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I don't own a Martin, but I'd love to.  Being a a Martin owner appeals to me on a lot of levels, but I have a quandry.


As a non-Martin owner, but someone who wants eventually to become one, I need constructive opinions from the group.


Here's the question ... where, in the Martin line-up does one first encounter a "real" Martin?


At the risk of offending some Martin owners, doesn't Martin now have their name on some products that probably don't qualify? 


What about the "X" line?  Real Martins?  The  D-1 ?  A real Martin?


Like I say, I'm not out to offend anyone, I just want to get a consensus of some sort on what I'd have to spend to get a "real" Martin guitar.


Thanks --- Blackville

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Replies to This Discussion

I think you are trying to distinguish between the Cadillac Martins and the Chevy Martins. Or in todays auto world, the Toyotas and the Lexuses. Rest assured, they are all Martins, with the same factory support, but every guitar is still unique.
How about GM Chevolet autos as an example?   Is an Aveo, Malibu, Volt as compared to a  Corvett....all Chevolets?   Unless the guitar is a fake, if it has the Martin logo....regardless of where made and by it still not a Martin?  I think you may be confusing quality, prices etc with brand names.  I'd luv to have an HD or used....ain't gonna happen but I like what I have already.  The nice thing about that most are made from wood, it's the sound that counts and to me...playability is a close second. I'm not offended!!!

Even the Little Martins, though they're not entirely wooden (or for some, wooden at all), sound like Martins.    My purple one needs a trip to my luthier for setup, since capo-ing at the 7th fret yields intonation problems.


The previous crop of 1 series was in 1997, which is when I got Rosalie, my powerhouse of a 00-1R in my user icon.  (She is louder than some HD-28's.)  She has matured into a Real Martin just like my D12-28 made the same year.


Some of the "Real" Martin stuff may just be folks who invested monetarily, and now need to do so emotionally, in the Standard Martin line (e.g., my D12-28), versus the other, less expensive lines like my 00-1R

The best "investment" you can make is to play a bunch of them.  I went to Elderly thinking I would be purchasing a D-15,

D-16, or a D-18, instead, a OM1e spoke to me, and I had to have it. All Martins sound good, as far as the ones I've played, but the wonderful thing about them is each is different. You can play a dozen of the same model, and no two sound exactly alike. You may even find that "GASP" you are more of a Taylor player at heart, who knows?

I know some traditionalist who only consider standard and above 'real Martins.' The cut off point is the dovetail neck joint which begins with the D18. 


The 16 series and below have mortise-tenon neck joints. However, there are mortise-tenon Martins that cost as much or more than dovetail Martins. These include D16A (Adirondack top) and PA...performance Artist series which have very sophisticated on board electronics. 


I have a number of Martins including a 1971 D18 and a new (to me) 2009 HD28.  Personally, I like my HD28 and my D15M  best. Some of the lower priced Martins with mortise-tenon have A frame X bracing. I have three of them (DCX1E, SWGDT, and D15M). I like them a lot. 


There is no rule that more expensive dovetail Martins will sound better than mortise-tenon Martins, but they do get a little more care in making.


If you want a good Martin, play a bunch of them and decide for yourself. If you're buying to impress others, make sure the guitar has full gloss and a dovetail...the more appointments like pearl inlay...the better.

I am the proud and lucky owner of a D-41Special Custom and a D12X1AE. I play the 41 almost everyday I love the tone of the guitar so much. I play the D12X1AE quite often. I have used them both at open mic. I never really played a laminated Martin before (I was a Martin real wood snob), I am very happy with the D12X1AE and would recommend the other less expensive Martins to those want something from the best acoustic guitar maker in the world (IMHO). try to play as many Martins as possible. I had the good fortune to be in Nazareth and ended up at Nazareth Music Center where they had about 80 Martins to choose from. Good luck with your search
@ Bernie ... or anyone else who knows ... Re: Left handed guitars: What is the difference between a "left handed" guitar and one on which you simply reverse the order of the strings.  I've seen Paul McCartney playing a righty upside down and of course Jimi Hendrix always played his upside down Fender Strat.  So what's the difference??
The real difference in a left-handed guitar is hidden underneath the soundboard: the bracing is different between the side of the bass strings and the side of the treble strings.  Simply restringing the instrument and flipping it over yields an imbalance / distortion because the string tones don't match the bracing. Thats why Martin makes it a point of pride to sell its factory-lefthanded guitars at the same price as its usual righthanded ones.
Thanks ... makes sense.  As I considered the question further in my mind, it struck me that the bridge might also be slanted in the wrong direction ... at least on some guitars.

Hey Blackville,

I am with Ed Rhoades on this one...

"If you want a good Martin, play a bunch of them and decide for yourself. If you're buying to impress others, make sure the guitar has full gloss and a dovetail...the more appointments like pearl inlay...the better."

I have a 1976 D-28 that I think is just great!  It's one of my "home/recording"  guitars.  I wouldn't buy one with the fake wood back/sides or pieced neck though, I think you would regret that the first time you played a all wood guitar.  Plus,. all wood guitars are going to be rare in the next 20 years or so because of the problem with tone wood supplies.  BUT, that all said, the bottom line is, see how much money you have to spend for it and play as many models and body/neck sizes  as you can and choose which one will become your new best friend!  Here are my two...1976 D-28 and a 1980 D-28-12. Edward


Many thanks to everyone today for all the constructive responses!  This is a great group!


--- Blackville

Blackville: I appreciate your sincere hope not to offend; I hope I can return the favor. My opinons follow:

Any guitar Martin makes and puts their name on is a real Martin. I don't care if the wood is not spruce, if it's laminated, or how the neck is joined to the guitar.

I also don't want to start a discussion on the above topics as we've all been through a lot of them.

However, what I noticed more than once in your post was the word "Investment." Again, just my opinion, I don't consider buying a guitar is an investment. You love the way it feels, the way it sounds, and the way it plays, or you don't buy it. There are enough speculators out there to drive up the price of instruments so musicians, or folks who actually play them, can no longer afford them. It is some sort of sin to think of these guitars sitting silently in collections. Besides, I don't believe you will ever get rich - and you probably won't even make a profit - on any current model Martin guitar within your lifetime anyway. There are better ways to make money, if that is your focus. I bought a D-28, new, in 1984 and got her for a really good price. I doubt I could get what I paid for her today on the used market. That's 27 years later. Same with my D-41 Special (2005), my Eric Clapton model (2006), and even my backpacker.

If your mentions of "investment" and "real" intend to invoke images of a guitar that will make the folks silently say "Wow!" to themselves when you take it out of the case at a jam somewhere... don't live for others. Get one you really like and love to play. One that won't let you walk by without picking it up and escaping from the world for a while. One that makes you WANT to play.

Again, this is just me but I don't think in monetary terms when I decide to share my life with a good guitar. When I die I won't be able to take the guitar, or the money I sell it for, with me but I sure as hell will be able to take the enjoyment, memories, and the music with me (assuming there is an after life).

Just the view across the upper bout of one of my Martins.


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