Martin Dxk2 Reviews

Martin Dxk2

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Martin DXK2 pseudo-Koa acoustic guitar: Evidence that less (fewer, actually) would be more?

Aug 1, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:not overly bright

Cons:not a pretty guitar; sound not very lively

The Bottom Line: The Martin DXK2 is a laminate Koa guitar with a heavy feel and a thick sound. Not one of my favorites.

I don't know why some manufacturers come up with more and more acoustic guitar models, when focusing on 10 or 20, and making each one really good, would probably be more cost- and energy-efficient.

Martin Guitars is one of the most respected names in acoustic guitars. Several of their guitars, including the 000-X1 (about $500, discounted), the 000-15 (about $700, discounted), 000-16SGT (about $1100, discounted), the D-28 (about $1600, discounted), the HD-28 (about $1900, discounted), and the HD-28VS (about $2800, discounted) are among the very best acoustic guitars at their respective price points. But a quick search of the Epinions database reveals more than 120 Martin model numbers, and that list is not exhaustive, as my Epinions friend Sparkospunky would be quick to tell you. Far too often, I'm emailing him, asking him to add this or that Martin to the Epinions database.

By contrast, Santa Cruz guitars has maybe 15 basic models, and each one fills a distinct need among acoustic guitar players. Granted, Santa Cruz doesn't make a $500 guitar (or a $1000 guitar, for that matter), but you get my point. They have mahogany and rosewood covered. They have fingerpicking small guitars and large dreadnoughts covered. They have 12- and 14-fret models covered as well. And they don't need 120+ models to do it.

Even a more mainstream manufacturer like Taylor Guitars doesn't have THAT many models, and they do have all price ranges covered, from the under-$300 Taylor Baby on up to their 900-series and Special Edition guitars.

The DXK2 is one of those guitars I wonder why Martin bothered to make. It's an inexpensive guitar with a retail price of $619, available at your local Guitar Center for $469.

But Martin already has the low price market covered with the smaller 000-X1 and the dreadnought-sized Martin D-X1, not to mention several other model numbers. The 000-X1 and D-X1 are so good, they don't really need any other guitars in this price range.

The DXK2 is a 14-fret dreadnought guitar with a morado fingerboard. Its back and sides are made of something Martin calls "Koa Wood Pattern HPL Textured Finish." Its top is also made of something Martin calls "Koa Wood Pattern HPL Textured Finish." I think that's code for high quality plywood with some sort of Koa-looking veneer on top.

Now, real Koa wood guitars are fairly rare, and tend to be rather expensive, probably in part because they are fairly rare. And their sound can be really good, possessing some of the warmth of rosewood along with the punchiness of mahogany.

But why make a guitar that's supposed to look like Koa when it ain't? (At least it ain't solid Koa.) It's Koa (we assume) plywood with a picture of Koa grain on top.

So how does the DXK2 play and sound?

To be honest, I almost didn't find the two samples I played the other day because they were so well camoflaged by the back wall. The back, sides, fingerboard, and headstock of this guitar are almost exactly the same color, a not-quite-natural looking orangish wood. It makes for quite an ugly guitar, in my opinion.

The guitar is fairly heavy, and it felt kind of bulky in my lap. The sound was similar to the feel: it was warm and sort of muted. I couldn't really get this guitar to open up. The bass was not particularly deep, and didn't resonate through my body, as it does with a Martin D-28, or even a good D-X1. But the sound was still thick, emphasizing the lower midrange over the upper midrange and treble.

Sustain was OK, but not great, and responsiveness was about the same. The guitar was fairly loud overall, but it didn't seem that dynamic. There were no very soft notes and very loud notes in response to gentle or hard playing. It just sort of thudded along.

Intonation was adequate, but I can't say it was as good as what I've experienced with the best Martin 000-X1s or D-X1s. I didn't get around to trying the instrument with a capo.

Playability was OK, but the morado fingerboard was not as fast or smooth as the synthetic fingerboard of the Martin 000-X1 and D-X1. The neck was average in terms of thickness, and didn't detract in any way from the playing experience.

The quality of construction appeared to be good; I didn't notice any bad seams or anything like that. But the instrument was still quite unattractive. Strange that the 000-15 and D-15 are also uniform in color, yet the effect works. With the DXK2, it doesn't.

I compared the DXK2 with a couple of samples of the Martin D-X1 (one of my favorite really inexpensive guitars), and the Taylor 110 (an inexpensive Taylor to which I gave a lukewarm review several months ago). The better samples of the D-X1 blew the socks off of the DXK2. The sound was more subtle and refined, bass was deeper (though the lower midrange was not as full), and the trebles came through more clearly. A good Taylor 110 (I've played some bad ones, but I found a pretty nice one) also blew away the DXK2, sounding more lively, responsive, and natural. Both the Martin D-X1 and the Taylor 110 were more fun to play than the Martin DXK2, with better intonation and smoother, faster fingerboards.

In conclusion, the Martin DXK2 is not a guitar I would own. It's not particularly attractive, only moderately fun to play, and the sound is kind of thick and lifeless. There may be better samples out there than the ones I've encountered, but the three or four I've played at my local Guitar Center have failed to impress. If you're on the market for a $500 guitar, I recommend you check out the Martin D-X1, the Martin 000-X1, the Seagull S6+ Spruce, and the Taylor Big Baby. Also check out the Taylor 110, which isn't too bad at around $550 (the 110 is growing on me). If you have a few extra dollars to spend, check out the Martin D-15, 000-15, and Taylor 214, which can be had for $700 to $750.

Happy picking!

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