Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Hardwood neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. Scalloped hybrid X-bracing. 25.4-inch scale. 13/4-inch nut width. 23/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Gold tuners. Polished gloss lacquer finish on body; satin finish on neck. Fishman F1 Aura electronics. Light-gauge Martin MSP4100 strings. Made in USA. Left-handed version available.
Individual control over pickup EQ and blend with nine different mic models nets a nearly limitless variety of high-quality tones.
Martin GPCPA1 Guitar Review
THE MARTIN GUITAR CO. has been making acoustic guitars for more than 175 years, well before anyone ever thought about plugging in. But, besides constantly fine-tuning its classic models, the company has long offered acoustic-electric instruments, and earlier this year, it introduced the current pinnacle of its pickup-equipped guitar line: the Performing Artist series. Martin’s goal with this completely new series of instruments is to offer guitars that have the dynamic sound of a traditional acoustic instrument but with a contemporary feel and playability and state-of-the-art onboard amplification system. We recently had a chance to check out the GPCPA1 Grand Performance model, which includes a grand concert body shape new to Martin. (The series also includes traditional dreadnought and OM body styles.)
Good Looks and Smooth Playability
The GPCPA1’s high-end pedigree was apparent as soon as I opened its case. The bright Sitka spruce top contrasts with the beautifully grained Indian rosewood back and sides, and the ovangkol binding provides an organic look. The guitar’s ebony fingerboard is home to handsome inlaid fretboard markers—mother-of-pearl arrowheads surrounding a single diamond—that complement the mother-of-pearl rosette. Adding to the Performance Series’ modern look is a pickguard that moves away from Martin’s traditional teardrop shape. Scanning the guitar for imperfections was fruitless; this instrument is as clean as they come.
One element that sets the Performing Artist series guitars apart from other Martin designs is that the company chose a neck with a more parallel taper than it typically uses. So, while the nut width is a fairly standard 13/4 inches, the fingerboard width at the 12th fret is narrower than on other Martin necks, giving the instrument a feel closer to that of many electric guitars. Sure enough, this configuration makes the guitar very easy to play. Leads are fluid and feel unobstructed all the way up to the 16th fret on the high E string, and even full six-string barre chords are reasonably easy to grab at the 12th fret.
Dynamic Acoustic Voice
Players who require a wide dynamic range, from quiet fingerpicked backdrops to heavily strummed vocal accompaniment, will appreciate this versatile instrument. It has the tonal brilliance inherent in many high-end guitars on lightly fingerpicked lines, yet it’s hard to overdrive the GPCPA1 even with the heaviest of strums. Overall, the guitar has a bright but well-balanced sound, with crisp highs, warm mids, and throaty bass.
Onboard Aura Power
The Performing Artist Series ships with a proprietary Fishman F1 Aura imaging system, which consists of two components: an Acoustic Matrix undersaddle pickup and the Aura preamp, which uses sound “images” recorded with this actual model guitar to add a realistic microphone-like tone to the pickup’s output. Although Fishman has offered several onboard Aura systems, the F1 is by far the slickest-looking yet. Made exclusively for Martin, the F1 is unobtrusive and low profile, consisting of just two inconspicuous control knobs and a small round display.
The F1’s two knobs are both rotary and push-sensitive. In the default setting (called Play Mode), the right knob controls the guitar’s volume, while the left knob controls the blend of pickup and microphone image sound. Edit Mode, which provides a multitude of functions, is accessed by using the left button’s push function. Specifically, these functions include image selection (there are nine, all recorded with studio mics); treble, midrange, and bass EQ; pickup/image blend, compression; an automatic antifeedback function; and a chromatic tuner.
This is an amazing amount of functionality for just two knobs and a small display. The F1 is very powerful once you become familiar with its functions, but until you’ve familiarized yourself, it can be confusing because manipulating one parameter requires multiple actions. For instance, the display shows the letter i for several functions: to indicate you’ve entered the Image Select submenu, to show “100 percent image” in the blend submenu, or to indicate that the antifeedback function is “In” (activated) under the antifeedback submenu. And, while EQ-ing the pickup signal is a straightforward push and turn of a single button, EQ-ing the images separately is more involved, because you need to press the left knob and then the right knob to scroll through EQ settings for the images, and then shift back to the left knob to actually tweak the EQ. And, no matter what function you’re editing, the display turns off ten seconds after a knob is moved and reverts to Play Mode. I like to listen to my settings for a while before changing them, so I would have preferred it if this didn’t turn off so quickly.
The F1 includes a battery compartment integrated into an endpin module. This design displaces the strap peg a little farther toward the guitar’s top, which caused the lower bout to end up nearer my body when playing with a strap and placed the neck farther away from my body, making it a little uncomfortable and harder to see the fretboard.
Played through a Centaur Acoustic A1204V amplifier, all of the GPCPA1’s nine images approached the sound of a miked guitar more than any pickup I’ve heard. I got the best sound by rolling up the bass EQ a little on the mic images, and I found that adding a little direct pickup to the mix fattened the sound nicely. The antifeedback function (which is activated by pressing and holding both knobs for two seconds) worked well, eliminating feedback throughout the frequency spectrum. The unit’s built-in compressor was capable of adding a bit of sustain and slightly boosting the overall signal.
Fishman’s Aura has been lauded as a great recording tool, so I plugged the guitar into a Pro Tools MBox and laid down a multitude of tracks using various combinations of images and EQ settings. Comparing the results with a track I’d simultaneously recorded using a Røde NT2 large-diaphragm condenser mic, I was impressed with the tones from the F1. The GPCPA1 would be an excellent choice for anyone more comfortable recording in a plugged-in setting than using external mics, and would come in handy in situations where recording with mics is problematic.
With its shimmering unplugged tones and advanced electronics, the GPCPA1 is capable of fulfilling a lot of needs. Its playability might surprise players who have only played more traditional Martins, and its flexible tones will be useful both onstage and in the studio.
Martin Performing Artist Series GPCPA1 Plus
Sale Price: $3,700.00
Eligible for free shipping!
Here's a classic-sounding Martin, with built-in electronics for unbelievable plugged-in tone! The Grand performance-sized Martin Performing Artist DCPA1 is designed for just who its name says it is... this is the perfect Martin guitar for those of you performing and hitting the stage...
- Body Body type: Grand Performance 14 Fret Cutaway: Single cutaway Top wood: Sitka Spruce Back &amp;amp;amp; sides: East Indian rosewood Bracing pattern: Scalloped X Body finish: Gloss Orientation: Right handed Neck Neck shape: Performing Artist Profile High Performance Taper Nut width: 1.75" (44.45mm) Fingerboard: Ebony Neck wood: Select Hardwood Scale length: 25.4" Number of frets: 20 Neck finish: Satin Electronics
- The Martin GPCPA1 acoustic-electric guitar combines that world-famous Martin sound with the contemporary playability of an electric guitar
- Its unique body design blends a tight waist with a deep body
- The end result is a tone that is well-defined, plus a massive amount of power and projection
- Its solid Sitka spruce top is braced perfectly to give you a rich, full-bodied tone that is versatile enough for any musical situation
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