Review: 2013 Martin GPCPA5K 000-size Cutaway Guitar

This is a customer's guitar but it's a good example of the Taylor-inspired gear coming out of Martin's Mexican-import line of guitars (I know, a slight travesty) so I figured I'd talk a bit about it. It's a solid-top, laminate everything else instrument ("HPL" or printed-grain laminate on the back and sides) and I'll be honest -- it sounds pretty good right off the bat tonally if you're into that sort of modern, scooped mids sound. The big old Stratabond super-laminate neck construction is also relatively stable (though nothing like the indefatigable old Framus necks) and I'm sure helps to lend some extra sustain with its rigidity.

My problems with these new Mexican-made Martins are the glued-plus-bolt-on neck (presumably a good idea but in practice they often loosen up -- this one hasn't yet but it certainly will with time) and also the quite tall composite bridges (this stuff reminds me of Micarta or GraphTech material) which often need to get shaved a bit after cranking the saddle down to improve action as the top swells up under string tension.

Are they a good buy, though? Sure -- for the money -- but expect them to settle and need setup work over the next few years after buying one. I've serviced a good number of these types recently for (relatively minor) work that I'd expect only a 10+ year old instrument to need.

The composite bridge is interesting and unfortunately, unlike the US instruments, these guys don't get string ramps installed as a mandatory thing so I have to cut them every time I work on one of these.

The HPL koa-look material looks sorta decent but lacks the depth of real solid (or even real laminate) wood.

...and thankfully Martin has taken to staining their Stratabond necks! These things look terrible "in the white" and that was the way they'd been presented for a long time. I have absolutely no quarrel with multi-laminate necks like this but if they were made from layers of hard maple rather than whatever this stuff is I'm sure they'd be just as strong as the old Framus necks which you could drive cars over and expect to still be spry for the next gig.