7 Best Martin Acoustic Guitar – Round Up Review

As acoustic guitars manufacturers go, C.F. Martin & Co. (usually just referred to as "Martin") is one of the best. Founded in 1833, this company is known for instruments of extraordinary quality. And while high-end Martins are often very expensive, they also offer several models that fall solidly in the midrange pricing category, making them accessible to players on a budget, too.

It's fairly impossible to declare a single model to be the best Martin acoustic guitar. But in this review, we've gathered seven of our favorites. There's a guitar here for every price range, and each is made with the same quality that has made Martin a household name.

Our Top 7 Picks For Best Martin Acoustic Guitar

Make

Model

Rating

Price

Full Review

Martin

15 Series D-15M

Martin

OMJM John Mayer

Cell

Martin

OMC-16E

Cell

Martin

D-10E Road Series

Martin

LXK2 Little Martin

Martin

D-35

Martin

GPCX 20th Anniversary

Cell

Review of our Top Picks

Martin 15 Series D-15M: Best Value Guitar

Important Features

  • Made with Martin's signature neck joint, which is unusually sturdy
  • All-solid, bookmatched mahogany construction
  • Full-sized dreadnought body for impressive sustain
  • Vintage look with nickel open-gear tuners

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Fairly mid-range in price for a Martin
  • All-solid construction
  • Vintage-inspired design appeals to many players

Cons

  • Some players may prefer a guitar with electronics
  • While it isn't too expensive for a Martin, this may be too expensive for some players

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This all-mahogany guitar is a beautiful, vintage-inspired instrument with a rich, warm tone. It's made of all-solid mahogany, and the top, back and sides are all bookmatched. This means that the guitar is built so it looks like there's a mirror image of the grain on each side. 

It features a bone nut and a solid ebony bridge, which go well with the understated elegance of its single-ring rosette.

Our Star Rating

Given its relatively low price and quality appointments, we think this is the best value guitar on the list. We give it five out of five stars.

Martin OMJM John Mayer: Best High-End Guitar

Important Features

  • Design collaboration between John Mayer and Martin means this is a very unique instrument
  • Engelmann spruce and rosewood provide a clear, balanced sound
  • OM body and antiqued gloss finish on the top give this model a vintage feel

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Slim neck for easy playing
  • All-solid construction
  • Spruce and rosewood create a beautifully balanced tone

Cons

  • This guitar is much more expensive than most
  • Some players might prefer an acoustic-electric for performance

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This is the most expensive Martin on the list, but it has an expressive tone and quality appointments. It was designed with popular guitarist John Mayer. This guitar has an OM body (short for "Orchestra Model," which is somewhat similar to Martin's Grand Performance model.

Its top is made of solid Engelmann spruce, and its back and sides are made of beautiful solid East Indian rosewood. This guitar has a slim neck that makes playing easy, and its abalone rosette, subtle fretboard inlays, and antiqued gloss finish make it a truly unique instrument.

Our Star Rating

Because of this guitar's unique, quality construction, we think it's the best high-end model on the list. We give it four out of five stars.

Martin OMC-16E: Best Live Performance Guitar

Important Features

  • Solid Ovangkol gives it a rich sound, and this unusual tonewood selection will help your plating stand out
  • Orchestra model with cutaway is easy to carry and play
  • Comes equipped with quality Fishman electronics, making it easy to play live

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great for playing live
  • Cutaway for easy fret access
  • Beautiful woodgrain with ebony fingerboard gives it a standout look

Cons

  • Price is somewhat high for many players

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This is another of Martin's orchestra model guitars, but it has a couple of advantages. Since many Martin guitars are vintage-inspired, many don't have cutaways. This model has a Venetian cutaway, making it easy to access frets that are further down the neck.

It's also an acoustic-electric, and it comes equipped with Fishman's Matrix VT Enhance NT1 pickup. It's made of all solid Ovangkol. This is a wood that sounds a little like mahogany, but it has an additional high end that's much like the clear high end found on koa guitars. It also has a beautiful grain.

Our Star Rating

Because of its electronics, cutaway, and distinctive appearance, we think this is the best guitar on the list for live performance. We give it five out of five stars.

Martin D-10E Road Series: Best Affordable Dreadnought

Important Features

  • Solid Sitka spruce top and sapele back and sides offer a balanced tone
  • Full-size dreadnought body has the classic Martin look many players love
  • Comes with quality Fishman electronics

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very affordable, especially given the quality
  • Has a solid top
  • Quality onboard electronics make playing live easy

Cons

  • Laminate back and sides aren't ideal for some players

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This classic-looking dreadnought is an affordable offering that can help introduce you to the world of Martin guitars. Its top is solid Sitka spruce, and the back and sides are made of sapele, a tropical tonewood that is an affordable alternative to mahogany.

It's also equipped with Fishman MX-T electronics. This system also comes with a unique feature--it has an onboard tuner that automatically mutes pickup output as you tune.

Our Star Rating

Given its build quality and included electronics, this is a very good quality guitar for the money. We think it's the best value on the list, and we give it four out of five stars

Martin LXK2 Little Martin: Best Travel/Smaller Guitar

Important Features

  • Smaller body is great for traveling or for very small players
  • High-pressure laminate construction is better quality than a traditional laminate
  • Made with quality Gotoh tuners to help keep you in tune

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very affordable compared to full-sized Martins
  • Attractive design
  • Quality tuners help keep in tune

Cons

  • All-HPL construction isn't ideal for great tone
  • Smaller size may not be ideal for those who don't need a travel instrument

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Whether you want a quality small guitar for travel or want a well-made instrument for your child to learn on, the scaled-down Little Martin is an excellent choice. This one has a koa-pattern top, and the guitar is made with Martin's special high-pressure laminate.

It also is made with Martin's special neck joint, which stands up to rough handling. This little guitar also comes with a padded gig bag, so it's ready to take on the road.

Our Star Rating

As travel guitars and smaller models go, this one is very well made. We think it's the best option for traveling, and we give it four out of five stars.

Martin D-35: Best All-Around Guitar

Important Features

  • All-solid spruce and rosewood configuration produces versatile tone
  • Classic design offers great playability
  • Timeless look and sound make it suited to a wide range of music styles

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • This historic model has been loved by countless guitarists
  • All-solid wood construction
  • Incredible tone

Cons

  • This model is fairly expensive
  • Some players may prefer a guitar with electronics

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

The D-35 is a legend among Martins, and its enduring appeal matches its classic good looks. It's made with a solid Sitka spruce top and solid East Indian rosewood back and sides.

These features combined with its ebony fingerboard make it the perfect choice for fingerpicking and flatpicking. This is considered by many great players to be the ultimate acoustic guitar.

Our Star Rating

Given its quality and history, we think the D-35 is one of the quintessential Martin acoustic guitars. We think it's the best all-around model on the list, and we give it five out of five stars.

GPCX 20th Anniversary Easiest To Carry

Important Features

  • Solid Sitka spruce top provides a rich tone with plenty of sustain
  • HPL back and sides help keep it affordable
  • Comes with Fishman Sonicore electronics
  • Grand Performance body with cutaway makes it easier to play and handle

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very affordable for a solid-top, full-sized Martin
  • Comes with electronics for easy live playing
  • Grand Performance body has ample projection

Cons

  • Laminate back and sides may not offer the same tone as solid wood

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This guitar is one of Martin's Grand Performance models, and like many Martin acoustics, it has a solid Sitka spruce top. It's very affordable for a full-sized Martin, and it has high-pressure laminate back and sides.

Despite the low price, this guitar also comes equipped with Fishman electronics--it has the Fishman Sonicore system, which is one of Fishman's more affordable offerings. Even though it's fairly low in price, this is a beautiful guitar with a surprisingly rich sound.

Our Star Rating

We think this guitar is the easiest to carry (due to its compact size and HPL laminate back and sides) on the list. We give it four out of five stars.

Buying Guide -- What Should You Look For When Buying A Martin?

Martin guitars, as a general rule, are quality instruments. Unlike some manufacturers, Martin doesn't make a line of very budget-priced guitars. As you shop, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Body Style

Many Martin guitars, and especially older models, are dreadnoughts. The dreadnought is the most popular guitar body style for a reason--its large, deep body produces plenty of volume, projects well, and has a rich sustain. Another popular body style you're likely to see is the grand performance, which is called the grand auditorium by Taylor and some other manufacturers. The grand performance has a few advantages--it's smaller and easier to carry and handle than a dreadnought, and it also has a clearer sound with fewer overtones than larger models. This makes it easier for fingerpicking, or any other time you want to clearly hear individual notes.

Martin also makes a scaled-down guitar called the Little Martin. This guitar is great for traveling or for playing songs with less low end. It's also a great choice for small children who are just learning guitar.

When evaluating body styles, it's important to remember that no body style is necessarily better than another. You'll need to take your playing style into account in order to choose the best one for you.

Tonewoods

Before getting into a discussion of the tonewoods commonly used in Martin guitars, it's first important to address solid vs laminate woods. You likely know that solid woods (especially when used to make the top of a guitar) make a significant contribution to sound. Solid tops produce a rich, nuanced tone that almost always sounds better than a laminate top.

The best guitars are made with all solid wood, but there are plenty of instruments made with laminate backs and sides that still produce excellent tone. Martin's particular brand of laminate is worth addressing--this company uses a high-pressure laminate (abbreviated as HPL) for laminated woods. This has some advantages--since it's made using very high pressure, it's hard and strong, and often similar to a hardwood in character. However, it does have the disadvantage of being somewhat prone to breakage due to its inflexible nature.

That said, Martin uses quality tonewoods on its instruments. Here are a few of the tonewoods you're most likely to see:

Spruce

Spruce is likely the most popular material for making the tops of acoustic guitars--it yields a bright tone that balances well with most woods used for guitar backs and sides. Sitka spruce is commonly used, but many Martins are also made with Engelmann spruce, a paler wood that has more of a ring to it.

Rosewood

Rosewood is a beautiful, durable tonewood that's commonly used for guitar backs and sides. It adds incredible warmth and resonance to your tone. This is one of the reasons it's commonly paired with spruce tops.

Mahogany

Mahogany is an excellent tonewood choice for players who want a sound that isn't too bright. It sounds warm and somewhat dark, and it's great for emphasizing midrange playing. Mahogany is used for tops, backs, and sides, and it's especially good for fingerstyle playing.

Electronics

One of the very important factors to consider when selecting a Martin is whether you intend to play live. While you can play a guitar into a microphone, it can be difficult to accurately and completely capture the sound,especially if you're playing in a noisy venue. If you want to play live, choosing an acoustic-electric may be wise, since this lets you simply plug in your guitar and play.

If you do choose an acoustic-electric, the quality of the electronics is also a concern. Martin primarily uses Fishman pickups. Fishman is one of the leaders in acoustic guitar amplification. However, as you might expect, higher-end Martin acoustic-electrics will have higher-end Fishman pickups.

Other Appointments

While the nut and saddle of a guitar may seem insignificant, they play an important role in shaping a guitar's tone. Many cheap guitars use a plastic nut and saddle, which have a mild deadening effect on sound. On the other hand, many Martins use bone nuts and saddles. Bone has richer sonic properties and can give your guitar a livelier tone and better sustain.

Of course, if you choose a guitar that has a cheap plastic saddle or nut, these are relatively easy to replace. You can install saddles or nuts that are made of bone or Tusq (a composite that's sonically very close to ivory), or you can pay a guitar shop to upgrade them.

In Conclusion

You can't go wrong with any guitar from Martin--this company has been making quality instruments for over a century, and countless professional and hobby players enjoy their guitars. Our top pick of this list is the OMC-16E--this is the most versatile one listed, as it also can be played live. Its all-solid wood construction means it has a sound that will only open up over time.

That said, if you don't need electronics, we think either the D-15M or the D-35 is the best choice. Both are quality, all-solid instruments, with the D-15M being more suited to players who like a less bright tone. Whether you end up choosing a guitar from this list or ultimately select another Martin guitar, you'll be selecting an instrument that can grow with you through the years.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *