If you’re in the market for a Martin guitar it can be difficult to determine which is the right fit for you due to their overwhelming number of options.
A simple trick to help you identify a well-built guitar is to discover the country of manufacture.
This key information will affect the price and the overall guitar quality.
Once upon a time, Martin guitars were all US-built instruments. Nowadays, they’ve branched out.
In this article, we’ll reveal where Martin makes their guitars. By studying the differences in quality, we’ll figure out if the country of manufacture matters.
So Where Are Martin Guitars Made?
In short, Martin Guitars are made in the United States and Mexico. Martin makes their Standard Series and Modern Deluxe guitars in the famed Nazareth Pennsylvania factory. The Martin Road Series, X Series, and Junior Series are made in Navojoa, Mexico.
Let’s dive in.
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Martin Guitars: Some Background Information
Martin is a true powerhouse company that specializes in acoustic guitars. Founded as far back as 1833 by Christian Frederick Martin, C. F. Martin & Company is a company steeped in history.
In the mid-19th century, Martin invented X-bracing. A guitar’s bracing is the wooden struts that reinforce the soundboard and strengthen the body. X-bracing has since become a mainstay on acoustic guitars because of the improved tone and reinforcement qualities.
Later, C. F. Martin created the dreadnought guitar body. Today, the dreadnought is one of the most popular guitar shapes of all time.
Throughout their history, Martin guitars have played a significant role in culture. Players include icons like Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Neil Young. But they’re not slowing down with current musicians like Ed Sheeran and John Mayer, also playing Martin guitars.
To this day Martin guitars still offer peak craftsmanship and tone.
Check out our roundup review of the Best Martin Guitars
Where Are Martin Guitars Made: Different Models Explained
It’s thought that Martin guitars started in New York back in 1833. Martin moved to the current location of Nazareth, Pennsylvania in 1839.
Martin still produces high spec guitars in the USA at the Nazareth, Pennsylvania factory. But these guitars are pricey. Using superior woods and the wage of skilled luthiers leads to the boosted production outlays.
To broaden the appeal, Martin began to manufacture some models in Mexico. With cheaper production costs, Martin could afford to sell Mexican-built guitars at a cheaper price.
Here are famous Martin guitars and the country they’re made in.
Where are Martin Standard Series Guitars Made?
Martin Standard Series Guitars are American-made in their Nazareth, Pennsylvania factory. These classic guitars are Martin’s claim to fame.
In this series, you’ll find some of the highest spec Martin guitars. Not only peak Martin quality, but the Standard Series are contenders for the best acoustic guitars available today.
What makes the Standard Series so good?
All materials are solid woods. The aging toner gives the woods a vintage finish that’ll evolve.
The Standard Series guitars are handmade. Manufactured with precision, details like dovetail neck joint and scalloped bracing showcase the talents of US craftsmanship.
Priced anywhere between $2,500 to $9,500, these are expensive guitars. But you’re paying for icons like Johnny Cash’s D-35.
Beyond the prestige, they offer everything you’d expect from an American-made guitar.
Sculpted to perfection, every edge and joint offers trademark Martin quality. The finish looks expensive, while the setup will be like nothing else you’ve played if you’re used to cheaper guitars.
There’s no doubt they’re expensive, but Martin builds Standard Series guitars to last a lifetime and are contenders for the best acoustic guitars ever.
Where are Martin Modern Deluxe Guitars Made?
The Martin Modern Deluxe Series guitars are also made in the United States in the same Nazareth, Pennsylvania factory.
They offer the same charm as Standard Series guitars but with modern upgrades. So, if you want the looks and tone of vintage Martin but with modern performance, the Deluxe guitars are ideal.
There’s less selection with the Modern Deluxe Series, which currently comprises 4 guitars. You’ll find modern versions of the D-28, 000-28, OM-28, and the D-18 in this series.
Priced between $3,399 and $4,699, these guitars have the same build quality as the Standard range. It’s not a case of one being better than the other. A Modern Deluxe performs to the equivalent high standards as a Standard at the same price.
The core materials are the same. For example, the D-18 in both Standard and Modern Deluxe series has a spruce top with mahogany back and sides.
But let’s have a look at some differences.
The Modern Series guitars are much more lightweight. This is down to the truss rod material. Made of titanium, it shaves some of the weight off these guitars.
A bridge player made of carbon fiber further emphasizes the progression in the material.
Another modern twist on the Modern Deluxe is the use of VTS. VTS is an abbreviation of Vintage Tone System that is the name given to the tech used to age the wood artificially.
Another big factor why guitarists opt for the Modern Deluxe is electronics. You have the option to add 5 variations of Fishman pickups.
The choice will be down to preference when deciding between the same price guitar in the Standard and Modern Deluxe Series. They both have the US Martin craftsmanship; it’s a simple case of the Modern Deluxe having more modern hardware.
Where are Martin Road Series Guitars Made?
The Martin Road Series Guitars are made in Mexico in their Navojoa factory
With cheaper labor and factory costs, a guitar built in Mexico can retail for cheaper sums. Depending on the model, they range from $800 to $1,499.
Martin caters to professional guitarists, the Road Series capable of studio or stage performance.
How do they compare to US-built Martins? Let’s have a look.
Premium American-built Martin guitars use a dovetail neck joint. It takes an expert luthier to craft this. Mexican-built Martins have what’s known and a mortise and tenon joint.
Mortise and tenon joints are easier to construct. The theory is that this neck joint reduces vibration. While differences in durability are minimal, the Road Series is less resonant than the Standard Martins.
A commonality between the Roads and the Standards is the use of solid woods. Although they both use solid woods, the Road Series has lower quality back and sides.
The back and sides of Siris and Mutenye, for example, aren’t as characterful as the mahogany on the Standards. The richlite fingerboard on the Road Series is man-made so may disappoint the purist.
Standard and Modern Deluxe guitars are fuller and resonate. Nevertheless, the Road Series holds its own. Fitted with Fishman pickups, the sound quality is impressive while craftsmanship is deserving of high praise.
Where are Martin X Series Guitars Made?
By now you may have noticed that each series is decreasing in price. The X-Series is another range of guitars from Martin’s Navojoa, Mexico factory.
Priced between $500 to $700, the X-Series guitars are affordable.
First, let’s look at the tonewoods. You’ll find HPL listed as the back and side material throughout.
HPL stands for ‘High Pressured Laminate’ and is lots of pieces of wood compressed with a decorative layer on top. This is a cheap alternative, so what effect does this have?
An HPL guitar won’t have the overtones of a solid wood American-built Standard. This wood won’t have the grain pattern of higher-spec models. They often print these woods to give the appearance of genuine wood.
But there are a few positives. HPL is scratch-resistant and they offer an uncomplex consistent tone. Some artists love this, Ed Sheeran being one.
Furthermore, the solid Spruce top helps imitate the Martin sound.
X-Series guitars are both affordable and thanks to the top craftsmanship are a collection of durable guitars.
The X-Series is a budget way to get hold of a Martin, but the raw materials won’t compete with the Standard Series.
Where are Martin Junior Series Guitars Made?
Again, the Martin Junior Series Guitars are made in Mexico, meaning they are affordable models that are mass-produced in factories.
Priced between $500 to $700, they are in the same price range as the X-Series. But, as the name suggests, there’s a difference in size.
The Junior Series are manageable guitars. The smaller size makes it suitable for younger players. But they’re far from just a child’s guitar. Anyone with a smaller frame, a player short on space, or a guitarist seeking playability will love the size and feel of the Juniors Series.
There are standout features on these guitars. Because of the smaller size, there are fewer cost-cutting measures.
As you would expect from any Martin Guitar, these junior series guitars have solid wood construction and X-bracing. You’ll get all the beauties of a Martin tone, just in a smaller package.
Craftsmanship is excellent throughout. The contoured edges and tapered necks are smooth and feel top end.
The natural harmonics of the solid woods offer a classic Martin tone at an affordable price.
American-built Martins are premium guitars, but the Juniors Series isn’t far off.
The Junior Series shows the possibilities of Mexican craftsmanship when given top materials to work with. If you can get past the size, they offer value for money.
Does it Matter Where Martin Guitars are Made?
So now you understand Martin manufactures guitars in two countries. The big question remains, does it matter where a Martin Guitar is made? Is there a difference?
In short, an American-built Martin has leading build quality, craftsmanship, hardware, and tone.
The Standard Series acoustic guitars aren’t only the best in the Martin catalog, experts consider these as the pinnacle of top-performing acoustics.
The Nazareth, Pennsylvania factory is home to highly skilled workers and the attention to detail is premium.
The more affordable alternative comes from a Mexican build. While there’s a discrepancy in tone and quality. This is in large part down to the use of poorer materials because the craftsmanship is good.
With acoustic guitars, the tonewoods matter more than on an electric. So, the laminated and HPL woods come at the detriment of tone.
So yes, it matters where Martins are made. An American-built Martin is a pinnacle in the acoustic realm. Nevertheless, rest assured that the build quality on a Mexican won’t be far off and offer a classic acoustic tone at a more affordable price.
Are Martin Guitars Handmade?
When people think of premium guitars, they usually think handmade rather than mass-produced in a factory with CNC machines. So, are Martin guitars handmade?
There are a few things worth mentioning here. First, no guitar will be 100% handmade and machines will play a part in the production. In the Mexican factory, these will be more prominent than in the USA plant.
The staff at Nazareth, Pennsylvania factory are proud of their history. When a guitar leaves this factory, it’ll have traveled along the production line hand to hand.
Each worker will have an input. Cutting, spraying, sanding, setting up and quality control are all done by hand.
This means that these guitars are premium builds. The build quality is enough to last generations.
The process takes time, and every guitar to leave the factory will have had meticulous human scrutiny.
This is one facet of why Martin guitars have craftsmanship and tone to worldwide acclaim.
Why Are Martin Guitars So Expensive?
So we’ve just mentioned the handcrafted element that goes into making a Martin. This is one reason the cost is so high.
Because the workforce takes their time to ensure high quality, Martin guitars take longer to build. Also, as a highly-skilled workforce, their wage reflects this.
On high-end Martins, there is no cost-cutting whatsoever. The high-spec hardware and premium quality woods come at a cost.
Tonewoods go through careful and timely drying processes, contributing to additional costs.
But there’s another factor to consider.
Martin acoustic guitars have a legacy as pioneers.
Luminaires like Elvis, Lennon, and Dylan sit alongside newer artists like Amanda Shires, Elle King, and Thomas Rhett using Martins. When you consider the artists that use Martin guitars, you’ll have to pay for the name on the headstock.
Owning an American-built Martin is the stuff of dreams for many. While the quality justifies it to an extent, the prestige of these instruments is enough to warrant the price point.
Are Martin Guitars Good?
Martin guitars are expensive. But do you get what you pay for?
Martin guitars are leaders in the acoustic guitar category. In fact, they stake a claim as the best. For build quality, tone, and playability, few brands come close.
When buying an American-built Martin, you’re getting a guitar with the long term in mind.
Martin has a legacy to maintain, so the Mexican-built guitars also offer a similar build quality. These guitars offer value for money for the simple fact you can own a Martin at such an affordable price.
So where does Martin make guitars?
Martin has two factories, one in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, USA, the other in Navojoa, Mexico.
In the USA, Martin makes their premium guitars. Whereas in Mexico, Martin produces more affordable guitars.
Martins from the American factory are some of the best in the world. The sheer meticulous nature of production is hard to match.
But even an affordable Martin built in Mexico has professional build quality.
Although more affordable, we’re not talking about budget Chinese or Indonesian builds.
C. F. Martin & Company guitars have a huge reputation to uphold. With the Martin seal of approval, regardless of the price range or the country of manufacture, they’ll be top guitars.
So what’s the difference between an American and a Mexican Martin?
Both have fantastic build quality. But the disparity comes from the tonewoods, particularly on the back and sides. Some Mexico-built Martins like the X-Series use HPF and laminate wood.
Martins are professional guitars. Whether you go for an American or Mexican will be down to your budget. Nevertheless, whichever way you decide, you’ll be the owner of a great guitar.