Martin is known for wonderfully crafted traditional high-end guitars, but not for experimenting. That’s what makes a Martin SC-13 review so interesting, because this isn’t your average Martin electro-acoustic.
It’s a unique guitar type in terms of neck and body design, and it’s Martin’s first guitar with X-bracing. They promise improved performance without sacrificing that Martin vibe. Let’s see how they’ve pulled it off.
Martin SC-13E Physical Features
- Top material: Sitka Spruce
- Back & sides: Mahogany, Koa Veneer
- Scale length: 25.4”
- Neck shape: Low Profile Velocity
- Neck taper: High-Performance Taper
- Neck joint: Sure Align Dovetail
- Fretboard: Ebony
- Frets: 20
- Nut width: 1-3/4”
- Nut material: White Corian
- Electronics: Fishman MX-T
- Tuners: Open-gear nickel
The thing that stands out here is Martin’s new neck Sure Align joint design, which improves high-fret reach by losing the heel. There’s also an offset to the body shape, with a deep cutaway that begins at the 13th fret.
They’ve put a lot of thought into making the guitar ergonomic and comfortable for long sessions. The offset body and elaborate neck design make the Martin SC-13E a very player-friendly instrument.
The tonewood combination of a Sitka and mahogany gives it a rich, balanced, modern tone. Its unique Tone Tension X-Brace helps to perfect the sound and projection. There’s scalloping on the treble side, but none on the tone bars.
With a bridge and fretboard made of solid ebony and a White Corian nut, you get plenty of treble and sustain. All these things come together to make the Martin SC-13E a very impressive guitar.
A Fishman MX-T preamp system makes the Martin SC-13E sound just as good when plugged in as it does acoustically. It’s transparent, warm, and woody.
You find the controls in the soundhole. There’s a volume knob and a tone knob that essentially scoops out the midrange. On the other side of the soundhole, there’s a very convenient tuner. There’s a mute button and a colored light that makes tuning very quick and easy.
Like most Martin guitars, the Martin SC-13E has a gloss finish on natural wood. It’s sleek and timeless and really highlights the beautiful koa wood grain. While the uniquely shaped tortoiseshell pickguard and blue Pearloid details give it a distinct look, it’s still subtle and elegant.
How the Martin SC-13E Plays
There’s some really clever reasoning behind the unique design of the Martin SC-13E. First of all, the offset body, heel-less design, and custom cutaway make it feel like a shorter-scale guitar. Your left arm will be more relaxed as you don’t have to reach as far.
At the same time, improved body-fret access enables lead playing that probably no other acoustic guitar can match. Also, the ergonomic low-profile neck makes it feel more like an electric guitar.
The string action is low and optimized for .011-gauge strings, reducing the need to press hard. You can also adjust the neck angle and action quickly with the included under-neck shims. It’s even possible to move the whole neck and slightly change the scale length with a simple turn of a screw.
The core tone is snappy and crisp with a balanced low end, much due to the combination of resonant mahogany and hard ebony. Due to the transparent preamp, it sounds pretty much the same plugged in and acoustically. The tone knob lets you dial in your favorite balance of warm and punchy. With a delay pedal, it sounds heavenly.
Another benefit of the offset body is that you get more gain and don’t have to play as hard. Together with the fine craftsmanship, this gives it a very even sound both between strings and along the fretboard.
And let’s not forget that the Martin SC-13E is designed for .011 strings, which is unusual for acoustics. The thicker strings give it a fatter and warmer sound which helps to set it apart.
It is a Martin, so it’s not exactly cheap. But despite the elaborate, groundbreaking features, it’s quite affordable by Martin Standards. You can get one for around $1,899. Since many high-end Martins cost twice as much, it’s not bad at all. If you want amazing comfort and excellent build quality, it’s a worthy investment.
Martin SC-13E VS Martin DC-X2E
If you want a Martin with similar features but don’t want to spend a lot, a Martin DC-2XE is a good option. It’s got a typical Martin cutaway body made of high-pressure laminate with a Sitka top. There’s rosewood instead of ebony and a cheaper overall build, but it’s not a bad guitar by any means. Check it out.
Pros & Cons
The Martin SC-13E is an elaborate guitar, so there’s a lot to remember. Let’s round up the important insights of the Martin SC-13E review.
- Superb build quality
- Top-class comfort
- Groundbreaking playability
- Beautiful sound
The improved comfort makes it a joy to play for experienced guitarists, but also makes guitar playing more approachable and forgiving for beginners. I think any guitarist would find it a joy to play.
- The price
- Perhaps too different
Playability aside, the unusual design makes it very different from other acoustics, and especially from traditional Martins. If you’re not the experimental type, this may not be the guitar for you.
Should You Get a Martin SC-13E?
All in all, it’s a really cool and fun guitar, and it’s been a fun Martin SC-13 review. It’s one of those acoustics that plays like an electric. While some love the idea, it doesn’t float every guitarist’s boat. Seasoned acoustic players without electric guitar experience probably won’t appreciate it too much. However, I can definitely see this design catching on.
Are you looking for something different? Check out my other acoustic guitar reviews for alternatives.