele, the Taylor may be a touch warmer.
So far these guitars seem pretty evenly matched. But how much do they cost?
Well, they cost about the same. The Little Martin LX1E comes in at just under $500, while the Taylor Baby Mahogany BT2e retails for slightly less than that. The difference in price is probably not enough to sway most people either way, so the choice is really about which one you like better.
For what it’s worth, the Baby Taylor is made in Tecate, Mexico, while the Little Martin is also made in Martin’s Mexican factory. At this price, these are really well-made guitars for the money.
For a little bit less, you could opt for either of these guitars without electronics. They won’t be as versatile for live use, but most beginners probably won’t need that option just yet. You can always add a pickup later, as well. If cost is a concern, that would be the way I’d go.
Little Martin vs Baby Taylor: Pros and Cons
Now that we’ve explored these two guitars more in-depth, what are the main pros and cons of each instrument?
To me, the pros on both of these guitars are the way they sound and play. That and the small size makes a great value for the money. The cons include some aesthetic issues and quality control, but they are relatively minor complaints.
Little Martin Pros:
- Sitka spruce top for bright, loud sound
- Fishman electronics
- Martin build quality, name
Little Martin Cons:
- Richlite fingerboard not nice as Ebony
- Some delamination reported, but rare
- Lacks bass, fullness of bigger Martin
Baby Taylor Pros:
- Mahogany/Sapele combo for warm tone
- Expression System electronics
- Ebony fingerboard
Baby Taylor Cons:
- Visible screws on fingerboard
- On board tuner not as reliable
- Some prefer Fishman electronics to ES system
Little Martin vs Baby Taylor: Which Should You Get?
So now that we’ve looked at each of these guitars and explored their respective pros and cons, which one is better? Which one should you get?
This is a tough call to make because these guitars seem very close in quality, and the differences may largely come down to personal preference. Personally, I’ve owned a Little Martin for several years and it’s been a great guitar. I love the brighter sound and easy playability, and it’s the ultimate portable guitar.
However, I’ve also played Baby Taylors in guitar stores and I’d easily be happy owning one of these, as well. They sound great, and the playability is what you’d expect out of a more expensive Taylor guitar.
For many, the key difference may be the electronics. In reviews I read online, some seemed to feel that the Taylor electronics were not adequate, and they switched them out for a Fishman pickup. The Martin already comes equipped with a Fishman system, so some players may prefer that. However, many other reviewers were perfectly happy with the Taylor electronics, so it may be about what you’re used to.
If price is a factor, the Taylor is slightly less expensive, but not by much. If that’s a big deal to you, though, the BT2e may be the better deal overall. From a pure aesthetics perspective, the Taylor has a bit of a darker look, and its tone may be slightly darker, as well. While some may prefer the brighter sound to cut through a mix, the warmth of the Taylor may help balance some of the tinny quality that these smaller guitars can have.
Finally, brand loyalty may play a factor in deciding between these two guitars. For myself, I’ve always loved the history and legend of Martin guitars, so that makes a difference to me. Others may have a loyalty to Taylor and prefer the way those guitars typically play and sound.
Either way, you can’t go wrong with either of these guitars. Hopefully, this comprehensive review has helped you make the best decision for your style and needs!