The Big Shootout: Our Favorite Martin Guitars

For almost 200 years, CF Martin and Company, known to most of us simply as, “Martin Guitars” has been making some of the world’s finest stringed instruments. This brand has been responsible for some of the most iconic guitars in history, including none other than Willie Nelson’s, Trigger.

Martin’s range is quite expansive, so choosing between them can be difficult if you’re not too familiar with the brand. With that in mind, we’ve taken care of the hard part, and put together this KillerGuitarRigs Review of the 7 best Martin guitars for sale today.

If you’re in the market for your first (or next) Martin acoustic, make sure to keep reading to learn about our favorites!

Read more about our review process.

Editor's Choice
Martin D-18E Modern Deluxe

Martin D-18E Modern Deluxe

Features: Liquidmetal bridge pins, Spruce VTS top, Fishman Aura electronics

Benefits: Broken in vintage tones, Amazing projection, Studio quality amplified sound 

Best Value
Martin D-15M

Martin D-15M

Features: All solid mahogany body, Open gear tuners, Modified low oval neck

Benefits: Excellent playability, Rich and warm tones, Superb tuning stability

Best Budget
Martin D Jr-10E

Martin D Jr-10E

Features: Reduced size Junior body, Fishman Sonitone electronics, All solid wood construction

Benefits: Ideal for travel, Comfortable for smaller players, Fantastic projection

Our Top 3

We awarded our top pick to the fantastic Martin D-15M. Considering that it’s an all solid wood, made in the USA Martin with some gorgeous tones, it’s still an attainably priced model, giving working musicians and amateurs a great opportunity to own an amazing guitar.

Our best budget award went to the Martin D-Jr 10e. It’s a fantastically versatile guitar with superb build quality and excellent tones. It delivers everything players love about Martin guitars at a price to suit all budgets.

For those in the market for the best Martin guitar on the market, we can’t recommend highly enough, our Editor’s Choice winner – the Martin D-18e Modern Deluxe. This is a classic Martin that offers incredibly articulate tones, and professional performance.

Individual Reviews

Top Pick
Martin D 15M

Martin D 15M

Rich tones and impeccable attention to detail.

This is Martin's entry level US made model, and provides the kind of jump in quality and tones you'd expect to find in a guitar from the Nazareth plant. It’s made with all solid woods, and delivers incredible warmth, projection and presence.

The Martin D-15M is a full size dreadnought from the brand that pioneered the shape. It’s loud without being overbearing, making it a great choice for rhythm guitarists and solo acts alike.

The entire guitar was made from solid mahogany, including the top, back, and sides. The dark wood looked beautiful, and really stood out from the spruce topped models we reviewed. There weren’t any real embellishments, but rather a simple, stripped back look with a fantastic satin finish that showed you don’t need inlay and chrome to make a guitar look good.

Like the body, the neck was also made with solid mahogany. It had Martin’s modified low oval profile, which we found to be exceptionally comfortable, and thanks to the satin finish, it was fast, too. On the top, it had a lovely rosewood fretboard, which felt great, and perfectly complemented the dark look of the mahogany.

We found absolutely no faults with the fretwork. The frets were perfectly level from top to bottom, beautifully polished, and had beautifully beveled edges that really showed the level of craftsmanship that went into this guitar.

The mahogany ensured an incredibly rich, detailed tone. It had superb nuance, and incredible mid range balance. It had the typical booming presence of a Martin dreadnought, and even though it was darker in tone than a spruce topped model, it was never muddy.

It was extremely well appointed, with a bone nut and even a radius compensated bone saddle that ensured perfect intonation. We really loved the open gear Grover tuners – they gave it a classic Martin look and performed as well as expected, with easy fine tuning and dependable tuning stability.

Verdict: The Martin D-15M has a worn in, vintage vibe and feel. It’s an excellent introduction to US made Martin guitars, and doesn’t ever just feel like the cheap way to get an American made model. The tones were stunning and the build quality was fantastic. An impressive guitar in all aspects.

  • US Made
  • All solid wood
  • Quality components
  • Plain looking
  • Some might find the tones too dark

Best Budget
Martin D Jr-10E

Martin D Jr-10E

Everything you'd expect from a Martin at a surprisingly low price.

With this guitar you're getting Martin tones, performance, and quality for much less than you'd think. The 15/16 size makes it comfortable for players of all ages and abilities without sacrificing presence or playability, and as an added bonus, it comes with a fantastic gig bag.

Something that sometimes puts players off wanting to try a Martin dreadnought is the size of the body. Not every player can get away with the sheer bulk of a full size model, and that’s where we found that the Martin D-Jr 10-e can really fill this gap in the market.

It was built with a lovely solid Sitka Spruce top, and sapele back and sides. This is a great wood combo for delivering high end tones at bargain prices. The neck was made from select hardwood, and had an exclusive dreadnought Jr profile. Incredibly for a relatively low cost guitar, it was even tapered, making it extremely comfortable from top to bottom.

We were surprised at how much we actually liked the Richlite fretboard. It had the look of ebony, and because it’s manufactured, it was incredibly consistent in feel and was topped off with real mother of pearl dot inlay. The fret work was very nicely done, too, with smooth edges, level crowns, and they were well polished for a slick feel.

Tonally, the D-Jr 10e was a bright, punchy sounding guitar. It was shimmery at the top end and despite losing the physical depth of a full size dreadnought, it had tons of presence in the bass register. Projection was strong whether being strummed or played fingerstyle, and it surprised the entire KGR team with its volume.

As for its build quality, we had no concerns. The hardware fitted was all of excellent quality, including the closed gear chrome tuners and Tusq saddle/nut. Tuning stability was superb, and intonation was accurate. It had Fishman Sonitone electronics, which we have always thought very highly of. They delivered an accurate reflection of the acoustic character of the guitar and did well to resist feedback at higher volumes.

Verdict: It’s hard to believe that you can pick up a guitar like the Martin D Jr 10-e for less than $1000, let alone under $600. It was very well made, and sounded incredible whether played acoustically or amplified. The feel and playability were brilliant, and went a long way to assisting in our decision to name this our best budget pick.

  • Highly portable
  • Punchy tones
  • Comfortable to play
  • Larger handed players might struggle with string spacing
  • Action was a little high

Editor's Choice
Martin D-18 E Modern Deluxe

Martin D-18 E Modern Deluxe

Incredible character and presence, with looks to kill.

This Martin dreadnought is the benchmark when it comes to tones and playability. It has been setting the standard since its initial release in 1931, and boasts the kind of high end build quality that has made Martin the most recognized acoustic guitar brand in the world.

The Martin D-18 Modern Deluxe is another full size dreadnought model, but as this is what the brand is most famous for, it should come as no surprise that it was picked as our editor’s choice.

It was made with a Solid Sitka spruce top, aged with Martin’s unique torrefaction process. This gave it a beautifully broken in tone and feel, but didn’t affect aesthetics, which kept it looking like a brand new guitar. The back and sides were made with solid mahogany, and provided great balance against the top, while allowing it to deliver almost endless sustain.

We loved the feel of the Solid mahogany neck. It had an incredibly slick feeling satin finish, and its vintage deluxe profile filled the hand perfectly. The ebony fretboard was stunning, both in terms of looks and feel, and the hand finished frets were simply perfect.

Tones from this Martin were beautiful. It had such incredible character and brightness, and was really hard to put down. It was tight across the entire frequency range, with powerful bass, focused mids, and some of the best top end sparkle you’ll ever hear. Of course, it had incredible volume and presence, and yet, it kept its detail and articulation no matter how gently or aggressively we played.

As were reiterated throughout this review, the build quality and craftsmanship were incredible. No detail has gone unnoticed, from the tenon and mortise joints, through to the use of natural protein adhesives. All are signs of high end lutherie, and all are expressed whenever this guitar is strummed. This old world craftsmanship is blended perfectly with the use of high end modern components like a carbon fiber bridge plate for increased durability, and liquid metal bridge pins.

Continuing the theme of high end appointments, we loved its Fishman Aura VT Enhance pickup system, which perfectly represented the natural acoustic tone when we wanted it to, and unlocked additional sounds when we played with the mic and piezo blend control.

Verdict: The Martin D 18 Modern Deluxe E might not be the most expensive or luxurious model in their lineup, but to us, it embodied everything that has made this brand so special for almost 200 years. Incredible tones, aesthetics, and overall build quality combine to produce one of the best acoustic guitars on the market bar none.

  • Top quality woods and materials
  • Excellent electronics
  • Old world craftsmanship
  • Expensive
  • Open gear tuners require maintenance

Also Consider
Martin DSS-17

Martin DSS-17

A modern take on the classic dreadnought shape.

This is one of Martin's most comfortable dreadnought models, and it benefits from choice woods and materials, and unusually for a Martin, it features a sunburst finish, making it stand out from the crowd, somewhat, and ever benefits from a PLEK fret dressing.

Being one of their US made models, the Martin DSS-17 benefits from high end woods like Solid Sitka spruce and mahogany, resulting in a classic sound profile that makes it instantly recognizable as a Martin. The spruce top had a lovely “whiskey sunset” sunburst finish that really highlighted the fantastic wood grain, and it was clear to see that some thought had gone into the wood selection for the back and sides.

The neck was made with solid mahogany and had the amazing modified low oval profile that were come to love on other Martin models. It had a fantastic ergonomic taper that kept it comfortable to play for hours, with comfort being further assisted by the PLEK’d frets. We loved the feel of the rosewood fretboard, but we do think it would have looked better with an ebony board blending into the dark upper part of the sunburst finish.

Tones from the DSS-17 were awesome. We found it to be extremely punchy, with enormous presence, particularly around the mid range. Despite the prominent mid range, we still found that it had excellent balance, and would make for an ideal recording guitar.

Just as anticipated, it was beautifully built, with obvious care and attention going into the fit and finish. Inlay work was done with real mother of pearl, and genuine bone was used for both the nut and the saddle. It had relic’d open gear tuners, too, which looked great while still providing the strong tuning performance required of a guitar of this caliber.

Verdict: The Martin DSS-17 with its sloped shoulders departed from the usual Martin aesthetic, but still delivered big when it came to tones and playing performance. We think they missed the mark on the fretboard material choice, but this is a very minor blemish on an otherwise wonderful guitar.

  • PLEKd frets
  • Nice sunburst finish
  • Use of genuine mother of pearl
  • No ebony fretboard
  • Relic’d tuning gear might not appeal to some

Also Consider
Martin 000-X2E

Martin 000-X2E

Sweet tones with exceptional playability & comfort.

An affordable Martin designed to be a real player's guitar. It offers fantastic ergonomics with a sharp response and superb durability. Its hardy HPL back and sides are perfectly designed for the active musician, making it one of the best Martin guitars for those who don't want to worry about atmospheric conditions.

Sitting close to the entry point into the brand, the Martin 000-X2E offers the kind of tones and performance Martin fans are looking for, while remaining affordable for the novice player and even working musicians on a budget.

It had an 000 body shape, which is one of the curviest (and most comfortable) styles. The top was solid Sitka spruce, while the back and sides were made with HPL, or high pressure laminate. We did find that we lost some resonance and sustain without the solid wood, but to put a positive spin on this, HPL is an extremely hard wearing material that resists changes in temperature and humidity very well.

We found the neck to be a particular highlight on this guitar. It was made from select hardwood, and had a Performing Artist tapered profile. Unlike most guitars of this size, the body joined the neck at the 14th fret, not the 12th, giving a better range of playability.

The fret board, like the neck, was select hardwood, and while not specified, we think it was rosewood. With “select hardwood” you are taking a chance on what your guitar could be made with, something worth considering before purchase. Regardless, it felt good, and had impressive fretwork

It had some really sweet tones and was an absolute dream for fingerpicking. Tones were particularly sharp in the upper mids, with tons of top end sparkle. It did struggle a little with volume when strummed, and was a little thin in the lower registers, but for softer styles, and for fingerpicked or arpeggiated passages it performed really well.

For those who want to play plugged in, it came with Fishman MX electronics. They did a great job of replicating the organic acoustic tones, and the sound hole mounted controls were discreet and kept the lines of the guitar sleek.

Tuning stability was very good, and the sealed gear tuners did a great job with fine adjustments. While we prefer the look of an open gear tuner on a Martin, it is an understandable compromise to help keep the price down.

Verdict: The Martin 000-X2E is a fantastic option for anybody looking for a Martin with a more manageable body size. It’s a wonderful fingerstyle guitar that offers superb mid range and treble tones, and it really rewards players with a softer touch.

  • Ergonomic body shape
  • Great electronics
  • Excellent playability
  • Lacks volume
  • Select hardwood neck

Also Consider
Martin SC-10E

Martin SC-10E

A truly modern guitar from this typically traditionalist brand.

If you're looking for a Martin guitar with working musicians' needs in mind, you search might end here. This model offers incredible ergonomics, excellent fretboard access, and features X bracing for massive projection.

The Martin SC-10E is a little jarring at first, as those familiar with the brand know offset guitars aren’t typical, but after taking time to play it, it became immediately apparent that Martin knew exactly what they were doing.

Its offset body was based on a standard dreadnought, but with greatly improved ergonomics. This made it a great dreadnought alternative – it had the power and projection, but without the bulk. It had a cutaway for improved upper fret access, too. The top was solid Sitka Spruce, and the back and sides were made from a fine koa veneer, which looked amazing.

Like many of the more affordable Martin models, it had a select hardwood neck, but as for the neck shape, it had the far rarer Low Profile Velocity design. We were a little unsure about its feel; it was clearly designed with ergonomics in mind, but for basic strumming we think it felt a little awkward. If you’re trying to play lead lines on your acoustic it would be perfect, but otherwise a more traditional shape might be better.

On the plus side, it did have a stunning ebony fretboard, and the frets themselves were extremely well finished.

The tones we got from the SC-10E were some of the most dynamic in the whole round up. We found it to be very bright, and it had an exceptionally snappy response. The X bracing gave it massive punch and room filling presence when played acoustically, and the Fishman MX-T pick up system really managed to capture the natural character when amplified, too.

Overall, the build quality was on par with everything else we’ve seen from Martin’s Mexican plant. It was solidly put together with nice fit and finish, and good attention to detail. Like all of our favorite Martins, it had open gear tuners, which in this case were black and gold, and they looked as good as they performed (outstanding!).

Features wise, it was nicely appointed, too. The Fishman MX-T system had a built in tuner, which is always a handy thing to have, it came with a really nice soft shell case, too.

Verdict: The Martin SC-10E sits towards the upper end of the Mexican lineup, so it was a little more full featured than some of the entry level US made models. It was overall very comfortable to play, and modern looking without straying too far from tradition. If you’re a lead player looking for a fast playing acoustic, this could be a great choice.

  • Cutaway for upper fret access
  • Ebony fretboard
  • Built in tune
  • Non traditional body shape
  • Unusual neck profile

Also Consider
Martin DX Johnny Cash

Martin DX Johnny Cash

Easily one of the coolest Martin guitars in the entire lineup.

Whether you’re a big fan of the man in black, or you just love the look of an all black guitar, this Martin delivers on all fronts. It’s affordable, it sounds great, and it’s definitely built to last.

Just as Cash himself used to play, his namesake model, the Martin DX Johnny Cash makes use of a dreadnought body style for huge presence and cannon-like projection. The entire guitar is made with laminates, which ensures maximum durability and reliability across a range of conditions.

The top, back, and sides are made from HPL, which is high pressure laminate. It is impervious to changes in temperature and humidity, making this a great choice for those who want to take their Martin acoustic camping, or to the beach.

It had a comfortable Performing Artist neck profile, made with black birch laminate, which is yet another hard wearing material choice. It was slim, and encouraged good form from the fretting hand. Keeping with the durability theme, it had a Richlite fretboard. It was smooth, hard, and felt genuinely good.

We found that the tones did suffer somewhat as a result of the laminate and artificial materials used throughout the guitar. It lost much of the top end shimmer that you get with a spruce top, and the sustain was noticeably reduced. Still, it was quite well balanced, particularly in the bass and mid registers.

As far as build quality goes, the DX Johnny Cash was rock solid. As we’ve highlighted throughout, this model might not be the best for studio quality recordings, but as far as durability and reliability are concerned, it’s one of the best they make. Because its materials don’t swell and contract, tuning stability was fantastic, and it was further aided by the excellent sealed gear tuners.

Verdict: The Martin DX Johnny Cash gets maximum style and durability points from us. It’s one of the best campfire and beach guitars on the market, and while it may lack some of the signature Martin tone, it still offers great presence and volume, and even features Fishman MX electronics for easy amplification.

  • Fantastic reliability
  • Great styling
  • Comfortable neck
  • Reduced sustain due to HPL
  • Low residual value

How To Choose The Right Martin For You

While Martin does make some quite affordable guitars, many are still on the more expensive side of things for the average player. With that in mind, we’ve put together a brief guide to help you navigate through their product lineup and understand their features, hopefully aiding you in your decision making.


The tonewood that your Martin is crafted from will have a huge impact on its tonal qualities. Some of the most common woods used by Martin include:

Sitka Spruce

Sitka spruce is by far the most popular wood used on Martin guitars. Sitka spruce has a tonal quality that is well-suited for virtually any style of music; it’s clear and bright, but not shrill or harsh. Additionally, sitka spruce is a very stiff wood, meaning that it vibrates more readily than most other tonewoods. This stiffness results in greater volume and longer sustain. 


Mahogany is often used as a back or sides material on Martin guitars, but as in the case of the D-15M, it’s sometimes used for tops, too. It’s a bit darker sounding than sitka spruce, making it ideal for certain styles of music like blues and jazz. Mahogany also has good volume and sustain properties. Mahogany tends to give a warmer sound than Sitka spruce. 


Rosewood is another popular choice for backs and sides on Martin guitars. It’s similar to mahogany in that it warms up the tone; however, rosewood is brighter sounding than mahogany with less midrange. Rosewood is also very stiff, meaning it has good volume and sustain properties. Additionally, rosewood is very resonant, which gives it a punchier sound than mahogany. 


High Pressure Laminate, or HPL, is a popular material on Martin’s more value focused guitars. It’s made by compressing wood fibers and natural resins at extremely high pressure to create a strong, stiff material that makes a great wood alternative. It’s incredibly resistant to changes in temperature and humidity, but the trade off is that it loses resonance and sustain compared to solid woods, and while its tone is still pleasing, it’s much less complex.

Body Shape and Size

Another critical choice to make when selecting your Martin acoustic guitar is to figure out which body shape and size you’re looking for. 

Smaller players and those looking to play something more compact should check out the Jr series (the D-Jr 10e is a great starting point).The 000 shape is also a solid choice for a smaller bodied guitar, too. The compact dimensions of these guitars make them more comfortable to hold, and actually tend to tighten up the tones, although they do lose out on volume and bottom end as a trade off. 

Those looking for a full bodied guitar should absolutely check out Martin’s dreadnought models. These large, boxy guitars have huge sound chambers and massive sound boards, which deliver a loud, powerful tone with complex tones in the upper, mid, and especially the bass registers.

Final Thoughts

Martin’s acoustic guitar lineup is one of the best on the market, and it’s not hard to see why. Beautiful materials, high end construction and quality, and amazing tones all combine to create high performance guitars for players of all abilities.

To summarize our favorites from this roundup; our top pick went to the Martin D-15M, it was rich and complex, with amazing playability. Our best budget option was the Martin D-Jr 10e – a fantastic reduced size guitar that delivers all of the classic Martin tone at an extremely attractive price. Finally, our Editor’s Choice winner was the Martin D-18 Modern Deluxe, a guitar that truly embodies what Martin guitars are all about – loud, bright, tons of character, and phenomenal balance.

  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before running away to work on ships. These days his passion is budget guitars, amps and pedals - though he's not afraid of the finer things.