Martin LX1E Review – Little Martin Acoustic Electric Guitar

While most guitarists like to have at least one full-size acoustic guitar, many turn to smaller, more portable acoustic guitars for travel or practice. The Martin LX1E Little Martin from Martin Guitars is the smallest guitar that the company offers, but it has surprisingly good tone given both its small size and its affordable price point. In our Martin LX1E review, we'll take you through the specifications of this remarkable little guitar.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Smaller Guitar

A smaller guitar can be a great investment, but as with buying any guitar, it's wise to consider your choice carefully. here are a few things to consider before making a purchase.

  • Is this going to be your main guitar? Most players choose a full-size guitar as their main instrument. However, some artists (including Ed Sheeran, who performs with a Little Martin) do use smaller instruments as their main guitar for practice and performance.
  • Do you need electronics? If you want to perform with your smaller guitar, you may prefer finding one with electronics
  • Do you have a tonewood preference? As you likely know, having a solid soundboard is one of the most important things to have in a guitar. Some players might prefer an all-solid guitar, but one with laminated back and sides can still have a respectable sound

Our Picks for Review

Guitar

Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Martin

LX1E

Cell

Alternative

Taylor

GS Mini Mahogany

Cell

Alternative

Martin

30th Anniversary Navajoa 000RS25

Cell

Alternative

Martin

000-Jr. 10-E

Cell

Martin LX1E Guitar - Little Martin

PRO's & CON's of Martin LX1E

Before we dive into our review, let's look at some of the pros and cons of the LX1E Little Martin:

Pros

  • Solid Sitka spruce top creates big sound
  • Included Fishman Sonitone electronics make it a great guitar to play live
  • High-pressure laminate back and sides are durable and resist climate changes
  • This guitar is surprisingly affordable given its build quality

Cons

  • Laminated back and sides don't offer the same sound as a guitar made with solid wood
  • Fishman Sonitone isn't a particularly high-end system, and gigging guitarists might prefer a better system

Features and Benefits

Tonewood Selection

If you've been playing guitar for a significant period of time, you likely have your preferences when it comes to the type of wood used to make the guitars you play. This one has a solid Sitka spruce top, which is one of the most common woods used to make the soundboards of Martin instruments. It's a light yet stiff wood that produces a rich tone that leans toward the bright side.

The back and sides, like those of many more affordable Martin guitars, are made of high-pressure laminate, or HPL. This dense material does have some advantages--it keeps the guitar lightweight, and unlike wood, it doesn't change with humidity fluctuations.

However, guitars made with laminate often don't have the same full tone as those made with solid wood. HPL is often more difficult to repair, although it can be done--the video below offers an example. HPL can be patterned to look like woodgrain, and the Martin LX1E is patterned to look like mahogany.

The neck is made of laminated birch, and the fretboard is made of Richlite, a composite that is sometimes used as an ebony substitute. Most guitarists prefer natural wood over laminate when it comes to sound, but these features help keep costs down.

While the neck may not be made of an ideal material, its highly comfortable modified low oval profile with Performing Artist taper makes it comfortable and easy to play, even for children or adults with smaller hands.

Bracing and Sound Quality

This guitar is a scaled-down dreadnought, so unsurprisingly, its bracing is similar to the bracing used in full-size dreadnought guitars. The Martin LX1E has non-scalloped X-bracing, which places less emphasis on highs and lows and produces a rich, even sound. This video explains the different bracing styles Martin uses, as well as the sonic differences between them.

Sonically, this little guitar is impressive. Due to its smaller size, it doesn't have quite the bass of a larger instrument, but it's remarkably close. If you're familiar with Fishman's line of acoustic guitar pickups, you may know that the Fishman Sonitone is a system designed for budget-priced instruments. That said, the Martin LX1E sounds great when plugged in. This video demo lets you check it out for yourself.

Other Appointments and Finish

If you've ever purchased an affordable guitar (especially one from a larger manufacturer), you may know that some of these guitars come with poor-quality tuners and cheap plastic nuts and saddles. Thankfully, this little instrument comes with high-end tuners that let it reliably hold tune, even with aggressive playing.

As for the nut and saddle, Martin has chosen a white Corian nut and a Tusq saddle. Both are great materials when it comes to both tuning stability and sound. Corian is a composite that's now used by Gibson even on its top-priced instruments, and Tusq is a self-lubricating material that sounds similar to ivory and stops strings from becoming "stuck" on the saddle.

If you're interested in hearing the difference between bone and synthetic nuts and saddles, this video offers an interesting comparison.

In terms of finish, this is a very nice-looking guitar, especially given its affordable price point. Martin's signature hand-rubbed finish means that you won't see any runs in the gloss, and it also helps show off the natural grain of the spruce top (as well as the remarkably realistic mahogany pattern on the HPL).

Social Proof of the Guitar

If you're unable to try out a guitar in person before making a purchase, reading online reviews may be able to help you make your decision. If you've been looking at the Martin LX1E (or its non-electric counterpart, the Martin LX1), these reviews may help you find out whether this little guitar is right for you.

Martin LX1E Review 01

This Martin LX1E review, like many others, praises this small guitar's surprisingly big sound. It's especially notable that this player found the plugged-in sound to be impressive, as Fishman Sonitone isn't one of Fishman's higher-end electronics systems.

Martin LX1E Review 02

This review points out that the smaller size of this guitar may be good for those with hand injuries or otherwise weak hands. Plus, like many others who have played this guitar, this reviewer likes the sound.

Martin LX1E Review 03

This Martin LX1E review also points out that the sound of this Little Martin rivals the sound of many larger guitars. This is a sentiment that has been echoed in almost every review we could find.

Alternatives to Martin LX1E

When shopping for a guitar, it's always a good idea to compare the ones you're considering to a few alternatives. We've found a few that you may want to compare alongside the LX1E.

Taylor GS Mini Mahogany

How it Compares to Martin LX1E

  • This one has a small grand auditorium body (as opposed to the scaled-down dreadnought body of the LX1E)
  • Unlike the LX1E, this one does not have electronics
  • It's about the same size as the LX1E
  • This one has an ebony fingerboard, which is generally considered to be a superior material to Richlite

Review

You've likely heard of the Baby Taylor, but the GS Mini is another small guitar that some players might prefer. This one is a smaller version of Taylor's acclaimed grand auditorium body style, and it's a great choice for those who prefer the warmer sound of a mahogany-top guitar. This one has a top of solid mahogany, and the back and sides are layered sapele. A genuine African ebony fretboard keeps it highly playable and gives it a high-end look. If you want a warm-sounding little guitar with a different body shape, make sure you give this one a look!

Martin 30th Anniversary Navajoa 000RS25

How it Compares to Martin LX1E

  • Because it's a limited-edition model, this one is significantly more expensive than the LX1E
  • Aside from the rosewood fretboard, the build is similar to the LX1E
  • Limited-edition art sets this guitar apart in any crowd
  • This one has the same electronics as the LX1E
  • Layered sapele back and sides may create more resonant tone than the HPL back and sides of the LX1E

Review

If you like both little guitars and limited editions, this might be a guitar worth considering. This 000-size instrument has a slightly longer scale length than the LX1E, and it has a solid Sitka spruce top and layered Sapele back and sides. This guitar has a solid East Indian Rosewood fretboard, and the soundboard is decorated with unique eagle art. This one also comes equipped with Fishman Sonitone electronics. If you'd prefer a limited-edition Martin, make sure you check out this guitar!

Martin 000-Jr. 10-E

How it Compares to Martin LX1E

  • Rounded body is essentially a smaller version of a grand auditorium guitar
  • Cutaway makes it easier to play frets further down the neck
  • Layered sapele back and sides may offer better sound than HPL
  • Solid soundboard provides rich and responsive tone
  • Small size makes it a great travel instrument
  • It also comes with Fishman Sonitone electronics

Review

This is another smaller guitar that's perfect for those who like the Little Martin but prefer a body style that is essentially a scaled-down grand auditorium. The 000-Jr. 10-E has a Venetian cutaway for easy fret access, and like the LX1E, it also has a solid spruce top and layered sapele back and sides. This guitar also comes equipped with Fishman electronics, and it has a sustainable Richlite fingerboard. If you're looking for a non-dreadnought guitar similar to a Little Martin, make sure you give this guitar a look!

In Conclusion

If you're in the market for a smaller instrument that comes with a solid top and electronics, the Martin LX1E is a great guitar to consider. With a solid top, respectable electronics, and great playability, it's a great option for impromptu gigs or playing at home. Plus, it's a very affordable instrument. Click here to check it out!

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