Martin GPCPA1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Martin & Co., martinguitar.com
Originally published in Guitar World, July 2010
Martin's new Grand Performance body shape is a welcome addition to the Martin legacy that’s certain to become a classic as well.
C.F. Martin & Co. has perfected so many classic acoustic guitar body shapes that it could spend eternity resting on its laurels. From the timeless dreadnought to the various 0 styles (like the 0-18, 00-18 and 000-18) and the sexy OM (Orchestra Model), Martin’s acoustic guitar designs are so impeccable that most competitors prefer to copy them, rather than come up with their own creations.
The most recent of Martin’s classic body styles—the dreadnought—was developed in 1931, just before the dawn of the electric guitar. So you know it’s a pretty big deal whenever Martin debuts a model with a new design, like the Martin GPCPA1 acoustic-electric guitar, which introduces the Grand Performance body style. Unlike its classic predecessors, which were designed from a purely acoustic perspective, the GPCPA1 is part of Martin’s new Performing Artist Series, which comprises guitars suited equally to acoustic and acoustic-electric applications. Martin’s goal with the GPCPA1 was to create a guitar that delivers classic Martin tone when played unplugged, offers the versatility of today’s state-of-the-art pickup and preamp systems, and feels comfortable to a new generation of players who in all likelihood started off playing electric solidbody instruments.
The Grand Performance body style is larger than a 14-fret 000 or OM guitar and smaller than Martin’s M and Grand Auditorium models. The GPCPA1 features a generous cutaway that provides unrestricted access up to the 16th fret and makes it easy to play all the way to the 20th fret. Like its Performing Artist Series counterparts, the guitar has a neck with a slim taper up to the 12th fret, delivering a feeling of consistent width as you play up and down the neck. The neck’s slim, flat and wide profile feels very fast and comfortable. The bridge, which is smaller than that of a typical dreadnought, reduces mass and transfers more string energy to the soundboard to improve dynamics and response.
The materials all conform to the standard Martin recipe—a solid Sitka spruce top, solid East Indian rosewood back and sides, and ebony fingerboard and bridge. Martin identifies the neck material as “select hardwood,” and on my guitar that meant mahogany. Generous Ovangkol binding, distinctive “arrows and squares” fretboard inlays, a shapely tortoiseshell-style pickguard, and a vertical C.F. Martin logo pearl inlay on the headstock give the guitar a touch of fancy, but understated, class.
All of Martin’s new Performing Artist Series guitars include the Fishman F1 Aura Acoustic Imaging system, which replicates the sound an acoustic guitar recorded by a selection of nine high-end studio microphones. These days, many of the control panels on acoustic-electric guitars resemble the cockpit controls of a Learjet 85, but the GPCPA1 features just two multifunction knobs and a bright LED. Generally, the knobs function as a volume and a blend control that combines the sound of the Martin Gold Plus saddle transducer and the Aura Acoustic Imaging system. However, when you push down on the blend control, you can scroll through a variety of functions: a chromatic tuner, Aura mic select, separate three-band EQ controls for the pickup and Aura imaging, a compressor with nine presets, and anti-feedback on/off with three notch filters.
Martin has done an excellent job of designing an instrument that should please acoustic purists and electric specialists alike. While the GPCPA1 certainly has the look and feel of a contemporary instrument, it still sounds like a classic Martin when it’s unplugged. The bass is powerful but not overwhelming, the treble sparkling and aggressive and the midrange just slightly dipped to provide that distinctive Martin presence that cuts through a mix. It doesn’t have the typical dreadnought bass “boom,” but that’s a good thing for studio recording and plugged-in live players, who want a balanced tone that doesn’t easily succumb to feedback.
The neck feels amazing. Whereas some acoustic guitars can be more challenging to play as you work your way up the neck, the GPCPA1 feels consistently comfortable from the nut to the cutaway. While the body features a mirror-like high-gloss finish, the neck has a satin finish that provides an ideal balance between a smooth feel and enough resistance to keep your fretting hand from sliding all over the neck.
The Martin Gold Plus saddle transducer sounds very full, warm and natural on its own, but it really shines when combined with the Aura Acoustic Imaging tones, which truly deliver the sound of an acoustic guitar expertly recorded in the studio. The EQ controls cover a wide range, but I found that in most applications EQ tweaks really weren’t necessary, as the sounds were already good at flat settings. The onboard tuner is accurate and easy to use, and it automatically mutes the output, so you can tune up quietly onstage without annoying your bandmates.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Martin's new Grand Performance body shape is a welcome addition to the Martin legacy that’s certain to become a classic as well. If you’ve found previous Martin guitars a little conservative for your tastes, the GPCPA1 is likely to change your perceptions, especially if you are an electric player looking for a familiar-feeling acoustic-electric ax.
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