Martin 00LX1AE

Have we found the X fac­tor here?

Total Guitar - - ACOUSTIC - Rob Laing

What’s in a name? Quite a lot in the gui­tar world. Es­tab­lished brands carry ex­pec­ta­tion be­cause they’ve spent years prov­ing them­selves wor­thy of icon sta­tus. We’ve seen with Martin that also ap­plies to its re­cent en­try-level model; the im­pres­sive Dread­nought Ju­nior. Martin’s more af­ford­able op­tions still cost more than some of the com­pe­ti­tion, but there’s a sense of value to be had; you’re po­ten­tially get­ting to en­ter Martin’s world with the sound and feel that ac­com­pa­nies that. So is that the case here with the lat­est ad­di­tion to the X Se­ries?

The se­ries was launched with the aim of af­ford­abil­ity – so that’s a com­pro­mise on ma­te­ri­als. High pres­sure lam­i­nate (HPL) backs and sides here with a ma­hogany grain, so not the solid back and sides of the higher-end mod­els, and not a traditional wood lam­i­nate ei­ther. But a lot of the tone of an acous­tic comes from its brac­ing and top - re­as­sur­ingly it’s solid sitka spruce.

The look of the rust birch lam­i­nate neck will be an opin­ion­di­vider. Un­like the faux ma­hogany grain of the back and sides, its pro­nounced Stratabond sand­wich lay­ers re­sult in stripes that aren’t that ex­actly or­ganic. It doesn’t quite work for a her­itage brand. But as soon as we ac­tu­ally get to play the 00LX1AE there’s no doubt whose name is on the head­stock.

This is a real treat to play. Low ac­tion and su­perb re­sponse leave us feel­ing unim­peded. In­spired too, be­cause the Martin sparkle, shim­mer and sus­tain is present and cor­rect. The dif­fer­ence this makes over much of the com­pe­ti­tion should not be un­der­stated; its over­tones add de­tail and grav­i­tas to your play­ing. For a 00-shape it sounds big, and the pro­jec­tion is im­pres­sive enough to make us won­der if the dread­nought’s traditional place as the all-rounder shape is over­stated. We’d be happy cov­er­ing a lot of ground with this Grand Con­cert; the re­sponse to light touch could well en­cour­age pick play­ers to put their plec­trums down. Fin­ger­style parts are eas­ier to play and it doesn’t lose its in­nate tonal bal­ance un­der harder strum­ming.

The sound and feel live up to the Martin name. But the 00LX1AE faces com­pe­ti­tion in and out­side its own sta­ble. Martin’s short­er­scaled Dread­nought Ju­nior of­fers the same Fish­man Soni­tone sys­tem but with solid sapele back and sides and a gig­bag at the same price. The Tay­lor Academy Grand Con­cert 12e also has a gig­bag and the more de­tailed, or­ganic per­for­mance of Tay­lor’s Ex­pres­sion Sys­tem elec­tron­ics com­pared to the Soni­tone. So Martin im­presses here but com­pare and con­trast the 00LX1AE with the com­pe­ti­tion.

low ac­tion and su­perb re­sponse leaves us in­spired

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