Martin Dcme Acoustic Guitars

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Martin DCME: A competent acoustic-electric guitar but not my favorite in its price range

Apr 9, 2003 (Updated Apr 12, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:good electronics, appears to be well-made, decent intonation

Cons:acoustic sound not as good overall as some less expensive Martins

The Bottom Line: The Martin DCME is a competent performer in its price range, but I think better acoustic-electric guitars can be had for the same amount of money.



The Martin DCME is the cutaway-electric version of the Martin DM, a relatively inexpensive dreadnought guitar with a laminated mahogany back and sides and a solid spruce top. Although the DM is a decent guitar, it is not one of my favorites in the $700 (discounted) price range. For those who just want the bottom line, my conclusion about the $970 (discounted) DCME is pretty much the same.

The DCME is a fairly humble-looking guitar, especially for a Martin. It has a matte finish and very simple ornamentation. The rosette is a single ring around the soundhole. As with the DM, the neck joins the body at the 14th fret, as is standard for contemporary dreadnought guitars. The fingerboard is made of rosewood, which is to be expected for a guitar in this price range (more elite acoustic guitars tend to have ebony fingerboards). The cutaway provides access to several additional frets on the treble strings, relative to a regular dreadnought design.

Playability of the DCME is good. The samples I've played had the action set medium to medium-low, and the relatively thin neck and good fingerboard made playing easy. I didn't encounter any unwanted buzzes or other problems. Intonation was also pretty good on the samples I played.

The (unamplified) sound of the DCME was OK, but it was NOT as good as that of the similarly priced (actually, slightly less expensive) Martin D-15, OOO-15, DX-1, or OOO-X1. Compared to these excellent inexpensive Martin guitars, the DCME was slightly louder, but the bass was looser, and the overall sound was not as well "integrated." When a bluegrass friend and I directly compared the DCME with the OOO-X1, the adjectives we used to describe the sound of the OOO-X1 included "smooth," "balanced" and "tight." Adjectives we used to describe the sound of the DCME included "lumpy," "loose" and "OK." It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as the sound of the other guitars we were playing that day.

The electronics used on the Martin DCME appear to be the same as those used on most Martin and Taylor acoustic-electrics: high quality Fishman, with the controls on the "top side" of the guitar, and the cord attachment at the bottom strap peg. If you can get a good deal on a DCME, this might be a decent guitar if you're going to be playing primarily through amplification.

Overall, I found the Martin DCME to be a competent performer. Certainly it's better than the acoustic-electric guitars I've encountered recently from the likes of Yamaha and Takamine. But I can't recommend it with sincerity when the excellent all-solid-wood Martin D-15 and OOO-15 can be had in cutaway-electric versions for about the same amount of money. I believe Martin may be making the DX-1 and OOO-X1 in acoustic-electric versions as well, for a few dollars less than the DCME. And for only a couple hundred more, you could have a Taylor 310CE, if you prefer a brighter sound.

As always, I recommend you play the particular instrument you are going to buy, as not all guitars of the same model number sound or play the same. I know of one person who recently purchased a Martin DCME, and he is quite happy with it. He said the sound of the particular instrument he bought was almost as good (unamplified) as that of the Martin DX-1.

But I'm still going to go with my own impressions and give this one three stars, and a cautious thumbs down. If you get a chance to play one, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.


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