The latest Dreadnought Junior model offers a compact size and big sound.
by Teja Gerken
March 18, 2019
Most seasoned guitarists are familiar with Martin’s sizing structure, which most commonly ranges from the small-body 0 to the mighty dreadnought. But what is a Dreadnought Jr.? Introduced as a standard model in 2015, these models use a dreadnought shape body at about ¹⁵/₁₆ size, combined with a short 24-inch scale, creating a compact instrument that’s larger than a typical travel guitar (such as the Martin Mini), but smaller than a standard size guitar. Martin offers the resulting Dreadnought Jr. models as part of its affordably priced line of instruments built in its secondary factory in Navajo, Mexico (a facility that is celebrating 30 years of operation!). This year, the Dreadnought Jr. has been modified with a slightly shallower body, which now has the same depth as a Martin’s 000. We recently had a chance to check out a DJR-10E, which includes Fishman electronics, in the Peghead Nation video studio.
The DJR-10E has a solid Sitka spruce top and solid sapele back and sides. Our demo guitar had the optional sunburst top finish, giving it a vintage appearance. The guitar has scalloped X-bracing, a 14-fret neck joint, and a solid peghead. The guitar’s fingerboard and bridge are made from black Richlite, which is virtually indistinguishable from ebony. Simple dots serve as position markers in the fingerboard, and the guitar has a mother-of-pearl rosette, black body binding, and black and white purfling. The Fishman Sonitone electronics include an undersaddle pickup, controls for volume and tone inside the bass-side edge of the soundhole, and a compartment for a nine-volt battery and ¼-inch output jack in the lower bout.
With its compact dimensions, the DJR-10E is very comfortable to play. And because the neck has a width of 1 ¾-inches at the nut and the string spacing the bridge is a standard 2 ⁵/₃₂-inches as well, the guitar doesn’t feel cramped, the way some travel guitars do. Tonally, the guitar has a lot to offer, providing a solid sampling of the dynamics and richness of a typical Martin dreadnought, albeit not quite a full sounding as on a standard size model. But the guitar is satisfying to play, both with a pick or fingerstyle, and beginning players in particular could benefit from the ease of playability, because the short scale results in shorter fretting-hand stretches and slightly looser string tension. Plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp, the DJR-10E offered solid amplified performance, with the difference in size becoming an insignificant factor, with a full sound that belies the guitar’s smaller size.
Overall, Martin’s Dreadnought Jr. is a great concept. Whether you’re a beginning player, someone who has struggled with larger guitars but wants dreadnought tone, or who wants a travel companion that’s a bit larger than most dedicated “travel” guitars, the DJR-10E and its siblings (with natural finished or sans electronics) should definitely be checked out.
SPECS: 14-fret Dreadnought Jr. body with 000 depth. Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X-bracing. Solid sapele back and sides. Hardwood neck. Richlite fretboard and bridge. 24-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Enclosed chrome tuning machines. Fishman Sonitone electronics. Made in Mexico. $899 as shown (starting price for model with natural finish and no electronics is $699). Martinguitar.com
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