Review: Martin GPCPA1 Plus Acoustic/Electric Guitar


Old dogs like me are often reluctant to try new things when it comes to our tried-and-true guitar tastes. Acoustic guitars today aren’t always made of the materials we grew up with, and we don’t have to put them in front of a mic today for people to hear them. So it can be hard for older players, or even younger players who are into the old ways, to buddy up to something like Martin’s GPCPA1 Plus guitar. The body is the Grand Performance body Martin introduced a few years ago, good-sized but a little different than a full dreadnought with a cutaway allowing easy playability to the 14th fret. Where the 21st century part comes in is with the electronics and the materials.

This guitar features the innovative Fishman F1 Aura+ electronics system, allowing a player to choose between the modeled sounds of several mics and to blend in the amount of mic imaging desired. Included with the guitar is a DVD that explains how to use the system, as well as a list of mics that are modeled in it. But it can take some time, and a real desire to use it, to figure out how to run it, as well as a pair of patient ears to find the best mic sounds to use for strumming, fingerpicking, etc. It can be worth it, but again, it’s a little more work than just turning a tone knob.

Something else that might be foreign to some pickers is the use of Richlite for the fingerboard. Richlite is a paper-based fiber composite made from one version or another of partially recycled paper and phenolic resin. Which isn’t that much of a stretch because, when you think about it, paper comes from trees, so that means it’s wood. The Richlite fingerboard on the GPCPA1 Plus is perfectly fine, it’s smooth and allows for quick fretting. But for those who prefer ebony or even rosewood for their fingering, it’s just, well, different. But then, this is Martin, and these guys haven’t made a seriously bad move in 180 years. So we have to assume the folks in Nazareth know what they’re doing.

As should be expected, the GPCPA1 Plus model that I tested played great and sounded great acoustically and had no bad points whatsoever. And in one of the best moves I’ve seen lately, and one that other guitar companies might do well to follow given the relatively small cost, the guitar has a strap button (gold, matching the tuners) on the treble side of the neck heel.

So give the Richlite fingerboard a try if you haven’t, and check out the Aura+ system as well. They’re here to stay so we may as well embrace them. List price for this guitar is $3,999, but you can find it for up to a grand less than that.