Martin LX1 Review: Is this the world’s best travel guitar?

The Martin LX1 Little Martin is one of the best travel guitars we’ve played. While it may not look like much, it offers awesome sound quality and playability for the money. It’s also one of Martin’s most inexpensive guitars. Check out Kevin’s Martin LX1 Review and see if it’s for you!

The guitar Kevin performed his Martin LX1 review on in the shop.
The guitar Kevin performed his Martin LX1 review on in the shop.

A special thank you once again to Steve’s Music in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, for letting us try out this fine instrument.

👀 Looks4/5
🛠️ Build quality5/5
😃 Playability4/5
🎵 Sound4/5
💰 Value for Money5/5
Overall rating:22/25

You may remember a piece I wrote a short while ago about great starter guitars for kids

After showing you six great guitars, I mentioned 3/4 and mini-sized “inexpensive” guitars. I said that these guitars are generally cheap and plagued with more problems. I pointed out that good, small guitars do exist, but they’re not cheap.

I stand by that sentiment but also understand that some people may be in a position to get something a bit pricier if it means a quality instrument. Some may even notice a small child making gains on guitar and want a nice upgrade.

Well, not a problem! I think I may have found such a guitar, and it’s the Martin LX1.

Martin LX1 Review: The Specs

The Martin LX1 Little Martin body shown from the side.
The Martin LX1 Little Martin

The Martin LX1 Little Martin (quite the name) is a modified, small acoustic guitar with a 23” scale length (compared to the 25.4” scale length of the 000-15M I reviewed before). It is a small guitar that would sit nicely on a smaller child. 

The guitar features a solid spruce top (nice!), high-pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides, a rust birch laminate neck with a Richlite fingerboard and head cap on the headstock. Richlite is also used for the bridge, which also has plastic endpins and a compensated tusq saddle. The body also has a hand-rubbed satin finish which looks really smooth.

The guitar I tested out did not have a pickup system installed though Martin offers the option of having a Fishman Sonitone pickup installed at the factory. 

Looks: 4/5

A close up of the Martin LX1 Little Martin body - it is relatively plain.
The Martin LX1 Little Martin is relatively plain

At first glance, the guitar looks like a toy. The matte finish on the guitar almost makes it look like plastic instead of wood. Maybe it was that in combination with the small size that tricked my brain.

Also, it’s a spruce-top acoustic, and guitars like this often have no fancy adornments. So it is rather plain.

The saving grace in the looks department is the wood grain. The spruce top has a beautiful pattern to it that is further accentuated by the finish. 

While the neck is laminate, it looks stunning, especially the lines that go from the heel to the headstock. You get this almost wavy pattern to it which is lovely in its own right. The team at Martin clearly took good care in making sure this neck was nice and smooth as well; you would never think that it was laminate.

The back of the Martin LX1 headstock and neck showing the beautiful woodgrain lines.
The Martin LX1 has beautiful woodgrain lines on the back of the neck.

There are a couple of other more “striking” details that add flare. The fretboard has no markers on the face (you do have them on the side though), as well as no pickguard. This makes the beauty in the wood and materials stand out. But this might be a problem if you’re heavy-handed like me – you will probably chew through the spruce faster than if there was a pickguard there.

Build Quality: 5/5

The back of the Martin LX1. It is built from robust laminates.
The Martin LX1 back and sides are made from robust laminates.

This guitar is nothing less than I would expect from a Martin, especially at this price.

The work was well done, the lines are nice and clean, and I didn’t see any deficiencies in the instrument at all. The neck is nice and smooth, and the frets are properly leveled and crowned.

Even with some of the laminates found on the instrument, the guitar is ridiculously solid, especially the neck. They may have used more inexpensive materials on this guitar, but it is still well put together.

Playability: 4/5

A side view of the Little Martin showing its small size.
The Martin LX1 Little Martin an be hard to hold due to its small size.

Some of the best acoustics I’ve played have been Martins, and this is up there.

The neck is a small V-shape and is especially nice and comfortable. The action is typical of what you would expect from an acoustic guitar (my preference is for it to be lower) but playing chords and single notes proved very easy. Someone with small hands will have no problems playing this guitar.

The shorter scale length really posed no problems either. I was able to play my usual ramblings without feeling too constricted. 

The smaller body did take some adjusting, and I often found myself changing the guitar’s position on my person depending on what I wanted to do. You can see some of that in the strumming example on the video, where I had to shift to go between first-position chords and barred chords.

Sound: 4/5

The Martin LX1 Little Martin headstock.
The Martin LX1 Little Martin delivers excellent sound quality.

If you’re looking for a big, deep acoustic guitar sound, this isn’t your guitar.

This is not to say that it is void of all low-end, but just look at it! It’s a small guitar! You really can’t expect it to be as full as a standard dreadnought. Are we good? Yes? Ok!

However, this acoustic guitar is very articulate, chimes nicely in the top end and has a nice push in the mids. Strummed chords have nice definition and project nicely. Fingerpicked parts sound articulate, but maybe a bit thinner sounding than on other standard-sized guitars I tried. Single notes were also articulate and projected nicely.

The smaller neck shape and reasonable action made everything quite easy to play; I had no problems getting all six notes on a barred chord to sound.

Thanks to the articulation and midrange push, the guitar projects very well for something of this size. Someone playing this among other acoustic instruments should have no problems being heard. You won’t be the loudest kid on the block, but you won’t be the quietest either. 

Value for Money: 5/5

This is where the guitar wins. You will be hard-pressed to find this quality for this price elsewhere, especially for a smaller guitar. The instrument has a lot going for it, mixing quality materials that are not too expensive with the same build quality that you’ll find on more expensive instruments. For someone looking for their first Martin (especially smaller players), you can’t go wrong with this.

Martin LX1 Review Score: 22/25

The Martin LX1 Little Martin is not the most inexpensive guitar for smaller players. But it is a fantastic choice if you do want to spend a bit more on something that is high in quality. It’s ideal for anyone who needs a smaller guitar for performing or travelling (overhead bins won’t be a problem here).

The main change I would make is to add a great pickup system. This way, you have the ultimate acoustic for flying.

Don’t leave your music store without giving this one a strum!

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