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Martin SC-10E review

Martin's groundbreaking hybrid acoustic electric offers unparalleled playability at Road Series prices

Martin SC-10E
(Image: © Martin)

Our Verdict

Martin puts its best foot forward with the affordable SC-10E, which goes above and beyond what an acoustic is capable of in playability and tone.

For

  • Effortless playability.
  • Near-limitless access to the upper frets.
  • Making action and intonation adjustments is easier than ever.

Against

  • Nothing so long as you're onboard with the modern style.

Venturing toward unchartered territory, Martin Guitar took a plunge in 2020 by introducing the avant-garde SC-13E model geared toward players who favor an acoustic guitar with the same degree of playability as an electric. 

It was a bold move from the time-honored, pedigreed company that’s well aware that its most ardent followers prefer their instruments deeply steeped in Martin’s most traditional shapes and sounds.

But despite its unconventional design, it seems the tried-and-true SC-13E became a successful gamble that paid off because, for 2022, Martin Guitar launched three additional SC models: the SC-10E, SC-13E Special and the SC-13E Special Burst. 

While the unique architecture of the SC-13E remains intact – the Sure Align neck system, Tone Tension X-Bracing and asymmetrical body shape with dramatically sloped cutaway – catchy cosmetics, electronics and different tonewoods comprise some of the latest changes depending on the model. Since I already own the SC-13E, I dove at the chance to review the more affordable SC-10E.

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Martin SC acoustics

Martin SC-10E (Image credit: Martin)
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Martin SC acoustic guitar

Martin SC-10E (Image credit: Martin)

Features

As mentioned before, the SC-10E retains the radically innovative Sure Align Linear Dovetail neck joint that affords guitarists tweakable adjustments of tilting the neck forwards and backward, high or low action, intonation and even scale length (the guitar features a 25.4–inch scale length); however, Martin still recommends involving a qualified dealer-tech here. 

Like the original, the SC-10E possesses a Sitka spruce top, a fine veneer of koa back and sides, a Khaya (African Mahogany) veneer core, ebony headstock overlay, ebony fretboard and bridge, tortoise pickguard, Fishman MX-T electronics with a built-in tuner tucked inside the soundhole and Martin’s High-Performance Taper neck with a lean profile that allows your wrist to naturally adjust its movement for a continually optimal playing position as you work your way up toward the generous heel-less cutaway. 

What’s noticeably specific to this model is an ultra-thin satin finish rather than the original’s gloss finish for the body and neck, and the color black as the leitmotif appearing in its binding, open-gear tuners, black sparkle acrylic and white mother of pearl aperture design rosette, and black sparkle bullseye inlay at the 12th fret.

Martin SC-10E

(Image credit: Martin )

Performance

Nearly every guitarist I’ve loaned the SC-10E to has remarked how effortless it is to play, and that comes as no surprise, because the SC-10E is setup as low and fast as some of my favorite electric guitars, making it all the more astonishing that an acoustic could command such swift playability. 

The low-profile velocity neck facilitates wide interval stretches and easy bends, and if you navigate past the 12th fret, your range of travel is practically unimpeded. I’ve touched upon it before, but Martin seems to have addressed every limitation that makes playing an acoustic guitar challenging with this modern SC model that encourages you to play faster and longer. 

Martin SC-10E

(Image credit: Martin )

The other most striking thing about the SC-10E is its impressive volume and wide-open bronzy sparkle. Sure, I can casually point out that those sonic qualities may be attributed to its razor-thin satin finish that seems to freshly amplify its bright and airy tone, but, whereas my SC-13E occupies a more controlled frequency spectrum, the new SC-10E turns it all up in an openly, brassy bark.

And that sound persists when plugged in because the Fishman MX-T electronics evenly articulate that liveliness. If you’ve ever thought you couldn’t find a reasonably priced acoustic that plays as easily as an electric, you absolutely need to experience the wonder that is the SC-10E.

Specs

  • PRICE: $/£1,299
  • TYPE: Acoustic electric
  • TOP: Sitka spruce
  • BACK AND SIDES: Koa fine veneer
  • BRACING: Scalloped X-bracing
  • NECK: Select hardwood, Low Profile Velocity profile with heel-less Sure Align system
  • FINGERBOARD: Ebony, 16" radius
  • BRIDGE: Ebony
  • ELECTRONICS: Fishman MX-T
  • NUT/WIDTH: Corian/Tusq/1.75"
  • TUNERS: Open-gear, nickel
  • CASE: Soft-shell case
  • CONTACT: Martin 

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Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.