If you’re curious about why Martin guitars are so expensive, this post is for you!
What we now know as Martin Guitars is an old company. The official name is C.F. Martin & Company and it came to be in 1833. The best part is that it’s still run by the same family. As of this writing, the CEO is Christian Frederick Martin IV.
Even to this day, they focus almost entirely on flat-top acoustic guitars. And although they have a wide variety of models, the company still focuses on its straightforward designs.
In the 1910s, they came up with the dreadnaught body shape. Models like D-18 or D-28 are classics among steel-string players. The company also came up with scalloped bracing. Both of these innovations are in use by many other guitar manufacturers.
Why are Martin Guitars so expensive?
If you’ve been lurking online and checking out guitar prices, you’ve most probably noticed that Martins are expensive. Sure, there are some relatively cheaper models, spanning between $350 and $700.
However, most of their stuff goes past the $1200 mark. Some of them even go past the $5k mark and you can even find Martin guitars at around $10k. But why so much? Why are Martin Guitars so expensive? Let’s get into it.
One of the reasons behind this is that the company uses high-quality tonewoods. Sure, you’ll see your standard materials like spruce or mahogany. But these are all top-quality tonewoods. It’s not the same stuff that you find on cheaper brands.
Tops are always solid wood. This isn’t necessarily a really expensive feature, but the quality of these soundboards is at a higher level.
Even so, this wood isn’t that expensive on its own. And if you were to price the materials of a Martin guitar, most wouldn’t be that expensive. However, high-quality materials certainly contribute to the final price.
One thing that most players don’t often think of is bracing. This is essentially a wooden construction on the inside of the top side. We have strips of wood covering the board in a certain pattern.
The main role of bracing is to maintain the instrument’s structural integrity. It literally keeps the instrument from breaking. Without it, the soundboard would warp and even break over time. However, bracing also impacts the tone.
Martin guitars are famous for their scalloped bracing strips of wood. Martin uses both regular and scalloped bracing. Although not super expensive on its own, proper bracing does add to the cost.
You can check out more info on this in the video below:
Build Quality, Quality Control, and Consistency
Now, this is one of the things that significantly impact the cost. Sure, Martin has quality materials and building traits. Even a quality glue can add to the cost. But the most expensive part of building a Martin guitar is the labor.
It’s important to note that Martin hires professional guitar builders. While a huge part of the process is done by machines, you still need experienced workers for this. Additionally, some parts of the process require work by hand.
What’s also important to note is that quality control and consistency are at a high level. For instance, I’ve never heard anyone complain about a Martin guitar. Of course, like any guitar manufacturer, Martin occasionally produces a dud. But their quality control and dedication to high-quality manufacturing mean this only happens very rarely.
And if there’s an issue or two, I’m sure that they’d be glad to send another guitar your way. This level of quality control along with excellent customer service comes at a higher price.
Overall Manufacturing Costs
This is another huge factor for the prices of Martin guitars. You need to bear in mind that most of their guitars come from the Nazareth, Pennsylvania factory. This means that they hire people from the USA.
A lot of the brands outsource their manufacturing overseas. You’ll find that many guitars are made in China, Korea, or Indonesia. Contrary to popular belief, overseas guitar manufacturing has gotten a lot better over the years. However, USA-made instruments have earned a reputation for their high-quality. That said, they cost much more to manufacture.
Martin also has a factory in Mexico. However, these are all cheaper models, those that are around $350 to $700. Nonetheless, they still retain some of the high-end qualities.
Inlays, Binding, and Other Details
As you climb up the price levels, you’ll notice some high-end aesthetic details. If you were to look into their super-expensive stuff, you’d notice different binding, inlays, and other details.
For instance, let’s take a look at Martin’s D-45. This is their flagship model. The body features abalone multi-stripe binding. These things aren’t that easy to make. It requires special skills and special care.
Finally, we come to the obvious point. Like it or not, brand reputation adds to the price. This goes for any big brand name out there.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, some instruments out there reach astronomical prices just for the brand logo slapped onto the headstock. But I’d argue that this is rarely the case with Martin.
As I said, I haven’t heard anyone complain about Martin guitars. You always know what to expect of them. And that just has to come with a higher price tag. Look at it this way: they’re not just selling you the name, but the quality associated with it.
So are Martin guitars worth it?
The cheapest Martin on the market is their Backpacker model. It’s a weird-looking travel guitar with 15 frets and a 24-inch scale, costing just under $300. Although much cheaper than Martin’s standard stuff, it’s still relatively expensive.
The most expensive non-custom Martin model today is the aforementioned D-45. It’s just below the $10k mark. While we can discuss whether this one is worth that much, I’d argue that most of their guitars are worth the price. They’re obviously not for everyone’s price range. However, you won’t find a guitar of that quality and with a reasonable price tag.
I hope this article has helped clarify why Martin guitars are so expensive.
And if you want to read more about Martin guitars on this site, check out:
Lastly, feel free to comment below if you have questions about this or another guitar topic!