The Martin SC-13e is an acoustic electric guitar designed for electric guitar players. With its unusual construction and beautiful design, we couldn’t resist testing this one out! Check out Kevin’s Martin SC-13e review to see if it’s for you.
|🛠️ Build quality||4|
|💰 Value for Money||5|
When I did my last review (for the Martin 000-15M – a great guitar!) Pat over at Steve’s Music in Ottawa, Ontario pointed out some guitars that would make good comparisons for feel and tone. Among the array of guitars were models from Taylor, Larrivée, Norman and Yamaha.
But one that particularly stood out to me was the Martin SC-13e. Pat told me this guitar is made to play more like an electric guitar. This means electric guitar players like me will have an easier time on this instrument.
It was beautiful, different and a blast to play—so, let’s see why this guitar is different from the rest!
Martin SC-13e Review: The Specs
From the Martin website, The SC-13e has a solid spruce top and a “koa fine veneer” back and sides.
The top and sides have a gloss finish that looks lovely and doesn’t feel sticky. The satin neck has an ebony fingerboard and is made from select hardwood – although they don’t specify what that hardwood is, and I couldn’t tell.
The ebony also carries over to the bridge, which also features a compensated white Tusq saddle. The celestial bullseye style inlays and rosette are also beautifully made with mother-of-pearl and celestial blue dot.
As for the electronics, the guitar is equipped with a Fishman MX-T under-saddle pickup system. The controls are located inside the soundhole, accessible on the top portion of it. As an added little quirk, look into the soundhole from the top and you’ll see the integrated tuner!
What is unique about the guitar is its overall shape. Martin calls this body shape an S-13 fret cutaway, comparable to your standard dreadnought.
Imagine a Martin and an offset electric guitar having a child, giving us what I can best describe as an offset acoustic.
The cutaway is also nicely rounded and unique, compared to standard acoustic guitar cutaways. This guitar is truly unique and stands out from the others in that aspect!
The neck and neck joint are also unique. The Martin SC-13e features Martin’s Sure Align neck join system, which, according to them: “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.”
The neck is also held to the guitar via a single bolt, rather than glued on like most traditional acoustics.
- High-quality construction and craftsmanship from Martin
- Suitable for live performances and studio recordings
- Versatile instrument for various playing styles and genres
- Exceptional balance and tonal clarity with a rich, resonant sound
- Designed for acoustic guitarists seeking a modern, innovative instrument
Body and bridge
- Unique asymmetrical body shape for enhanced comfort and stage performance
- Solid spruce top and koa veneer body for versatile and dynamic sound
- Sleek natural finish with a beautiful rosette and inlay details
- Ebony bridge with compensated white tusq saddle
- 25.4 ” scale length
Neck and fingerboard
- Select Hardwood neck
- Ebony fretboard
- White corian nut
- Patent-pending Sure Align linear dovetail joint at the neck for effortless playability and access to upper frets
- Fishman MX-T electronics for amplified sound and natural tone
Martin SC-13e Test Results
Now for the nitty gritty.
The Martin SC-13e is gorgeous to look at! It has some striking design details, including the offset body to the mother of pearl and celestial blue rosette and inlays (that 12th fret marker, wow!).
The level of craftsmanship extends to small details such as the neck joint. As you see in the picture, the lines where the neck joins the body at the “heel” (a term I use loosely since there’s no conventional heel) just flow from one to the next, giving the appearance of one continuous piece of solid wood. Just beautiful!
Like all Martins at this price, they ensure get a showroom-quality guitar.
Build Quality: 4/5
This guitar is very well put together. The fretwork is nicely done, the tuners are smooth, and the finish is flawless.
I did have some concerns about the nature of the neck (it is a bolt-on, after all) and how that was put together. Closer inspection put my mind at ease. I was pleasantly surprised to find the sure align neck system was well-fitted in the neck pocket on the body – no gaps or other funny business were to be found! It was tight and secure.
For the weight, the guitar is no heavier or lighter than your traditional dreadnought. It was also nice to see all the strap pins in place, as well as a pickup, especially at this price (compared to the 000-15M – see my previous review).
Now, this is a personal nitpick, but I’m not a fan of having the pickup controls mounted inside the soundhole.
I can understand that some may like it for construction and aesthetic choices (in that you don’t need to put a huge hole in the guitar’s side to accommodate the controls and preamp).
For one thing, you can’t see your settings. Secondly, the controls may be awkward to operate in the heat of battle while holding a pick (in fact, I’m sure a few picks will be lost in the soundhole).
The same for the onboard tuner. Hiding it in the soundhole makes aesthetic sense, and it wasn’t hard to see from a playing position. However, the on/off button is mounted on the tuner in the soundhole, which made it a little awkward to turn on and off, in my opinion.
This Martin guitar will play tricks on you, especially if you’re a lead player who’s played solos up the neck on your typical cut-away acoustic guitar.
While playing single notes and moving up to the higher registers my brain told me: “Get ready for the heel” (as they are on typical acoustic guitars). But my hand just kept going, unhindered by the heel – because it wasn’t there!
The level of accessibility up the neck is just amazing! I was able to hit the 21st fret and play lines with just as much ease as on an electric. Certainly, it was easier than on a traditional acoustic with a cutaway.
Even the neck shape is improved over a normal acoustic guitar. The high-performance taper (that’s the change in neck’s thickness to width ratio up the neck) is shifted so that your hand is better positioned to play on the higher frets. The shift is subtle, but it’s there and makes quite a difference.
The neck size also felt slightly smaller than a typical acoustic. The action also felt a little lower as well (akin to the 000-15M I tried last time). The combination made chords and single notes a breeze to play across the entire fretboard.
While sitting to play the guitar, the offset body was quite comfortable and didn’t feel foreign on my knee. It stayed in position with ease. The body depth also isn’t as big as a standard acoustic, which also aids playability.
Overall, the guitar had a very balanced tone for strumming, single notes and fingerpicking.
Notes rang out loud and clear, especially on the upper frets, where things can get a bit quieter on most acoustic guitars. Fingerpicked lines were also nice and articulate.
While strumming, the tone was bright and full but had a bit of a scooped sound in the mid-range. For fun, I grabbed the 000-15M from my last review (still on the wall) and did a comparison.
The 000-15M had a more “woody” sound that I prefer thanks to the more pronounced midrange found in that guitar.
I felt the SC-13e ventured a bit more into Taylor territory as far as brightness goes while retaining a bit more bottom end.
Value for Money: 5/5
The Martin SC-13e is $2,429 CDN at Steve’s Music or $1,599 USD at Guitar Center.
For me, this guitar is worth the price. Even given the positioning of the electronics, this is still a great guitar for the money.
I would even argue a better value than the 000-15M. The finishes are a bit more “fancy” and it’s truly gig-ready out of the bag. The playability is also second to none for an electric guitar guy like me.
Plus, it comes with a soft shell case, so you won’t have to fork out extra to take it out with you.
Martin SC-13e Review: The perfect acoustic electric guitar for electric guitar players
Gorgeous to look at, gig-ready and with unbelievable playability, the Martin SC13-e is an absolute joy to play.
It is the perfect acoustic guitar for electric players wanting something familiar for those “unplugged”-style gigs.
The playability will even please the most resolute acoustic guitar players with its low action and great neck.
This is the kind of guitar you would expect from Martin, and they didn’t disappoint.
A special thank you once again to Pat at Steve’s Music in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, for letting me try out this fine instrument (and the ones I compared it to)!