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This article was originally published in issue #69
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Solid top, back and sides
Classy looks and tones
If you want an overly “blingy” guitar, look elsewhere
Sitka Spruce Top
Mutenye Back & Sides
Fishman MX-T Electronics
Nick Jennison reviews the Martin GPC-13E Road Series Grand Performance Acoustic. Designed with Fans of the Martin Road Series in mind, who are looking for a little extra in terms of looks and performance—the GPC-13E features a solid spruce-on-mutenye shell, eye-catching multi-stripe rosette border, and white top and back binding to really bring the whole production together.
It’s easy to fixate on Martin’s super high-end guitars. Their Authentic Series, signature models and new Modern Deluxe models, are breathtaking works of art, with equally hair-raising price tags. Equally though, their affordable X Series guitars are the instruments of choice for students and aspiring singer-songwriters - certainly those I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. But there is a difficult middle ground: guitars that are a step or two above entry-level in quality and features, but affordable enough that working players won’t be always on edge taking them out of the house.
Martin’s answer to this conundrum is the Road Series. These rugged, aesthetically simple guitars combine solid woods, premium electronics and Martin’s signature tone at a very reasonable price point. The GPC-13E is a perfect example. An updated version of the GPCRSG, to boasts a solid Sitka spruce top and a hand-rubbed mahogany neck, but makes use of alternative materials for the fretboard, back and sides.
The back and sides are made of solid mutenye - a wood that’s very similar to ovangkol, both genetically and sonically. In practical terms, it’s not hugely dissimilar to rosewood. There’s a gentle midrange dip and a silky high end, but the lows are a little less symphonic and the treble is a little more snappy - exactly the kind of qualities that you’d want from a great “plugged-in” acoustic, especially for strumming styles.
In fact, everything about this guitar seems tailored towards plugged-in live playing. There’s an abundance of sustain, but the top is not excessively resonant (and therefore less feedback prone), and the excellent Fishman MX-T electronics sound wonderfully natural and well balanced. The soundhole mounted tuner is discreet and accurate, and automatically mutes the output - this is invaluable for live players, and it saves you bringing a pedal to the gig, or messing with your output volume while tuning with a clip-on tuner.
That’s not to say that the GPC-13E only sounds good amplified. Played unplugged, it has a balanced and punchy delivery that’s responsive to a variety of playing styles, and because of the solid top back and sides, it’ll only get better the more you play it.
The Martin GPC-13E is an ideal guitar for any gigging musician, or anyone looking to take a step up from entry-level acoustics. Solid woods, superb electronics and Martin’s signature look, sound and quality mean you’re getting a lot of guitar for your money. Highly recommended instrument.