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Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Author: DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 23 years. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist.

A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


If you’re reading this, you’re most likely considering a Martin guitar. At least, I hope you are! They make some of the best instruments on the planet and have been doing so since 1833.

That’s a long time!

They have worked hard over the years to build their reputation by making instruments that are not only built well, but also sound amazing. They have become the standard by which other acoustic guitars are measured. After all, they invented the dreadnought body style (along with many others) which has become the most popular acoustic guitar body size in the world. Many try to copy it, but they never duplicate it. 

That alone should be enough to answer the question of whether or not Martin guitars are any good… However, let’s take a deeper look and find out why they are good as well as their weaknesses. In the end, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision – whatever that might be.

Check our other Martin guitar guides:

Best Martin Guitars

Best Martin Guitars Under $1000

How to Choose The Right Martin Guitar

Where Are Martin Guitars Made?

Are Martin Guitars Good For Beginners?

Which is for you? Martin D18 vs D28.

Are Martin Guitars Good instruments?

Displays Martin guitars

The short answer is yes, they are very good guitars. After all, you don’t make guitars for 190 years without learning a thing or two. 

However, there are many different shapes and styles of Martin guitars. Each shape can be best used for certain styles of playing. For example,

  • a dreadnought is usually best for flatpicking where lots of volume in needed,
  • and a 000-sized guitar is best for fingerstyle playing. 

That means that there is a lot to consider when choosing your next Martin guitar. It’s not as easy as simply picking out a guitar that you “think” you will like just because it’s a Martin. It’s sort of the equivalent of trying to use a brand-new Corvette to go off-roading: It’s a nice car, but that’s not what it is built to do. 

With that said, let’s look a little further to answer that question a little better…and no, Martin guitars are not perfect(more about this soon).

My Personal Experience With Martins

Some might hate me for this, but I got started with Martin guitars at an early age. The first Martin that I ever played was a 1946 Martin D-28. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and it belonged to a local musician who was helping me learn some bluegrass songs. He had played for many years in well-known bluegrass bands and it was his first Martin. 

Obviously, I didn’t realize that the old, beat-up Martin that I was playing was literally worth thousands of dollars (many of this era sell for $20,000 – $50,000 on the market today). What I did realize was that this was the most amazing acoustic that I had ever played – and since I hadn’t played very many high-end acoustic guitars at the time, it literally was the best I had ever played. 

Actually, I have yet to play a guitar that even approaches that quality and price range. 

I spent the next several years of my life trying to find something that came close. I even managed to acquire a 1995 D-18 and a 1999 D-28 eventually. These became the standard that I went by when looking at new acoustic guitars. I had became addicted to Martin guitars in their purest form, and I can honestly say that I am still addicted. 

While I found other guitars to fit my needs, Martin guitars are still some of the first ones that I play when I go into a music store. 


What’s Good About Martin Guitars?

  • Handmade in the USA
  • Made from high-quality materials
  • All solid wood construction on many models
  • Close attention to detail results in a better instrument
  • Wide variety of body sizes for different playing styles
  • High-quality electronics on many models
  • Many models are collectable
  • Built to last for generations

Martin uses high-quality materials to construct their guitars. Most of the high-end Martin guitars, such as the D-28, are constructed of all solid tonewoods. These tonewoods include: 

Mahogany

displays mahogany wood and reveals how it can affect the sound of electric guitar

Warm, well-rounded tone. It can make a guitar heavier though because of its density. Mainly used for backs and sides, but some guitars have mahogany tops. Necks are also made from mahogany.

Rosewood

Displays a rosewood tonewood

Perhaps the most popular tonewood for acoustics. It has a warm, well-balanced tone. It is lighter in weight than mahogany and tends to resonate more freely. Mainly used for backs and sides.

Sapele

Displays a sapele tonewood

This wood is used in place of mahogany. It is a tough wood that is incredibly durable. The tone is very similar to mahogany with a bit more pronounced treble. It also tends to be more focused than mahogany since it is denser, therefore it does not resonate as freely. Mainly used for backs, sides, and necks.

Koa

displays koa wood and reveals how it can affect the sound of electric guitar

This tropical tonewood fits in between the crisp sound of rosewood and the warm sound of mahogany. It is typically used for backs and sides, but a few Koa-topped models are out there.

Maple

displays maple wood and reveals how it can affect the sound of electric guitar

This tonewood is very bright and crisp. It has a very clear tone without a lot of sustain or overtones due to its density. While it can be used as a stunning top, it is more commonly used for backs, sides, and necks.

Sitka spruce

Displays a spruce tonewood

This is used almost exclusively for guitar tops. It is a softer tonewood with a lot of volume and presence. It also has a very well-balanced tone that pairs well with the tonal bandwidth of a guitar. You can’t go wrong with a Sitka spruce top!

Cedar

Displays a cedar tonewood

Cedar is softer than Sitka spruce and therefore resonates more freely. While the sound is not as focused, it is warm and vibrant. This is a good choice for fingerstyle guitar players since it doesn’t take much force to make this wood sound great. It is used as a wood for guitar tops.

Sycamore

Displays Sycamore wood

Sycamore is a softer tonewood and therefore has a very mid-ranged focus. It has a mellow treble and bass response. 

Martin expertly hand-builds each guitar.

While they use machinery, such as laser cutters, to make the parts of the guitar (neck, top, back, sides, etc.), the pieces are assembled by hand. There is more attention to detail using this method, and the results are amazing.

Martin guitars play and sound incredible. They have just the right amount of relief in the neck to make the action quick without losing any tonal integrity. In other words, they don’t buzz nearly as much when played hard (for most larger-bodied models). 

Their tone is very well balanced with a concentration on the midrange. They cut through a mix with plenty of volume without sounding harsh. This is what has made Martin guitars the choice of flatpickers everywhere. 

What’s Not-so-Good About Martin Guitars?

Alas, not all can be perfect in this world. Even the best guitars have their flaws, and Martin is certainly no different. 

Many argue that Martin’s quality began to decline as early as the 1970s. Some still feel that the Martin quality is not back up to what it was before WWII, but this is highly subjective. 

A lot of players do not like the fact that Martin decided to use synthetic materials. In a way, they are correct. If you play a Martin made of carbon fiber or HPL, you can certainly tell a difference. They are like completely different guitars. Some of them feel very cheap and lack the tone of an all-solid wood guitar. 

The vast majority of synthetic Martins are priced to be budget players so we can’t knock them for trying to reach a new demographic. However, this has come at the expense of their name being synonymous with quality. 

They can also be misleading in the fact that some of the budget-priced guitars have parts that were originally manufactured in Mexico and then shipped to their USA factory to be assembled. The quality of the mass-produced parts is not the best because they are made from cheap materials to keep overall costs low. 

Playability and tone suffer greatly on these synthetic guitars and they feel like they were made by an entirely different brand. For this reason, we recommend that players save up and get an all-solid wood Martin. 

Larger-bodied Martin guitars take a lot of force to play correctly. In other words, you need to play a lot harder to get them to sound good. This is because it takes more force to make the larger bodies resonate. Some players do not like this about larger Martin models. Luckily, smaller-bodied models are much easier to play. 

Features of Martin Guitars

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of Martin guitars to see what they offer. First, let’s check out the D-28. 

Martin D-28

displays Martin D-28
Martin D28

The Martin D-28 is the standard by which all other bluegrass guitars are measured. It is made with a solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides, and a mahogany neck. The tone is very warm, balanced, and loud. It projects wonderfully and cuts through a thick mix like no other. 

The D-28 can also be found with Fishman electronics which allow players to plug in and really crank up the volume. High-quality tuners and a bone nut and saddle are also standard. Every nuance of the Martin D-28 screams “quality”. 

Lear more about Martin D28 here.

Martin 000-16

displays Martin 000-16 StreetMaster
Martin 000-16 StreetMaster

Another example of a great Martin guitar is the Martin 000-16. The Martin 000-16 is a smaller-bodied Martin made out of solid mahogany. The top, back, sides, and neck are all mahogany, in fact. This gives the guitar a warm bass response that is still mid-focused.

The smaller body lends itself to fingerstyle playing more than flatpicking (although a flatpick sounds great too). The sound is more responsive than a dreadnought because of the reduced size. It is more articulate and can be played with a little less force than a D-28. 

The Martin 000-16 can also be found with a Fishman electronics system as well. High-quality tuners and a bone nut and saddle can be found on it as well. 

If you are deadset on getting an all-solid-wood Martin, it is important to look at the materials for each guitar since Martin does offer models that are made from synthetic materials. These guitars are typically priced much lower than the all solid-wood models. 

Martin DJR-10

displays Martin DJR-10
Martin DJR-10

We saved The Martin Guitar for budget and beginner players the last…Enter: Martin DJR-10.

It costs just under $500, the body is built from all-solid wood, it has a full sound, a tad smaller size, and easy playability. It does feature a Richlite fingerboard and bridge might seem a little too plastic for some players. Also, it’s made in Mexico, not in the US. But still, it’s a smooth-playing Martin guitar that offers solid quality and good tones.

Learn more about Martin DJR-10 here.


FAQs

Why Are Martin Guitars So Expensive?

Martin guitars are expensive because they are handmade in America from high-quality tonewoods. While there are some budget-priced Martins made from synthetic materials, the guitars that made Martin famous are all solid wood.

The guitars are made by hand which means that people instead of machines are used to assemble the guitars. This allows for more attention to detail resulting in a better-sounding instrument. 

Are Martin Guitars Overpriced?

For higher-priced Martins, they are certainly not overpriced. The quality and construction are second to none, and they are handmade. It can be argued, however, that lower-end Martins are a bit overpriced. These guitars are made from cheaper materials which has a serious effect on the tone.

These guitars are not bad guitars, but they certainly don’t come close to the higher-end Martins when it comes to tone and playability. 

Does Ed Sheeran Use Martin Guitars?

Yes, Ed Sheeran uses a Martin LX1. He even has his own signature model, the Martin LX1e Ed Sheeran Model.

Are Martins Good for Fingerpicking?

Smaller-bodied Martin guitars, such as the 00 and 000 models, are excellent for fingerpicking. They are very articulate and project well when played with the fingers. If you don’t believe me, just ask Eric Clapton

Find our picks for the best acoustic fingerstyle guitars here.

Are Martin Guitars Good for Beginners?

If budget is not a concern, Martins can be good guitars for beginners. Typically, it is better to start with a cheaper guitar before you invest a lot in a Martin. The price is really the only thing that can be a deterrent for beginners. We have a full article about beginners and Martin guitars here.


Conclusion

Martin makes some of the world’s best guitars. If they didn’t, then they would not have been around so long and still have the following that they do today. The models that they have created have defined what a guitar should be in terms of looks, sound, and build quality. 

While many seasoned players may make fun of new budget-priced Martins, they must realize that Martin has still stuck to their roots with their most classic designs and continue to offer them to the masses. The fact that they are producing budget-friendly models is a blessing; it allows them to reach an entirely new generation of Martin owners. 

Don’t let someone tell you that Martin guitars are not worth the price. Your Martin guitar will be a valuable addition to the collection and may even become a cherished heirloom for years to come. 

DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 25 years and teaching guitar since High-School. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist. A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia. Expertise: teaching guitars, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, guide pedals, flatpicking, bluegrass, metal, rock, and blues.
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John Bernard Offutt III

Hello, the Martin 000-16 Streetmaster guitar. Top is made of VTS Adirondack Spruce, sides and back made of Indian Rosewood. Hand made in Nazareth, PA. I bought one and love the timbre colours, sustain and flavors of each note. Adirondack Spruce VTS treatment on top makes the guitar sound like it’s been played for over 80 years.

So cool that you have experience with the 000-16 Streetmaster! It’s an absolutely exceptional piece of equipment. Really love the fact that they fake aged it.

Thomas

My first acoustic guitar is Martin D10E after playing for 4 years nylon and electric guitars it was enough to make me hate all acoustic guitars. 🙂
Martin Road series I hate this guitar so much. I am selling it now