C.F. Martin & Company is an American guitar manufacturer established in 1833 and known around the world for instruments of high quality and durability. It would be hard to find a commercial guitar company that is as highly respected and recognized for its long history of making acoustic guitars. Many models have risen to collector status, and for good reason: They are great instruments and the choice of some of the finest players. So, when Martin announced the GPC-13E Grand Performance Cutaway as part of their popular Road Series earlier this year, promising professional sound, features, and playability, I was anxious to try it out. I was also interested in the possibilities offered by the appearance and tonal qualities of a ziricote veneer used on this model.
The GPC-13E is unique, utilizing dark, deep-grained ziricote. Zircote is a hard Central American tonewood that is typically dark brown with dramatic hints of colored grain. In a veneer, it covers the GPC-13E’s back and sides, but instead of the typical veneering method over poplar or maple, Martin chose khaya, also known as African mahogany, for the base material with outer layers of ziricote. On the guitar I checked out, the dark tones offered a sharp contrast to a spruce top with sunburst finish–a very unique look. Martin also offers mutenye, another hard tonewood similar to rosewood as an option for the back and sides, promising similar tonal qualities, but with a lighter brown appearance.
The khaya and ziricote sides with a Sitka spruce top make for a great tonal combination with stand-out rich, deep bass with prominent sustain. The GPC-13E projected particularly well with crystal-clear highs. The guitar played well for fingerstyle, but really shined for Flatpicking, putting out well-defined melodies and leads with great definition and tone. The cut-away upper body offered easy access to the high frets. The guitar sounded great just strumming, providing both body and definition to chords.
Flattering the neck of this model is a mother-of-pearl patterned fretboard with rosette inlays, mother-of-pearl pattern fingerboard dots, a striped rosette border, and white binding. Both fingerboard and bridge are fashioned of FSC-certified Richlite, a phenolic resin/cellulose composite that is more stable than wood being less likely to be affected by dry conditions. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification ensures that products are environmentally sound and, in the case of woods, come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits to the areas that produce the materials.
The design of the GPC offers a very manageable body size with upper and lower bouts based on dimensions that are close to the width of a dreadnought, so the GP (Grand Performance) body size can supply plenty of lows and highs, with relatively narrow waist giving it the feel of a smaller, more manageable guitar. Also, adding to the playability is Martin’s Performing Artist neck shape with a high-performance taper. This provides a comfortable, easy-playing experience for all players, but is particularly attractive to electric guitarists that might ‘switch off’ to the acoustic from time to time and guitarists who appreciate a more modern feel at the neck. Another nice feature is the neck’s clean, hand-rubbed finish, which offers both playing comfort and a clean look to the instrument.
Performers who need to plug into a sound system will appreciate that this model sports a Fishman MX-T electronics package with recently upgraded sensing material and a built-in soundhole tuner. The easy-to-read tuner is hidden from audience view and auto-mutes the audio output so you can tune up any time without using a pedal. Also, this guitar comes with a well-fitted premium soft shell case for safe storage and protection on the road.
Martin quality and playability make this guitar a great investment, but most players will be drawn to the big, clear tone it produces. In terms of appearance, the GPC-13E is well appointed and ziricote veneer back and sides offer a very unique look that doesn’t detract from the sound.
Including the Fishman MX-T electronics package, a professional built-in soundhole tuner, and a cut-away design makes this an excellent choice for performing players–whether that means just occasionally getting up on stage or on tour.
The only issue I found with the instrument I played was that the edges of the nut were sharper than I personally like, but that is certainly minor and easily correctable as a small adjustment for any competent guitar technician.
This instrument represents a great choice for performers, gigging musicians who are looking for a big Martin sound and quality. The distinctive and dramatic looks of ziricote, cut-away design and top-flite, onboard electronics by Fishman are definite bonuses.