Choosing a Martin Guitar
Martin Guitars is without doubt the most renowned, storied and legendary acoustic guitar builder of all time. Since 1833, their instruments have been centre stage across country, bluegrass, folk, rock and pop; they were the guitar of choice through the Civil War, the Great Depression and the birth of rock and roll. They were played by just about every music legend you can imagine, including Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and countless others. Martin not only builds some of the finest acoustic guitars in the world, they’re also responsible for the design of the acoustic guitar as we know it, inventing the ubiquitous dreadnought shape, the 14-fret guitar and modern X-bracing.
With this long history and enormous range, choosing a Martin guitar can be difficult. The current Martin lineup includes faithful vintage recreations, modern gig-ready performing guitars, travel guitars and a wide-ranging Standard Series, not to mention numerous limited and Custom Shop instruments.
We’ve put together this guide to make your choice a little easier, and help you choose the Martin guitar that is right for you.
The centrepiece of the Martin range is the Standard Series – a range of the most famous and time-honoured classics from Martin’s long history. Handmade in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, from all-solid timbers and using historic construction methods including traditional dovetail neck joints.
The Standard Series covers many body sizes: 0 (the smallest body size available), 00 and 000 are all shorter-scale length guitars, giving a gentler feel and sweeter, warmer tone. OM, or ‘Orchestra Models’ take the 000 body shape and give it a longer scale length, for more volume, projection and clarity. D, or ‘Dreadnought’ is the classic full-body guitar shape, suited to players needing more volume and bass, or for singers needing a bigger accompaniment. The J, or ‘Jumbo’ model, is the largest body size available, for when power and volume are a must, and the M or 0000 size is halfway between a J and OM – a larger guitar with less body depth, for a loud but balanced tone which is suited for fingerpickers and alternate tunings.
The Standard Series also includes many famous Styles of Martin guitars – The Style 18 models pair genuine solid Mahogany back-and-sides with a clear and balanced Sitka Spruce top. This includes the hugely popular workhorse D-18 model, as well as the smaller-bodied 0-18, 000-18 and OM-18, which are wonderful all-rounders in a comfortable body shape.
The Style 21 models’ pair solid East Indian Rosewood back-and-sides with a Sitka Spruce top, with subtle and tasteful appointments, including tortoiseshell binding. Rosewood is a denser and louder timber, giving the 21 models beautiful ringing overtones, remarkable volume and a huge dynamic range. The most popular model in this Style is the OM-21, a superbly responsive and versatile instrument.
Style 28 is the most popular in the range – taking the timber combination of Style 21 and adding beautiful aged white binding and tasteful inlays, for a refined look and classic sound. The D-28 is an enduring icon, famously used by everyone from Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Tony Rice and Hank Williams. The OM-28 is almost as well-known, with wonderful warmth and clarity in a more comfortable shape. The 00-28 and 000-28 (the choice of Eric Clapton among others) have a sweeter, rounder sound, whereas the formidable HD-28 (featuring vintage-style Herringbone binding and scalloped bracing) is a D-28 on steroids; more bass, more volume and more warmth.
Other popular styles in the current lineup include Style 35 (think a Style 28 with a 3-piece Rosewood back, for a deeper, darker tone), Style 40 (currently limited to the much-loved J-40, a stunning Jumbo guitar with tasteful abalone rosette and fretboard inlays), Style 41 and 42 (hearkening back to Martin’s most expensive pre-war guitars, with higher-grade timbers, abalone inlays and binding and a shimmering, glorious tone), and the incredible Style 45 – Martin’s most luxurious and sought-after models, with abalone used throughout, master-grade timbers, and an enormous, booming tone.
Martin X Series guitars are made for musicians that want the freedom to play how, where, and when they want without breaking the bank. The X Series delivers legendary Martin tone at a much more affordable price in a number of body shapes utilising solid wood or HPL (high-pressure laminate) top, and HPL back and sides.
The lineup features Mother-of-pearl pattern inlay on the fingerboards and rosette, Fishman electronics, and are built in Martin’s Sonoma, Mexico factory. Standouts in the X Series include the DX2E, a traditional dreadnought available in various timber combinations including Rosewood and Koa; the GPC-X2E, a performer’s dream with a punchy tone and comfortable body shape, and the fantastic DX-E 12-String, a 12-string guitar that is incredible bang-for-buck.
Martin Road Series models are ideal for working musicians or up-and-coming players looking for a guitar they can grow into. These instruments are professional grade, with solid wood construction, on-board electronics, and hand-selected exotic tonewoods. If you’re looking for a gig-ready Martin guitar, the Road Series is the one to check out.
The flagship of the Road Series is the revolutionary SC-13E. Designed from the ground up as a new kind of performing guitar, it uses new construction technology and an asymmetrical body to give an effortless playing experience, without sacrificing acoustic tone. Other series highlights include the 000-13E (with Siris back-and-sides and a short scale length), the D-10E (a gig-ready solid Sapele / Sitka Spruce dreadnought) and the mellow and refined 000-10E; an all-Sapele small-body guitar that is perfect for gentler players and fingerpickers.
New to Martin’s lineup is the Modern Deluxe Series, which takes their most-loved models and gives them modern innovations and elegant appointments for a more refined, contemporary-sounding instrument. The current roster includes the D-18MD, D-28MD, 000-28MD and OM28-MD, and each model includes a carbon fibre bridge plate (for superior tonal transfer), a titanium truss rod (decreasing weight and tonal loss), Liquidmetal bridge pins (for increased volume and clarity) and their signature VTS (Vintage Tone System) tops, a method of artificially aging of the soundboard for a ‘played-in’ tone. The Modern Deluxe series takes the signature Martin sound and pumps up the volume, clarity and sustain, for a 21st century twist on a classic sound.
Traditionally thought of as the most economical guitars in Martin’s history, the no-frills looks and tonal excellence of the 15, 16 and 17 Series guitars have made them favourites of folk and blues artists since their introduction during the Great Depression. Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Leo Kottke and Tom Waits have all used these simple and unadorned guitars, and they’re still the most affordable USA-made all-solid guitars in the Martin lineup.
The 15 Series is constructed from all-solid mahogany with a satin finish, for a sweet, warm and crisp tone beloved by fingerpickers and strummers alike (especially the ever popular 00-15M and 000-15M models), whereas the 17 Series feature a Sitka spruce top and Sunburst or Black finishes. The DSS-17 uses an unusual slope-shoulder dreadnought body shape, for a twist on the dry and woody singer-songwriter guitars of the 50’s and 60’s.
The 16 Series bridges the gap between the austere 17 Series and the Standard Series – all-sold timbers, with a satin-finished back-and-sides, gloss Sitka spruce top and onboard electronics, for a road-ready instrument that still has the depth and tone that you’d expect from a Nazareth-built Martin guitar.
Martin’s travel guitars are fun, comfortable and great travelling companions – these guitars are built to throw in the back of the car and take anywhere. The Backpacker is the smallest and easiest to travel with, which is probably why it was the first guitar in outer space. The Dreadnought Junior is a 000-sized dreadnought shape, with all-solid construction and a deep, thick tone belying its small size. The Little Martin is even smaller, making it popular for travelling performers, and famously favoured by Ed Sheeran.
The Authentic Series is the absolute pinnacle of Martin craftsmanship – flawless tributes to the greatest guitars in Martin’s history, constructed with the original and timeless build techniques used in the originals. Think of the Authentic Series as like going back in time and picking up one of the revered Golden Era guitars brand new off the shelf. Hide-glue construction, hand scalloped bracing, and VTS tops contribute to spectacular and awe-inspiring guitars.
The Martin Custom Shop gives you the chance to create your own vision, down to the smallest detail. Are you looking for breathtaking rare timbers? Want to recreate you favourite rockstar’s go-to guitar? Maybe you want a one-of a kind headstock design, or a custom crafted neck, or exotic stone and pearl inlays? Or perhaps you just want a guitar built by the finest craftsmen at the most revered guitar builder of all time. All these things and more are possible in the Custom Shop.
Of course, Acoustic Centre is also the only authorised Martin Custom Shop Dealer Expert in Australia – this means that not only do we get exclusive special editions and in-stock Custom Shop guitars designed by our expert staff, but we also have access to Custom Shop features that nobody else in Australia does. Contact us now to find out how we can make your Martin dream a reality.