When I first decided to quit my 9-5 office job to travel around Europe and Asia, I knew I couldn’t give up my most precious home possession: my acoustic guitar. A travel-friendly acoustic guitar would be the perfect accomplice to accompany the digital nomad lifestyle. Since both are the perfect size for casual playing at a hostel or a gig while easily transported overseas while still preserving a high-quality sound and feel, the face-off boiled down to the Martin LX1 and the Taylor BT1.
When I first went about purchasing a travel guitar, my expectations were quite low. However, when I found these two models, I was truly taken aback. Take it from someone with over a decade of experience immersed in acoustic guitar playing and teaching, Taylor and Martin are truly the high-water mark of guitar quality and craftsmanship.
While these two guitars are the smallest guitars of both company’s production lines, they pack a whole lot of excellent features in a three-quarter size package all with their signature brand look, feel, and sound. We’re going to take a look at the excellent features both brands offer and make an in-depth comparison to hash out which might be the guitar for your unique needs.
Baby Taylor vs. Little Martin: Comparison Chart
Here is a quick table for a side by side comparisons of both guitars:
|Baby Taylor BT1||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Little Martin LX1||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
Baby Taylor vs. Little Martin: The Main Differences
In order to highlight main relevant differences, we have selected BT1 and LX1 to compare against each other. Note that BT1 and BT2 have very similar features, except for the top wood which is solid sitka spruce for BT1 and solid mahogany for BT2 (see below for more details related to Baby Taylor). As for Martin, the differences Between various LX models are described in the corresponding section below.
|Features||Baby Taylor BT1||Little Martin LX1|
|Top||Solid Sitka Spruce||Solid Sitka Spruce|
|Back & Sides||Layered Sapele Laminate||High Pressure Laminate Mahogany Pattern|
|Neck||Sapele||Rust Birch Laminate|
|Tuners||Die-Cast Chrome||Small Knob Enclosed Chrome|
|Finish||Matte 2.0||Hand Rubbed|
|Nut & Saddle||Nubone Nut & Micarta Saddle||Compensated White Tusq|
|Electronics||No, but BT1-e model available||No, but LX1E model available|
The Baby Taylor
- 6-string Acoustic Guitar with Mahogany Top
- Layered Sapele Back
- Sides - Natural
- Neck Width 1-11/16 inch
Conceived in 1996 and sitting at three-quarters full size, The Baby Taylor truly packs a great sound in a small package. It sports nearly all of the premium craftsmanship and great features of its bigger (yet younger) brother the Big Baby Taylor, but sits at a smaller size ideal for any child, traveler, smaller-framed student of the guitar, or really anyone who wants a nice spare acoustic for campfire songs.
Made in the Taylor guitar factory in Tecate, Mexico, the guitar features either a solid sitka spruce top (BT1) or a solid mahogany top (BT2), both matte finished and with all other features being identical. The sitka spruce topwood gives the BT1 a high volume output with warm, crisp articulations that matures with age while the harder, denser wood of the mahogany-topped BT2 yields an earthy, darker tone.
The signature X-shaped bracing reinforces the top for added strength and sound projection, while the arched back helps generate more sound out of its smaller ¾ size. Durable layered sapele back and sides gives the guitar a nice look while providing extra resilience to changes in temperature and humidity, a common occurrence when traveling in different climates.
Both versions offer a clean, symmetrical non-cutaway look with the classic Western dreadnought style at ¾ size. The neck is beautifully solid and sturdy mahogany with a matte finish. The layered sapele back and sides gives the guitar an exotic, high-end look that screams quality manufacturing. Sapele is a tropical african wood and is very similar to mahogany in sound and appearance.
The black genuine African ebony used on the guitar makes for a great, responsive fretboard material. The smoothness and natural oils give it excellent playability, letting your fingers easily glide around the neck. For acoustic purists, the Baby Taylor offers no electronics and a high-quality gig bag to take the companion safely on the road or overseas.
After playing both the BT1 and BT2 for many hours and analyzing both for tonality and projection, I can see why Taylor Swift preferred to use the Baby Taylor. The BT1, which will be the focus from here on, has the authentic Taylor sound with great low, mid, and high frequencies and exceptional clarity.
I found the loud, powerful projection of the solid sitka spruce top to be ideal. Additionally, the spruce top adds brightness and a well-balanced tone that matures nicely with age. The sound is great for any player that likes to fingerpick, strum or play rhythm to virtually any style, but especially modern pop. Additionally, the warm and punchy sound has great sustain and intonation.
For those interested in a detailed breakdown on the tonal differences between the BT1 and BT2, be sure to check out this well-done youtube video:
BT1 Specs at a Glance
- Scale Length: 22.75”
- Body Length: 15.4”
- Body Width: 12.5”
- Body Depth: 3.375”
- Neck: Tropical American Mahogany
- Bracing: X-Bracing
- Tuners: Die-Cast Chrome
- Nut & Saddle: Nubone Nut and Micarta Saddle
- Neck Width At Nut: 1 11/16″
- Fretboard: Ebony
- Frets: 19
- Finish: Matte 2.0
- Back & Sides: Layered Sapele, laminate
- No pickguard
- Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
- No Electronics, but electroacoustic model available
- Durable, high-quality gig bag included
The Little Martin
- Mahogany pattern HPL (high pressure laminate) textured finish, solid sitka spruce top
- Rust Stratabond neck, shortened 3/4 scale
- Chrome small-knob tuners. Tusq saddle.
- Solid Morado or East Indian Rosewood fingerboard
- Includes padded gig bag
- "1-style" Sitka spruce bracing
- Martin's patented neck mortise
- C.F. Martin script logo on headstock
- The LXM features a Spruce Pattern HPL (High Pressure Laminate) textured finish top along with Mahogany Pattern
Like the Baby Taylor, the Little Martin is the smallest guitar this premium brand produces. Perfect for children and travelers, the Little Martin is a three-quarter size acoustic guitar with the classic Martin style and backed with the exceptional Martin quality and craftsmanship, yet still very cost-effective. Additionally, no matter the model you choose, you will receive a high-quality soft gig bag that is well-suited for the overhead cabin on a plane or hauled on a road trip.
Also made in Mexico, the Little Martin flaunts a non-cutaway concert body with no electronics. The Little Martin comes in several models, including the LX1, LX2, and the LXM. The most cost-effective of the bunch, the LXM is made of high-pressure laminate mahogany on the sides, back and top and a warm satin finish.
The high-pressure laminate increases the durability and makes the guitar more resistant to rough treatment, an ideal feature for travelers. The LX1 offers a solid sitka spruce top and high-pressure laminate mahogany on the back and sides. The LXK2 features koa high-pressure laminate top, back, and sides.
The comfortable and sturdy neck on all of the Little Martin models is made of birch laminate, along with a Richlite fretboard with 20 frets. The birch laminate is cheaper to make but will add resilience to the neck and prevent warping due to changes in temperature and humidity. The modern low oval nut neck profile further adds to comfort and playability.
All eco-conscious buyers will like to be aware that all of the Martin guitars are made of FSC certified wood, which means the wood comes from sources grown for harvesting and not from rain forests or other sensitive environments. While the LXM and LXK2 are made of high-pressure laminate bodies that may allow the guitar to survive kids and road trips better, I will hone in on the LX1 because of the great sound and real wood top that matures well with age. However, if the price point and durability is deemed an important feature for you, the high-pressure laminate -bodied models may be the better option.
For those interested in a more detailed breakdown of the differences in tone and features of the Little Martin models, this youtube video is a great supplement:
It clearly looks great, but how about the sound? The LX1 is such a popular guitar because of its great, well-balanced tone. Ed Sheeran has famously used the LX1 (the electroacoustic version) in many songs on his debut album. The sound is surprisingly deep and rich considering its a ¾ size acoustic guitar.
While the projection is undoubtedly less than a full-size acoustic, the LX1 makes up for it with great tone, intonation, and sustain. It’s volume output is also higher than the other LM models.
It creates a nice bluesy sound with its short scale and small size, all with a nice warmth that you’d expect from Martin craftsmanship and a solid sitka spruce topwood. Given that sitka spruce is a bright, warm sounding tonewood, the high-pressure laminate mahogany back and sides dampen the brightness and balance the LX1’s tone with a well-developed low and mid-range.
This gives the guitar a woodier, mellower tone than the Baby Taylor. The included phosphor bronze medium gauge strings add to the deep and rich bass tones. Moreover, the sealed chrome die-cast tuners hold tune well for days.
LX1 Specs at a Glance
- Scale Length: 23”
- Body Length: 15”
- Body Width: 12”
- Body Depth: 3”
- Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
- Back & Sides: high-pressure laminate Mahogany Pattern
- No pickguard
- Bracing: X-bracing
- Nut & Saddle: Compensated White Tusq
- Neck Width At Nut: 1 11/16″
- Neck: Rust Birch Laminate
- Fretboard: HSC Certified Richlite
- Frets: 20
- Finish: Hand Rubbed
- Tuners: Small Knob, Chrome Enclosed Gear
- No electronics
- Gigbag included
Since both guitars come with a solid sitka spruce top with X-bracing, same tuners, no electronics, and both include a padded gig bag, it is possible that the jury is still out on which one to purchase.
With a purchase coming from elite brands like Taylor and Martin, you’re going to get excellent craftsmanship, service, and quality tone and materials no matter which choice you make. Both guitars are cost-effective at under $400 and are truly an excellent value for this price point.
The decision of one guitar over the other comes down to each player’s unique needs. Personally, with the solid wood construction and arched back of the Baby Taylor, the warm, bright tones outshine the Little Martin and are brought out with the more impressive volume output. For any performers, the Baby Taylor is a great choice of the two because of the higher projection. If you’re looking for a child’s guitar or a very durable travel guitar, the scratch and bump-resistant high-pressure laminate construction on the Little Martin is an attractive feature.
The warm tone of the Baby Taylor is great for any player that prefers fingerstyle, strumming with or without a pick, and playing in open tunings. You can even use a capo in the higher frets to make it sound like a n authentic mandolin.
The sound on the Little Martin may be drowned out in large environments, but it has surprisingly good bass and responsive action. The guitar’s volume works great for smaller-framed students in a bedroom, or as a smaller spare guitar to be used at campfires. If you like to play blues or jazz, the earthy tone with strong mid and dulled highs present in the Little Martin is a great option.
While I personally opted for the Baby Taylor, this well-done side-by-side comparison of the LX1 and the BT1 is a great supplemental video if you’re still making up your mind: