Best Martin guitars 2024: we rank the legendary acoustics of an industry icon

Martin Guitars SC-13E leaning against a brick wall
(Image credit: Future)

As the inventors of X-bracing and the dreadnought body shape, C.F. Martin & Co is interwoven into the DNA of acoustic guitars as we know them today. So when you buy one of the best Martin guitars, you’re quite literally buying into a piece of guitar history. Few other brands come with such a storied heritage, making Martin’s some of the most sought-after six strings around.

In the 190-year history of Martin guitars they’ve made millions of acoustics, so picking the best one is a difficult task. Luckily for you, we’ve scoured the entirety of their vast range to present you with the best Martin acoustics for each particular use case, be it electro-acoustic, gigging, or the best for beginners.

If you’re unfamiliar with Martin Guitars, or you’re new to the acoustic guitar, make sure to have a look at our buying advice section before you take the plunge. If you just want to see the best Martin acoustics available today, keep scrolling to see our top picks.

Best Martin guitars: Our top picks

For our top pick, it just had to be the Martin D-28 Re-Imagined. A reissue of probably the most famous acoustic guitar ever made, the D-28 has been heard in the hands of legendary guitar players like Elvis, McCartney, Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Kurt Cobain. With its benchmark dreadnought sound and outstanding clarity, the D-28 isn’t just the best Martin guitar, but one of the best acoustic guitars period.

From classic guitar to modern classic, the Martin SC-13E takes second place for us. It’s a modern acoustic through and through, with Fishman electronics, Sure Align neck system, and unique offset looks that are a far cry from the classic dreadnought shape Martin is known for. It may be modern, but it sounds every bit classic Martin with plenty of low-end despite its unusual shape.

Best Martin guitars: Product guide

Best Martin guitars: Martin D-28

(Image credit: Martin)

1. Martin D-28

A classic acoustic and the best Martin guitar overall

Specifications

Body type: Dreadnought
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: East Indian Rosewood
Neck: Select Hardwood
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 25.4"
Bracing: Forward Shifted X brace
Frets: 20
Tuners: Nickel open gear
Finish: Gloss, Satin, Satin Amberburst

Reasons to buy

+
The benchmark for dreadnoughts
+
Clear and balanced tone
+
Great neck feel

Reasons to avoid

-
No electronics

It’s the defining dreadnought in acoustic guitar history, so no surprise to find the Martin D-28 at the top of our list. When Martin announced they would be ‘re-imagining’ their classic dreadnought there was much skepticism but we needn’t have worried, this remix is absolutely brilliant.

The forward-shifted bracing means there’s an increase in projection but without any hint of being boomy. Instead, it’s balanced no matter your playing style, the embodiment of an all-rounder when it comes to acoustic guitar tone. There’s that piano-like clarity we know and love from Martin, making it a brilliant recording guitar, as well as great for pairing with a live vocal.

The neck profile has changed too, with a higher nut width but slimmer neck profile offering a slick feeling playing experience. It improves how fingerstyle feels thanks to the string spacing, but it still feels fast when you need it. Despite these slight changes, it still feels every bit the legendary dreadnought we know and love.

Best Martin guitars: Martin SC-13E

(Image credit: Martin)
Martin moves into the future with this modern acoustic guitar

Specifications

Body type: SC-13E
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Ziricote
Neck: Select Hardwood
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 25.4"
Bracing: X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Open gear
Finish: Natural, Burst

Reasons to buy

+
Empty List

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

When the Martin SC-13E first landed guitarists couldn’t believe it was actually a Martin. So radical is the design of the body with its cavernous cutaway and revolutionary neck heel that it was met with some skepticism but we needn’t have worried, this guitar is absolutely brilliant.

Martin had to design special bracing to accommodate the radical body shape, but they somehow managed to maintain that timeless Martin tone. Acoustically it’s punchy with plenty of projection and a lovely balanced sound across the spectrum. When you plug it in there’s a little quack and compression when you play aggressively, but it’s not an issue for the majority of playstyles.

The neck is something else as well thanks to that revolutionary Sure Align neck system that delivers a heel-less attachment, giving you unparalleled upper fret access. The profile itself is helical, which is a fancy way of saying it gets thinner as you move toward the body. Whilst it’s a guitar for the future, even traditional players might find themselves swayed by the extraordinary playability of this acoustic.

Read the full Martin SC-13E review

Best Martin guitars: Martin 000-15M

(Image credit: Martin)

3. Martin 000-15M

A simple acoustic that offers an incredible playing experience

Specifications

Body type: 000-14 Fret
Top: Solid Genuine Mahogany
Back & sides: Solid Genuine Mahogany
Neck: Solid Genuine Mahogany
Fingerboard: Solid East Indian Rosewood
Scale: 25.4"
Bracing: A-Frame ''X'' 5/16" Solid Sitka Spruce
Frets: 20
Tuners: Nickel Open-Geared with Butterbean Knobs
Finish: Natural

Reasons to buy

+
Simple but beautiful
+
Personable tone
+
Excellent playability

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the loudest

There’s a lot to be said for futuristic designs and complex manufacturing procedures but sometimes the best things are the simplest. The Martin 000-15M is a prime example of this, an acoustic guitar with no extraneous frills that delivers a phenomenal playing experience.

It’s an all-solid Mahogany construction but it’s not just a Delta blues machine, the 000-15M delivers a supremely balanced tone that’s full of clarity and articulation. It doesn’t have as wide a range as a Spruce top guitar, but we found that to be to its advantage, as it sits nicely in a mix or accompanying vocals.

Despite the lack of cutaway, you can still easily reach the 12th fret for when you do want to do some blues licks, and the overall profile is somewhere between a ‘C’ and ‘V’ shape. The narrower nut width makes everything feel very comfortable whether you’re fretting chords or playing fingerstyle.

Best Martin guitars: Martin D-45

(Image credit: Martin)

4. Martin D-45

The best Martin guitar for those who want a premium dreadnought

Specifications

Body type: Dreadnought
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: East Indian Rosewood
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Scale: 25.4"
Bracing: Scalloped Forward Shifted X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Gold Open Gear
Finish: Natural, Aging Toner

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding build quality
+
Complex, rich tone
+
Asymmetric neck profile

Reasons to avoid

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Eye-watering price

When you get to a certain price point with acoustics guitars, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re in status symbol territory, but with the Martin D-45, it’s an instrument that really is worth every penny. Marrying timeless design with the best in materials and build quality, this is a sumptuous guitar for professional players.

The sound is absolutely incredible, from the merest strike of your fingers to the hardest strum you can muster, playing the D-45 is an astounding experience. The bass response is incredible, a testament to the quality craftsmanship but it still retains an excellent balance with full mids and velvety highs. 

The asymmetric neck profile is a joy to play on, and the fretboard has been PLEK’d to ensure every fret is perfectly aligned and the playing surface is totally flat too. It’s a feel that’s somewhere between modern playability and classic heft, and it all adds up to the supernatural experience of playing one of these incredible guitars.

Best Martin guitars: Martin 000-17

(Image credit: Martin)

5. Martin 000-17

A no-frills acoustic guitar that delivers timeless tones

Specifications

Body type: Auditorium 000-14 Fret
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Neck: Select hardwood
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Scale: 24.9"
Bracing: X Brace
Frets: 20
Tuners: Golden Age Relic Nickel
Finish: Satin

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for money
+
Fantastic sound
+
Comfortable size

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks not for everyone

Aiming to give acoustic guitar players a no-frills experience without compromising on tone, the Martin 000-17’s looks hide a deceptively deep sound. The burst finish brings a decidedly vintage aesthetic to the ‘17, but it’s every bit the modern acoustic guitar underneath.

A classic Spruce and Mahogany tonewood combo delivers a lovely balance of tone and it’s louder than you’d think even with its slightly smaller size. Fingerstyle works incredibly well with this acoustic, thanks to the even balance of bass and trebles.

The neck very much sits in the Goldilocks zone of being thin enough for fast playability but hefty enough to feel comfortable with complex chords. The frets are nice and even across the length of the rosewood fretboard, making for an effortless playing experience.

Best Martin guitars: Martin DX1E-04

(Image credit: Martin)

6. Martin D-X1E

The perfect Martin acoustic for beginner guitar players

Specifications

Body type: Dreadnought
Top: High-pressure Laminate
Back & sides: High-pressure Laminate
Neck: Rust Birch Laminate
Fingerboard: Richlite
Scale: 25.4"
Bracing: Scalloped X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome Closed Gear
Finish: Satin

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly playable
+
Balanced sound
+
Adaptable

Reasons to avoid

-
Plain looks
-
Lacking a little projection

Whilst it’s billed as entry-level, the Martin X Series DX1E-04 is actually significantly more expensive than your average beginner acoustic guitar. However there’s something to be said for making a strong start when you begin playing the acoustic, and that’s certainly what you’ll get with this dreadnought.

To save costs we’ve got high-pressure laminate top and sides, yet despite this, it’s got an excellent response, especially when you play it gently. Fingerpicking feels great but it’s not averse to digging in either, responding with a confident voice.

Out of the box, the action is really low so it will definitely make for a great first playing experience. It’s a silky smooth feel on the fretboard and gives confidence to new and old players alike. Add in some Fishman MX electronics and you’ve got a great beginner guitar that will take you to your first shows.

Best Martin guitars: Martin DJR-10E Streetmaster

(Image credit: Martin)

7. Martin DJR-10E Streetmaster

A rock solid, smaller-sized dreadnought

Specifications

Body type: Dreadnought Junior
Top: Sapele
Back & sides: Sapele
Neck: Select Hardwood
Fingerboard: Richlite
Scale: 25.4"
Bracing: Scalloped X-bracing
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome Closed Gear
Finish: Satin

Reasons to buy

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Lovely unplugged tone
+
All solid construction
+
Excellent playability

Reasons to avoid

-
Electronics aren’t the best

Despite being on the lower end of the price scale, the Martin DJR-10E features an all-solid construction and build quality that belies its price tag. Coming in a junior dreadnought size, it’s comfortable for beginners and veterans alike. 

The DJR-10E has a sublime unplugged sound and whilst it lacks the low end of a full-sized dreadnought, it certainly sounds big enough when you strum open chords. With fingerpicking, you get a mellow and round sound that’s lovely and responsive. The onboard preamp leaves a little to be desired, but the unplugged experience more than makes up for any shortcomings here.

The smaller size makes it super comfortable in your lap, and the fretboard feels lovely to play thanks to the 16” radius. It’s a great guitar whether you’re sitting on your sofa strumming or properly going for it in the classical position.

Best Martin guitars: Martin LX1E Little Martin

(Image credit: Martin)
A small guitar with a deceptively loud voice

Specifications

Body type: Modified 0-14 Fret
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany Pattern HPL Textured Finish
Neck: Rust Birch Laminate
Fingerboard: FSC Richlite
Scale: 23"
Bracing: Modified X Series X, Crowned Cross Brace
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome with Small Buttons
Finish: Natural

Reasons to buy

+
Compact size
+
Louder than you expect
+
Easy to play

Reasons to avoid

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Lack of low end

Made popular by Ed Sheeran, the Martin LX1E Little Martin is a small guitar that’s a lot louder than you’d expect. Ideal for traveling guitarists or younger players, the LX1E is one of the most popular acoustic guitars of the last ten years.

Of course, due to its small size, there’s not that boomy low end you get with a dreadnought, but despite that, it still offers an inspiring sound that’s articulate with plenty of action in the mid and high end. There’s a little boxiness but it responds fantastically well to playing dynamics to make up for it.

As it’s a short-scale guitar, the frets are closer together than some might be used to. For players with smaller hands, this means an easier time fretting complex chords, or for beginner players just getting started with the instrument. No matter what your playing ability, it feels fantastic with both strumming and fingerstyle, making it a brilliant guitar all around.

Read the full Martin LX1E Little Martin review

Best Martin guitars: Buying advice

Close up of bridge on a vintage Martin D-45

(Image credit: Future)

Do Martin guitars sound better with age?

This is true not just of Martin guitars, but any acoustic guitar with a quality tonewood. As it ages the guitar body loses moisture, which results in them becoming lighter and developing a more resonant tone. This is why vintage acoustic guitars are highly sought after, as it can take up to 40 years for your acoustic to fully mature. It’s the same with violins, some of which have been going since the 17th century and still sound great!

This is the reason the technique of torrefaction exists, as it allows manufacturers the chance to speed up the process of aging. Torrefaction gives you a guitar with stiffer wood which results in more efficient vibration, and many vintage-inspired acoustic guitar models now come with torrefied wood to help achieve a more mature sound.  

How are Martin guitars made?

Martin guitars manufactured in Pennsylvania are all handmade, utilizing the same crafting techniques that have been around for just shy of two hundred years now. This handmade ethos is part of what makes them so long-lasting, as every bit of due care and attention is overseen by an actual person.  

Martin D-28 lying on a wooden floor

(Image credit: Future)

What is the best Martin guitar for playing solo?

If you’re looking to play solo, we’d go for a dreadnought-size acoustic guitar. A dreadnought is adaptable enough for a variety of situations and loud enough to compete with a vocalist or other instrumentation. If you’re playing live you’ll want to make sure your Martin has onboard electronics as well, so you’re well equipped for a variety of situations. 

Where are Martin guitars made?

The main Martin Guitars factory is in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and this is where the majority of their models are handcrafted. However, not all of their guitars are made here, as lower spec and cost instruments are manufactured in Mexico. This includes the X Series, Backpacker Series, Road Series, Dreadnought Junior, PA5 models, and select ukuleles

How we choose the best Martin guitars

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

At Guitar World, we are a team of passionate guitarists who appreciate the timeless craftsmanship and exquisite tone of Martin guitars. With our deep admiration for Martin's rich heritage and commitment to excellence, we have meticulously explored and played numerous guitars to identify the best Martin instruments available.

To compile our list of top Martin guitars, we combine our practical expertise, meticulous research, and insightful discussions with our editorial team. We consider factors such as tone, playability, build quality, aesthetics, and value for money, ensuring that we showcase the finest acoustic guitars on the market.

As devoted musicians ourselves, we understand the significance of finding the perfect instrument that resonates with your playing style and musical preferences. Whether you're a fingerstyle aficionado or a strummer, our goal is to provide reliable and informed recommendations that help you discover the ideal Martin guitar for your musical journey.

Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.

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