Instruments & Gear: New Gear

Martin GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst

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A brand new grand performance size flattop with Fishman electronics.

by Teja Gerken
July 23, 2018

While Martin Guitars will always be associated with its classic models, the company also produces highly contemporary designs. At the 2018 Summer NAMM show earlier this month, Martin introduced a pair of new guitars built with black walnut back and sides and amberburst finishes. I recently had a chance to check out the GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst in the Peghead Nation video studio (stay tuned for a demo of the dreadnought DE Black Walnut Amberburst in the near future).

The GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst is based on Martin’s popular mid-size grand performance platform. Black walnut has a proven track record in terms of its stability and tonal qualities, and by choosing it for the guitar’s back and sides, Martin is offering a sustainable alternative to tropical woods like mahogany and rosewood. The black walnut used on our demo guitar had a beautiful, medium-dark brown color, and attractive grain patterns. The guitar’s Sitka spruce top featured even grain, and the amberburst finish, which is a lighter colored version of a typical sunburst, is a great visual match for the walnut back and sides. The guitar uses Richlite, a paper-based material that is infused with a hard resin, for its fingerboard and bridge. Richlite has structural qualities that are very similar to ebony, and while the material can be dyed any color, Martin chose a pitch-black variety for the GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst. Antique white binding on the body, a multi-ring rosette, and Style 28 fingerboard dots deliver a classic Martin aesthetic.

Playing the guitar, I appreciated its comfortable body size and great setup. It sounded great strummed with a pick, delivering a satisfying sound that was balanced, rich, and offered a good amount of volume. Playing fingerstyle in DADGAD tuning, the guitar showed great definition and response, and I could see using it in both solo and accompanying roles.

Plugging into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge amp, the onboard Fishman Matrix VT Enhance electronics were able to continue the positive impression by offering an accurate reproduction of the guitar’s acoustic character. As a two-pickup system (one installed under the saddle, the other directly to the inside of the top), the setup allowed for a variety of sounds that should allow adaptation to different tastes and unique performance settings.

Overall, the GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst is a cool addition to Martin’s line of instruments. Whether you’re looking for a guitar that uses responsibly harvested, non-tropical woods, simply like the appearance or tonality of black walnut, or just need a great mid-size acoustic-electric, the GPCE Black Walnut Amberburst is worth checking out.

SPECS: 14-fret grand performance body. Solid Sitka spruce top with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing. Solid black walnut back and sides. Hardwood neck with simple dovetail joint. Richlite fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Enclosed chrome tuning machines. Made in the USA. $2,649 (list).


Category: Instruments & Gear

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