The DX captures the Cash spirit admirably, without breaking the bank.
Strong fundamental tone
Badass black look
Very nice price
Kind of heavy
Bold white “CASH” on black fingerboard is an acquired taste
No major concerns given affordability
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This Martin Signature Edition is an ode to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. America’s oldest guitar company and the Americana icon have a rich history dating back to Cash’s initial request for an all-black lacquered D-35 dreadnought in the early ’70s that became his stage hallmark.
In 1997, Martin introduced a very limited-edition D-42JC Johnny Cash autographed by the man himself, and 2006 brought the still-available D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative.
In 2019, Martin joined forces with John Carter Cash and the Cash Foundation management team to create the DX Johnny Cash, offering a nod to Johnny’s D-35 that is accessible to folks without stacks of cash to spare.
Constructed from high-pressure wood laminates and equipped with Fishman MX electronics, the DX Johnny Cash is made in Martin’s Mexican factory located near the Gulf of California in Navojoa, Sonora (cue “Ring of Fire” trumpets).
The obvious aesthetic here is black, black and more black on the top, back, sides and headstock overlay, as well as the neck and fingerboard. Even the nut and the saddle are black.
Of course, nothing highlights black quite like white, and that’s the only other color in this scheme, although noticeably not in the form of any binding whatsoever.
Like the earlier commemorative edition, the DX JC fingerboard is inlaid with white stars, but instead of a signature at the 20th fret, the DX displays the CASH logo in big bold letters at the 18th fret. That sole appointment transforms this instrument from a cool black-and-white acoustic guitar to a Cash signature model.
Subtler signature elements include a copy of Cash’s John Hancock in small black script within the white rosette and inside the guitar on the label.
A guitar’s look doesn’t necessarily represent its tone, but in an overall sense that is the case here. This black guitar has a rather dark, velvety voice, and its tonal demeanor is very straightforward, just like the man who inspired it.
Whether sounding single notes or chords, the DX Cash signature is all about the fundamentals, not fancy rich overtones. Plugged into a Fishman Loudbox amplifier, the onboard Fishman MX system delivered a gig-worthy representative tone with consistency.
The factory action was a tad on the high side, but that was easily adjustable via the truss rod. It certainly handles well enough to pony up a few expensive chords or play an elaborate lick or two, but Cash drove the rhythm section from the bottom up, and this DX is ideal for that application.
Strum some cowboy chords with a strong pick attack, and it delivers them right in stride. Wail away forcefully and the DX won’t back down. Built like a tank and weighing in on the heavy side, it feels ready for a fight.
At Martin headquarters, we had the opportunity to compare the upmarket 1997 Johnny Cash D-42 prototype directly to the DX. Such a posh collector’s item should and did sound more open and alive, and if you’ve got nearly five grand on hand, you can get closer to that with the D-35 Johnny Cash Commemorative.
But we’re willing to bet that, to most ears, the difference between that and this DX isn’t quite as drastic as the difference in dollars. For most players, the DX makes a ton of sense. It captures the Cash spirit admirably, without breaking the bank.
- NUT WIDTH: 1.75", black Corian
- NECK: Black birch laminate
- FRETBOARD: FSC certified Richlite, 25.4" scale
- FRETS: 20
- TUNERS: Chrome enclosed gear
- BODY: High-pressure laminate back, sides, and top
- BRIDGE: FSC-certified Richlite with compensated black Tusq saddle
- ELECTRONICS: Fishman MX with Sonicore undersaddle piezo pickup and soundhole-mounted volume and tone controls
- FACTORY STRINGS: Martin Authentic Acoustic Lifespan 2.0 MA540T Light 92/8 Phosphor Bronze .012–.054
- WEIGHT: 5.2 lbs
- BUILT: Mexico
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Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel (opens in new tab), and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at spirithustler.com (opens in new tab).