What is it?
When a big-ticket manufacturer of aspirational acoustic guitars releases a mass-production model at a price most of us can stretch to, it is big news, and it is important.
It's important for us that we can get a top-quality instrument and, if we are being honest, we all like the idea of a name such as Martin on the headstock even if it the guitar is quite different from the D-18 of our dreams. But it is important for the company, too, for it expands its revenue potential and seeds brand loyalty in a demographic that might otherwise have over-looked them for more affordable options.
Of course, this all rests on the principle that the entry-level series is any good. And Martin's X Series might be affordably but is still a considerable outlay in an electro-acoustic market that is fiercely competitive.
• Fender Paramount PM-1 Standard
Looking for a dreadnought but with a solid-wood build? This great-value mahogany acoustic from Fender is a, uhh, solid option.
• Martin Dreadnought Junior
Alternatively, size down with the Martin Dreadnought Junior, which offers a more accessible playing experience and a solid-wood build. You can't fault it.
For just over 600 bucks you'll get a high-pressure laminate (HPL) build, with Sitka Spruce pattern HPL on the top and mahogany HPL on the back and sides. There's a bit of snobbery about HPL and purists might always decry it as not being "real wood" but there is a rejoinder to that argument that says HPL is going to be a little more resistant to temperature changes and is a more sustainable option for guitar-making (indeed, Martin's sustainability drive sees it use Richlite on the fingerboard, an ebony-like material that's manufactured from various resins).
The neck is also constructed from multi-layered laminate and is profiled into Martin's very comfortable Performing Artist C-shape with a High-Performance Taper. It's a comfortable, crowd-pleasing design.
Elsewhere you have a Fishman MX pickup and preamp system, a Corian nut, Martin's X-bracing pattern, and the guitar comes in a padded gigbag. But is it any good?
Performance and verdict
The Martin DX1E-04 offers one smooth ride. For a dreadnought, it is extremely accommodating, with a low action and easy neck profile. There's no wrestling for tones here.
It might not have the dreadnought booming midrange but it does have a well-balanced and bright tone that responds so well to a number of playing styles. Indeed, it opens many avenues to explore your own playing. Flatpickers might be tempted to decommission the Delrin for some fingerstyle arrangements. Similarly, aggressive strumming is on the menu, too.
While there is definitely a sense of weariness at seeing Fishman’s Sonitone system with Sonicore piezo at this price point (it is rebranded as the MX here), both the sensors and processors have been upgraded and it is a difference you can hear, with a soupçon more warmth in the low end.
It's a good tone but the controls at your disposal don't allow for too much tweaking; there are only controls for volume and tone for rolling off the treble.
That said, whether you really jive with any guitar is down to the materials and how you feel with them, and how they sound, and how they are put together. Does the HPL bother you? Well, maybe you haven't played this, because Martin has put together a supremely playable instrument with a winning tone. It might be operating in a truly shark-infested market but Martin's expertise and know-how can help it stay at the top of the food chain.
MusicRadar verdict: Smart design and excellent playability help the DX1E-04 do justice to the name at the top of the headstock.
- TYPE: 14-fret dreadnought electro-acoustic
- TOP: HPL
- BACK AND SIDES: HPL
- NECK: Multilayered laminate/Performing Artist C-shape with High-Performance Taper profile
- FINGERBOARD: Richlite
- SCALE: Scale Length: 645mm (25.4”)
- FRETS: 20
- TUNERS: Martin enclosed chrome
- NUT: White Corian
- BRIDGE: Richlite
- ELECTRICS: Fishman MX
- FINISH: Satin
- CASE: Soft gigbag
- LEFT-HANDED OPTIONS: Yes
- CONTACT: Martin