Table of Contents
- Martin DX1AE Acoustic/Electric
- D-14 Platform
- Solid Sitka Spruce Top
- Mahogany-Grained High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) Back & Sides
- Modified Low-Oval Neck Profile Plays Fast and Smooth
- Fishman Electronics
- MSRP: $779
There’s a tendency, when one is a beginning guitar player, to go for the cheapest guitar. Even if you are an occasional player, with some chops under your belt, the same can be said. Yes, I did this when I was just starting out. Then again, I was only Eleven… This is why I believe it is important to go with a quality name brand guitar, with a strong reputation. It’s even more important to find the best value within that name brand. This is why I found this budget-priced Martin to be the best acoustic guitar under $1000.
It may be difficult to convince your parents to pony up for a nice guitar if they’re not convinced of your commitment. Whether you’re dependent on your parents buying you a guitar, or an adult on the fence about how much to invest, I completely understand, and appreciate, the various circumstances that color this decision.
When I was starting out I wish I had someone advise me about the value of a good guitar. It took me years to figure out that guitars, especially good guitars, can be an excellent investment. It does take some research, but it’s not rocket science. Just look at the prices of vintage Martins and you’ll get a good idea of future values if history is any indicator.
There are upsides to taking the leap and investing in a better guitar from the get-go:
- A name brand guitar, such as Martin, will hold it’s value – even a lower-end model
- Because you’ve invested more money into the instrument, you will be more motivated to keep playing
- Because you’ve invested in a better guitar, you’ll be more motivated to take better care of the instrument
- A better guitar is easier to play, sounds better, and will stay in tune
Who Is This Guitar Best Suited For?
While it may seem that a Martin is a guitar for a player who has paid their dues, a case could be made for the truth of that statement with regard to their higher-end guitars. But… Martin having been around since the 1800s, has figured out that there is a need for a line of entry-level guitars. Martin produces this line of guitars – the ‘X’ series – in Mexico to keep the cost down. These budget instruments won’t break the bank, and there’s a high probability that once you go Martin, you’ll become a lifer.
Considering the DX1AE comes in a dreadnought style body, this guitar is full size, meaning it’s probably best suited for older teens and adults. That said, this guitar is a good fit for beginners, hobbyists, and pros who don’t want to take their more expensive Martin’s on the road.
It may be of benefit to you to also read my Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners review for the reasons I chose this Martin to be included in the list, as well as other acoustic guitar options.
Comfort & Playability
I found the DX1AE to have a solid feel with a comfortable neck, good action and properly set intonation – out of the box. As an aside, I tend to be rather picky (sorry, I know, bad pun…) when it comes to the feel of a neck, and how my hand grips the neck. If it’s too fat or thick my fingers aren’t comfortable on the fretboard. If my fingers don’t flow I won’t be playing that guitar.
With the comfortable neck grip and ease of flow around the frets, I can easily see someone wanting to play this guitar for hours at a time. And you know what happens when you play for hours? Aside from irritating your partner or parents, because you’re not doing what they want, you will become a much better player! It’ll also keep you off the streets…
Keep in mind that this guitar is acoustic/electric, and therefore can be played amplified or not. Un-amplified, the DX1AE has a pretty warm sound. It’s certainly not the brightest sounding Martin, but that’s mainly because of the laminates used in its construction, rather than the better woods used in higher-end models.
The Fishman Sonitone electronics that allow you to plug this guitar into an amplifier are pretty basic. Inside the soundhole are two controls. One is a volume control and the other is a tone control. Depending on the room, these controls allow you to adjust your sound for the right balance of warmth and brightness.
More importantly, I found that the amplified sound controls compensated for the fact that the guitar’s back and sides are made from laminates. This made for a higher-end sounding guitar.
With Martin’s long history of guitar building, and a great reputation, you can be assured they make an instrument that will last. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this guitar on the road or camping. In fact, knowing that I can get the Martin sound, and not stress about having my more valuable, higher-end Martin’s, out of my studio… That’s priceless.
Once again, I hate to fixate on the “Martin” brand, and name recognition, but in reality, with this guitar, you are getting a Martin at a very un-Martin price. Like many others, I’d be hesitant to purchase a guitar made in Mexico, and built with laminates. Knowing that Martin places their reputation on the line with every guitar they place their name on, they’ve adapted their exacting standards to these “X” series guitars.
What Buyers Say About This Guitar
Overall, people who have purchased this guitar are very happy with their decision. Of the fifty reviews this guitar received, the average rating is 3.6 out of 5.
The positive reviews mostly focus on the good sound quality – some comparing it to their top of the line Martins, how easy the guitar is to play, and how nice the instrument looks.
The negative reviews mostly focus on the laminates used in construction. Their takeaway is that the guitar is too “plastic” and therefore sounds thin.
As is standard with all Martin dreadnoughts, the neck has a 25.4-inch scale, 16-inch radius, 20 frets, and a 1.75-inch nut width. The neck is shaped in Martin’s Performing Artist profile, which has a slim, rounded feel that will appeal to electric guitarists making the transition to their first acoustic. Other features include enclosed chrome tuners, a Corian nut, and Tusq saddle.
The Fishman Sonitone electronics allow you to plug into any amplifier. The volume and tone controls will get your sound dialed into any type of room you might play. The resulting sound is rich and clear.
What’s in the Box
The DX1AE comes with a gig bag. A hardshell case is sold separately.
In summing up Martin’s DX1AE, my conclusion is that if you are an “all wood” purist, this may not be the guitar for you. But… if you are willing to set aside your relationship with real wood for a moment, you just might be pleasantly surprised. If not, that’s certainly fine. I realize it’s very easy to get hung up on the fact that this guitar’s back and sides are made with laminates, but at its affordable price point, I found this guitar to be a more than admirable offering from Martin.
Compared to other guitars in this price range, the DX1AE proved itself to be better built, and more durable. It’s easy to play, has a fine sound – amplified or not, and has Martin’s reputation behind it.
If you are a beginner, I believe you will grow with this guitar. As your ability gets better, this guitar will be there for you. Because it is easy to play, and stays in tune, you will be more motivated to play.
Whether you are an intermediate, occasional player, or a pro, I believe you’ll be happy with this guitar. Again, knowing you can take this guitar out of your home and not freak out about it… This is a good thing.
- Easy to play
- Solid Sitka Spruce Top
- Solid feel
- Rich full sound
- Fishman Electronics
- Quality build and fine reputation at an affordable price
- It’s a Martin
- Laminates used for back and sides
- Made in Mexico