This acoustic-electric introduces a completely new body shape and an innovative neck joint.
by Teja Gerken
February 17, 2020
As America’s oldest guitar maker, Martin has no shortage of original designs to look back on and adapt for new models. And when you consider that the company’s dreadnought is the most-copied steel-string guitar in the world, you can understand why the company continues to build some of the best versions and variations of its classic models. But Martin also continues to be an innovator, and at the recent Winter NAMM show, the company introduced its most radical new design in many years: the SC-13E. Peghead Nation was there for the unveiling press conference, and we were happy to have an opportunity to check out an early production model in our video studio.
It’s evident from the first look that the SC-13E is like no other Martin before. Although its body dimensions are only slightly larger than a 000, its outline is asymmetrical, with an offset waist and shifted dimensions. But even more significant than the new body is the SC-13E’s new Sure Align neck joint. Completely eliminating the traditional heel, the Sure Align neck uses dovetail joint–shaped hardware inside the neck pocket, allowing the neck to slide onto the body, where it is secured by a pair of machine screws. Combined with a sharply angled section of the back behind the neck joint and large cutaway, the design allows for unparalleled access to the highest frets. But there are other advantages to the Sure Align neck. Its adjustable nature allows the guitar’s intonation to be fine-tuned by moving the neck within the neck pocket, which changes the distance from the bridge, and replaceable shims are used to set the neck angle, which determines action height.
The SC-13E is built with a solid spruce top and koa veneer back and sides. The guitar combines traditional Martin appointments, including white body binding with black-and-white purfling and simple position markers, with more contemporary elements, such as a blue-and-white “aperture” rosette and a “celestial blue dot” fingerboard inlay at the 12th fret. The guitar’s top and back are X-braced, with the back bracing offering a visual focus when looking into the soundhole. Conceived from the ground up as an acoustic-electric, the CS-13E comes with Fishman MX-T electronics, which consist of an undersaddle pickup and controls for volume and tone mounted into the bass side of the soundhole. The guitar also includes a built-in chromatic tuner in the treble side of the soundhole.
The SC-13E delivers on every promise. With its low-action setup, the guitar is incredibly easy to play, and reaching even the highest frets is as easy as it is on most electric guitars. Equally important, the guitar offers great tone whether it’s played acoustically or through an amp. Unplugged, it has the characteristic Martin sound, with great balance, excellent dynamics, and respectable volume. Plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge, the guitar had an uncomplicated amplified voice, with a natural overall character and a high feedback threshold.
Without a doubt, the SC-13E represents a huge leap forward in Martin’s original designs. With its great playability and solid tonal characteristics, it’s bound to find a lot of fans. I recommend checking one out at your nearest Martin dealer.
SPECS: S-13 body with cutaway. Sitka spruce top with treble-side scalloped X-bracing. Veneered koa back and sides. Select hardwood neck with Sure Align joint. Ebony fretboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel open-gear tuning machines. Fishman MX-T electronics. Made in USA. $1,899 (list). Martinguitar.com
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