Martin DX1AE Acoustic Electric Guitar

The Martin DX1AE Acoustic Electric Guitar . . . what's the big deal?

martin-dx1ae-acoustic-electric-guitarPeople who play guitar consistently for a while will have heard of Martin guitars, and some will have played them. 

A fewer of that number will own them.

The Martin DX1AE allows the guitar lover to pick up a great guitar with the Martin name at a fraction of the usual Martin pricetag.

What makes the Martin DX1AE guitar such a great deal for the money?
  • It retails for just about $569 - great value for the price point
  • Well- it's a Martin. . .  but some people are not partial to Martins (like me)
  • Consistently gets great reviews from hundreds of owners around the globe
  • It features a Solid Sitka Spruce Top for the best response and projection
  • It comes standard with a top of the line, Fishman Sonitone pre-amp and pickup.
  • The body is made from High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) Mahogany, so it is environmentally friendly giving a durable guitar without compromising quality or sound.
  • It also features Martin's D1 style A-Frame Bracing which is notorious with the X series of Martins.
  • Martin's D1 style A-Frame Bracing strengthens the top, while a "box" is created under the bridge by an angled bridge plate.  This is used on guitars that are made with a mortise/tenon neck joint. 
  • Built based on the popular Martin D-14 platform

The Martin DX1AE is a standard Dreadnought guitar (a body style that the Martin company made popular back around the 1940s) with their standard D1 A-frame bracing as shown in the bracing diagram here.  This bracing pattern maximizes strength on the top while reducing weight which optimizes the projection of the sound by allowing the Sitka top to resonate and vibrate very freely without compromising strength and durability.

Please understand that this is not a solid wood body guitar, except for the top which is solid Sitka Spruce.  The back and sides are made from HPL, which is a High Pressure Laminate.  

HPL is an industrial process which is used for laminating all kinds of things from counter tops to decorative sheeting to guitar materials.

Here is a video of the HPL process, which is essentially using a middle sheet of some kind of composite, or wood, and then gluing a laminate or veneer to look like another kind of material.  I could not find a video put out by Martin to show their specific process, but this is essentially the same technology.

The finish on these X series Martin guitars is a replica of the tonewood and not the actual tone wood.  They use real wood in the HPL under the laminated sheeting, but it is unclear to me whether they use laminated sheets of wood or more of a particle type wood glued together with resin in the center.

The great thing about HPL guitars is that they tend to stand up better to changes in the temperature and humidity.  The up-side / down-side is that they sound the same today as they will in 5 to 10 to 15 years if taken care of, and your preference will determing whether this is good or not so good.

With all solid wood guitars, the solid tone-woods tend to be a bit more temperamental to environmental changes, however, if taken care of properly, solid tone woods tend to age gracefully, and their tone opens up and becomes warmer and richer with age (like a good red wine) - which comes with a steeper price.

This guitar comes from the Martin X Series of Guitars, and is a great bang-for-your-buck guitar. 


It's all in the naming system:

Every guitar manufacturer has its own unique naming structure for guitars, and Martin has had the historic tendency to set the pace when it comes to making standard body styles and sizes.  

Check out our diagram of guitar sizes and body styles here, which mostly come from historic models and innovations made by the C.F. Martin Guitar company over the decades.

The DX1AE can be deciphered as follows:

D = Dreadnought (full, standard, most popular body style introduced in 1930s and 40s)

X = X Series of Martin Guitars (currently have 15 of the X models with options)

1 = signifies the introductory - no frills model and as in D1 for the A-frame bracing standard

AE = Acoustic / Electric

Other models in the DX line include the Martin DX1RAE (Rosewood finish) and Martin DX1KAE (Koa Wood finish) - they are essentially the same guitar except that the grain pattern on the laminated sides and back are different on each. 

Here you can see the coloring of the 3 main tone-wood finishes for each model


The DX models will sound identical reagardless of the finish because the color pattern on the laminate is the only difference.

If they were solid tonewoods as you would find on more expensive models, there would be distinct tone and overtone differences with the solid tone woods that are used. 

For example, Rosewood tends to produce more sound in the bass end for an acoustic guitar, whereas Mahogany is more punchy in the mid-range.  

Maples and other hard woods punch more in the bright, treble areas and tend to lack in the depth and bass eq for an acoustic.

The DX1AE is Mahogany grain - DX1RAE is Rosewood grain - DX1KAE is Koa wood grain (although the laminate wood underneath is the same) and all 3 of these have a solid sitka spruce top for the best projection and true acoustic sound.

Sometimes, before you venture out to purchase a specific guitar, it is best to break down or research the naming system so you understand all of the options that you are paying for, or to uncover other options that you might prefer within a line or family of guitars.

If you look up Martin D series guitars, for instance, you will find many, many Martin D models (Dreadnought) from D1 through many other lines of Dreadnoughts such as the famous Martin D28 (i.e. D15, D18, D28, D35 etc)

The trick to the Martin naming system is understand what the letters and numbers mean, and sometimes what comes before the dash and after the dash (if there is a dash).

The basics are pretty simple, but then, Martin is always dreaming up new models etc.  

The basic letters on the left of the naming system have to do with the size and body style and the basics are:

O = Ott or just "O"
OO = Double Ott
OOO = Triple Ott
M = Grand Auditorium
OM = Orchestra Model
D = Dreadnought
J = Jumbo

The numbers after the first letter usually get more expensive as the numbers go higher, so there are some in the teens, twenties, thirties and forties, the forties being the most ornate with expensive inlays and very high quality, solid tonewoods.

Some of the later numbers and letters explain some minor other characteristics.

C = Cutaway
E = Electronic
V = Vintage
S = Standard

martin-guitar-mortise-and-tenon-neck-jointThe Martin DX1AE features a Mortise & Tenon Neck Joint for long life and durability.
It features the D-14 fret setup (14 frets above the body instead of 12 frets above the body) and the top is made from a solid, book-matched, high quality Sitka Spruce- one of the highest strength to weight ratios.  
Sitka Spruce is ideal for steel string acoustic guitars because it is so light, straightand narrow-grained for strength, and has a great projection and tone.
The Martin DX1AE Acoustic Electric Guitar Series also features a multi-stripe rosette for that vintage acoustic guitar look.
martin-dx1ae-acoustic-electric-guitar-back-neck-and-sidesThe bracing system under the top are 5/16", non-scalloped and adding 1/4" tone bars, adding additional strength and encouraging a freely vibrating and resonating top for the optimum sound based on the materials and model.
The back and sides are made from HPL - High Pressure Laminate wood with a Mahogany pattern veneer.
The neck is hand crafted from a "Rust Birch Laminate" for superior strength to weight ratio.  The neck material is suitable for a long life while resisting the nearly 180 lbs of tension caused by the steel strings.
The neck shape is what Martin calls a Modified Low Oval Shape with a High Performance Taper meaning it feels great for most players and the workability of the neck is smooth for comfortable chording and playing.
The Nut is made from white corian for the best string vibration transfer without dampening the vibrations, while the saddle is made from a compensated Tusq material at a 16" radius, which is used in many other top end guitars.
The DX1AE features the standard Martin Rosewood HPL Headstock with taper and the Martin Logo in Script Ink.
The fingerboard boasts a full 25.4" scale length, and is made from a certified FSC Richlite- which is very similar to ebony but is a eco-friendly composite.


The neck joins the body at the 14th fret - similar to other D-14 models, and has a total of 20 frets.
The fingerboard width at the Nut and 12th fret are a very comfortable and universal 1 - 3/4" and 2-1/8" consecutively, and is inlaid with standard plastic dots on the fretboard as well as the side.
The quality, hand rubbed finish gives it a nice, durable sheen and the clear, gloss finish helps with the crispness of the sound projection.
The bridge is made from Richlite as well, which does not compromise on sound or beauty, while being environmentally responsible.
The Bridge String Spacing is at  2 & 5/32" while the Saddle Radius is curved at a 16" radius.
Martin puts their standard enclosed, chrome, geared tuning machines on the headstock for a nice finish - and these tuning gears are quality so they hold their position and help keep the strings in tune.
The Martin DX1AE and X-series comes standard with a Fishman Sonitone Onboard Preamp System which is a minimally invasive setup.
What I like about the Fishman system is that it is a simple system with a volume and tone control.
It is not the same as using a mic or blender, but will give you a great sound for gigging without having feedback issues.
In addition, it does not require a large cut out on the side of the body so the natural beauty of the guitar is retained. 
All you have to do is plug this in, work with the volume tuner inside the soundhole, and adjust the tone knob to get the brightness or warmth that matches your song, venue surroundings and / or the rest of the ensemble.
If you need a little more brightness to punch through in a group or setting, bringhten up the tone easily on the fly.  
If you need to tone it down for a beautiful ballad or warm, soft song, you can adjust between songs very easily.

So, would I buy one of these guitars?  

Sure I would.

I believe the value for this model, along with the name, the craftsmanship and the fact that these are going to be more resilient to climate, humidity and temperature change makes it a great value for the price point.
Other owners have said great things about these guitars as well.


Please share this review and leave your comments or feedback below and thanks for reading!


This is far from my best guitar. Bought this as a beater, and it is well abused, but for some reason, I always gravitate to this little guitar as one would a comfortable pair of old shoes. Punchy, warm, and just perfectly simple, and simply perfect

Thanks for your comment! It's good to know that someone with higher end guitars can enjoy this nice affordable gem from Martin. Thanks for sharing your experience! Aaron

Thinking of buying these and would love to hear from anyone that has one or has an opinion on them. I am a rhythm player not a lead guitarist and they seem a perfect fit for that style.

Hi Kevin- thanks for asking.  
I have not done a specific review on the Taylor t5z and the Taylor T3B, however, the Taylor name stands on it's own in terms of quality.  You really get what you pay for with a Taylor.  They just don't make junk and they have also been really good at innovation for both acoustics and acoustic electric guitars over the years. These are, without a doubt, a really great hybrid between electric and acoustic professional guitars and I cannot wait to play some of them!

When I get a chance, I would like to go play a few of these and write up a review.  They do range around $1600 - $1700 range, but worth every penny from what I have read and played (in terms of other Taylor models).  I have yet to pick up a Taylor guitar that didn't play and feel pretty awesome!  If you get a chance, go play a few different versions of these so you can get a good comparison, and you can read the pros and cons of what other owners have said about them here.  Let us know if you get one and give us a review of your own!

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