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Last Updated on June 11, 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…).

We can proudly say that Darren Shepherd has played every guitar featured in this article. These Martin acoustic guitars are here based on extensive research and decades of combined guitar experience of Darren and Teemu.

To ensure the highest quality content possible and to protect guitar players from misinformation we let experienced guitar players to fact-check our articles. This article is fact-checked by an experienced session guitarist and guitar content creator Altin Gjoni. Altin runs his own music business The Working Guitarist. He has also produced content for many big guitar websites such as Guitarspace.org and Cort Guitars.


Best Overall – Martin HD-28

Reviewer: DL Shepherd

Sound
Playability
Overall Quality
Value For Money

Summary

If you’re wanting the king of acoustic guitars and will settle for nothing less, then look no further than the Martin HD-28.

Pros:
-Incredibly balanced tone and volume
-Bone nut and saddle transfer the sound more effectively than other materials
-Cuts through a mix when played with a group
-Classic design and visual appointments give it a stunning look that will look better with age
-True Martin sound

Cons:
-Price is a bit steep for most beginners/intermediate players

This is the guitar that many acoustic players work hard to own. If you are serious don’t sell yourself short and grab the real thing.

5

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    The Who

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    Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster

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    Gibson Les Paul

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The Next Best:

Best Budget – Martin D-X2E

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • Tough HPL back and sides can take abuse without breaking
  • Loud, punchy tone with plenty of balance
  • Tapered neck is very easy to play
  • Onboard electronics provide versatility
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Lacks sustain
  • TUSQ saddle and nut really choke the tone
  • Lacks onboard tuner

The Martin D-X2E comes out on top of other Martins in this price range because of the price-to-performance ratio. It is just as suitable for a seasoned pro as it is for a beginner. 

Best for Working Guitarists – Martin D-12E Road Series

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • All solid-wood construction for amazing unplugged tone
  • Richlite fingerboard and bridge for added durability
  • Easy playing, High-Performance tapered neck feels very comfortable
  • Inclusion of an onboard tuner makes it easy to tune up mid-set

Cons:

  • May be out of the price range of beginners
  • Upgrade the Corian nut and Tusq saddle to bone – you’ll thank me later

Make no mistake about it: the Martin D-12E is ready for the rigors of the road.

Best for Playing the Blues – Martin 000-10E

image displays Martin 000-10E

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • All solid-wood construction for durability and tone
  • Smaller body size is easier to handle than a dreadnought
  • Fishman MX-T electronics make it easy to plug in and tune up
  • Very comfortable to play sitting down
  • A lot of pro features for the money

Cons: 

  • Not as loud as a dreadnought when played acoustically with others
  • A bone nut and saddle would be nice

If you’re looking to get down and dirty with some fingerstyle blues, this is the Martin I would choose.

Best for Electric Players – Martin SC-13E

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • Neck is smooth and effortless to play
  • Cutaway and heelless design allow unlimited access to the upper frets
  • Fishman MX-T electronics make it extremely versatile
  • Koa veneer and visual appointments set it apart from traditional acoustics

Cons:

  • Not loud unless it is plugged in
  • Neck design takes a while to get used to if you’re already an acoustic player

If you’re in the market for an acoustic-electric that really caters to your electric tastes, the Martin SC-13E should be at the very top of your list.

Compare Key Specs of The Top 5:

this graphic compares the specs of 5 best martin guitars

Compare The Tonewoods:

Graphic compares acoustic guitar tonewoods

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce

Back & Sides: Solid East Indian Rosewood

Neck: Select Hardwood

Fretboard: Ebony

The fretboard and neck don’t affect the tone much.

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce

Back & Sides: High-pressure Laminate

Neck: Select Hardwood

Fretboard: Select Hardwood

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce

Back & Sides: Solid Sapele

Neck: Select Hardwood

Fretboard: Richlite

Top: Solid Sapele

Back & Sides: Solid Sapele

Neck: Select Hardwood

Fretboard: Richlite

Top: Sitka Spruce

Back & Sides: Koa veneer

Neck: Select Hardwood

Fretboard: Ebony

For more cool info about tonewoods, check this acoustic guitar tonewoods article.


You are considering your first (or 10th) Martin guitar…right? If you are, then you need to keep reading.

You’re in the right place because we have spent hours of exhaustive research to bring you the 5 best Martin acoustic guitars that are available today. In fact, it has taken me so long to come up with this list that my boss thought I was dead for quite some time (sorry, Teemu). 

But I have a job, and part of my job is making sure you get the most accurate information out there. Yes, it is hard to play guitars for a living, but someone has to do it. 

Here are our top picks for the best Martins!

For more budget friendly Martins, check this article.


Top 5 Martins

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Buying A Martin

Know what you can afford and then buy the best guitar you can afford.

I learned this rule of thumb from The Guitar Handbook written by Ralph Denyer.

What kind of sound are you after?

  • Warm and full?
  • Bright and clear?
  • Soft and balanced?

Know what you are after and you are on your way to choosing the right guitar for you!

Learn more about acoustic guitar tonewoods here.

Choose a guitar that enables you to play the music you love.

C.F. Martin & Co. (founded in 1833) is responsible for introducing the dreadnought body style to the guitar world and has single-handedly defined what an acoustic guitar should sound like.


Best Overall Martin – Martin HD-28

Specs

Body StyleDreadnought
TopSolid Sitka Spruce
Back & SidesSolid East Indian Rosewood
NeckSelect Hardwood
Neck ShapeModified Low Oval, High Performance Taper
Fretboard20 frets, Ebony
Nut MaterialBone
Nut Width1.75″
ElectronicsNo
SaddleCompensated, Bone
Scale-Length25.4″

Check our full acoustic guitar pickup guide here.

If you’re wanting the king of acoustic guitars and will settle for nothing less, then look no further than the Martin HD-28. It is the same design as the famous D-28 Martins played by countless musicians for decades. It’s the best Martin acoustic guitar to me.

The Martin HD-28 gives players the real Martin experience. The unbeatable combination of a solid Sitka spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides provide an authentic Martin tone that is often mimicked but never duplicated. 

Balanced, loud, yet well-behaved, the Martin HD-28 is a hearty nod to the classic Martin guitars of years past. 

All of the familiar visual features are there:

all come together for a straightforward guitar that defined how an acoustic guitar should sound. 

This is the guitar that many acoustic players work hard to own. Don’t sell yourself short and grab the real thing. 

Which is for you? Martin D18 vs D28

I chose this to be #1, because it gives you the whole package. Balanced tone, premium Martin quality, and comfortbale playability.

Pros:

  • Incredibly balanced tone and volume
  • Bone nut and saddle transfer the sound more effectively than other materials
  • Cuts through a mix when played with a group
  • Classic design and visual appointments give it a stunning look that will look better with age
  • True Martin sound

Cons:

  • Price is a bit steep for most beginners/intermediate players

Find more great acoustic guitars for intermediate players here.

What others are saying:

I waited 30 years to buy a Martin which was 31 years too long. Everything about this guitar is a credit to Martin’s craftsmen. I find myself playing every day. The tone, the ease of play, the projection combine to draw you to the instrument. Before you realize it, an hour has passed. An hour absent the troubles of the world. – Mark from WA


Best Budget – Martin D-X2E

Specs

Body StyleDreadnought
TopSolid Sitka Spruce
Back & SidesHigh-pressure Laminate
NeckSelect Hardwood
Neck ShapePerforming Artist
Fretboard20 frets, Select Hardwood
NutWhite Corian
Nut Width1.75″
ElectronicsFishman MX
SaddleCompensated, White Tusq
Scale-Length25.4″

The Martin D-X2E is a great choice for budget-minded guitarists who want that classic Martin tone without dropping a ton of money. 

Make no mistake about it, the Martin D-X2E is a real Martin. Long gone are the days when all players were limited to high-priced Martins. The Martin D-X2E definitely proves itself beside the likes of some of Martin’s most iconic models.

Let’s look at the construction. Players get a solid Sitka spruce top with HPL (High-Pressure Laminate) back and sides. This makes the guitar much stronger when it comes to construction without sacrificing tone and playability. 

Read our laminate vs solid wood acoustic guide here.

The Martin D-X2E may not have the sustain that all solid-wood Martins have, but it definitely has that familiar dreadnought volume. It is clear, cutting, and well-balanced. 

Throw in a select hardwood neck/fingerboard combination with Martin’s High-Performance taper, and you have a guitar that sings with a voice that only a true Martin can do. The Martin D-X2E also sports the Fishman MX electronics system so players can plug in and turn it up!

The Martin D-X2E comes out on top of other Martins in this price range because of the price-to-performance ratio. It is just as suitable for a seasoned pro as it is for a beginner. Martin D-X2E is a great affordable acoustic guitar and a great guitar for the money.

For more under $1000 Martins, check this article.

Pros:

  • Tough HPL back and sides can take abuse without breaking
  • Loud, punchy tone with plenty of balance
  • Tapered neck is very easy to play
  • Onboard electronics provide versatility
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Lacks sustain
  • TUSQ saddle and nut really choke the tone
  • Lacks onboard tuner
What others are saying:

This is the guitar I’ll be rolling with probably for the rest of my life. Love the color in this Natural (mahogany finish) D-X2E, and the rounded-edge, square Martin headstock has always been so pleasing in my eyes. The pick guard and spruce top are just beautiful, too. Since I had an all mahogany Guild D-240E prior, I was curious to see how I felt about the HPL sides and back. It has a nice texture and also feels very durable. Doesn’t seem like a noticeable sacrifice in any way, and if it makes the guitar a little more affordable, that’s a win-win imo. Most importantly this guitar sounds fantastic, especially with some Martin Monel strings. So stoked to have this one. – Eric from Indianapolis


Best for Working Guitarists – Martin D-12E Road Series

Specs

Body StyleDreadnought
TopSolid Sitka Spruce
Back & SidesSolid Sapele
NeckSelect Hardwood
Neck ShapePerforming Artists
Fretboard20 frets, Richlite
NutWhite Corian
Nut Width1.75″
ElectronicsFishman MX-T
SaddleCompensated, White Tusq
Scale-Length25.4″

Martin has always made instruments that hard-working touring musicians could rely on no matter what. That spirit is alive and well in Martin’s Road Series. 

The D-12E gives working musicians what they want and need without breaking the bank. If you like to play gigs, then this is the Martin for you. 

Players get an all-solid-wood Martin in all its glory. A solid Sitka spruce top is mated with solid Sapele back and sides for a big, loud, beefy tone with plenty of sustain. The Richlite bridge and fingerboard are the only parts of the D-12E that are not solid wood. 

That’s pretty snazzy – especially since this guitar is so affordable compared to other solid-wood Martins. 

One major thing that really brings this guitar together is the Fishman MX-T electronics. It’s the same system used in the D-X2E, but it incorporates a soundhole tuner that mutes the electronic signal so your audience doesn’t have to hear you tune up in mid-set. 

That is a pro feature for sure. 

The added visual adornments make it look like a much higher-end Martin. Make no mistake about it: the Martin D-12E is ready for the rigors of the road. 

Pros:

  • All solid-wood construction for amazing unplugged tone
  • Richlite fingerboard and bridge for added durability
  • Easy playing, High-Performance tapered neck feels very comfortable
  • Inclusion of an onboard tuner makes it easy to tune up mid-set

Cons:

  • May be out of the price range of beginners
  • Upgrade the Corian nut and Tusq saddle to bone – you’ll thank me later
What others are saying:

Well.. this guitar is worth every penny and then some. For an “entry level” Martin…it definitely doesn’t sound or feel like entry level. Right out of the box it was ready to gig. The quality of the fit and finish is top notch and the richlite fretboard feels way better than I was expecting. I’m 100% satisfied and recommended this guitar to anyone looking for a more affordable high end instrument. – Jim from Massachusetts


Best for Playing the Blues – Martin 000-10E

image displays Martin 000-10E

You can find more great acoustic guitars for blues here.

Specs

Body StyleAuditorium
TopSolid Sapele
Back & SidesSolid Sapele
NeckSelect Hardwood
Neck ShapeHigh-performance Taper
Fretboard20 frets, Richlite
NutWhite Corian
Nut Width1.75″
ElectronicsFishman MX-T
SaddleCompensated, White Tusq
Scale-Length24.9″

If you’re looking to get down and dirty with some fingerstyle blues, or you’re looking for a guitar that is smaller than the familiar dreadnought body shape, then the Martin 000-10E is the guitar you need.

The 000-size body (also referred to as an “auditorium” size) is lighter, thinner, and sits more comfortably in your lap than a big dreadnaught.

If you’re familiar with Eric Clapton and his 1939 Martin 000-42 or his 1966 Martin 000-28, then you’re already familiar with what these guitars can do. 

If you aren’t, you really need to watch his groundbreaking MTV Unplugged performance. It will change your life. 

The Martin 000-10E shares the same body style as Clapton’s models, but features an all-solid-wood Sapele body. A hardwood neck and Richlite fingerboard and bridge put it right up there with the D-12E as far as construction is concerned.

As for the tone, you’re going to get a darker, warmer sound with punchy bass – perfect for blues licks and fingerpicking. This is about as close to a mahogany body as you can get.

Throw in the Fishman MX-T electronics with a soundhole tuner and you’re ready to lay down those blues scales and chord progressions anywhere you want. 

Martin 000-10E is a great guitar for Bob Dylan style blues.

Pros:

  • All solid-wood construction for durability and tone
  • Smaller body size is easier to handle than a dreadnought
  • Fishman MX-T electronics make it easy to plug in and tune up
  • Very comfortable to play sitting down
  • A lot of pro features for the money

Cons: 

  • Not as loud as a dreadnought when played acoustically with others
  • A bone nut and saddle would be nice
What others are saying:

So for weeks I was searching for a new acoustic sub-$1500 for acoustic gigs with a reliable sound and playability. I took the change on the 000-10e without playing it in person and was very glad I did. Immediately out the box the guitar was playing perfectly. The guitar subtly responds to any attack on the strings, from loud picking, to finger picking. The sound is unique but familiar (if that makes sense). We all have this sound in our head of what we want our acoustic to sound like, even if we do not know how to explain it. And Martin knocked this out of the park for the price! The built in tuner is super helpful and pickups sound great going right into the mixer/PA. Extremely happy with my purchase! – Fritz from US


Best for Electric Players – Martin SC-13E

Specs

Body StyleCutaway
TopSolid Sitka Spruce
Back & SidesKoa veneer
NeckSelect Hardwood
Neck ShapeLow Profile Velocity
Fretboard20 frets, Ebony
NutWhite Corian
Nut Width1.75″
ElectronicsFishman MX-T
SaddleCompensated, White Tusq
Scale-Length25.4″

Electric players are often forgotten about in the acoustic guitar world. The SC-13E offers electric players the experience of a real Martin without worrying about the playability limitations of conventional body shapes. 

The SC-13E looks modern, and it is when it comes to the unique design. The S-style body is shaped specifically for those who like to use the higher frets. The cutaway and a heelless design allow unlimited access to those sweet high notes. 

All of that playability is useless without a sound construction. The Martin SC-12E sports a solid Sitka spruce top paired with a Koa veneer body that not only looks gorgeous but provides plenty of tonal balance and sustain as well. 

Check our picks for the best acoustic guitar brands here.

The neck is different than most Martins. Martin refers to it as their Low Profile Velocity design, and that’s a very accurate statement. Electric players will appreciate the low action and smooth feel as they explore the upper frets. 

The Fishman MX-T electronics make it a real winner by providing unparalleled plugged-in tone with a soundhole-mounted tuner. The versatility of the SC-13E is boundless, allowing players to light up a stage with its exotic looks and tone, record crisp passages in the studio, or just jam with friends. 

If you’re in the market for an acoustic-electric that really caters to your electric tastes, the Martin SC-13E should be at the very top of your list.

Pros:

  • Neck is smooth and effortless to play
  • Cutaway and heelless design allow unlimited access to the upper frets
  • Fishman MX-T electronics make it extremely versatile
  • Koa veneer and visual appointments set it apart from traditional acoustics
  • Acoustic electric guitar with Martin quality, sound, and feel

Cons:

  • Not loud unless it is plugged in
  • Neck design takes a while to get used to if you’re already an acoustic player
What others are saying:

Got my Martin SC-13E about a month ago and I love it. The tone is incredible as is the volume. Which is surprising for a smaller body guitar. And the smaller body fits me well. But the real story is the neck. Such a pleasure to play. It is advertised as an acoustic guitar for electric guitar players and it lives up to the hype. It did have a slight string buzz on the high E string in the higher register so I had it set up. The cost was minimal and well worth it to make it perfect. I LOVE THIS GUITAR and now my luthier loves it too. Well worth the money. – Norm from Nevada


Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5


How We Chose These Martin Acoustic Guitars

  1. We decided which guitars to recommend by using our own experience, doing extensive research, visiting music stores, and asking help from our musician friends
  2. After we had chosen the products to recommend we looked for a good way to test the gear. This could mean renting it, buying it, testing it in a music store, or visiting a friend who owns it. This time, our main testing method was playing these Taylor guitars in music stores.
  3. Even after this, we’ll still do another round of extensive research to make sure that this specific product is in fact, a real cream-of-the-crop candidate.
  4. Then we wrote this in-depth but easily digestible review about these top-notch Martins. We kept in mind who will be playing them (most likely) such as bluegrass players, blues players, players who want to plug in, beginners, advanced players, etc. 

Most acoustic guitars we recommend are run through tests like these:

  • We go carefully through the finish and build quality of the guitar.
  • We inspect the fretwork and edges of the fretboard to make sure there are no sharp edges.
  • We play the acoustic guitar unplugged and plugged in.
  • We use different playing techniques, such as fingerpicking, flatpicking, strumming, tapping, and even percussive playing.
  • We measure and weight the guitar.
  • We try licks and riffs from different genres.

Learn more about GND’s testing and reviewing processes here.

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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Ivan

Question about your best overall Martin guitar… what’s your take on the Martin HD-28 vs Martin D-41?

Teemu Suomala

Hi Ivan! I quote our Martin guitar expert DL Shepherd: “it all comes down to looks and tonal complexity. The Martin HD-28 lacks some depth in tone compared to the Martin D-41 which knocks it out of the top spot. The Martin D-41 also has some snazzy inlay work which helps bring it to the top as well.”
I hope this helps!

Kim

I have been wanting to get a Martin guitar for years… Which Martin model you would recommend for under $1000?

Teemu Suomala

Hi Kim! I would go with Martin D-10E. It’s awesome!

Tyler Connaghan

Here’s my two cents after playing acoustic guitars for almost two decades.

If you’re not sure which Martin you like, find a local guitar shop where you can actually test out the instruments! The right guitar will speak to you.

Unless you play bluegrass or you’re a big guy/gal, the smaller Orchestra models are the best (IMHO). I’ve played so many Martins, and these ones are super comfortable.

If you have the cash to invest, the Martin OM-28 is probably the best acoustic around!

Also, anyone have experience installing pickups on their Martins? Been looking for a good one for a while now!

Edward Bond

I have to second what Tyler says here – while the dreadnoughts like the HD-28 and D-15 are probably the best known Martins, and for good reason, there is something special about the way the smaller Orchestra models look and feel that I have always loved. The slightly smaller and more exaggerated curves of those guitars have always appealed more to me.

However, of course every time I have played a Martin dreadnought guitar I have loved it as well. You really can’t go wrong with instruments of this quality.

Pranshu Nigam

Also, if you want to record or mic it for any purpose, the OM and 000 guitars are much easier to balance. Just too much bass on the dreads.