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C.F Martin and Co., better known as Martin Guitars, are one of those legendary guitar manufacturers whose guitars are found in every professional player’s collection. Martin and Co., established in 1833, has been one of the leading guitar-makers for almost two centuries. They have set industry standards like the “Dreadnought” size and X-bracing. The list of Martin players include players like Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney.
Martin has been making the 000-sized guitars for almost a century now, and most of the acoustic guitars we see are modelled after the shape of this 000-size. One of Martin’s most affordable 000-size guitars, the X1AE, offers the build quality of a flagship Martin with a low price-tag. Like all of the X-series guitars, it is built of an alternative material – HPL (High Pressure Laminate), which actually is many layers of wood joined together and given a natural-wood finish. The fretboard is also made a new material – the Richlite, which is an eco-friendly product that functions a bit like ebony. These may seem like corners cut by Martin to keep the guitar around the $500 range, but it actually makes the X1AE perform really well while being a lightweight and comfortable small-body guitar.
Martin 000X1AE Review
Not many small-bodied guitars have been as influential and as famous as Martin’s 000 series. It has set the standard of an acoustic guitar template and has provided the right balance of sound, build and price. The Martin uses unusual materials for its body and comes at a very unusual price for a brand like Martin. It’s “Made in Mexico” tag may throw some doubts regarding the craftsmanship, but there is nothing to worry about. The X1AE is an excellent guitar at an excellent price. Let me tell you why.
Martin 000X1AE Review: How It Looks
As mentioned before, the X1AE is made of new materials. The sides and back of the guitar are made using HPL, which has been given a “photo finish”, to make it look like natural wood. In this case, the photo finish is done to give the guitar seem like it was made of Mahagony. And it actually does. The smooth chocolate-brown colour of the body is well-implemented and you won’t be able to tell the difference in wood of this and other Mahagony-guitars unless you look closely. The Martin comes with a complete Satin polish which adds to the natural look and feel of the guitar. There is not cutaway in the body and the electronics are inside the soundhole of the guitar.
The Martin X1AE comes with a tortoise-colour pickguard which suits the light brown Sitka top and HPL sides. The soundhole is kept simple, and features only a black and white pattern rosette of inlaid Boltaron. Coming to the top, there is the golden logo of “C.F Martin and Co.” on the headstock, with the “Est. 1833” etched under it too. This name is, for many guitar players, enough proof to convince people that the guitar will be quite ahead of its competition.
The X1AE looks pretty standard, and unless you scrutinize it very thoroughly, you won’t be able to tell that the wood on the inside is not actually the standard Nato laminate or Mahagony or something else. On the outside, it looks simple and smooth because of the Satin finish and Mahagony-look laid on the guitar. You won’t have anything to complain about the looks of this one.
Martin 000X1AE Review: How It Builds – Build Quality
Many people doubt this guitar because of its composition. It uses new materials not found on most guitars and has that “Made in Mexico” branding. But in reality, this guitar is nothing but a pure Martin-standard guitar with impeccable craftsmanship. The sides and back of the X1AE use HPL, the top is an excellent Sitka spruce-top, and the neck is made from Stratabond – a material more like a hardwood laminate. This is actually a pretty different specs-list than most guitars have and what makes the X1AE a very different guitar.
The usage of HPL for the sides and the back has increased durability of the guitar and reduced its weight, making it very comfortable for beginners and travellers. The best thing about the build of this Martin is its top – Sitka spruce. Because the top of the guitar body affects the sound of the guitar most significantly, Martin made an excellent choice in giving the 000-X1AE a Sitka top. It is strong and resonant, giving the guitar a warm tone with good sustain. A strong body coupled with excellent hardware makes for a perfect guitar, and this is what the X1AE delivers. The chrome tuners are excellent and there is no problem of detuning or changing action at all. The excellent tuners, a firm neck and a spruce-top – all top features adding to the quality of this Martin and making it worth its price, which is also not very high considering its brand and finsihing.
The neck, made from Stratabond, is a modified low-oval neck, which makes it more comfortable to hold and play on. The Richlite fingerboard is also smooth and tight, making it easier for left hand finger movements. All in all, there cannot be any downsides to the build of the Martin 000 X1AE and you can expect it to last many many years of rough playing with ease.
Martin 000X1AE Review: How It Sounds
The body of the guitar is a good balance of comfort and strength, and so is its sound. The Martin 000 X1AE produces warm tones with a sufficient volume. The guitar has excellent playablity and is especially good for finger-picking due to its midrange sound and compressed tones when played around the middle of the neck.
There is a good balance of the bass and the treble, without the boom of the D-style Martins. However, this strength of the guitar may also be its only flaw. The midrange sound is quite literally – right in the middle. The tonal range of the guitar is a little less than that of a pure Mahagony-bodied guitar, and there is not a high variation from bass to treble.
Apart from this somewhat limited range of pitch, the sound quality of the Martin is beautiful. It is loud, rich and clear. The X1AE comes with Martin SP Cleartone strings, which are very good and give a nice long sustain with decent clarity. There is note-to-note clarity and when played at the guitar’s ideal range – not too softly nor to powerfully – the sounds are full and loud.
Because of its great strings and an excellent body, the guitar delivers very well. But for the more demanding player, the Martin X1AE comes with Fishman Sonitone electronics. The electronics are hidden inside the body of the guitar, with the pickup being under the bridge and the controls for volume and tone placed right inside the soundhole. When plugged in, the guitar really starts to shine, and you get a clear tone with a soft bass, which is especially perfect for fingerpicking and folk music.
Overall, the sound is what you expect from a Martin. It is balanced and rich, though a little concentrated in the midrange, leaving some room for some more sound detail. The pickup provided with the X1AE, though not the best, does its job very well.
My Personal Opinion
I have no hesitation in recommending this guitar for a beginner with a decent budget. The Martin provides excellent value for money and is surely to last many years of playing, Being a Martin, its sound will improve and grown on you as you play.
I have played the Martin X1AE once, and found it very suitable for my style of playing. The body is light and comfortable, making it easier to move around with the guitar. I found the low-oval neck to be very fast and smooth, and it fit perfectly in my smaller than average hands. The guitar sounds very bright and balanced, and rewards good fingerstyle techniques. It plays the best in the middle of the fretboard and gives a greater range of sound when you make your strokes a little more powerful.
The Martin 000X1AE is a perfect instrument to use with an electric track or for live shows, because its sound is warm and balanced. It would go well with a good fingerpicking pattern and a decent amplifier. While you can’t drive the guitar for pure blues and country rhythms – in fact, you can’t drive almost any guitar like that for less than $700-$800 – if you want a branded yet affordable guitar with a rich warm sound and a comfortable body, the Martin 000X1AE should be your top choice.
Pros And Cons of Martin 000X1AE
The Rating Card
Martin 000X1AE Review
- Body & Neck - 8.5/10 8.5/10
- Hardware - 8.5/10 8.5/10
- Sound - 8/10 8/10
- Price - 9/10 9/10
The Final Thought
The Martin 000X1AE is a very comfortable guitar. It has a great body which can handle rough use and a warm balanced sound. The strings, tuners and the electronic pickup system is surprisingly good, and needs no replcement. The sound is excellent and beats numerous guitars belonging to the smae price category. I highly recommend it for any player looking for a durable guitar from a great brand like Martin. You cannot go wrong with this one at this price.