Hands-on Review: GPCPA3 by C.F. Martin

(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-05-25)

Hands-on Review: GPCPA3 by C.F. Martin

The Martin GPCPA3 is part of the Performing Artist Series of guitars that are made to take anywhere and sound great whether you take them to a recording studio, live venue or the park. The name of this model stands for: Grand Performance (body style) Cutaway Performing Artist. There are 5 models in this lineup and this particular model nestles itself neatly in the middle of the pack as a more affordable guitar with the best bang for the buck in my opinion.

Let’s first start with what this guitar has to offer. The GPCPA3 features a Grand Performance 14 fret cutaway body boasting a solid sitka spruce top, satin finish solid East Indian Rosewood back and sides, white Boltaron binding on the body and neck, black Richlite fingerboard with offset mother of pearl dot inlays, black Richlite bridge, satin finished Performing Artist neck profile, Mortise/Tenon neck joint, 1-3/4” nut width, 2-1/8” width at 12th fret, Performing Artist Style Delmar Tortoise pickguard, Fishman F1 Aura with tuner and a hardshell case.

Martin did a great job with the visual appeal of this guitar. The shape of the new pickguard compliments the curves of the body very nicely and the satin finished Rosewood mated against the glossy spruce top is quite attractive. For the dot markers Martin used an offset style done in mother of pearl that shows off the beautiful, smooth surface of the Richlite fingerboard. The eyes then move upward to the simple, traditional C.F. Martin headstock that gives the guitar a finished, classy look.

Did you ever pick up a guitar and weren’t able to put it down? That experience doesn’t happen too often, however this is exactly what happened to me after playing one chord. This guitar begs to be played for extended periods of time and I couldn’t deny it!

The GPCPA3 plays smoother than any acoustic I’ve ever played. This can be attributed to 4 things: The fingerboard material, neck finish, neck size and string spacing.

At first I was taken back while reading the specs on this guitar. I noticed that the fingerboard looked like ebony but it was actually something called Black Richlite. This prompted further investigation and what I learned was that this man-made material has the appearance of ebony, feels like ebony and is tonally very similar to ebony. You may be thinking, “Why not use ebony?” Because Richlite is unaffected by humidy and temperature changes and is stronger than ebony. Traditionalists may be disappointed by this minor fact, however I believe this to be a good thing as would most forward-minded thinking musicians.

The neck has a satin finish so the player doesn’t feel restricted in any way when shifting around the fingerboard. There is no tacky feel of a polished neck here. This a major complaint of mine for most guitars when writing reviews so this is most welcomed! The neck also featured a parallel neck profile with a slimmer taper, which gives the neck a nice feel in the lower register and a faster feel as you work to the higher register of the neck. Barre chords or single note solos are performed with equal ease due to this Performing Artist neck.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fingerstylist or a flatpicker. You’ll love the string spacing on this guitar – especially if you’re a versatile player and perform different styles requiring both techniques. The bridge string spacing is between that of a traditional 000 and an OM style, which I thought felt great. This is actually a very thoughtful touch added to this guitar that makes a lot of sense.

If you’ve been dreaming of that perfect acoustic tone that sounds warm, buttery and crisp – this guitar was probably the one you heard. The sound of this guitar is rich and balanced on every string in every fret. The body resonates and provides an instant response that you can feel through your body. The frequencies are well balanced with a nice touch of bass that’s felt and heard. The mids are creamy and smooth and the highs are rich and airy. The sustain and fullness of every note on the fingerboard was amazing - it was almost as if the guitar was plugged in! The bridge string spacing is between that of a traditional 000 and an OM style, which I thought felt great.

Speaking of being plugged in – this is another area where the GPCPA3 shines. Onboard is the new Fishman F1 Aura electronics featuring the award-winning Aura Acoustic Imaging technology. Of course, it gives you a tuner and pickup EQ but it also contains a compressor, anti-feedback control, phase control and the ability to replicate the sound of 9 different world-class studio microphones with separate EQ and a blend control with the pickup. Wow! What’s really great about all this is the fact that the preamp controls make up a very small amount of real estate on the side of the guitar. 2 knobs and a small, round display window makes for a tiny footprint that’s functional and easy to read.

After plugging in I pushed a knob and activated the tuner. Tuning was a breeze as the display was very responsive and accurate. Turning this same knob controlled my volume. Simple. Pressing the other knob and turning it allowed me to select a microphone image. I was also able to select the blend of the microphone with the pickup with this same knob. This was a GREAT feature because if I wanted a little more articulation with my pick I could easily bring in more pickup volume. A technique I use when recording acoustics is to use a mix of the microphone for that “airy” sound and finger noise and the onboard pickup for more articulation and attack. This guitar makes this recording technique very easy! Accessing the other features of the preamp was as easy as pushing the edit knob for each parameter I wanted to set and turning the knob. It couldn’t be simpler.

The Bottom Line
The GPCPA3 is a beautifully crafted guitar that plays like butter, sounds rich and full, looks very classy and is tech savvy sporting the most advanced onboard electronics. Great attention to detail is also obvious in every area of this guitar. If you’re looking for a versatile acoustic for the stage and studio you have to add this new offering by C.F. Martin to your scouting list. I honestly don’t think you’ll find a better instrument for your money.

The GPCPA3 lists for $2599.00 USD. Visit http://www.mguitar.com for more information.

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