5 Best Martin Guitars in 2021 – From Budget to Premium Martins

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Best Overall – Martin HD-28

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
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

YouTube video


The Next Best:

Best Budget – Martin D-X2E


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


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 TUSQ bridge and 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


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


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.

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably already familiar with Martin’s high stature in the guitar world. You might also be considering your first (or 10th) Martin guitar. 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 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 5 best Martin guitars!

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.

Every one of these Martin acoustic guitars is here based on extensive research and combined 34+ years experience of me (Darren) and Teemu.

Who crafted this post:

reveals one of the experienced guitar players who write for guitaristnextdoor.com

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 the Owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing: Teemu Suomala

Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although plays acoustics too. Started this blog in January 2020.

5 Best Martin Guitars

3 Things to keep in Mind When Buying

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!

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

Compare Key Specs of The Top 5:

this graphic compares the specs of 5 best martin guitars

Best Overall – Martin HD-28

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. 

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 Martins of years past. 

All of the familiar visual features are there:

  • open-geared tuners,
  • bone nut and saddle,
  • and ebony fingerboard

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. 

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

Here’s another sound demo for you:

YouTube video

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

Cons:

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

Best Budget – Martin D-X2E

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. 

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. 

For more under $1000 Martins, check this article.

Hear how this guitar sounds:

YouTube video

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

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

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. 

Hear how this Martin sounds:

YouTube video

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 TUSQ bridge and saddle to bone – you’ll thank me later

Best for Playing the Blues – Martin 000-10E

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, 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. 

Hear how this guitar sounds:

YouTube video

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

Best for Electric Players – Martin SC-13E

Electric players are often forgotten about in the acoustic guitar world. The SC-13E offers electric players to experience a 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. 

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.

Hear how SC-13E sounds:

YouTube video

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

Runner-Ups

Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5


Buyer’s Guide

What you should know before buying:

  • Martin guitars come in a variety of styles. Choose the style that best fits your playing abilities.
  • Martins can be expensive. Make sure you budget correctly.
  • Martin guitars can look the same but some are made with man-made materials such as Richlite, Micarta, TUSQ, and Corian. This will affect the overall tone of the guitar.
  • Models with an “E” behind them denote that the guitar is equipped with Fishman MX (no tuner) or Fishman MX-T (tuner version) electronics. 
  • Be warned: your friends will want to play your new Martin! It’s just impossible for them to resist. 

What makes a good Martin?

This depends entirely on your personal tastes. I have broken down the reviews into helpful sections that are most commonly asked about.

There will always be a battle between all solid-wood guitars and those constructed of man-made materials. To say that one is better than the other is a matter of opinion. All of the Martins that I have played have been exceptional guitars. 

What are Martin guitars good for? 

Martins are more versatile than ever thanks to their new, innovative designs (such as the SC-13E). Martins are mostly known for their relationship to bluegrass, the blues, and folk music. Martin guitars just happen to be the weapon of choice for these musicians.

But this does not limit them to just these styles of music. They can be used in every genre – from jazz to rock and everything in between. 

Who should buy Martin guitars? 

Anyone who is looking for flawless craftsmanship and high-quality acoustic playability, tone, and looks deserve to get their hands on a Martin. I have personally never heard anyone say that they regretted buying one. 

Who should look for another option?

If you’re into more innovative looks and styling, Martin guitars might be a little bland for you. You may check out Blue Ridge guitars for more fancy inlays and such.

 If you’re not really worried about acoustic tone but want exceptional playability and a great plugged-in sound, then you might be better off considering an Ovation.

If you want a deeper, louder sound than a Martin can provide, then I would recommend checking out a Gibson Jumbo-style acoustic.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a Martin, then use our guide as a road map to find your dream guitar. There were many, many hours spent compiling this list.

After traveling many miles to remote music shops and putting callouses on my callouses, it’s about as well-researched as it can get. 

But it was totally worth it.

Even if the bossman thought I was dead, I enjoyed playing every single guitar listed here. I tried to get one thrown in as part of my pay, but alas, my request was denied. That’s ok: at least you have enough information to make a sound decision on your first (or next) Martin. 

Now, the next step is simple: just choose one! You’ll write me thank-you notes, and my sore fingers will appreciate them. I promise you: you won’t go wrong.