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Martin D12X1AE Review -­ Not Your Regular Dreadnought

4.7 out of 5 stars

Martin is one of those brands that is and always has been considered to be an authority when it comes to acoustic guitars. Their D12X1AE might look just like another dreadnought, however it's anything but. This guitar is one of the best 12 string acoustic guitars you'll find right now.


Body and Neck

The fact that Martin chose the dreadnought body for this build should come as a no surprise to anyone. After all, they are the ones who invented this style of acoustic guitars in the first place. With that said, Martin D12X1AE does bring some surprises. This is a budget 12 string model. As such, it comes with a solid sitka spruce top while the sides and back are made of rosewood HPL. HPL is a laminate. Before you start rolling your eyes, we have to say that Martin's HPL and your average laminate are nowhere near the same thing. While it's not solid wood, their HPL does have great acoustic properties. In other words, D12X1AE shouldn't be discarded based solely on the presence of HPL. As expected, the entire thing is put together flawlessly. Martin may have unorthodox solutions in their affordable range, but they have a reputation to maintain.



With 12 string guitars, hardware is one of the most important factors to consider. Martin D12X1AE features a Richlite bridge that packs a set of quality plastic pins and a many times proven Tusq saddle. Mind you, the saddle on this model is compensated, which isn't something you see too often on 12 strings guitar. Richlite, Tusq and the rest of the synthetic alternatives work every bit as good as wood and bone, if not better in some cases. Tuning machines are standard Martin die cast units which also have a proven track record. One of the nicer surprises comes in form of Martins choice of electronics. They turned to Fishman and used their Sonitone package. Needless to say, it perfectly complements the acoustic properties. You are basically looking at a rock solid build for live performance that can withstand the use and abuse of frequent gigging.


For most prospective users out there, seeing that HPL stirs a lot of questions regarding the sound of this guitar. This whole issue has been settled a long time ago when Martin first started using HPL in their guitars. Is it going to sound as good as a solid wood Martin? Not really, however the sound will surpass most of the solid wood builds in this price range, easily. While tonewood is an important part of every guitar, the way it is put together often tends to have a much larger impact on the overall performance. Martin D12X1AE offers that classic dreadnought sound with much more range to it and plenty of overtones. You get crystal clear definition no matter what. The same can be said for a scenario where you plug the guitar in. Fishman Sonitone is a great system usually found on more expensive models. That says enough.


Martin D12X1AE meets and exceeds expectations despite its somewhat unusual nature. If you are trying to find a reliable work horse on a tighter budget, this Martin ticks all the right boxes and then some. The sound is simply there while that Fishman Sonitone is definitely a much appreciated bonus.

For more info about the Martin D12X1AE, click here.
For more Acoustic 12 String Guitar you might like, click here.

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