Martin SC-13E Special Burst | Review

Published 1 month ago on May 8, 2024

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

Martin SC-13E Special Burst Acoustic

MSRP: (UK) £2099 / (US) $1999

Do you want to play leads all the way up the neck on an acoustic guitar? Well, your prayers have been answered with the SC-13E. Martin Guitars' SC-13E—with its patented Sure Align neck system—gives you full access to all frets so you can comfortably reach those high notes. It's also equipped with a new, low-profile velocity neck barrel that ergonomically accommodates your hand as you move up the neck, giving you the comfort and playability of an electric. Nick Jennison takes a closer look at the Martin SC-13E Special Burst acoustic, featuring a spruce gloss top and ziricote fine veneer gloss finished back and sides.

When the Martin SC-13E dropped at NAMM 2020, I was lucky enough to be in the room for the "big reveal". In fact, I think I was the first person to play one post-launch (I was so excited I literally ran and grabbed one). My first thoughts were, "Oh wow, Martin has made a guitar for me!"…

Let me explain. I love the "Martin sound". We refer to it here at GI towers as "the sound of the records" (© Jonathan Graham). I think it's reasonable to say that most Martins don't exactly play like butter though. They make you work. Don't get me wrong, it's always *worth* the work, but being a pretentious shredder I always find myself gravitating to acoustics that are easier to play, even at the expense of the sound.

Well, the SC-13E is the answer to this conundrum. It sounds like a Martin, but it plays like an electric. If you've played enough acoustics, you'll know how impressive this particular magic trick is. The SC-13E Special is basically the same recipe, but with some extra fanciness in the form of ziricote back and sides, without a significant increase in price.

Spec-wise, the SC-13E has an offset body style that uses some special bracing wizardry (technical term) under the solid spruce top to make it not only resonant and powerful beyond its small size, but also extraordinarily feedback resistant, meaning that when you play live you can crank it louder, compress harder and even use a healthy amount of distortion if that's your bag. The 25.4" scale "sure align" neck is a slim asymmetrical design with a 13th fret join, although the high frets are still easily accessible thanks to the generous cutaway - and unlike many cutaway acoustics, the higher register sounds just as good as the lower octave.

Rather than a glued-in join, the neck attaches via a unique bolt-on mechanism. Far from a cost-cutting measure, this is actually a very clever piece of design that allows for much greater setup tweakability without having to adjust the guitar's saddle (which comes with a whole host of problems, not least of which is how the saddle affects the response of the piezo pickup). This is how Martin are able to get the action so bonkers low, and still have the SC-13E sound great, even when you dig in with a heavy pick.

Speaking of the piezo, the pickup system on the SC-13E is the excellent LR Baggs Element system. It's a very natural sounding pickup, but also exceptionally feedback resistant. If you play live with an amp, this will allow you to get the guitar's top "going" way before the onset of feedback, and it also takes effects exceptionally well.

The SC-13E Special is, in my opinion, a perfect example of a "player's acoustic". It works with you rather than against you, which means no musical idea is off-limits because of the guitar. But it also sounds like a Martin, which is a huge deal on a guitar this playable.

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