Pros: High quality sound, playability and appearance
Cons: Read review...
The Martin guitar company has been making acoustic guitars since 1833 and has set the bar for the art of crafting musical instruments. Martin guitars have always been hand made in their factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Martin guitars are acknowledged as the finest guitars in the world. Martin guitars have been played by some of the most famous and talented musicians in the world and are revered in bluegrass music as the best you can get.
So when you think of a budget guitar, the last thing to cross your mind would be Martin guitars. Martin has made a fine quality instrument in the DX1 using state of the art materials and techniques to lower the price and increase the sound quality. As soon as you try the DX1 you immediately hear the Martin quality in the tones and brightness but what you dont expect is the ease of which this guitar plays and the price tag.
The Martin DX1 Acoustic Dreadnaught Guitar
This guitar is unlike any other guitar I have ever played. It has a beautifully designed one-piece back made of a high pressure laminate made to look like mahogany which is also used for the sides. The top is one-piece solid Sitka spruce and unlike any other guitar I have played, it is unfinished. To be precise, it is hand rubbed finish so it will be interesting to see how this top will age.
The neck is made of a material called Stratabond, which is a composite material made up of layers of dyed birch veneer laminated together under low pressure. In this model Rust Stratabond is used for the neck and head piece. The neck and head piece are made together as one. The head piece is covered with the same high pressure laminate used for the back and sides and sports the Martin Logo printed in gold foil.
One interesting thing about the guitar I bought is the fretboard (fingerboard). The specs. for the DX1 on Martins web site states that the fingerboard is made of solid striped Ebony, however my guitar looks like it has a rosewood fretboard. If it is actually Ebony, it is the lightest colored Ebony I have ever seen. It is a light brown colored wood with blonde stripes. In a review of this guitar written by epinions member Horswispr, he states that the fretboard was made of Black Micarta at the time he wrote that review which was back in April of 2003. I know this fretboard on my guitar is not made of Micarta and it doesnt look like Ebony either so I am perplexed as to what exactly it is. What ever the material is, it is strong, hard and plays very easily.
Thanks again to Horswispr for providing this information. He sent an email to C.F. Martin Co. asking about the fretboard material and this is the response he got from the representative.
There was a recent change to Ebony, and then to Morado on both models. Changes in specifications occur according to availability of woods and material.
There is nothing wrong with the Micarta, it actually has some great features that encouraged Martin to use this material. We have changed to Ebony, then Morado as we are unable to get the Micarta at this time.
Thank you for your interest in C. F. Martin & Co., Inc.
C. F. Martin & Co., Inc.
Consumer Customer Service
The bridge of the guitar is made out of striped Ebony and is absolutely beautiful. There are no position markers on the fingerboard but there are small position dots on the side of the neck. The rosette is inlaid Boltaron with red fiber and is not very extravagant but it looks nice just the same.
The top appears to be glued directly to the sides of the guitar because there is no binding material used on the exterior between the sides and the top. The back seems to be bound with some sort of hard black plastic or new age material that is not mentioned on the Martin web site.
Playing the guitar
Most musicians have heard the joke at one time or another where one will say, Hey, youre out of tune, and the other says, I dont understand. It was in tune when I bought it?
Well, this guitar was in perfect tune straight out of the case. I opened the case and strummed a G chord and was so impressed by the sound that I immediately started writing a new song. While the song is yet unfinished, the guitar is most definitely the finest acoustic I have ever owned. The sound emitted by the strings reverberates inside the guitar and projects a bright yet deep tone that is just beautiful. Harmonics ring true on the 12th, 7th and 5th frets brightly and with good sustain. Picking notes also produces undertones of harmonics that (if you listen closely) sound like tiny bells ringing behind the note. I cant get over the sound quality of this guitar, it is absolutely wonderful.
Chords ring out loud and powerful, while notes stand out on their own even with other loud instruments and using no microphones or any amplification. Playing riffs and runs on this guitar is easy and smooth. The neck is thin enough to play extended lead riffs without tearing up your fingers or getting that nagging pain in your hand.
The only thing I have a problem with is the neck being so thin, I have trouble doing pull-offs on the first string at the second, third and fourth frets. The string slips off the fret almost as soon as you start to bend it and you get a plink instead of a pull-off. Jokingly, I call this a plink-off. But it happens almost every time I do a pull-off on the high E string at the top of the neck. I have learned that if you pull-off gently and not bend as much you can do a successful pull-off, however when youre jamming its hard to do something a different way than youve been doing for years.
Other than that little issue, I love the heck out of this guitar. It is by far the best sounding guitar I have ever owned and it didnt kill my bank account. I got it from Musiciansfriend.com for the killer price of $499.00 and the hardshell Martin case for $79.99 more. Shipping was $11.00 and I received it only 4 days after placing the order. I plan on writing an article on Musiciansfriend.com soon also as these guys are just amazing with customer service and shipping time.
I have only recorded with this guitar once so far but that recording was impressive (I mean as far as the guitar goes anyway). The playback was crisp and clear with wonderful tones; and all that before ever touching an EQ. My old acoustic (Aria LW-15) had good tones but always sounded dead or muffled on playback and I would have to EQ the snot out of it to get any kind of respectable sound. Not with this Martin, it sounds great on playback with no EQ at all. I know it has a lot to do with the microphone used (which mine is a cheapo piece of doo-doo) but even so, the Martin just blows away my old guitar.
It is easy to adjust tone and EQ on recordings also because the original signal was so clean that it picks up all those tones and all you have to do is some minor refining. Adding effects to recordings is also much more pleasing than my old acoustic. A little bit of chorus goes a long way with this baby. My old guitar sounded better with no effect because effects would make the muffled sound worse, but the Martin takes it all in and the effects actually do what they are supposed to; enhance the sound.
I can faithfully say that this is a very fine guitar crafted by masters of the art. I would also go as far to say that you will probably never find a guitar of this quality by any other manufacturer for under $800. Then again, I have always had a deep respect for Martin guitars and in my humble opinion; there is no other acoustic competition. There are other fine guitars made by other fine, quality crafters like Gibson, Seagull, Epiphone and others but the Martins are in a league of their own and this low cost Martin is still one of the family; a family of very high quality and world renowned sound.
Thanks for reading,