Guitarists tend to love everything about Martin guitars, other than their daunting price tags. With the X series, they’re reaching out to this crowd. My Martin DX1AE review will help you determine if it’s the affordable Martin guitar of your dreams. Martin has a long history of guitar production, and they’re the original designer of the now-standard Dreadnought body shape. Fittingly, the Martin DX1AE is a Dreadnought.
So, the question is: How well does this affordable Martin guitar perform? You’re about to find out.
It’s easiest to understand the design if we look at the meaning of the Martin DX1AE name.
D is for Dreadnought, X refers to the X series. 1 means it’s a solid top, A is for acoustic, and E lets us know it has electronics.
The back and sides of the body consist of HPL, which is a laminate made from wood particles under high pressure. These days, this is the standard for affordable guitars, and it sounds full and real.
Similarly, the neck consists of a birch laminate called Stratabond, which is common for gun stocks. It’s lighter than a classic mahogany neck and more resistant to warping.
The 20-fret fingerboard consists of Richlite, which is essentially artificial ebony made from paper. While the word “artificial” may seem negative, Richlite is more consistent and may provide smoother playability.
It also has good tonal properties, which is why they also use it for the bridge. So, it’s not only about cost reduction and environmental conservation.
Overall, the Martin DX1AE has the typical hardware you’d expect on a Martin, such as sealed chrome tuners. Altogether, they give you high performance, a great sound, and solid tuning.
On first sight, the Martin DX1AE may not seem electro-acoustic. That’s because it has a Fishman Sonitone preamp, which resides near the soundhole. That’s where you’ll access the volume and tone knobs, which is very convenient on stage.
As we’d expect of a Fishman system, it sounds full and clean. The plugged sound is very similar to the acoustic one.
The body and neck have a hand-rubbed satin finish with a smooth feel on the back of the neck. While the HPL has a mahogany veneer or a macassar sunburst finish depending on the version, there aren’t many visual features on the Martin DX1AE.
It has a tortoiseshell pickguard, but there’s no binding anywhere. Also, the fretboard inlays and soundhole rosette are minimalist. This sleek design helps keep the price down.
How the Martin DX1AE Plays
Playability is the key point of interest for a Martin DX1AE review. As we’d expect from Martin, there’s nothing to complain about here.
The Performing Artist neck is slim with a low oval profile and a rounded heel. It feels similar to an electric guitar neck. The Richlite fretboard and hand-rubbed finish give it a fast, consistent feel.
Plus, the string action is low and comfy. That’s a relief (pun intended) since you can’t easily adjust neck tension on the Martin DX1AE.
Although it may not look quite like their flagship models, you can tell it’s a Martin when you strike a note. It has that deep, dominating Dreadnought tone that the brand pioneered.
You get those sweet warm mids, shimmering treble, and powerful bass. The solid top and tapered X-bracing give it a balanced tone and strong projection. While it’s not as dynamic and complex as high-end Martins, the Martin DX1AE has a rich sound that’s impressive for acoustic guitars under $1,000.
The combination Richlite together with the artificial bone materials of the saddle and nut help preserve a long sustain with punchy transients. Therefore, a Martin DX1AE works equally well for hard strumming, intricate fingerstyle, and flat-picking.
You may get a Martin DX1AE for about $600 or more, depending on the vendor. For a handful of dollars more, you’ll get the Macassar Burst edition.
Martin DX1AE VS Taylor 110e
To give some more depth to this Martin DX1AE review, let’s compare it to a similar model from rival brand Taylor. The Taylor 110e is a good candidate for this comparison, although slightly pricier.
It has a layered sapele or walnut body with a solid spruce top and a mahogany neck. The fretboard and bridge are natural ebony. Other than that, the components are similar.
Interestingly, the Taylor has a slightly curved back without bracing, which gives it a boomy tone while reducing the weight somewhat. Also, the neck doesn’t seem quite as slim and comfortable as that of the Martin DX1AE, and the action seems higher, although this is a matter of taste.
Pros & Cons
Let’s not let this Martin DX1AE review get too convoluted. Here are the simplified essentials.
- High build quality
- Powerful, versatile sound
- Easy playability
- Good electronics
- Cheap for a Martin
It’s worth noting that this is a very sturdy guitar that will last a long time even with quite rough use. I’m impressed that they packed so much Martin value into such an affordable instrument.
- No accessible truss rod
- A bit rudimentary
If you’re into guitars with flashy designs and special features, this may not be ideal for you. The only real convenience missing is truss rod access for quick string action adjustments.
Martin DX1AE Review – Is It the Best Guitar for You?
Dependable build quality? Check! Powerful Dreadnought tone? Check!
Easy playability? You bet!
Unless you really crave fancy features and all-natural materials, there’s nothing questionable about the Martin DX1AE. And remember, it costs about half as much as a guitar with those properties.
If a simple yet formidable guitar is what you want, this is an ideal pick. And if not, here are some other recommendations.