Gear: Martin Guitars Expands Innovative SC line

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Martin’s first SC model was the NAMM Best in Show award-winning SC-13E launched back in early 2020. Some guitar purists did not embrace the different body shapes and neck profiles while many young musicians did. Many of the popular features from the original design were carried forward in the new guitars.   

American Songwriter received two of the three new offerings, the SC-10E, and the SC-13E Special Burst. The third new guitar is the SC-13E Special which has a natural finished top. All three instruments include Martin’s Sure Align neck joint which makes it possible to have a beveled back neck joint improving access up the fretboard. They also have the new S-shaped body with cutaway, making seated playing easier, better projection, and a low-profile velocity neck circumference.   

SC-13E

The SC-10E is the most affordable entry in the SC line at a list price of $1,299, but you wouldn’t think so from the new features and updates. The top of the guitar is satin-finished Sitka Spruce with an eye-popping Koa veneer on the back and sides.  The hardware, including tuners and strap button, is gloss black along with a white and black inlaid rosette around the soundhole. Built-in electronics in the SC-10E are handled by the Fishman MX-T with a convenient soundhole tuner that I’m a fan of. Honestly, when I first took the SC-10E out of its gig bag, I assumed it was an SC-13E upgrade because of the Koa veneer. Playability access up the neck and sound quality are superior thanks to the tone tension X-bracing inside. To top it off the fingerboard, bridge, and head plate are made of ebony wood. 

The SC-13E Special models take the original concept to a new level. Both of these guitars, The SC-13E Special and SC-13E Special Burst, have a gloss-finished Sitka Spruce top and dazzling Ziricote veneer on the back and sides. The Specials have nickel open gear skeleton key tuners along with an ebony bridge, head plate, and fingerboard. The custom-designed rosette around the soundhole has Ziricote interwoven into it. Both of these models have the LR Baggs Element electronics, which I found to sound a bit warmer and more natural when plugged in. The SC-13E Special lists for $1,799 while the SC-13E Special Burst sells for $1,999.   

When the first SC model was released in 2020, they were automatically on backorder since so many musicians, including myself, were trying to acquire one.  If you are a traditionalist when it comes to acoustic guitars you may not like the look, feel, or sound of Martin’s new SC line. But I believe as musicians we must keep an open mind to innovations in instruments that can help us play and sound differently than we did before. From reviewing both of these new SC guitars the neck playability is easier, neck access is deeper, the body leg cutout puts the neck in a better position, and the veneered back and sides look great. This line will be exceedingly popular with guitarists that are more comfortable playing electric guitar than acoustic and for younger musicians that are seeking an easier play and way to express themselves. 

Sound-wise the SC won’t replace your favorite D18 or D28 Martin, but for singer/songwriter rounds, songwriting sessions, and live performances, the SC is a much more approachable option. With any of the three SC guitars, you are also acquiring an American-made all wood guitar with built-in electronics and a quality gig bag for under $2,000.  

The Sure Align neck system will be of huge benefit when touring and playing shows in different climates. That was another feature that I found appealing since lack of humidity or too much humidity can do wacky things to your guitar neck on the road. The new system that Martin developed for the neck joint can easily be adjusted and pitched without a costly neck reset. Give the SC guitars a play for yourself and see what you think.  

The SC-10E is the best value of the bunch at $1,299 and I wish every guitar had the built-in soundhole tuner. The SC-13E Special models have more cosmetic appeal and the upgraded electronics of LR Baggs pickup system. The Special Burst has a great graduated finish and gives the SC body shape a bit more of a traditional look in a non-traditional configuration.  

Martin guitars took a big chance with the SC line and they could have easily rested on their past historical and popular guitar designs. For a guitar manufacturer that has been around since 1833 to take a leap into the future with a new instrument line and design says a lot about a company and the direction, they see guitars going forward with musicians.  Don’t be afraid to try something different. I’m not a fan of Brussel sprouts but I found a new way to cook them and they are not bad. Guitars can be the same. 

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