New Toys: Martin Guitars Grand J-16E 12-String

The Grand J-16E 12 String generates a well-balanced sound with a solid low end, despite its compact size and weight as compared to other 12-string acoustic guitars. It is made in Nazareth, PA using East Indian rosewood for the back and sides, and the freely vibrating Sitka spruce top projects sound easily. The internal scalloped X-bracing furthers projection with a beautiful resonant acoustic tone that fills the room. 

For newcomers, playing a 12-string acoustic guitar can be a daunting challenge and the Grand J-16Es tapered neck makes it more comfortable to play.  

The J-16E is a Grand J-14 size with a 000 depth—a new option with this model; it comes with a rosette bounded with a bold herringbone and multi-stripe and bone nut. Scale length is 25.4 inches and the neck joins the body at the 14-fret using a dovetail joint—so playing above the 14th is tricky on this non-cutaway guitar. There are 20-frets total with mother of pearl inlays and dots, tortoise pattern pick guard, and a black Tusq bridge pins.

We liked the way the Fishman Matrix VT Enhance electronics pickup system and controls were integrated into the guitar. The three controls (Volume, Tone, and Enhance) are located just under the lip of the sound hole and are easy to reach and not immediately visible. Power for this system comes from a 9-volt battery in a compartment adjacent the 1/4-inch jack.

We tried the J-16E through a Fishman Loudbox mini amp designed for acoustic guitars and got a clear, warm and punchy sound easily dialed in using the guitars tone controls. It did not sound like an electric 12 unless we cranked up the Tone control.

A beautifully made 12-string guitar that's lightweight and easy to play, the Martin Grand J-16E 12-String acoustic sells for $2,099 MSRP and comes with a soft-side carrying case.