Nick Jennison reviews the Martin D-10E. This solid wood Dreadnought model is a great-sounding guitar at an affordable price. New to this model are stunning mother-of-pearl pattern fingerboard and rosette inlays with a multi-stripe rosette border. It has a Richlite fingerboard and bridge, a satin finish body, and a hand-rubbed neck finish. Also new to this model is the Fishman MX-T electronics package with a built-in soundhole tuner that auto-mutes the audio output so you can tune up any time without using a pedal.
It may seem hard to believe, but the Martin Dreadnought is over 100 years old. Prior to the creation of the mighty Dread in 1916, acoustic guitars were generally smaller and shallower, with much less projection and low end than we’ve come to expect from a modern acoustic. Given how well the thunderous power of a good Dread works in so many styles and settings, it’s no wonder that it’s become the “standard” body style - the “Strat” of the acoustic world, if you will.
What I mean by this is that every manufacturer and their dad has a take on the Dreadnought body style, and while there are a ton of great ones out there, you really can’t beat the original - and the Martin D-10E is a fine example of this archetype at a very affordable price.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the recipe, but let’s go over it. We have a non-cutaway body with a 14th fret mortise & tenon neck joint; 25.4” scale length (that .1” is important); scalloped X-bracing; and, of course, a large, deep body with a wide waist and square shoulders (insert a meme of Vision from the MCU, except it’s me - “maybe I am a Dreadnought?”).
The D-10E has a few important deviations from the classic formula, not least of which is the Sapele top back & sides. A species of mahogany, sapele is a warm and punchy-sounding wood with a rich midrange and a full low end. It’s a great match for a Dreadnought body shape, especially for accompanying singers where the slightly recessive upper mids and more rounded highs make space for a vocal.
The neck shape is Martin’s very popular Performing Artist shape with their High-Performance taper. It’s a very comfortable neck, with a slim profile that feels great for a whole variety of playing styles. The setup is also very comfy straight from the factory, which is a pleasant surprise: for all their amazing quality and tones, Martin guitars are not known for being the easiest playing guitars in the world (I am reliably informed that this is by design).
Electronics come in the form of the excellent Fishman MX-T pickup system. This simple but extremely versatile little system is a favourite of mine. It features just two controls - volume and tone - but the tone control isn’t your typical high-end rolloff. Rather, it’s an exceptionally well-voiced “scoop” control, allowing you to go from a flat EQ curve that emphasises the strong midrange qualities of this guitar through to a more “produced” tone with more highs and lows and a contoured midrange that sounds clear and sparkly without being thin or overly processed. There’s also a bright and easily visible tuner - not that you’d know any of this by looking at this guitar from the front, since all of the electronics are neatly hidden away in the soundhole.
The D-10E is an excellent take on the classic Martin Dreadnought, with some extra warmth and midrange bark from the sapele body woods. Whether you’re a working player who needs a great workhorse guitar or just someone who wants to add that classic Dread tone to your arsenal without breaking the bank, this guitar is a great choice.
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