Martin is one of the best acoustic guitar makers out there, so it’s safe to say the Martin LXM holds a lot of promise. The promise, though, indeed comes with a steep price.
Our job is to see if the price is worth it. In other words, we’ll check what the Martin LXM guitar offers for its price and balance the value accordingly.
Either way, Martin is a massive name in the industry. A critical element for its success is how the company pushes a new guitar every year. As such, the Martin LXM Little Martin debuted in 2004.
Martin LXM Little Martin Review
Martin is not the brand you’d think for affordable instruments. After all, they’ve survived for two centuries through their willingness to prioritize quality over quantity.
However, the company has opened towards new markets during the last decades. Things have changed, and thus the Martin LX series debuted as a mid-level alternative for beginner and experienced players alike.
Still, the Martin LXM is an odd guitar. Albeit it has a lot to offer, it includes some questionable design choices.
Even so, the Martin LXM is one of the best travel guitars we can recommend.
The Martin LXM is a traveling guitar. That means it’s smaller, hence the “Little Martin” nickname. Similarly, the LXM model is lighter and cheaper than most guitars of the brand.
When the company released the model, there was some controversy about the construction materials. Instead of the classical quality Martin offers, they swapped the tonewoods for cheap, laminated pieces.
Laminated pieces won’t ever be as good as solid wood pieces, no matter the quality. Moreover, you would expect a solid wood guitar at a mid/level price point.
After its debut, fans and critics were disappointed with Martin’s choice. However, the time has been beneficial for the company, as musicians found the brand did an excellent job with the budget materials.
Martin guitars are known as some of the best alternatives in the market.
The Martin LXM has laminated wood on the body. These are high-pressure pieces, though, so they hold up better than most laminated guitars.
However, there’s another controversy regarding the material. High-pressure wood is not “real” wood in the technical sense of the word. Instead, these are treated wood fibers resulting from an advanced chemical process that makes the wood less susceptible to decay, scratches, dust, insect damage, and similar.
The use of treated wood is questionable. Martin guitars have a reputation for desirable, natural woods like mahogany, rosewood, and maple.
Even so, their HPL comes from a combination of Sitka Spruce and Mahogany. It’s a well-put construction capable of delivering durability, performance, and lightweight.
Then comes the neck, a single-piece glued-in “stratabond” neck. Stratabond is also a treated wood that comes from rich woods like mahogany and ebony. In fact, it’s the cost-effective alternative to tropical mahogany, one of the best guitar building materials.
The guitar has a 23’’ scale, and the neck packs 20 medium-jumbo frets. There’re no cutaways on the body, so access to the higher frets is tricky.
Then comes the fingerboard, with “Micarta” and “Richlite” materials. Micarta is commonly a series of fabric or thick paper strips below some type of resin. Richlite is a Micarta alternative, but it’s simply a hard-treated plastic.
There’re no markers on the frets as the guitar lacks aesthetic features. There’s also no finish on the guitar other than the natural colors of the processed materials.
Lastly, the Martin LXM is a travel guitar, a shorter version of a fully-sized dreadnought guitar. The scale length (the entire length of the strings, nut to bridge) is just a bit shorter than the standard 25’’ scale length dreadnoughts have.
As you can see, the materials are not very good. We’ll have to see how the guitar holds up in its other departments.
The tonewoods determine the sound, durability, and weight of the guitar. These materials also influence the instrument’s overall performance.
Regarding the hardware, the Little Martin travel guitar has a standard configuration.
On the body, it has a quality rosewood bridge with a compensated Tusq saddle. Tusq is one of the best materials for the saddles, so you can rest assured the guitar has a top-notch bridge.
The Martin LXM has a Tusq construction as well, which helps keep natural resonance steady.
At the end of the body, there’s a set of proprietary Martin tuning machines. These are decent, open-gear solutions capable of holding the tune for hours.
Overall, the guitar’s hardware can retain intonation, hold up your preferred tuning, and resist hard string bends. Chances are you won’t have to adjust anything. Moreover, the guitar’s set-up, out of the box, is stellar.
The one thing that could be better is the strings. The LXM comes with non-branded steel strings, but these are decent enough, so you won’t have to change these either.
Even though the build quality is not quite appealing, the tone coming out of the LXM is unique and satisfying.
Martin’s X-series guitars pack HPL woods. As I said, these cheap wood fiber materials with another advantage, I haven’t mentioned before. HPL is highly resonant and reflective.
As a result, the guitar has a fair projection and a lovely voice. It’s a quality, bright sound, undoubtedly sufficient for the price.
The Martin LXM is a travel guitar nonetheless. That means the sound is thinner, warm on the highs, and without any significant bass. You wouldn’t use the LXM to record at your home studio, but you’d be happy with the guitar for practicing or playing around with your friends and family.
There’s another thing to mention. Despite its compact size, the tonal range and projection are pretty good. People often worry about the volume of a travel guitar, but the LXM can effortlessly compensate for its size.
Overall, it’s not as loud as a dreadnought, but it’s not shallow either. It’s just right.
The Martin LXM has a stellar performance as well. Because the scale length is almost as big as a standard guitar, it doesn’t feel tiny, odd, or like a toy guitar.
The fingerboard is smooth and free of sharp edges. However, beginners might have difficulty with the guitar, as it doesn’t have any dot markers.
Lastly, its compact size makes it travel-ready, light, and easy to carry. That’s always a plus for people looking for these specific qualities.
Alternatives & downsides
As you’ve seen, the Martin LXM doesn’t have a solid body. Fortunately, you can find solid body guitars at the same price range, both travel and otherwise.
If you’re looking for an affordable solid guitar, I recommend the Fender CD60S. It’s an affordable Fender dreadnought with a decent sound, decent construction, and the coveted logo on the headstock.
We could also take a look at Takamine’s options. Takamine produces top-value guitars by mixing luthier construction with advanced technological systems.
We recommend the Takamine G5. It has a solid Spruce Top body with rosewood on the back and sides, rosewood fingerboard, mahogany neck, reliable hardware, a warm sound, and a dreadnought body. Moreover, it sells alongside a bundle that includes a digital tuner, a set of strings, a strap, and a travel bag.
If you can’t find the LXM, you could go for the Martin LX-1 instead. It’s the same guitar, with different HPL materials. Notably, it has treated mahogany tonewoods on the neck, the fingerboard, and the body.
As a result, the Martin LX-1 has a warmer and more balanced sound.
Lastly, you could check Yamaha’s shelves, full of top-value items for everyone’s tastes. Here’s a list of the best Yamaha acoustic guitars you can buy.
Martin LXM Little Martin Specs
- Design: dreadnought travel guitar
- Body tonewoods: Mahogany & Sitka Spruce HPL
- Neck tonewoods: stratabond
- Fingerboard tonewoods: Micarta & Richlite
- Scale length: 23’’
- Bridge: rosewood with a single Tusq compensated saddle
- Nut: Tusq nut
- Tuners: Martin proprietary open-gear tuners
Martin took some chances with the LXM’s construction. It took some time until people accepted the design, but the time had already passed. Fans and critics understood the “sacrifice” Martin had to do to make the LXM cheaper.
So, this guitar is worth the price. Although its price includes very competent guitars, the Martin LXM is still a Martin. You’re paying a premium for the brand, in all honesty, but you’re getting an excellent travel tone in return.