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