Martin dreadnought guitars are world renowned for their huge voices, handsome looks, and fantastic build quality – and you should expect no less from the company that literally invented the style.
Although Martin pioneered the dreadnought, they were actually late to the party when it came to 12 string guitars, with their first example, the D12-20, being released in 1964 (Rickenbacker invented the 12 string in 1931). Even though they weren’t even close to being first, Martin did what they’ve always done and knocked it out of the park.
Fast forward to today, and Martin now makes a number of amazing 12 string models to suit practically every budget, from their flagship US made guitars to affordable and attainable versions built in their Mexican factory like the Martin D-X2E 12 string.
We named the D-X2E as our top pick in our roundup of the best 12 string guitars because of its exceptional performance and wallet friendly price. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be taking a more in depth look at this fantastic 12 string to bring you the full picture of why we thought so highly of it.
Keep on reading if you’re looking for a high quality 12 string that won’t break the bank.
Who Is This For?
The Martin D-X2E 12 string is a great all rounder that works for players of just about all abilities. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend a 12 string to an outright beginner, if you’re a new player looking for a 12 string, you’ll find that this is one of the most forgiving options on the market.
Not only is it comfortable and forgiving, but it’s extremely well built, and offers superb tones. It comes with built in electronics for easy amplification, so, for all these reasons and more, it even makes a great choice for more experienced players and even working musicians, too.
Appearance / Features / Controls
To look at, the D-X2E is classic Martin. It’s got a dreadnought style body (hence the “D” denominator). with a solid Sitka spruce top. The back and sides are made using Martin’s HPL, or high pressure laminate, material. This HPL is made from wood fibers, compressed at extremely high pressure, and topped with a decorative layer. This results in an extremely durable guitar that still sounds incredible and looks great.
It had a select hardwood neck carved into Martin’s low profile shape. As we mentioned earlier, it’s an extremely forgiving shape and one of the slimmest Martin makes. The neck was also topped with select hardwood, and despite not being particularly luxurious, it still felt great under the fingers and looked good, too. We thought the fretwork was excellent, with nice, smooth edges and perfectly polished crowns.
Despite being an entry level model, the hardware was all really good. It had Martin branded closed gear tuners and a Tusq saddle and nut. As for electronics, it was equipped with a Fishman MX system made up of an undersaddle piezo, and a soundhole mounted volume/tone control.
The D-X2E left us with an extremely positive first impression, and then kept on delivering. We’ve already mentioned how handsome it was, and as soon as we took our first strums, we learned just how good it sounded, too.
Obviously, the intent of a 12 string is to provide a jangly, shimmery tone, which naturally involves a lot of top end. The D-X2E managed all of that while still retaining the characteristic Martin warmth. A lot of more affordable 12 strings suffer with harshness at the top end, but we got none of that with this guitar.
It wasn’t the loudest guitar we’ve ever picked up, but still, we found that it offered superb projection and a very distinct character to its voice. It cut beautifully through the mix when we needed it to, but we also found that it was responsive enough to sit back and blend in when necessary.
We found it to be a very mids heavy guitar. There wasn’t a great deal of bottom end, which explains the lower volume, but this wasn’t too much of a concern for us, mainly because of how beautiful the trebles were. They were glassy, and shimmering, everything you’d imagine a 12 string should be.
We plugged in through a Fishman Loudbox acoustic amp to test the electronics, and once again, we were extremely impressed. The MX pickup and preamp is one of the more basic systems that Fishman offers, but it did its job fantastically well. We got some great, natural tone that retained all the organic acoustic character of the guitar.
Playability was another strong point for this guitar. The neck felt great, and for a 12 string was very slim and comfortable. We found the guitar lightweight and easy to hold, and the factory setup was superb, with a nice low to medium height of action.
With so many tuners on the headstock on a 12 string, it’s of vital importance that they hold pitch, and offer easy fine tuning, and thankfully the machines on this guitar did just that. Intonation was great from top to bottom, and overall, we were super happy with the general performance.
Other 12 String Guitars to Consider
We’re confident that the Martin D-X2E is one of the best 12 string guitars you’re likely to find at this price point. Its price to performance factor is spot on, and being a Martin, you know you’re getting a quality guitar that will last for as long as you look after it. Still, it may not be the right guitar for you – if you think you’d like to check out some other options, we’ve included what we consider to be the best alternatives below.
If you’re looking for a different body style, take a look at this fantastic Breedlove ECO Discovery S Concert 12 String. It’s built using the most environmentally sustainable techniques and materials in the industry, and it sounds fantastic. It has a sweeter tone than the Martin but less projection – although this isn’t a factor if you’re planning to amplify it using the built in Fishman Presys I electronics.
The Alvarez AJ80CE12 Artist 80 12 String offers yet another totally different playing experience and tone to the Martin. It features a solid Sitka spruce top with maple back and sides, which gives it extraordinary brightness and snap, and the big jumbo body gives it an unbelievably big voice and cannon like projection. Like the Martin and the Breed love, it’s an acoustic electric model and features an LR Baggs Element pickup system and a StagePro EQ.
Final Thoughts on the Martin D-X2E 12 String
Sometimes it’s the average seeming models that end up being the most fun to play, and this Martin D-X2E was just such a guitar. As an unassuming, entry level Mexican made model, there shouldn’t have been anything remarkable about it, but somehow Martin has managed to put it together in such a way that it just feels (and sounds) special.
It’s affordable, it’s comfortable, and it’s extremely versatile. If you think that you need a 12 string in your collection and you want something substantial without spending too much, this is your guitar.