5 Best Martin Acoustic Guitars of 2020 – Reviews

Martins Nazareth facility, home of some the finest guitars ever made....

By James Wall

With its headquarters in Nazareth PA, Martin Guitar is one of the oldest guitar companies and has a rich history of manufacturing Martin acoustic guitars.

For many, Martin is the Standard of guitar manufactures, i.e. the company that all others want to be like. While the flagship guitars are not cheap, Martin has introduced some less expensive models that still have the years of guitar making experience put into the design.

Whether you’re getting one of the longtime standards or one of the newer models you won’t be disappointed.

Let's take a look at some our favorites of the Martin guitar line:


Best Overall Martin Acoustic


Reasons to buy:

  • Classic Dreadnought Shape with good base and treble projection
  • Performance Tapered Neck
  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Herringbone Binding
  • Vintage tuners
  • Hard shell Case

Reasons to avoid:

  • Price is beyond what some are willing to spend on a guitar.

Martin Acoustic guitar picks by purpose: 


Best Martin Acoustic Guitars

Image

Product

Benefits

Spec's

HD28 acoustic guitar is our top choice for acoustics. Its well made and has a deep warm tone, but the high notes still have that shimmer.
  • Classic Dreadnought Tone
  • Hardshell Case
  • Performance Taper Neck
  • Bone Nut & Saddle
  • East Indian Rosewood back and sides
  • 25.4" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Dove-tail Neck Joint
  • Forward Shifted X-Bracing"
  • 5/16" Scalloped Bracing
  • Nickel Vintage Tuners
Martin D18 - Mahagony
  • Dreadnought tone
  • Hardshell Case
  • Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Performance Taper Neck
  • 25.4" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Dove-tail Neck Joint
  • Forward Shifted X-Bracing"
  • 5/16" Scalloped Bracing
  • Vintage Nickel Tuners
Martin Road Series D-13e
  • Traditional Dreadnought Tone
  • Fishman MX-T Electronics
  • Premium Soft Shelled Case
  • Siris Back and Sides
  • Performing Artist Neck shape
  • 25.4" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Mortise and Tenon Neck Joint
  • X Bracing
  • 5/16" Scalloped Bracing with 1/4" tone bars.
Martin D16e Rosewood
  • Traditional Dreadnought Tone
  • Fishman Matrix VT enhanced Electronics
  • Soft Shell Case
  • Rosewood back and sides with Matte finish
  • Performance tapered Neck
  • 25.4" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Simple Dove Tail Neck Joint
  • Forward Shifted X Bracing
  • 5/16" Scalloped Bracing.
Martin D-X2E
  • Traditional Dreadnought Tone
  • Fishman Matrix MX Electronics
  • Soft gig bag
  • HPL Back and Sides
  • Performing Artist Neck shape with Performance tapered Neck
  • 25.4" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Mortise and Tenon Neck Joint
  • X Bracing
  • 5/16" Scalloped Bracing. with 1/4" tone bars.
  • Closed Nickel Tuners

Best Martin Acoustic Guitar Reviews [Updated]


1. Martin HD-28 - Natural with Aging Toner

Our top pick

User Rating

97%

Product Details

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce top
Back/Sides: Gloss finished East Indian Rosewood
Fretboard: Ebony
Scale Length: 25.4 Inches
Features: Hard Case, Adjustable Truss Rod, Herringbone binding, open gear tuners

Pros

  • Great Tone
  • Forward shifted x-bracing
  • 5/16" scalloped bracing
  • Hard Case
  • Solid wood top back and sides construction: Spruce top, East Indian rosewood back and sides, Classic herring bone binding

Cons

  • Cost may be prohibative to some
  • Electronics need to be added if you require electronics

A better version of the Martin D-28.

We tested the Martin D-28 and H28 for many hours and we consistently came back to the HD28 model.  I has tremendous tone and responded well to flat picking, strumming and finger picking.   It should be noted the Martin D-28 model did excel when played with a strong attack to the strings.

This model was revamped in 2017 giving it a nice refined look with the open gear tuners, diamonds and squares inlay, and tortoise pick guard.   I personally own the older version which is still awesome, but it doesn't have the vintage look of the new model.  

The HD28 doesn't have electronics which can be a pro if you believe electronics interfere with the tone or a con if you really need electronics.   Fortunately there is an HD28E model if you want to have the factory version installed.

This guitar is our pick for the best Martin guitar and we stand by it.   Unless you end up wanting something with a little more bling,  this will likely be the last guitar you ever buy.


2. Standard Series D-18 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Natural

User Rating

95%

Product Details

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce top

Back/Sides: Solid Mahogany

Fretboard: Ebony

Scale Length: 25.4" 

Features: Hard Case, Adjustable Truss Rod, open gear tuners

Pros

  • Great Sounding guitar
  • Open Gear tuners
  • Forward Shifted X-bracing
  • modified low oval Neck Shape
  • solid wood top back and sides
  • Scalloped 5/16" Bracing
  • Hard Shell Case

Cons

  • Cost may be more than some can spend
  • No Electronics

Great guitar, Great Price.

Yamaha continues to make great instruments. The FGX830C is no exception. Yamaha has developed scalloped bracing to improve overall sound. Note where the bracing is scooped out to make the top more responsive:

The cutaway design in the Yamaha acoustic guitar allow allows for easy access to frets above the 12th fret, this is a great feature for intermediate players that have moved past just the open chords.

The System 66 feature provided the ability to adjust the tone on 3 bands. The SRT piezo pickup does a nice job of capturing the tone from under the saddle. And yes the equalizer had a tuner feature.

We loved the tone of this guitar, it felt a little heavier and bulkier than the Guild D-240E we reviewed.  And we had to take a few points off for not coming with a gig bag. Despite these short comings this is still our 2nd best choice giving the quality of the Yamaha builds.

It should be noted, if you have a hard requirement of having a cut away guitar we would make this our top budget guitar pick.


3. Martin D-13E Road Series - Natural

User Rating

90%

Product Details

Top: Solid Sikta Spruce
Back/Sides:
Solid Siris
Fretboard:
FSC Certified Richlite
Scale Length:
25.4 Inches
Features: 
Fishman MX-T, Premium softshell case, Open gear tuners

Pros

  • Corian Nut
  • Traditional Dreadnought shape
  • Fishman MX-T  electronics
  • Vintage looking open gear tuners
  • Premium soft shell case
  • scalloped 5/16" bracing and 1/4" tone bars

Cons

  • Tone not quite as rich as the HD28/D18

The Road Series provides an all wood guitar with the traditional body size and shape but at a much more affordable price. This guitar also is built with Sustainable Wood components. If your looking for a high-quality guitar at an affordable price, look no further than the new D-13E acoustic guitar.

As with all our top picks for Martin this is a Dreadnought shape.  If you prefer a more rounded body shape or a cutaway design, Martin also makes this model in a Grand Performance, 000, and cutaway dreadnought shape.

In addition to the Fishman pickup system,  this guitar comes with a sound hole tuner which is a convenient feature.

This guitar was one of the surprise guitars we tested I has a lower price tag but still plays like an expensive guitar. If your looking for a lower priced eco friendly guitar this is an excellent choice.


4. Martin D-16E Rosewood Acoustic-Electric Guitar - Natural

User Rating

90%

Product Details

Top: Solid Spruce Top
Back/Sides:
Matte finished East Indian Rosewood
Fretboard:
Ebony Finger board
Scale Length:
25.4 Inches
Features: 
Fishman Matrix VT Enhance, Softshell case

Pros

  • Traditional Dreadnought shape
  • On-board electronics
  • Smooth Ebony Fingerboard
  • Herringbone Rosette
  • Scalloped 5/16" bracing
  • Forward shifted X-bracing
  • Similar to HD28 & D28 but lower cost

Cons

  • Would be better to have hard shell case.

The Martin D-16E Rosewood acoustic guitar has many of the features of its D 28 sibling but at a slightly lower cost.

Need to plug in?  No worries it has a Fishman low-profile pickup and pre-amp that works fine in a gig situation.  In our test we found the pickups did a good job of picking up the tone of the guitar.  Features of the built-in pickup system: 


  • Acoustic Matrix under-saddle pick-up
  • Acoustic Imaging with one Image built into an internal active pre-amp.
  • Sound hole-mounted controls: Volume, tone, Enhance Blend controls 
  • Battery box integrated into end pin jack for easy access.

Key differences between a D16E and the HD28 (besides the obvious omission of electronics)

D16E

HD28

Bone Nut, Tusq Saddle

Bone Nut and Saddle

Herringbone Rosette

Herringbone Binding

Soft Shell Case

Hard shell Case

Simple Dove Tail Neck Joint

Traditional Dove Tail Neck Joint

Satin finish on back and sides

Gloss Finish on Back and Sides

Even though this model is number 4 on our list we would highly recommend it as an alternative to any of the x-28 models as it carries most of the features for a lower entry cost.  However if you have the extra money we can't recommend this model over the HD28.


5. Martin D-X2E Burst Sitka/Macassar HPL w/Fishman MX & Gig Bag 

User Rating

87%

Product Details

Top: Solid Spruce
Back/Sides: HPL
Fretboard: Katalox
Scale Length: 25.4 Inches
Features: padded Gig bag, X bracing with 1/4" tone bars.

Pros

  • Solid Spruce Top
  • popular x-bracing for a responsive guitar top
  • Eco Friendly design
  • Perfect for Rock, Folk, Country, and Bluegrass Music
  • Padded Gig bag
  • On board Electronics
  • Good entry level pricing for Martin Quality

Cons

  • Materials are new, need to see what the long term affect is and if the sound will improve as much as an all wood guitar does.

This is a great entry level guitar and has all of the Martin quality built in it. It just extends the use of the HPL (High-Pressure Laminate) or Stratabond material to the back and sides.

Martin in addition to deviating from their usual all wood design is also deviating from their dovetail neck joint on these models. The advantage of using the Mortise and Tenon joint is that should the neck need to be reset it is a little bit simpler than the traditional Dovetail joint.

At this price the tone of this guitar won’t hold up in tone to the standard series, however, it does have quality components and setup make it an easy guitar to keep in tune and you don’t have to be worried about accuracy in the upper registers.


We really liked this guitar as an entry level.  The HPL material is very durable and less susceptible to climate changes making this a durable and resilient guitar for your first guitar or just to add to your collection.


Conclusion


Martin has so many guitars to choose from it was difficult to narrow it down to just 5.


In our opinion you can't go wrong with any of the martin guitars on this list.  And if you have specialty needs there are other guitars Martin makes that may be just what you are looking for.


The HD-28 is our choice as the best Martin acoustic guitar.  This guitar encompasses everything you would expect in a great sounding acoustic guitar.  


A close second was the Martin D18, if you prefer the warmer sound of Mahogany.   Essentially they are both the same guitar with different woods used on the back and sides. 


For more information on choosing a Martin guitar continue reading our guide that follows. 



What Should You Look For in a Martin Guitar?


Shape/Size

Martin invented the Dreadnought shape and it shows in how balanced the Martin guitars sound.   For our picks we chose the Dreadnought shape because it is what Martin is know for and we preferred the sound and shape.

There are those that prefer the rounded shape of the performance series and the 000 models.   You can easily covert  the dreadnought shape to the other shapes if those are more to your taste.   

For example: 

  • If you prefer the 000 shape where we chose the HD28 model you could substitute for a 000-28
  • If you prefer the performance shape where we chose the HD 28 model you could substitute GPC-28E

Wood Selection

There are a variety of woods used in Martin guitars, but for the most part they stick with Mahogany or Rosewood for the back and sides on their traditional models.

They have introduced the HPL material now which is better for the environment, less susceptible to climate/temperature changes, and offers some promising tone.   They have also introduced the Siris wood as a new alternative,  and of source they have all the usual layered or laminate woods that can be used as well.

Bracing/Nut/Saddle

Martins for the most part use 5/16" bracing.   So the question becomes do you want your bracing scalloped or not scalloped.   A specific example of this would be the D28 vs HD28,  even though some of the appointments are different,  the primary and distinguishing difference is whether the bracing is scalloped (HD28) or not scalloped (D28).


One of the exceptions to the 5/16" bracking is the D35 model which has 1/4" bracing,  and some of the newer bracing patterns on the road series and x series.  They both use 1/4" tone bars in addition to the 5/16" bracing.  This provides a more responsive guitar top.  


For the Models we've recommended the Nut will with be bone or Corian and the Saddle will be either bone or Tusq.


Cost

Martin like most premium guitars come at a cost.  The use of the new environment friendly materials are helping lower the cost, but to get that rich solid would tone that is so popular and has made Martin famous, you will be spending a minimum of 2000-3000 dollars for your guitar if you're getting a new Martin.   


But if your willing to go with some of the X series guitars you can get that under $1000 and still have the build quality of a Martin guitar that will last.  In the last round of tests we found the X series guitars to have been greatly improved.


Extra Features

As stated in other articles on our site, the two extras you’ll mostly consider are electronics and cutaway.

Martin's top of the line models typically don't have electronics but you can have them added in the aftermarket or order the variation of the model that comes with electronics.   While its not stated anywhere our belief is Martin try's to honor the tradition of the instruments tone by not putting electronics in their standard models to avoid compromising the tone.  

As for cutaway design, we aren't big fans of how the Martin cutaway looks on the traditional Dreadnought shape,  If  you wanted a cutaway design with a Martin we would likely steer you to the performance series.

With competitors like Taylor making electronics almost and expectation,  our prediction is that the Electronic models of Martin will continue to grow in popularity.

That’s it, hopefully you have a better understanding of what Martin Guitars has to offer.

Recap for Martin Acoustic Guitars 

Still undecided? Check out our favorite models from other manufacturers on our Top Picks page.

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