Gearing Up: Reviewing the C.F. Martin & Co. SC-13E Acoustic Guitar

C.F. Martin & Co.
SC-13E Acoustic Guitar

Relying on the stipulations of tradition was not the plan of attack for Martin Guitars at Winter NAMM 2020.  This year, the company unveiled a radical single cutaway acoustic electric design, the SC-13E.  It is an all-new take on how an acoustic guitar can be built to be ergonomic with an offset body, appeal to the modern audience, and still carry the fundamental design of a Martin Guitar.

The SC-13E turned many heads in surprise upon its unveiling and should certainly change the way the player or sound engineer views the “ergonomic” acoustic guitar.  It’s not uncommon for an acoustic breaking from standard design features like those of a Dreadnought or OM style instrument to be perceived as lacking in fundamental frequencies for live or studio use.  This ground-up design was conceived to break from the boundaries often imposed on an acoustic electric to sound as well as it plays—and it plays for hours!  As for main specs, this new Martin features a classic Sitka spruce top, fine Koa veneer back and sides, and Fishman electronics.

Although its body shape breaks from traditional Dreadnought or Concert body styles, the SC-13’s asymmetrical design is larger in the lower bout to accommodate any loss of low end and achieves more gain before feedback.  The guitar also has a new neck profile and neck joint, which Martin refers to as the Sure Align™ system.  It is designed as a heelless neck joint—joined to the body at the 13th fret—with incredibly straight action to combat the drawback of the player having to contour the hand to play high up the neck.  High fret capo players and blazing lead players alike fear not to tread on what the SC-13E can offer!

The SC-13E plays unlike any other acoustic electric I’ve tried in the past.  It combines the sturdiness of a full-scale acoustic guitar when played hard and the ease of bending notes and fast runs as if I were tricked into thinking the guitar was strung with lighter than conventional acoustic strings.  Candidly (and without bias), my main acoustic guitar is actually a Martin OM-28, and I love how it feels as an acoustic guitar with .12-gauge strings.  However, the SC-13E may be the first acoustic guitar that feels the closest to an electric guitar in long term memory.  For those guitarists who mainly play electric looking for an adaptable instrument—especially for live use—keep a lookout for one of these fantastic new Martins.

As well as it sounds acoustically, this guitar was designed to be plugged in.  The SC-13E comes equipped with Fishman MX-T electronics, which features the Fishman Sonicore pickup controlled by volume and tone discreetly mounted inside the guitar’s sound hole on the bass side—as is a built-in tuner on the treble side.

As expected, the SC-13E is easy on the back and shoulders, making it all the more easy for those playing multiple hours at a time—whether at bar gigs or tour rehearsals.  It is lightweight, and the asymmetrical design follows the playing pattern of most hands and forearms.  For ease of transportation, as well, it includes a Martin soft-shell gig bag.

In all, the SC-13E is nothing short of a groundbreaking and welcoming design addition to Martin’s lineup.  It is a highly engineered, versatile, and original machine suited for this and next generations of songwriters and performers.

Check it out on the Martin website for purchasing information.

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