Martin LXK2 Review (Little Martin Acoustic)
The LXK2 Little Martin, though not as well-built as some acoustics in its price range, has a great sound and can be accommodating to smaller players, smaller hands, or those that just want a more convenient guitar size to play
We like the Martin LXK2 for a lot of different reasons.
Not only is it ideal for things like traveling, beginners, kids, and smaller hands, but it’s also a great-sounding instrument that has a professional feel and a competitive tone profile. In other words, it’s not just a toy or a short-term solution.
If you just prefer a smaller acoustic guitar, the Little Martins can handle all the demands and quality requirements met by the bigger models in a similar price range.
While the LXK2 doesn’t have some of the construction qualities we’d like to see, there are different versions in the Little Martin series that offer varying types of tonewood mixtures and bracing.
However, this is specifically a Martin LXK2 review, given our experience with that particular model.
In the following table we’ve setup a weighted grading system for measuring everything from tone quality all the way down to cost and value.
Tone Quality of the LXK2
There are going to be some built-in limitations to the tone of a guitar this size, like volume, projection (audible reach), and sustain.
All of these are somewhat reduced in the LXK2, though that doesn’t necessarily impact the quality of the tone you hear.
It does a remarkably good job of capturing the rhythmic Martin warmth you get out of the X series and the DSR1, which is enough to prevent it from sounding small or too thin. In fact, we’d say the guitar has a distinct thickness to its tone profile, despite the small body size.
It’s not as bright as the larger guitars and probably not a great candidate for melodic or lead acoustic styles.
Though for rhythm, practice, and basic chord progressions the LXK2 is able to deliver a pro-level sound quality.
Tone Highlights and Descriptors
- Low sustain
- Low projection
- Low-end EQ emphasis
Though limited by reduced volume and less ability to project (due to the smaller size) the LXK2 still sounds really good.
Its low-end presence and strum-friendly rhythm profile are enough to keep it in our “top recommendations” list.
One of the weaknesses of the LXK2 and its predecessor, the the LX1, would have to be the tonewood situation.
You’ll see KOA HPL listed as the tonewood type for the top of the guitar, where HPL is an abbreviation for “high pressure laminate.” And before you get too excited, “high pressure” is something that could be said of all laminate wood products, because pressure is required to create laminate of any kind.
Then again, you can’t blame acoustic guitar companies for trying to come up with creative ways to get around using the word “laminate” in their product descriptions.
It’s a dirty word in the acoustic guitar world, but it’s something you have to live with if you want to buy the LXK2 or the LX1.
Both use laminate wood for top, back, and sides.
However, as mentioned in the previous section, the sound you get out of the KOA is quite good.
KOA is known to provide a balanced tone between warm and bright, yet what we hear in the LXK2 is definitely emphasizing the lower, warmer end of the spectrum.
This is similar to the Taylor GS Mini KOA, though that guitar uses solid tonewood in the top.
We have to take off points for not providing any kind of solid wood, putting the LXK2 at the bottom of this chart. Yet we don’t mind the tonewood profile, given the surprisingly good sounds we can get out of the LXK2.
As the only one of the top acoustic guitars we’ve tested without any solid wood (outside of the neck and headstock), the LXK2 falls to the back of the line in this category.
Construction and Build Quality
The verbiage “mortise and tenon” used to describe the neck joint is essentially a fancier way to say a “bolt on neck.”
This is an extremely common acoustic guitar construction feature and can show up regardless of price range.
It’s also not going to be a significant determinant of sound quality or the guitar’s physical longevity. For those that are curious, the alternative neck joint that Martin uses is called a “Dovetail” neck joint.
We’re okay with both mortise and tenon and dovetail joints.
Martin uses their non-scalloped X-bracing system inside the LXK2, which is a small step down from the scalloped bracing, though not enough to cause a significant difference in the guitar’s tone profile.
We’ve already addressed the tonewood, as Martin uses a laminate or layered wood for all three of the guitar’s major pieces (top, sides, and back).
In terms of giving it a grade, we take points off for the laminate and non-scalloped bracing. It’s hard to compete with the rest of the group when you’re the only one without any solid wood components.
We take points off primarily for an entirely laminate construction and a non-scalloped bracing system.
Neither are deal breakers, but this is just where the LXK2 lands in relation to the best acoustics we’ve tested.
It’s still one of the best, especially based on price.
By default the LXK2 does not have any kind of built-in electronics.
For the most part, those of you that would want to use the LXK2 won’t care one way or the other.
We still wanted to give it a rating in this category because there are versions of the Little Martin that offer an “E” version, like the LX1E. That model comes with a Fishman Sonitone preamp and pickup system which you can see on top of the guitar in the following image:
This typically adds about $100 to the retail price of the non-electric version of the guitar, so we would advise pursuing this version only if you’re certain plugging in is a necessary and critical feature.
Since the LXK2 itself doesn’t have electronics at all, we tried to balance out our rating by giving partial credit.
Take care not to get confused between the LXK2 and LX1E.
There are versions of the Little Martin acoustics that include a pickup and preamp, though the LXK2 itself does not have one.
We’ve given partial credit, though you could also perhaps give an “n/a” rating for this category.
Value of the Martin LXK2
The LXK2 is on the low-end of our best acoustic guitars list, but keep in mind:
It’s still one of the best we can recommend.
This is reflected when we plot the price of the LXK2 with its overall rating along with the other acoustics in that list. This gives us a visual of value where a lower prices and higher ratings are better.
Plotting each acoustic guitar’s overall rating against their approximate retail price tag, we can get a visual for the value of the LXK2 against other recommended acoustic guitars.
Lower and further to the right is better.
Martin LXK2 VS Baby Taylor (BT2)
The BT2 is a little larger than the LXK2 at 3/4 the size of a full acoustic guitar.
It also feels more like a traditional dreadnought shape when compared to the LXK2’s slimmed down profile. In the BT2 you have a Mahogany top that’s still laminate, but produces a darker tone than the LXK2, that didn’t sound quite as smooth to us.
It was certainly brighter than the LXK2, but also more full and “thick” at the same time.
Both the Martin LXK2 and the BT2 are excellent acoustic guitars and cater to a similar type of player and buyer profile.
They also have some significant differences that those deciding between the two should know about. Since we’ve used and tested both, we can speak a little bit to the strengths and weaknesses of both instruments.
Like the LXK2 the BT2 has no electronics, at least not in the default version.
We’d say it’s a better performer in a melodic context or as a fingerpicking companion since it does a marginally better job of accentuating the right hand movements and finger scrapes. However, the tone profiles of both are appreciably similar.
Best Fit and Context
The LXK2 is designed for things like travel, easy playing, practice, and taking lessons.
This can give it some appeal to kids, beginners, or players with smaller hands. Though keep in mind, the fretboard isn’t tremendously different than that of a full-sized acoustic. It’s just marginally slimmer.
Still, we’d confidently recommend the LXK2 in these situations, or even just to those that don’t like the bulky feeling of performing with a full-sized acoustic.
The LXK2 definitely has its limitations.
We’d love to see a solid top, even if it meant the guitar’s retail cost got bumped up a bit. It’s at a price point where its target market — beginners, casual players, and younger students — could easily afford it.
But we think it has enough quality and a good enough tone that it could also be a viable guitar for intermediate or advanced, even semi pro players that just want the smaller body size.
Some marginal improvements, some of which are available in other versions in the Little Martin series, would go a long way for this type of guitar.
We recommend it confidently for a wide range of styles and especially for the earlier skill levels.
Other Martin LXK2 Resources
- Taylor BT2 Product Home Page
- Martin LXK2 Product Home Page
- Martin Bracing Patterns Reference Page
- Mortise/Tenon and Dovetail Neck Joints
Your Questions and Comments
For those of you with lingering questions about our Martin LXK2 review or the process by which we rate acoustic guitars, feel free to leave a note in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to respond.
If you’ve owned the LXK2 or the LX1, leave your war story and thoughts about the guitar in the comments section as well.