Best Martin Guitar


Martin guitars represent the very pinnacle in handmade acoustic guitar precision. Guitar heroes like Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Dave Gilmour all use Martin guitars.

But how does one go about choosing the best Martin guitar from among the many? Which guitar is best for the style of music you play, your abilities and your wallet?

With so many options available, finding the right Martin guitar can be a challenging prospect. That’s where this guide comes in. Its purpose is simply to help you select the best Martin guitar currently available.

Our choice for the best Martin guitar overall is the Martin 000-15M Acoustic Guitar but we’re reviewing our pick of the 10 Best Martin guitars.

If you just want the guitars, then here’s the list:

Otherwise follow me, guitar enthusiast.

Martin Guitars—A Brand History.

Let’s start with a little family history, shall we?

The History of Martin Guitars

Martin Guitars have been around since 1833. C. F. Martin & Company, to give its full designation, is a family-owned business that has continued to produce hand-crafted, high-quality instruments, made to the most exacting standards, for six generations.

C. F. Martin Sr. was responsible for X-bracing in the mid-19th century, while decades later Frank Henry Martin produced the Dreadnought body shape. Seismic developments in the history of acoustic guitars.

This is not to say a Martin guitar is stuck in the past. The abiding principle of Martin acoustic guitars is to marry tradition with modernity. To continually innovate.

Their acoustic guitars have been played by civil war soldiers, rock legends like Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Bob Dylan, right through to musicians of the modern era, such as Ed Sheeran.

What to Look Out for When Buying the Best Martin Guitar

Buying the right acoustic guitar is no straightforward matter. Even within the auspices of a single guitar maker, the choice of guitars is vast. 

Martin acoustic guitars are no exception here. Tonewoods, size, sound quality, playability and price are factors that should be carefully considered before plumping for a particular model. 

That’s where this next section comes in. Its purpose is to give you a better understanding of what to look for in your quest for the best Martin guitar.

Tonewood & Sound

Wood types and acoustics are inseparably linked. Or put another way, the sound your Martin guitar makes is dependent on the “tonewoods” used in its construction. 

The type of wood is usually a combination of two varieties. One for the top and another for the back and sides. 

The most common wood used for the tops of acoustic guitars is spruce, while backs and sides tend to come in cedar, mahogany, maple and rosewood varieties. 

Each wood produces a distinct harmonic tone. Spruce is considered something of an all-rounder, whereas rosewood, as well as being the most expensive, is also the most harmonically complicated.

In terms of suitability, spruce suits most kinds of music, whereas the warmer tones of something like mahogany produces a much more specific sound, which might work better in one particular genre.

VTS or Vintage Tone system is a Martin innovation that incorporates an aging process to give certain Martin high-end guitars a distinctly “vintage” tone.

Comfort & Ease of Play

Above all else, acoustic guitars must be comfortable to play. If you’re going to spend long hours practicing and playing, then the exercise shouldn’t be a struggle.

The thickness of the neck and height of the action are areas you need to pay close attention to. Generally speaking, the closer strings are to the fretboard, the easier it is to press the strings down to gain a note. 

A neck that is too thick will make complex chords and scales that much more difficult.

Some Martin acoustic guitars incorporate high-performance tapered necks to boost playability. Look out for the “Performing Artist” variety.

Body Size & Shape

Body size is of special importance. If you plan to do a lot of strumming then perhaps you should opt for the dreadnought style of guitar. The dreadnought is a full-size guitar that is suited to most genres of music.

If however you’re a fingerstylist and intricate scales are your bag, then buying a thinner body or a cutaway guitar is something you ought to think about.

A Martin guitar usually has its own coding, incorporating, in ascending order of size: 0, 00, 000, Dreadnought, Jumbo and Grand Auditorium sizes.

Acoustic-Electric

Acoustic-electrics, which is acoustic guitars with integrated electronics, is something you should consider if you intend to play music live. 

By purchasing a guitar with an inbuilt pick-up or pre-amp means you can plug yourself right into an amplifier or desk and you’re ready to perform. Mixing and fade options guarantee perfectly balanced sound.

With a Martin guitar, Fisman electronics are a mainstay.

Budget & Skill-level

Matching your budget to your playing ability should be a top priority. High-end Martin guitars can be very expensive. 

Fortunately, all Martin acoustic guitars are made to very high standards, even the entry-level instruments. 

This means the beginner shouldn’t have to put up with a substandard guitar that is difficult to play.

Strings

Good guitar strings are an essential part of the acoustics of your instrument. This is no area to compromise if you want to play like John Lee Hooker. As a general rule, low gauge strings are suited to fingerstyle play, while medium facilitate rhythm or strumming.

Martin acoustic guitars come fitted with their own authentic strings in various gauges, from extra-light to custom.

Frets—12 or 14?

The difference between the two might only be two in numerical terms, but they can be worlds apart in terms of sound and playability.

Frets are counted from where the neck meets the body. So a 12-fret guitar might have as many as 19-frets on the fretboard. 

This is because the frets beyond the start of the body aren’t counted.

The bridge of a 12-fret guitar is further away from the sound hole than its 14-fret counterpart. This can have a major influence on acoustics, with 12-fret guitars sounding a little fuller and 14-fret guitars a little brighter.

These numbers also impact comfort. 12-fret guitars are usually a little more compact than their 14-fret cousins. As a result, they are generally easier to play.

The Best Martin Guitar 

Below is a detailed review of the ten best Martin guitars currently available. There should certainly be something in it for you.

Martin 000-15M Acoustic Guitar

The Martin 000-15M Acoustic Guitar bears all the hallmarks of the illustrious Martin heritage.

Sporting all-mahogany tonewood and finished in a seductive satin, the Martin 000-15M produces a warm, mid-range dominant sound that lends itself to a great many different musical styles—from country music right the way through to rock.

The 14-fret mahogany neck of the Martin 000-15M incorporates an East Indian rosewood fingerboard and headplate. 

On account of the bridge being slightly closer to the sound hole, the 14-fret Martin 000-15M creates a tone that is slightly brighter than a 16-fret guitar. 

The rosewood belly-bridge, fitted with a bone saddle, also ensures an improved transfer of sound.

Not that playability is compromised for the sake of a richer sound. The 000-15M is graced with a low, oval-shaped neck, to guarantee comfort and ease—Making these guitars ideal for both strumming and fingerstyle playing techniques.

The Martin 000-15M is a finely honed instrument. It gives you all the tone and range that you need, regardless of what genre of music you play.

In other words, the Martin 000-15M Acoustic Guitar is as versatile and accomplished as you are.

Tonewood

  • Top: Mahogany.
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany.
  • Fretboard: East Indian Rosewood.
  • Nut and Saddle: Bone & Compensated Bone.
  • Bridge: East Indian Rosewood.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Tonewood. All mahogany construction.
  • Ideal guitar for strumming and picking alike.
  • Comes with a ply hardshell case.

Cons

  • No onboard preamp or electronics.

Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar

Played by the likes of Hank Williams and Bob Dylan, the legendary Martin D-28 has been re-invented for a new generation of guitarists.

The finest features of the 50s and 60s iterations of the D-28 have been extracted, such as open gear tuners, an aged toner top, and antique white accents, and combined with a modern neck profile and forward-shifted bracing—To create an innovative blend of old and new.

Fashioned from a Sitka spruce top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides, the D-28 acoustic guitar conveys a quintessentially rich and warm sound, to add enough depth to any chosen style of music or set list.

Played by the best, the Martin D-28 is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: East Indian Rosewood.
  • Fretboard: Ebony.
  • Nut and Saddle: Bone & Compensated Bone.
  • Bridge: Ebony.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 Medium Gauge.

Pros

  • Exceptional tone.
  • The fingerboard is a delight to use.
  • Effortless playability.

Cons

  • Price tag.

Martin X-Series 00L-X2E Acoustic-Electric Guitar 

If a rich full sound is what you’re looking for then look no further than the Martin X-Series 00L-X2E Acoustic-Electric guitar.

Boasting a “Grand Concert” sized body, the Martin X series 00L-X2E perfectly combines a Sitka spruce top with high-pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides, for tonewood that really sings. 

The transfer of this tonality is improved by the tapered Performing Artist neck, fingerboard and bridge combination. As is all-around playability.

A new mother-of-pearl pattern inlay on the rosette and fingerboard means it looks the part too.

And if you have performance in mind, the Martin X Series 00L-X2E has integrated Fishman MX onboard electronics to give you all the control you need in a live setting.

Throw in a soft gig bag and the Martin X Series 00L-X2E acoustic guitar is ready when you are.

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: HPL.
  • Fretboard: Select Hardwood.
  • Nut and Saddle: White Corian & Compensated White Tusq.
  • Bridge: Select Hardwood.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Great acoustics.
  • Excellent transfer of sound.
  • Onboard electronics.

Cons

  • No “hard” case.

Martin Standard-Series 0-18 Acoustic Guitar

Belonging to the Martin “Standard Series” stable, the new 0-18 features a scallop-braced Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides to give this parlor guitar the full-bodied punch of a much larger instrument.

Combining a short “expressive” 24.9-inch scale, with a low oval tapered neck, the Martin 0-18 is an absolute joy to strum. Light gauge strings and an ebony fingerboard further enhance its all-around playability.

The Martin 0-18 is the kind of acoustic guitar that engenders a love of music. It’s easy to play, portable and has a tonality that makes it difficult to put down. Whatever the setting. 

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: Genuine Mahogany.
  • Fretboard: Ebony.
  • Nut and Saddle: Bone & Compensated Bone.
  • Bridge: Ebony.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Full-bodied tone.
  • Extremely portable.
  • Tapered neck for comfort.
  • Low action for playability.

Cons

  • Price tag.

Martin M-36 Acoustic Guitar

Time for a touch of high-end excellence. The Martin M-36 acoustic guitar is a testament to the handmade virtues and craftsmanship of Martin guitars.

The Martin M-36 acoustic guitar is fashioned from the classic combination of a Sitka spruce top and rosewood back and sides. 

The three-piece back construction means the guitar is a “000” thin without compromising anything in width. 

These build features translate to a tonality that is full, warm and always perfectly balanced. In fact, the Martin M-36 acoustic is billed as the ideal studio guitar. And you can see why.

Playability is as good as you would expect from a Martin. The low oval neck has a narrow taper to facilitate comfort and ease—ideal for picking and strumming.

Simply choose your musical genre and the Martin M-36 acoustic guitar will be there to match your expectations—in style.

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: East Indian Rosewood.
  • Fretboard: Ebony.
  • Nut and Saddle: Bone.
  • Bridge: East Indian Rosewood.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Light gauge.

Pros

  • Excellent high end tones.
  • Suits fingerstyle.
  • Exceptional build quality.
  • Perfect for studio recordings.
  • Very attractive.

Cons

  • Price tag.

Martin Steel String Backpacker

And now for something quite different. The Martin Steel String “Backpacker” guitar is truly unique to guitar making.

Fashioned from solid sapele tonewoods, the Martin Steel String Backpacker is an ultra-lightweight guitar that is easy to play, easy to tune, and is designed to be taken just about anywhere. 

Not that its svelte body compromises the sound it makes. The Martin Steel String Backpacker guitar manages to produce a well-defined and crisp tone despite its ultra streamlined and lightweight form.

In fact, it’s so portable that it was the first guitar to be played in outer space. Astronaut, Pierre J, Thuot, was so attached to his Martin Steel String he took it with him on a 224 orbit Columbia Shuttle mission. Where will you take yours?

Tonewood

  • Top: Sapele.
  • Back and Sides: Sapele.
  • Fretboard: Certified Richlite.
  • Nut and Saddle: Black Corian & Compensated Black Tusq.
  • Bridge: Certified Richlite.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Extra Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Extremely travel-friendly.
  • Easy to play.
  • Simple to tune.
  • Great all-around sound for such a small guitar.

Cons

  • The action is a little high.
  • Top-heavy. The tuning gear is heavier than the body. Tends to lean forward.

Martin DX Johnny Cash Acoustic-Electric Guitar

When the great man, Johnny Cash, requested that a guitar be made in black for him, Martin accepted the challenge. The result is the fabulous-looking Martin DX Johnny Cash acoustic-electric guitar.

The Martin DX Johnny Cash is essentially a refashioned D-35 in jet black, using high-pressure laminate (HPL) tonewood, to deliver a strong and distinctive sound—characteristic of the “man in black” himself. 

The custom fingerboard features star inlays and a “CASH” logo to complete the look. 

While the Martin “Performing Artist” neck shape boosts playability.

And if you want to take it onto the stage with you, you’ll find the onboard Fishman MX electronics up to the task, giving you all the control over the sound that you need.

For looks, playability, and a distinctive Johnny Cash-like twang, the Martin DX Johnny Cash acoustic-electric guitar has no serious challengers. It’s the perfect performance guitar.

Tonewood

  • Top: HPL.
  • Back and Sides: HPL.
  • Fretboard: Certified Richlite.
  • Nut and Saddle: Black Corian Compensated Black Tusq.
  • Bridge: Certified Richlite.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Stunning looks.
  • Distinctive tonality.
  • Integrated Fishman MX preamp.
  • Performing Artist neck shape.

Cons

  • Not supplied with a hard case.

(Source)

Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar

Now for Martin’s smallest guitar (excluding the backpacker), the Martin LX1 Little Martin acoustic guitar.

Despite its comparatively diminutive stature, the LX1 Little Martin is big on sound. 

This is largely thanks to the high-quality solid Sitka top and mahogany HPL back and sides—Tonewoods that typically deliver a rich and versatile tone.

An ideal practice guitar, the Martin LX1 Little Martin acoustic guitar lends itself to many different genres of music, from rock to jazz—whether you’re in a classroom or sitting around a campfire with friends.

Portability and playability should not come at the expense of quality and acoustic range. Thankfully in the Martin LX Acoustic guitar, it doesn’t have to. 

You can have it all. What’s more, thanks to the sustainable wood used in its construction, you won’t be hurting the planet. Win-win.

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: HPL.
  • Fretboard: Certified Richlite.
  • Nut and Saddle: White Corian & Compensated White Tusq.
  • Bridge: Certified Richlite.
  • Strings: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 – Medium Gauge.

Pros

  • Eminently portable.
  • Resonant sound.
  • Versatile.
  • Made from sustainable wood.

Cons

  • A three quarter size guitar without a cutaway does mean higher notes are more difficult to access.

Martin 000Jr-10 Junior-Series Acoustic Guitar

Again on the “big sound” from a “smaller body” tip, we have the Martin 000Jr-10 acoustic guitar.

Part of Martin’s “Junior Series”, the Martin 000JR-10 acoustic guitar is constructed from a solid Sitka spruce top with sapele back and sides—tonewoods that deliver warmth and a very strong middle range. 

The Sitka top also ensures excellent resonance, projection and carry.

Not that it skimps in the playability department either. Boasting a hand-rubbed neck with a high-performance taper, the Martin 000JR-10 acoustic guitar plays just as well as it sounds. 

The “soft” back edge of the guitar means the guitar is a joy to hold against the body too.

Throw in a set of retro light gauge guitar strings and a soft gig bag and you’re good to go.

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: Sapele.
  • Fretboard: Certified Richlite.
  • Nut and Saddle: White Corian & Compensated White Tusq.
  • Bridge: Certified Richlite.
  • Strings: Martin Retro strings – Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Excellent tonewoods.
  • Resonant despite the size.
  • Very portable.

Cons

  • Not supplied with a hard case.

Martin D-16 E Rosewood Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Martin D-16 E Rosewood acoustic-electric guitar is another worthy addition to the “best of” Martin list.

Sporting a solid Sitka spruce top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides, the Martin D-16 E Rosewood acoustic-electric is designed to deliver sonority, balance and projection in terms of acoustics. Making it ideal for a variety of different musical genres.

And it’s no slouch in terms of playability either. The Martin D-16 E’s neck is of the high-performance tapered variety—which means getting up and down the fretboard is a cinch. 

The Martin D-16 E Rosewood acoustic-electric boasts integrated Fishman Matrix VT Enhance NT2 electronics to give you all the tone and enhance you need to exploit a full spectrum of sound, whether gigging or recording. It also does an excellent job at minimizing unwanted transients.

If the quality of sound, ease of play and versatility are the things you look for in an acoustic-electric, then you’ll find them in the Martin D-16 E Rosewood acoustic-electric guitar. In bucketloads.

Tonewood

  • Top: Sitka Spruce.
  • Back and Sides: East Indian Rosewood.
  • Fretboard: Ebony.
  • Nut and Saddle: Bone & Compensated White Tusq.
  • Bridge: Ebony.
  • Finish: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 strings – Light Gauge.

Pros

  • Strong bass frequencies. Punchy.
  • High build quality.
  • Integrated Fishman Matrix VT Enhance NT2 electronics minimizes unwanted transients.

Cons

  • Price tag.
  • Doesn’t come with a hardshell case.

Video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1WajJlCkbA)

Conclusion

So there you have it. The list of best Martin guitars currently available. There should be something there for everyone, from beginner, right through to accomplished guitarist. So matching a Martin guitar to what and how you wish to play, shouldn’t be a problem.

But which is the best of the best, I hear you ask? Well, the overall winner of the title “best Martin guitar” would have to be the Martin 000-15M Acoustic Guitar. It ticks all the boxes. In terms of looks, sound, playability and price. It simply has it all.

Which one would you pick?

FAQ

Q. What is the best Martin guitar?

A. Martin guitars are high-quality, finely crafted instruments made to very exacting standards. With numerous body sizes and tonewoods, producing different sonority and tones, it is difficult to single one model out from the rest. 

That said, in terms of all-around capabilities, that is, taking into account sound, playability, looks and price, then it’s the Martin 000-15M acoustic guitar, all the way.

Q. What is the best affordable Martin guitar?

A. Again it would have to be the Martin 000-15M acoustic guitar. It’s certainly not the cheapest (nor the most expensive) in the lineup of best Martin guitars, but if you factor in sound quality, playability and build then the price tag seems eminently affordable. You get a lot of guitar for the money

Q. Is Martin better than Taylor?

A. The perennial question. Both guitars have pedigree. Both produce finely crafted precision instruments. Both offer excellent tonewood combinations. 

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. How the guitar feels. How the guitar plays. Science often gives way to mysticism when it comes to guitars.

And if you don’t believe that, well then the general consensus is that Taylor guitars have a slightly brighter sound, while Martins sound richer.

Q. How do I choose a Martin guitar?

A. The criteria is the same as with any guitar, even though you are choosing from a single stable, so to speak. Sound, playability and comfort are essential ingredients to a happy relationship with your guitar. 

It is vital that you match your own playing ability with that of the guitar, to get the very best from it.

Info content

  • The best Martin acoustic guitars are those with sonority, character and tone. Tonewood is an essential part of sound quality as is the overall craftsmanship and build of your guitar. 

The right Martin guitar should lend itself to the style of music, or genre that you are playing. Fingerboards and body size often determine whether the guitar prefers being plucked or strummed.

Look out for low action “Performing Artist” necks with tapered fingerboards if you want premium playability.

  • Buying the best Martin guitar can be a costly affair, but it doesn’t have to be. Prices vary significantly, but the build quality of Martin guitars is pretty high across the board. Sound and playability should be your guiding principles.
  • It is important to match playing ability with the dynamics of the guitar. In other words, the traits and characteristics of the guitar itself often determine what level of guitarist it is best suited to. 

A good beginner instrument doesn’t have to be inferior in every department to a professional level guitar. But it must be playable.

None of which should imply a lack of ambition. It is simply that a high-end guitar is something to work your way up to, rather than being a starting point. As well as being common sense it makes good financial sense too.

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