Bigger is always better, right? When it comes to guitars, especially ones like what you’ll find in the Little Martin series, this oft-repeated moniker isn’t necessarily true.
This style of guitar, often referred to as a “travel guitar” or a “parlor guitar“, won’t replace your full-size guitar any time soon, but it does have its advantages. Best of all, if you choose your Little Martin wisely, you don’t really have to trade sound for size.
In this complete guide to the Little Martin Series of acoustic guitars I want to not only introduce you to what makes each model unique, you’ll also hear my review of how these guitars compare to their bigger brothers in terms of sound and durability.
Little Martin Review & Comparison
Whenever I pick up a 3/4-size travel guitar, my expectations for a full sound are quite low. It’s not that I fear the construction is shoddy, I just don’t believe you can get the same full-body sound from a guitar that’s lacking a, well…full body. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
To some degree my expectations are in line with reality, but I was surprised when I picked up a Little Martin for the first time. I’ve played and reviewed the Baby Taylor before, another great “little” acoustic guitar, but while the Baby Taylor sound could be described more as “bright” I was incredibly happy to get more of a “deep” sound out of the Little Martin guitars. That’s not common for smaller guitars…and I love it.
The biggest complaint against the Little Martin is their use of HPL or “High Pressure Laminate” to build the guitar. HPL is just a fancy way of saying “plastic made to look like wood” and it’s a big part of what makes the price of this guitar so low. But for most people, if you didn’t know this about the Little Martin acoustic guitars, when you pick it up and play it you never would have guessed.
Who is the Little Martin Guitar For?
The Little Martin acoustic guitar isn’t for everybody but in my opinion most people have a good reason to want a smaller-size guitar.
First of all, if you’re a parent looking to buy a guitar for your kid to learn on, the Little Martin is an excellent choice. It’s the perfect size, good action for their little fingers and a great sound. Best of all, if they decide not to follow through on this new hobby, you can just take the guitar for yourself!
Many guitarists use the Little Martin for travel. It fits well in the overhead bins of airplanes and the gig bag that comes with the guitar is incredibly sturdy.
Finally, as artists like Ed Sheeran have exemplified, the Little Martin can act as a primary guitar in some cases. It’s not common but it has a unique sound that, when properly used, can be really fun.
Which Little Martin is Right for You?
The currently lineup of Little Martin acoustic guitars include 4 different categories (LXM, LXK2, LX1 and the Ed Sheeran special) made up of 7 models. All of the guitars are the exact same size and all of them come with a padded gig bag. They all use the “Modified X” bracing for the sound board. The differences are primarily in the materials and electronics.
Take a look at the comparison chart below to see what really differentiates each of the Little Martin Guitars and then I’ll go into more detail below.
*HPL: High Pressure Laminate
Now that you have a quick overview via this Little Martin comparison chart, let’s look at each of the models individually starting from the most basic (LXM) to the most expensive (Ed Sheeran).
Little Martin LXM Review
The Little Martin LXM is the basic model for this series, which doesn’t mean it sounds terrible. In fact, I think it sounds great. Nothing made me happier back in my teaching days than seeing a new student walk in with an LXM in their hands.
What you’re missing with the LXM is the ability to plug into a sound system (no electronics) and the use of solid wood. Most people won’t plug into a sound system with such a small guitar anyway, so that’s not a big deal. The HPL (High Pressure Laminate) bothers me a little, but I think that’s more arrogance on my part than anything else.
At under $300, if you just need a travel guitar or a simple guitar to learn on, the Martin LXM is a great choice.
Little Martin LXME Review
The next step up from the LXM is the Little Martin LXME. It still uses HPL for the front, back and side materials instead of wood and all other specs are exactly the same. Except one.
The “E” at the end of the LXME signifies that this acoustic guitar comes with a Fishman Isys T pickup system that will allow you to plug into a sound system or recording deck.
This Fishman pickup also comes with an onboard tuner, a nice little bonus.
While this guitar is usually priced at under $400, it’s still a great deal if electronics are a “must” for you.
Little Martin LX BLACK Review
If you’re big into black, the Martin LX Black is the guitar for you. The entire guitar – including the fingerboard – are made using black materials: HPL for the top, back and sides; black Micarta for the fretboard.
This model does not have the option for electronics, which I find interesting. If you want black, apparently that means you won’t be playing on stage any time in the near future – at least according to Martin.
Like the LXM, the Little Martin LX Black is well-priced at under $300.
Little Martin LXK2 Review
I’m a sucker for Koa wood, I won’t lie. Even though I know that this isn’t “real” Koa wood on the Little Martin LXK2, I still like it. Instead, they pattern the HPL to look like Koa wood for a bit of creative flare.
Like the LX Black model, the Little Martin LXK2 doesn’t offer the option to have electronics on board.
Again, this isn’t something that bothers me too much as I don’t tend to plug in travel guitars, but for some people that might be a deal-breaker.
The Martin LXK2 runs the same price as the LXM models – usually under $300 – so if I had to choose between the two, I’d always prefer the beautiful Koa!
Little Martin LX1 Review
A step up from the LXM and LXK2 models is the wonderful-sounding LX1 models. I highly recommend these guitars if you can afford them because they use a solid top instead of the High Pressure Laminate. (see my thoughts on solid top vs laminate top here)
The Little Martin LX1 uses a Sitka Spruce solid top in its design, a commonly-used wood for many acoustic guitars on the market. It looks great and sounds excellent.
The LX1 doesn’t come with electronics, but it is something that can be an after-market addition.
Because the Little Martin LX1 is priced just $20 higher than the LXM, there’s no doubt in my mind that the extra cash is worth the solid top.
Little Martin LX1E Review
Next in the lineup is the Little Martin LX1E acoustic guitar. It shares all of the same specifications as the LX1 including the much-desired solid Sitka Spruce top instead of High Pressure Laminate.
As the “E” implies, though, the only difference between the LX1E and the LX1 is the inclusion of electronics on board. This is the same Fishman Isys T pickup that you find on the LXME which includes an onboard tuner.
If you prefer to install your own pickup, go for the LX1, but if you like the sound of Fishman pickups then it’s nice to have it come pre-installed with the LX1E.
You can usually still get this guitar for under $400 at most stores.
Little Martin LX1E Ed Sheeran Review
British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran has become the face of the Little Martin series. He has shown that you can make big sound with a small guitar. This guitar pays homage to what he has done for this guitar.
The Little Martin LX1E Ed Sheeran Edition uses a solid Sapele top instead of the Sitka Spruce for the other LX1 models. This is a darker wood that will give you more of a deeper low end (although not too much more).
It comes laser etched with Ed Sheeran’s logo and comes with the Fishman Isys T pickup pre-installed.
Here’s the problem with the Ed Sheeran Edition – it’s very difficult to find. You’ll need to call around or perhaps even purchase a used one if you want to get your hands on it.
Conclusion | Little Martin Acoustic Guitars
The Little Martin acoustic guitar series may be a smaller guitar, but it can be a great addition to your collection if you need a simple but good-sounding guitar to travel with or just play around the campfire.
Martin fans will be happy with the deeper sound and for those who want to plug in they have plenty of options that come with electronics on board.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed playing the Little Martin guitars and can’t wait to buy one for my son when he gets a few years older!