Pros: excellent sound and playability for the price; small size
Cons: no way to know how it will age
The Martin 000-X1 (or 000X1) is a very inexpensive guitar from Martin, one of the most respected manufacturers of acoustic guitars. It is smaller than your standard dreadnought guitar, the 000 designation denoting an "auditorium" style guitar, suitable for fingerpicking.
Like the Martin DX1 dreadnought, which I raved about in a previous review, the 000-X1 is NOT a solid wood guitar. Its sides and back are made of "high pressure laminate with mahogany grain," and its neck is made of something called "rust Stratabond." But its top is made of solid Sitka spruce.
The 000-X1 retails for about $650, and can generally be found for about $450. A case is not included in the price.
The Martin 000-X1 is relatively small "auditorium" style guitar with 14 frets clear of the body. Its one-piece back and sides are mahogany laminate, while its top is solid Sitka spruce. It has the familiar Martin headstock, chrome tuners, and a tortoise pick guard.
Neck width is 1 11/16" at the nut, and scale length is the typical 25.4".
One thing that makes this guitar unusual, and successful, I think, is the fingerboard. To me, it looks and plays like ebony, but it's actually "Black Micarta," which is apparently a synthetic material of some sort.
Another thing that is striking about this guitar is the fact that there is absolutely no binding, no purfling, or any other ornamentation. As with the DX-1, the top appears to be glued directly to the sides, and then sort of "rounded." There also appears to be no finish, gloss matte or otherwise.
The rosette on the 000-X1 is simple, but I find ir more attractive than the minimalist rosettes on the Martin DM and DR. I believe it's the same "Black and White Boltaro® with Red Fiber in Middle" rosette as is found on the DX-1.
There are no dots on the actual fingerboard of the 000-X1, giving the neck a sleek, attractive appearance, but there ARE small dots on the top side of the neck, so you can see where you are.
Playability and Sound.
I have found the 000-X1 to be very easy to play. It is a bit lighter than the DX1 dreadnought, but it still feels comfortable and solid in my lap. Playability was also excellent. The Mircata (pseudo-ebony) fingerboard and low action made the guitar feel almost like a Taylor, which is high praise if you're talking about playability.
Whether I was fingerpicking or flatpicking, I enjoyed playing this guitar. As with the DX1, the neck felt strong and rigid, but not particularly stiff. Hammers and pulls were easy to execute and yielded good tone. Bluegrass runs were easy to do, and sliding up and down the neck was easy while flatpicking or fingerpicking.
I also liked the sound this guitar. In fact, I think I slightly prefer the sound of the 000-X1 over that of the inexpensive Seagulls I've been playing lately. The Seagulls are louder, but both the 000-X1 and DX1 are more delicate and subtle.
Relative to the DX1, the 000-X1 is a bit less bassy, but it has a similar overall sound. Sustain is excellent, and the tone is good for a laminate (except for the solid spruce top) guitar. Chords sound in tune, and intonation is quite good even up the neck.
One problem with all laminate guitars (actually this is true of ALL guitars in some degree), and especially guitars emplying new materials, is that there is no way to know how they will sound over time. I have an '80s Washburn rosewood laminate guitar that has aged wonderfully, almost like a Martin D-28. But a friend's early '90s laminated Seagull has gotten kind of temperamental over time, only wanting to go in tune on alternate Thursdays. Still, for under $500, it would seem the 000-X1 is a low-risk investment. I'd take this thing over a Taylor Big Baby, even though I have a lot of respect for the little Taylor.
The Martin 000-X1 is another excellent under-$500 guitar. Like it's bigger brother, the Martin DX1, the 000-X1 absolutely destroys laminate guitars from the likes of Yamaha and Takamine. And I actually like both the DX1 and 000-X1 more than the Taylor Big Baby and Seagull S6.
If you want a slightly bigger, bassier sound in an inexpensive guitar, start with the Martin DX1. If you do more fingerpicking, and want a slightly lighter, more delicate sound, be sure to check out some 000-X1s before buying anything in the $500 price range.