Martin GPCPA5K Review: Acoustics Under $1000 Review Series

Published Categorized as Grand Auditorium Reviews, Guitar Reviews, Guitar Reviews Under $1000, Koa Patterned Laminate Back and Sides, Laminate Back and Sides Wood, Martin Acoustic Guitars, Sitka Spruce Top Wood, Solid Wood Top Wood

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Hello and welcome to my Martin GPCPA5K Review. This review is part of my acoustic guitars that cost less than 1,000 series.

In this review the Martin GPCPA5K will be assessed on:

  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Value for Money

As is custom on I will also show videos of the guitar being played so that you can hear the guitar for yourself and some user reviews so that you can get a variety of opinions.

And finally I will conclude with my opinion on who this guitar is best suited to and how it compared to others in the same price range.

Okay, let’s get going.

Table of Contents


acoustic guitar's tonality

I found the GPCPA5K had a nice warm balanced sound and it was easy to control the sound even when strumming more aggressively – and still had a bit of punch when palm muting.

It is a grand auditorium shaped guitar which helps to give it its nice balanced tone. Not as boomy or loud as the dreadnought so for those who prefer a less boomy bass-heavy sound then this might be for you. If you are looking for that dreadnought sound then you might want to go for the DCP (dreadnought) model.

Top (soundboard): The GPC has a solid Sitka Spruce top. This is the standard in the industry and offers a great all round tone and expressive dynamics.

Back and Sides: As is expected in this price range the back and sides are laminate (Martin’s High Pressure Laminate [HPL]). The laminate is Koa patterned which gives it a really nice look. Some people of course prefer solid back and sides but at this price range laminate is expected – and the bonus is that it helps to keep the guitar nice and light.

Neck: The neck is not actually made from wood – it’s made from something called Stratabond. Martin uses this on a lot of their lower priced instruments – but that doesn’t mean you should be put off by this.

The neck felt light but strong to hold and actually looks quite nice in my opinion. For some purists this would be a deal breaker but I actually quite liked it. The neck is a different color/pattern from the back and sides which can also put some people off aesthetically but it didn’t bother me.

Stratabond is actually said to be less prone to warping too.

Bridge: The bridge is made from something called Black Richlite. Again this is something that is used a lot on lower priced Martin guitars. Judging by the sound of this guitar it does a good job in my view.

Saddle & Nut: Also standard on lower priced Martin’s is the Corian nut and Tusq compensated saddle. Again the tone is fantastic so I don’t think these artificial materials affect the tone – and they are dense and durable so no issues with that.

Maybe if you were looking to brighten the sound up a bit then you could change them out for bone but personally I’d leave them as is.

Hear the Sound for Yourself

Of course it will always sound a bit different in real life but this should give you some idea to see if the sound is for you.

Here’s the video.


I thought the GPCPA5K was really nice to play, feels light, is easy to bend & virbrato (but that could have been something to do with the strings). It’s easy to play and easy to control the sound and to get the sound out of it you want.

Great sound when palm muting and equally good with finger picking, strumming and flat picking. Neck really nice to play on – really shallow curve in the neck – should be super easy for most to play and a pleasure to play.

Action: The action felt nice to me. I like it quite low and this was already set quite low. I’d be more than happy to leave the action as is on this guitar.

Fretboard (fingerboard): The fretboard is made from Black Richlite – the same as what they use on the bridge. It feels nice to play on – smooth and fast. I had no complaints about this.

In the first video above the guy says it’s an ebony fretboard – an easy mistake to make as it can look like ebony at first glance, but it’s not.

Neck: The GCPA5K has a really flat profile (shallow curve in the neck). This might feel a bit odd to some players but I like the feel of it. And it just feels light and I felt really in control of the fretboard – if that makes sense.

The width at the nut is 1 3/4 inches (1.75inches, 44mm) which is pretty standard on acoustics. Perhaps the standard for dreadnoughts these days is more like 1 11/16 inch (1.69inches, 43mm) but that very slight extra width helps a bit with finger picking for the Grand Auditorium model. Though the DCP5AK (dreadnought version) does have the same width at nut.

If you are used to a 1 11/16 inch width at nut I wouldn’t worry about it on this guitar – I certainly couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t notice it until I saw the specs. Maybe it’s the flat neck curve makes it feel smaller but it certainly didn’t feel any wider than the 1 11/16 inch necks I played in the same session.

Other Features and Info

The GPCPA5AK is part of the performing artist series of acoustic guitars by Martin.

In case you were wondering (I am also curious) what all those letters and numbers stand for, here it is:

  • GP = Grand Performance Shape (Grand Auditorium)
  • C = Cutaway
  • PA = Performing Artist series
  • 5 = The 5th tier (1 being the highest, most expensive tier in Martin’s range)
  • K = Koa Laminate Back & Sides

I would have just called it GCP5K to make it easier to remember but hey it probably sounds flasher as it is!

There are several other models in the performing artist series, the most similar being:

  • DCPA5K – the dreadnought version
  • GPCPA5 – the only difference as far as I can tell being Mahogany patterned HPL on the back and sides
  • DCPA5 – dreadnought version of the GPCPA5

Or if you were looking to spend more then there’s the GPCPA4 versions – the main difference with these being that they have solid back and sides and a hardwood neck.

Who this Guitar is Suitable for

Due to its grand auditorium shape (a.k.a. folk shape) you would usually say that this is best for folk players. And whilst it is a great sound for folk, it also worked really well for other styles and I particularly enjoyed playing blues on it.

Anyone with smaller hands will also be fine with this guitar, due to the flat curve on the back of the neck – and anyone who is physically smaller in general, due to the slightly smaller size of the shape when compared to a dreadnought.

I’d say it’s a great all round guitar suitable for a wide range of styles and people – assuming you like the tone, which is of course highly subjective.

Value for Money

value for money tick

In my opinion, absolutely yes. Sure you get a lot of man-made materials in there but if those materials help the guitar to play and sound the way it does for the price then I have no problem with them.

So in terms of materials maybe you don’t get the same value for money as with some others in this price range but, and it’s a big but, you are getting your money’s worth when the guitar plays and sounds fantastic – regardless of the materials used.

Compared to other Guitars in the price range

I tried the GPCPA5K in the same session as the Yamaha LL6ARE and the Yamaha A1M so it’s with these guitars that I can make the most accurate comparisons with.

Out of the 3 I preferred the Martin hands down. In some ways that was personal preference because I prefer a warmer tone. But mostly it was due to playability. I just found the Martin was a real pleasure to play – and it’s not like the Yamahas were at all bad, but the Martin just felt that much nicer.

In fact I liked this guitar so much that it’s my #3 guitar in my top 5 acoustic guitars under 1,000 list.

More Info and Where to Buy

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.

If you are interested in learning more about the GPCPA5K, check out the product page on Amazon.

If you want to check out some other options under 1,000 or want to compare the GPCPA5K to others, check out my top 5 acoustics under 1,000:


What is the most famous Martin model?

One of the most famous and iconic models produced by Martin Guitar is the Martin D-28. The Martin D-28 is a dreadnought-style acoustic guitar that has gained widespread recognition and popularity among musicians and collectors alike.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)


    1. Hey Alex – thanks man! Glad you liked the review. I was very impressed with Martin’s GPCPA5AK so it was easy to write about.

  1. Wow a Martin for less than 1000? Usually they are pretty pricey guitars! I’m glad that even though it’s cheaper it still (according to your review) will still sound like a Martin!
    Matt TheDopestMatrix

    1. Hey Matt – thanks for visiting.

      Yeah I wasn’t sure what I would get before trying it, but the GPCPA5AK definitely impressed me – and still definitely sounds like a Martin.

  2. Could you elaborate more on that stratabond that you mentioned Nate? I’ve never head of this before, is it some kind of ply/laminate or is it a completely man-made wood substitute? Interesting that it gives less warping than wood.

    1. Hey Jolie – great question. Yes it is essentially a type of plywood made using wood veneers.

      It’s less prone to warping because it’s more stable in humid environments. Hope that answers your question – let me know if you want to know more.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Hey Nathan
    As always, very good writing here.
    A ton of very good information for the shopper and beginner guitarist.

    I’m still getting used to my Martin DCX1E. I still think the action is a little high and I need to adjust the bridge. I’m also beginning to think I got to light of strings on as well.

    Hope this helps.


  4. I liked your review as I am shopping for another guitar similar in price (but not necessarily sound) to the Yamaha LL6 that I own already.
    The GPCPA5K may well be what I am looking for.
    I am also thinking off taking your advice and changing the plastic pins and nut. Hopefully it’s not an expensive upgrade.
    Thanks again for your articles.

    1. hey Jack

      You’re very welcome. Changing bridge pins and nut should be inexpensive. the GPCPA5K would be a great choice and definitely a different sound to the LL6.

  5. Hi Nate — if you had to choose between the Martin GPCPA5K, the Seagull Artist Mosaic and the Seagull Maritime SWS, which one would you recommend?

    Thanks for this great review!


    1. Hey Chris

      It depends really. They are different guitars. The GPCPA5K is a Grand Auditorium size/shape (slightly smaller and with a deeper waist than a dreadnought) and the Seagull’s are both dreadnoughts. Grand Auditorium’s tend not to be quite as loud and have more defined mids and treble but less bass than dreadnoughts.

      Also the GPCPA5K and the Maritime both have Sitka Spruce tops and the Artist Mosaic has a Cedar top – so these will also lead to different sounds.

      Though the GPCPA5K and Maritime are still quite warm sounding even though they have the Spruce top (which is often brighter sounding).

      If it was me I really liked the GPCPA5K, that would be my first choice, and it would be the Artist Mosaic if I was looking for a dreadnought.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Hey Nathan quick question btw great review much appreciated. Im actually in the market right now and I’m really thinking about this guitar. Is the only difference of the GPCPA5 and the GPCPA5k the Koa wood? Because they’re are priced the same but I’m seeing so many great reviews on the GPCPA5k and a couple of bad ones on the other one. Would be great if you can steer me in the right direction thanks!

    1. Hey Adrian

      Thanks for the message. There’s a bit of a confusing element to these two guitars.

      There are two types of the GPCPA5 – there is one that has a black top and one that has a solid sitka spruce top (like the GPCPA5K does). The black top version of the GPCPA5 has an HPL (high pressure laminate) top rather than a Solid spruce top. Though I haven’t played it I can’t imagine that the “GPCPA5 Black” sounds as good as the GPCPA5K (which has a solid sitka spruce top).

      However, the GPCPA5 (the version with the solid sitka spruce top) is, as far as I am aware, identical to the GPCPA5K except that it has HPL “Mahogany” patterned back and sides as opposed to the GPCPA5K’s HPL “Koa” patterned back and sides. Though I haven’t played the mahogany patterned version, I can’t imagine that it sounds much different if any because it’s laminate wood.

      In short, I would go for the GPCPA5K just to be safe because that is an awesome sounding and playing guitar (i assume the GPCPA5 sounds the same and is just as good but I can’t say for sure). I would avoid the GPCPA5 Black though because it doesn’t have the solid top – and they are all the same price.

      Hope this helps.

  7. Might be a bit late to ask, but what strings to you recommend for this guitar. I’ve only played with daddario lights and elexir bronze super lights, Elexir being my perferred brand. Would you recommend super light strings or a lower gague?

    1. Hi Eric

      I would recommend sticking with the gauge of strings that the guitar comes with – you can one gauge either side if you want to – but don’t go further than that or you will need to have the guitar re-setup to suit the different gauge.

      The GPCPA5K comes with Martin SP Lifespan 92/8 Phosphor Bronze strings in a light gauge. So the guitar is set up for a light gauge (0.12 to 0.54). I would recommend sticking with that gauge at least to begin with.

      But I would experiment with different strings to see what you like the sound of the most. Martin’s strings are decent so play with the strings it comes with for a while and then change to see what you like. If you know you already like elixir then I’d try them as your next set but get them in light gauge.

      Hope this helps

  8. Hello Nate- Which guitar would you recommend between these two? Martin GPCPA5K or the Martin GPCX2AE? What are the differences between these two? As both are affordable, I would like to know which will get my money’s worth.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Riko

      Thanks for your message. I think you would get your money’s worth with both guitars – but which one is best for you will depend on your tastes.

      The main differences between these two guitars are the following:

      1. The GPCPA5K has a solid Sitka Spruce Top and the GPCX2AE has a solid Sapele Top
      2. The GPCPA5K has laminated Koa back and sides and the GPCX2AE has laminated Macassar

      The back and sides will make some difference but not that much because they’re laminate wood not solid wood. But the tops will make a significant difference to the sound.

      Sitka Spruce will provide a brighter tone with more clairty in the bass and the trebles. It has a good dynamic range too (so will sound good when playing softly or loudly).

      The Sapele will be a warmer, fuller sound in comparison. There will be more emphasis on the mid-range and more subtle in the bass and treble.

      So if you prefer that brighter more dynamic sound, then the GPGCPA5K would be a good choice. If you prefer a warmer more subtle sound, then the GPCX2AE would be a better choice. That said, I didn’t find the GPCPA5K to be overly bright but it will be brighter than the GPCX2AE.

      Other than those 2 differences, the two guitars are very similar and will likely feel the same to play, so I’d say it comes down to the sound you will prefer.

      Hope this answers your question

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