BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
Right out of the box, Martin’s new Road Series GPCRSGT is an agreeable com-panion. Its modified-V neck and low action make it effortless to play, and its voice, while a tad polite, is clear and balanced, adaptable to all styles and approaches.
Not your grandfather’s Martin, the GPCRSGT is outfitted with Fishman Sonitone electronics, with USB connectivity, making it easy to interface with a Mac or a PC.
But what’s especially nice about the GPCRSGT is its price, around a grand with a TKL hard-shell case. The guitar is made at Martin’s Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico, factory and is much more affordable than similar models originating at the company’s domestic home base, in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. If the test model is any indication, though, the Mexican factory is producing instruments that are just as well-built as the venerated American-made Martins.
Classic Martin Styling
The GP in the name stands for grand performance—a relatively new body style for Martin, sort of a 14-fret mini jumbo, slightly wider and deeper than an OM (15.75 inches wide compared to 15 and 4.5 inches deep compared to 41/8). Our GPCRSGT boasts all-solid-wood construction. It’s got a Sitka spruce top; the back and sides are sapele—a sit-in for mahogany. The neck is made from sipo, another mahogany substitute. Meanwhile, instead of precious ebony, the fretboard and bridge are Richlite, a composite material made primarily from recycled paper.
The GPCRSGT is a modest-looking instrument, the most alluring visual aspect being the spruce soundboard with its lovely reddish tint and polished-gloss finish. Embellishments on the instrument are tastefully spare and inconspicuous—black binding, only around the top, a black end strip, and tiny dot markers on the fretboard. On the headstock is a cap of East Indian rosewood, bearing Martin’s traditional script logo.
Craftsmanship on the review model is tip-top, no big surprise for a modern Martin. The guitar’s 20 frets are smoothly crowned and polished, the Corian nut and Tusq saddle cleanly notched. No imperfections can be found on the soundboard’s gloss finish, rubbed to a perfect shine, and everything is also super clean on the guitar’s interior surfaces.
Weighing four pounds and 11 ounces, the GPCRSGT is lightweight overall, but slightly neck-heavy. The grand performance body sits nicely on the lap. The neck shape, the performing artist profile, is best described as splitting the difference between a traditional ample V profile and a modern slender C. It has a little meat to it, and, coupled with perfect low action, feels fast and comfortable, from the nut to the cutaway. The 1.75-inch nut keeps the fretting fingers from feeling cramped, too.
Unplugged, the GPCRSGT doesn’t necessarily have the deep resonance and lush natural reverb of a high-end Martin, but it does sound very good. Its overall voice is warm, with good clarity and balance between the registers. It’s a little reserved, though, in the areas of projection and volume. Nonetheless, the guitar works quite well for strumming approaches from boom-chuck to modern rock, and for fingerpicking, in standard and alternate tunings. Single-note lines from bluegrass to swing also sound hearty and focused on the guitar.
Given that the GPCRSGT is equipped with Fishman Sonitone USB electronics, the guitar’s unplugged sound might not be quite as relevant for some players. When played through a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier, the guitar has a natural sound that requires little in the way of tweaking, a sound that pairs well with outboard reverbs, choruses, and delays. The USB connection makes it possible to plug directly into a MacBook Pro and record a quick sketch on Apple’s built-in software, GarageBand. For some applications, this direct sound would even be sufficiently good to sit in a mix.
With the GPCRSGT, Martin offers a no-frills workhorse of a guitar—an all-solid electro-acoustic thoughtfully designed with the gigging performer of average means in mind. While it doesn’t have the most dazzling unplugged tone, it does sound better than most in its price range, and, thanks to the Sitka spruce top, it will likely sound even better with age.
Grand performance size
Solid Sitka spruce top
Solid sapele back and sides
Black Richlite bridge
Polished gloss finish on top and satin on back and sides
Get stories like this in your inbox
Select hardwood neck (sipo as reviewed)
Black Richlite fretboard
25.4-inch scale length
Chrome enclosed tuners with small buttons
Martin SP Lifespan phosphor bronze light strings (.012–.054)
Fishman Sonitone USB electronics
TKL hard-shell case
$1,299 list/$999 street
Made in Mexico
Contributing editor Adam Perlmutter transcribes, arranges, and engraves music for numerous publications. adamperlmutter.com.