From the time the first self-branded models shipped from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in the early 1930s, the Martin dreadnought has been one of the most recognizable guitars in American music. The big bluegrass cannon has undergone tweaking and tinkering, but today’s specimens carry on the dreadnought tradition.
One newcomer is the D-13E Ziricote. From the made-in-Mexico Road Series, it strikes a nice balance among appointments, performance, and price.
Out of the box, the guitar looks like it can hang on the wall next to its American cousins. The top, back, and sides sport a gloss finish, and the rich chocolate-colored ziricote veneer on the back and sides perfectly frame the handsome spruce top. Ziricote comes from Central America and bears a passing resemblance to rosewood, but with a wider, less-regular grain pattern. The body is double-bound and the eye-catching rosette sports abalone pearl. The workmanship is exemplary; the finish is flawless and the action is low without a fret end to be found.
Acoustically, this guitar is a winner. Played fingerstyle, it’s balanced top to bottom and offers nice bass response without overwhelming the upper registers. Strummed with a pick, the D-13E is loud, warm, and pleasingly full without a hint of boxiness. Flatpicking brings out a representative midrange capable of getting out in front of a group of pickers. Tonally, it’s not fair to compare the ziricote to Brazilian or even East Indian rosewood, but putting this guitar through the paces was a treat. In a market filled with traditional and nontraditional tonewoods at price points capable of breaking reasonable budgets, Martin delivers a good-sounding guitar at a wallet-friendly price.
Plugged in, the D-13E delivers a clean, even signal from its Fishman MX-T electronics. The Tone control isn’t simply a frequency roll-off; rather, it starts as a relatively flat EQ on one end and progresses to slightly boosted bass and treble setting at the other. In addition to the simple controls and reliable performance of the previous Fishman offerings in the Martin line, the MX-T has a tuner cleverly hidden in the treble side of the soundhole.
The D-13E looks and feels a lot more like the statelier Martin dreadnoughts than you’d expect, and is much friendlier to the bottom line.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.