Martin Road Series D-12E review

This Martin dreadnought is streets ahead with its solid-wood build and Fishman MX-T pickup and preamp

(Image: © Martin Guitar)

Guitar World Verdict

At $1,099 street, the Road Series makes Martin feel and pro-quality tone a little more accessible.


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    Fishman MX-T offers a transparent plugged-in tone.

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    Immaculate solid-wood top, back and sides.

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    Performing Artist neck profile should be a crowd-pleaser.


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    Richlite fingerboard might upset the cork sniffers.

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Martin will forever be an aspirational acoustic guitar brand but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t spared a thought for our pocketbooks in recent years. 

We have seen the X Series use high-pressure laminate builds to keep prices south of a grand, and the LX Series, aka Little Martin, offering affordable, travel-sized guitars.

The Road Series was introduced in a similar fiscally conscious spirit. Built in Martin’s plant in Navojoa, Mexico, and featuring solid-wood builds of sitka, sapele and koa, with Fishman MX-T electronics throughout, the Road Series is positioned as a pro-quality range for gigging musicians whose appearance fee can’t quite stretch to Martin’s US-built models, which, if we are honest, is most of us. 

But there is no mistaking an acoustic such as Martin’s Road Series D-12E dreadnought for an entry-level instrument. Oh, my! When you pluck the D-12E dreadnought from its deluxe soft-shell case, the waft of luxury may well overpower the senses. It might be the D-12E’s high-gloss finish that does it, immaculately applied across its solid sitka spruce top, and exquisite sapele back and sides.

Others in the Road Series use gloss and satin finishes in a variety of combinations. The satin-smooth finish on the hand-rubbed C-profile ‘Performing Artist’ neck, which is substantial enough without ever feeling clubby and ideal for fretting chords, may also give one pause to gasp. Or it might even be the name on the headstock, that sense of feeling the weight of guitar-making history – Martin, after all, were the first to produce a dreadnought, naming the shape after the British battleship. 

But most likely it’ll be the tone and feel that will get you. Meeting any gigging player’s brief, the D-12E comes across as a do-everything acoustic, with a bright but balanced voice that’s as suited to flat-picking and strumming as it is to fingerpicking. 

It features the non-scalloped X bracing pattern that Martin uses on its acoustics with dovetail neck joints, the pattern allowing the top to really resonate, while the onboard Fishman MX-T pickup/preamp system does a great job in amplifying the D-12E without stepping on its voice. Volume and tone controls are neatly hidden in the soundhole, as is the onboard tuner.

Elsewhere, the D-12E has vintage-style open-gear Grover tuners, a black pickguard, black binding on the body and neck, and ‘Style 28’ multi-stripe rosette and ‘Style 18’ purfling on the back. 

It looks great, feels premium. Using solid wood in its build means the D-12E will only sound better with age, as the oils and resins dry out over age. But hey, it sounds pretty darn sweet already.

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.