Gear: Martin Guitars expands innovative SC line

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Martin’s first SC model was the NAMM Best in Show award-winning SC-13E, launched in early 2020. Some guitar purists didn’t embrace the different body shapes and neck profiles, unlike many many young musicians. Many popular features of the original design have been carried over to the new guitars.

American Songwriter received two of the three new offerings, the SC-10E and the SC-13E Special Burst. The third new guitar is the SC-13E Special which has a natural finish top. All three instruments include Martin’s Sure Align neck joint which allows for a beveled back neck joint improving neck access. They also have the new S-shaped body with a cutaway, which makes it easier to play seated, better projection and a low profile neck circumference.

SC-13E

The SC-10E is the most affordable entry in the SC line at a list price of $1,299, but you wouldn’t think so from the new features and updates. The top of the guitar is satin-finish Sitka spruce top with stunning Koa veneer on the back and sides. Hardware, including tuners and strap button, is gloss black with a white and black encrusted rosette around the rosette. The SC-10E’s onboard electronics are handled by the Fishman MX-T with a handy rosette tuner which I’m a fan of. Honestly, when I first took the SC-10E out of its carry bag, I assumed it was an SC-13E upgrade because of the Koa veneer. Neck-to-neck playability and sound quality are superior thanks to internally tone-tensioned X-bracing. To top it off, the fingerboard, bridge and headplate are made of ebony.

The SC-13E Special models take the original concept to a new level. Both of these guitars, the SC-13E Special and SC-13E Special Burst, feature a gloss finished Sitka spruce top and dazzling Ziricote veneer on the back and sides. The Specials have nickel open-gear skeleton key tuners along with an ebony bridge, headplate and fingerboard. The custom designed rosette around the rosette is woven from Ziricote. Both of these models have LR Baggs Element electronics, which I found to be a little warmer and more natural when plugged in. The SC-13E Special costs $1,799 while the SC-13E Special Burst sells for $1,999.

When the first SC model came out in 2020, they were automatically out of stock as many musicians, myself included, were trying to acquire one. If you’re an acoustic guitar traditionalist, you might not like the look, feel or sound of Martin’s new SC line. But I believe that as musicians we need to keep an open mind to innovations in instruments that can help us play and sound different than before. Looking at these two new SC guitars, the neck playability is easier, the neck access is deeper, the body leg cutout puts the neck in a better position, and the plated back and sides look great. This line will be extremely popular with guitarists who are more comfortable with electric than acoustic guitar and for young musicians who are looking for easier playing and a way to express themselves.

Sonically, the SC won’t replace your favorite Martin D18 or D28, but for singer/songwriter tours, songwriting sessions, and live performances, the SC is a much more accessible option. With any of the three SC guitars, you also get an American-made all-wood guitar with built-in electronics and a quality gig bag for less than $2,000.

The Sure Align neck system will be of great advantage when touring and performing in different climates. This was another feature that I found appealing because lack of humidity or too much humidity can do goofy things to your fretboard on the road. The new system developed by Martin for the neck joint can be easily adjusted and tuned without an expensive neck reset. Try SC guitars for yourself and see what you think.

The SC-10E is the best value of the bunch at $1,299 and I wish every guitar had the built-in rosette tuner. The SC-13E Special models have a more aesthetic appeal and the improved electronics of the LR Baggs pickup system. The Special Burst has a great graduated finish and gives the SC body shape a bit more of a traditional look in a non-traditional setup.

Martin Guitars took a big chance with the SC line and they could have easily rested on their historic and popular guitar designs past. For a guitar maker that’s been around since 1833, taking a leap into the future with a new line of instruments and a design says a lot about a company and the direction they see guitars moving forward with musicians. Don’t be afraid to try something different. I’m not a big fan of Brussels sprouts but I found a new way to cook them and they’re not bad. The guitars can be the same.

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