When I discovered I'd be reviewing a Martin Performing Artist Series electro-acoustic this month, I was excited and intrigued in equal measure. Excited because, well, it's a Martin after all and those who know Martin acoustics know that they are synonymous with quality. Intrigued, because Martin is aiming this series of guitars at electric players who want to dip their toes into the deep waters of acoustic playing and being primarily an electric player myself, the GPCPA3 piqued my curiosity somewhat. The GPCPA3 follows in the footsteps of the GPCPA1 which was introduced at the 2010 NAMM show in Anaheim and subsequently the GPCPA2, which were both well received although they came with a very hefty price tags which potential buyers may have been put off by. Martin has tackled this in the GPCPA3 by using less expensive materials and a slight change in design.
As you would expect, the GPCPA3 is made from solid tone-woods with a Sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood for the back, sides and headplate. The fingerboard as well as both sides of the guitar is bound with white Boltaron, but it is made of a material called 'Richlite' - which is a fibre-based composite. The new design for the pickguard and bridge coupled with the polished gloss finish really does make this guitar very appealing aesthetically.
Picking the guitar up and playing for the first time it quickly became apparent just how good it is. From lightly strummed chord work through to heavily picked solo lines, the GPCPA3 produced a beautifully warm yet very crystal clear and balanced sound.Â Playability is going to be a big factor, especially if you're an electric player, but you needn't be concerned. The GPCPA3 is remarkably easy to play. Whether you are playing fingerpicked patterns or fast legato lines, it is never hard work and the tone is never less than inspiring.
The Martin comes equipped with a Fishman Aura F1 'Acoustic Imaging' preamp which is loaded with a variety of different functions, from three band EQ and compression to onboard digital tuner and a unique 'Anti-Feedback' function, which allows you to get rid of unwanted frequencies. The FI also gives you access to nine different acoustic 'Images', which represent nine different high quality microphone characteristics at the touch of a button. This, coupled with an option to blend the sound of the microphone with the sound of the pickup housed underneath the saddle, make the GPCPA3 a force to be reckoned with in terms of its versatility.
Martin has done an outstanding job in the GPCPA3 and it far exceeded my expectations. With its stunning sound, both acoustically and through the extremely high quality onboard Fishman F1, you would be hard pushed to find such a well made and thoroughly inspiring instrument to play. It's not cheap and purists might wonder about factors like the use of 'selected hardwood' for the neck and Richlite for the fingerboard at this sort of price, but in the end it's results that matter and this is a remarkably good guitar.Â