Have we found the X factor here?
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