Martin is easily one of the most well recognized acoustic guitar brands on the planet, and their affordable Mexican made lineup has only solidified their popularity.
In fact, one of the most successful singer songwriters of the last 15 years, Ed Sheeran, cut his teeth early on in his career on the Martin Guitar we’re looking at here today.
If you hadn’t guessed already, that guitar is the Martin LX1E Little Martin. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be reviewing the LX1E to find out whether it lives up to the hype, or whether it’s just a budget travel strummer with a Martin logo.
Who Is This For?
The Martin LX1E is a multipurpose acoustic that works for a range of players across a range of conditions.
Due to its compact dimensions, the LX1E makes a great first guitar for younger players. Smaller adult guitarists will find it comfortable, too. It’s small size also makes it a solid choice for those looking for a highly portable beach, campfire, or travel guitar.
If you’re in need of something easy to strum on a couch, or to quickly grab when songwriting inspiration strikes, the Little Martin, once again, fills that need brilliantly.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The LX1E is a ¾ size dreadnought style acoustic guitar, with a lot of visual similarity to Martin’s full size models. The body itself is described as a “Modified O”.
There is very little in the way of embellishments, with a simple tram track rosette, and bass side dots being the only markings on the whole instrument besides the Martin Logo.
The clean aesthetic is further accented by the natural look, hand rubbed solid Sitka spruce top, made from the very same wood featured on Martin’s top models. The back and sides are made from Martin’s exclusive HPL, or High Pressure Laminate, with a mahogany pattern veneer.
It has a neck made from Stratabond, which is a type of plywood designed with both strength and aesthetics in mind. It has a pretty unique striped look, which we were admittedly quite taken with.
Sustainable materials have truly been used throughout the LX1E, as in addition to the back, sides, and neck, the fretboard was made with another wood substitute, in this case Richlite, which is a composite material.
There are 14 exposed frets on this model, with a further 6 frets below the body line. The fret work was as well executed as we expected from a Martin. Smooth edges, and a nice polish on the crowns.
It had beautiful nickel plated Martin Branded Gotoh tuning heads that worked flawlessly, and was even factory supplied with a Tusq saddle, and a white Corian nut.
As for electronics, it came with the excellent Fishman Sonitone pickup, and discreet sound hole mounted volume and tone controls.
If all of this sounded good, to top things off, it came supplied with a nicely padded Martin gig bag, which is ideal for both storage and transport.
Performance / Sound
Our first observation of this Little Martin was just how small it was, but yet, despite the diminutive size, we didn’t feel like the playability or comfort suffered at all. It’s clearly not intended to be a primary guitar for larger players, but as a backup or travel instrument it’s ideal.
It had a very neutral setup out of the box, with a medium action height which was actually quite comfortable. The short scale kept string tension low, which further added to the comfort factor.
The LX1E’s tone won’t fool anybody into thinking you’re playing a D-35, but then again, it’s still pretty robust when you consider just how small it is. We’ve tested a lot of sub-full size guitars recently, and we’d definitely consider this Martin to be the loudest, and most defined.
The tones did have a bias towards the upper mids and lower trebles which really helped it to cut through a mix. There was a hint of boxiness when strummed hard, but in reality this is normal with smaller acoustics. Regardless, the bass response was enough to prop up the mids and provide some balance to the sound profile
When amplified, the Fishman Sonitone piezo pickup did a good job of relaying the natural character of the guitar. The latest version didn’t have the full side mounted preamp system that the earlier versions of the LX1E did, but instead had a sound hole mounted tone and volume control. It kept the look clean, but it was at the expense of losing EQ and the built in tuner.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Martin LX1E Little Martin is a solid choice in the ¾ size acoustic segment, but there are some strong contenders on the market that you might want to take a look at before making your decision – check out these excellent alternatives.
The Yamaha APXT2, like all Yamaha acoustics, offers a huge amount of value for money. Like the Martin, it’s electric acoustic, and made with a spruce top for a bright, peppy tone. It has a preamp with volume and tone controls, and even a built in tuner. The fit and finish on this guitar are incredible when you consider that it costs less than half of the Martin.
The Taylor Baby Taylor BT1e is the Martin’s biggest competition. It’s similarly built with a Sitka Spruce top, and laminated back and sides. It does feature a solid maple neck, which some may prefer over the Stratabond on the LX1E, although one drawback is that the Taylor’s neck is screwed on, and the screw heads are visible on the fretboard – something that many find off putting.
Final Thoughts on the Martin LX1E Little Martin
The Martin LX1E is a great guitar if you understand its limitations. If you’re an adult looking to buy something as your only acoustic and you’re hoping for a full tone, this isn’t the model for you. But, if you’re buying this for a child, or as a secondary or travel guitar, they don’t get much better.
Despite not having a full, booming voice, the tones were distinctly Martin, which does help to justify the price. We found it to be very playable in situations that a full size dreadnought would be obtrusive. For example, we spent a lot of time sitting in an office chair at a desk while playing it, and in situations like that it excelled.
Of all the compact/travel acoustics on the market, the Little Martin really does stand out from the crowd. If this is the style you’re looking at, we highly recommend this model in particular.