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Review: Martin's Road Series GPC-13E blends the classic Martin sound with a modern approach

(Image credit: Martin Guitar)

When the Martin Grand Performance acoustic guitar model made its debut about 10 years ago, it was the first new body size for a flat-top model introduced by the company in several decades. 

With dimensions falling in-between those of Martin’s smaller 000/OM and larger D sizes (with the exception of body width that is slightly bigger than a Dreadnought), the Grand Performance model was inspired by the curvaceous “small jumbo” designs developed by boutique luthiers like James Olson and Kevin Ryan. The Grand Performance is perfect for players seeking a more modern tonal character, and it has quickly become one of Martin’s best-selling models.

Martin currently offers about a dozen different Grand Performance models, ranging from a new X Series model to the stunning GPC-28E. The GPC-13E, which is a newly updated version of the GPCRSG, is part of the company’s Road Series, offering outstanding playability, tone and performance at an affordable price. 

In addition to a few cosmetic changes, the GPC-13E also features Fishman’s new MX-T electronics package, which replaces the Fishman Sonitone electronics of its predecessor. The upgraded electronics make the GPC-13E even more gig friendly while also enhancing the natural tone that has made the Grand Performance model a huge hit.

Features

Built from solid wood materials - a Sitka spruce top, mutenye back and sides and select hardwood (usually mahogany or Spanish cedar) neck - and featuring scalloped X-bracing, the Martin GPC-13E is designed with tone and responsive dynamics as a priority. 

The neck provides exceptionally comfortable playability and features a 25.4-inch scale length, hand-rubbed finish, 1 ¾-inch fingerboard width at the nut, a slim Performing Artist neck profile and 20 medium frets, which are all easily accessible thanks to the cutaway body design. The fingerboard and bridge are made of FSC-certified Richlite, which is sustainable and not subject to today’s import/export headaches encountered with rosewood or ebony. The neck is also Pleked to provide optimum playability.

The Fishman MX-T electronics are mounted inside the guitar without any holes cut into the sides, which preserves the guitar’s “full acoustic” looks and tone. Tone and volume control knobs and a 180-degree phase switch are mounted along the edge of the soundhole above the low E string where they are easily accessible but invisible. A chromatic tuner is mounted below the high E string inside the soundhole with the display pointing up towards the player and the mute/activation button within easy reach.

(Image credit: Martin Guitar)

Performance

The GPC-13E’s distinctive tone delivers the uniform balance and wide frequency range of a modern flat-top without sacrificing the percussive attack and sweet overtones that characterize a classic Martin. While it has the powerful, commanding bass and loud volume projection of a Dreadnought, the midrange and treble remain prominent, rich and full as well without sounding harsh. 

The tone is very well suited to fingerstyle playing, but the guitar performs equally well when strumming rhythm parts or picking single-note lines. The playability is simply outstanding with the slim neck profile making it easy to transition from solo lines to chords.

The Fishman MX-T electronics make the GPC-13E perfect for gigging players. The tone control covers a range from a flat setting that preserves the GPC-13E’s natural acoustic tone in impressive detail to scooped midrange that transforms the sound closer to that of a Dreadnought. The built-in tuner automatically mutes the output when the tuning function is engaged, and the display changes color from blue to green when the plucked note is in tune. The preamp and tuner are powered by a single 9-volt battery that can be changed in seconds via the battery box in the guitar’s endblock. 

LIST PRICE: $1,699
GW AWARD: Platinum
MANUFACTURER: Martin Guitar, martinguitar.com

-All solid wood materials include a Sitka spruce top, mutenye back and sides and select hardwood (mahogany or Spanish cedar) neck. 

-The Fishman MX-T electronics provide volume and tone controls, a phase switch and a tuner all installed along the soundhole. 

The bottom line

The Martin GCP-13E is perfect for players who love classic Martin tone but prefer a more modern, balanced sound, while the Fishman MX-T electronics make it perfect for the stage.