Martin X Series DX1E-04 review

What does Martin’s entry-level laminate-made dreadnought add up to?

Martin X Series DX1E-04 review
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

Guitar World Verdict

With its revoiced Fishman MX pickup and preamp system, a balanced voice and beguiling playability, the X Series DX1E-04 has the intoxicating whiff of Martin luxury about it and is sure to attract the next generation of tonehounds.


  • +

    A supremely playable dreadnought.

  • +

    What it lacks in midrange boom it makes up for in balance.

  • +

    Good for a variety of styles.


  • -

    Not sure about the neck's striped look.

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.

The entry-level models of big guitar brands aren’t just important for players, they’re absolutely vital for the brand’s fortunes. 

As guitarists we have our loyalties, but they have to be earned. So if we have a good experience with a guitar early on, we may well trade up in time and stick with that brand for years. Conversely, if we have a negative experience, it might inform our opinion of that guitar company for a long time.

Martin’s entry level X1 Series models represent a significant investment, there’s no way around it. And the Martin name carries expectations earned over generations. But their build is significantly different from the traditional idea of a Martin, even though 2020 brings changes to it.

The DX1E-04’s top and sides are high pressure laminate. For some players this will spell two things; cheap and not ‘real wood’. The stock argument will be this choice is more resistant to temperature changes that can play havoc with acoustic guitar. It’s also sustainable material. More importantly, how does it play?

What it lacks in boomy projection and mid punch it makes up for in a lovely, balanced response to a more delicate touch

Very well, actually. We don’t use the word ‘silky’ lightly, but this really is. Low action and fast – it feels quite effortless to play for a dreadnought. What it lacks in boomy projection and mid punch it makes up for in a lovely, balanced response to a more delicate touch.

It will change the approach for some of us – in a good way. Fingerpicking suddenly feels friendlier. Digging in doesn’t faze the DX1E; it seems confident in its balance across the spectrum.

Honestly, we were getting a bit tired of seeing Fishman’s Sonitone system with Sonicore piezo on so many electros in this price range. It’s now called the MX here and the sensors and processing have reportedly been upgraded.

This is a very playable guitar with a beautiful balance and response to lightness of touch

We can definitely hear it in a hotter low-end that adds welcome warmth. Your control to dial this back on the guitar if required is limited because the two controls inside the soundhole are volume and a treble roll-off called Tone.

This guitar raises the question, how much do materials matter? Perhaps it depends who is making the guitar.

This is a very playable guitar with a beautiful balance and response to lightness of touch. It’s made of laminate and plywood woods. 

We still don’t like the striped look of the ‘stratabond’ multilayered wood neck and the DX1E-04 finds itself in a very competitive end of the market, but there’s something reassuring to be found. Martin know how to construct consistently fine playing and sounding guitars.


(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
  • PRICE: £603 / $599
  • TYPE: 14-fret dreadnought electro-acoustic
  • TOP: 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
  • CONTACT: Martin

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Rob Laing

Rob is the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar, he worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including as Editor of Total Guitar. He's currently set aside any pipe dreams of getting anywhere with his own songs and is enjoying playing covers in function bands.