Martin GPX1AE review

  • £559
  • €769
  • $749

A wallet-friendly electro-acoustic from Martin

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Our Verdict

Superbly built and a surprisingly good sound for live or recording duties. The GP is a great bet for a main guitar choice, or a second as a spare or alternately tuned.

For

  • An all-rounder. Compact. USB output is handy.

Against

  • The plastic-mounted output jack and plastic strap button don't fill us with confidence.
Buying options

Although from 22 new Martin models and limited editions released so far this year, only four have three-figure prices, it's those that will be unquestionably the biggest selling.

Ed Sheeran's X Signature and the slightly down-sized Dreadnought Junior have certainly grabbed the headlines, but two other X Series models, released earlier this year at the Frankfurt Musikmesse, are far from insignificant.

The GPX1AE is the first Grand Performance shape in the X Series and, not counting the $10,999 SS-GP42-15 NAMM Show Special, is the only non-cutaway in this shape. It's an electro with a USB recording output, and while it doesn't come with a gigbag, it retails at a very tidy £559.

"The Grand Performance body shape is undeniably Taylor-esque, and first appeared in the all-cutaway Performing Artist series..."

Like the Dreadnought Junior, the X Series guitars are made in Mexico. But unlike that model, which aside from its Richlite fingerboard and bridge is all solid wood, these X Series models feature just solid spruce tops (the X1 part of the model name refers to a solid spruce top with 1 Series- style bracing): the rest is either laminate or synthetic.

Here we have the high-pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides with its highly realistic-looking mahogany-like texture and coloration paired with a multi-laminate neck made from around 37 slices, at its widest point, of birch – like thick, just under 2mm, veneers stacked together.

The Grand Performance body shape is undeniably Taylor-esque, and first appeared in the all-cutaway Performing Artist series, where the current GPCPA5 shares exactly the same specs as this model except with a cutaway and Fishman's F1 Analogue pickup system as opposed to the Fishman Sonitone USB setup here.

With its Taylor Grand Auditorium-like size (it's actually very slightly smaller), the 502mm x 399mm body size is a different proposition to the much more compact 00, which is trimmer in depth, too.

The Fishman Sonitone under-saddle comes with volume and tone controls placed inside the soundhole. There's no side-mounted preamp – the actual preamp board is attached to those soundhole controls, while the output jack is placed on the side, on a simple plastic plate that also houses the battery and the circuitry for the mini-USB output.

While there's a reassuringly solid feel to the guitar, this plastic side plate doesn't fill us with confidence stage-wise – it's fine for the battery holder and indeed the USB output, but we'd really prefer the jack output to double as the base strap button, which here, in Martin style, is a plug-in plastic type, like an enlarged bridge pin, that is simply a push fit, albeit firm, into the base block: conjuring visions of straps falling off and wrenching out jack sockets at your nerve- ridden open-mic slot.

Sound

The GP has plenty in common with the 00X1AE in terms of its upper mids and highs; very Martin-like, beautifully ringing, zing-y and shimmery. The larger body of the GP gives it a chunkier feel, too, and in lower positions, the rounded but not over deep, and slightly wider, neck really feels bigger than the almost delicate, soft V of the 00.

The GP kicks out plenty of volume and is capable of real room-filling projection. It also gives a fair sound representation when amplified.

With a little onboard help, using the tone to subtly roll off the zing, and with a little outboard help to thin the mids and clean things up a little, strumming in lower positions, we'd be happy enough. Although obviously a little piezo-like and unnatural in the midrange, and on higher-fret excursions, the sound really isn't a million miles away from our reference Martin Dreadnought costing over twice the price.

But it's as a recording guitar that we would really hear the benefits. That's not to say we'd be recording our introspective fingerstyle solo record with either:for Americana or rock, and other styles where a rhythm bed is so important, this guitar excels.

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Tech Specs

Country of OriginMexico
Available FinishHand Rubbed Finish, top only
Back and Sides FinishMahogany Pattern HPL Textured Finish
Left Handed Model AvailableYes
Neck MaterialBirch laminate
No. of Frets20
Scale Length (Inches)25.4
Scale Length (mm)645
Top MaterialSolid Sitka spruce
Weight (kg)2.28
Weight (lb)5