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Martin DX1AE Review – A Deceivingly Good Affordable Martin!

4.8 out of 5 stars

Most guitarists wouldn’t say no to a genuine Martin acoustic… until you tell them the price, then they may have issues about parting with their cash. However, the DX1RAE completely changes this, by offering full Martin feel, tone and style with a price tag that keeps this acoustic guitar at well under $1,000. How do they do it?

Body & Neck

There are plenty of talking points when it comes to the design and build of the DX1RAE. The most notable is that the back and sides of the body are made from Martin’s HPL – an eco-friendly high-pressure laminate, that is made from wood particles pressed together with resin under a high heat. This is covered with what is essentially a photo of a rosewood grain to give the illusion of real wood. On first glance nobody would notice, although on closer inspection it becomes easier to tell it’s a photo.

This use of HPL will turn many off, although – as we discuss below – the sound isn’t affected. Besides, Martin uses solid Sitka spruce on the top, which aids the tone greatly. In addition to using new materials, Martin keeps the cost down by keeping the decoration to a minimum. There’s no binding on the body or the fretboard, while the soundhole has just a simple rosette.

Moving onto the neck and this is also not exactly as it first appears. For the bulk of the neck, Martin uses an attractive birch laminate – also known as Stratabond – comprising 26 individual layers (if our counting skills are reliable). It’s not the smoothest neck to play, as ridges are present, but this isn’t a big deal – it still features a comfortable slim oval shape and is fast to move up and down. Meanwhile, the fretboard, with 20 frets, is made from Richlite – yet another eco-friendly material made from compressed paper.


Believe it or not, the DX1RAE is actually an electro-acoustic – not that you would know it from first glance, as the preamp is tucked away inside the soundhole. This is a Fishman Sonitone system, with discreet volume and tone controls for a little onboard sound manipulation.

The rest of the hardware is what you would expect from a higher-end Martin. There is a set of chrome sealed tuners on the headstock which hold your tuning as solid as a rock. You’ll also find a White Corian nut and a compensated TUSQ saddle, which sits on the Richlite bridge.


For a guitar that features such a modern build, with a considerable lack of real wood, the performance of the DX1RAE is on par with many others in the sub-$1,000 price range. It offers a warm and compressed tone, which is very well balanced. It copes just as well with fingerstyle playing and flatpicking as it does for more aggressive strumming.

It’s not the loudest dreadnought in this price range, but you don’t struggle for volume – especially when it’s plugged in. The Fishman system offers a good way to amplify your sound on the fly, but the lack of a control panel does limit your tonal adjustment options a little. Overall, it delivers the rich Martin tone we were craving and, if this is what HPL sounds like, then we’re sold!

The Verdict

Ultimately the DX1RAE may struggle to convince solid-wood enthusiasts, but spending ten minutes with this dreadnought and anyone can appreciate what Martin has done on a budget. It’s the perfect way to own a full-sized, full-sounding Martin without having to drain your savings. It’s also a great Martin to have around the house or to take on the road, allowing you to leave your $8,000 Standard Series D-45 safely in its case!

For more info about the Martin DX1AE, click here.
For more acoustic guitars under $1,000, click here.

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