A reader asks about Martin’s High Performance Neck.
Can you provide a simple explanation of the High Performance Neck found on some but not all Martin Guitars?
I appreciate your time and effort,
Gale from Kansas
A timely question, as a variety of people have the same query, made fresh by the release of all the new 2016 Martins, almost all of them having the High Performance Neck.
The term “High Performance Neck” refers to ANY Martin guitar that was made with the Performing Artist taper (which was renamed to High Performance taper in 2016.)
The taper refers ONLY to the fingerboard width, which starts at 1-3/4” width at nut, but has a narrower 2-1/8” width at the 12th fret. This is a narrower 12th fret width than the 2-1/4″ measurement found on traditional 1-3/4” Martin necks.
The result of the taper is a sleeker feel as the fretting hand moves up toward the body. Basically, Martin wanted to introduce guitars with a similar neck profile and string spacing used many other modern guitars, most notably Collings, Taylor, Huss & Dalton, and many electric guitars.
To my way of thinking this is really Martin’s old 1-11/6″ neck (which is 2-1/8″ at the 12th fret) that has been cheated out a little bit near the headstock, where one’s wrist must bend at the most extreme angles. So there is a little more room down there, but otherwise the overall feeling is of a narrower neck than old Martin OMs and other guitars with a 1-3/4″ width at nut.
The string spacing for the High Performance Neck is 2-5/32″. This was changed in 2016 from 2-3/16″ because some people were saying the high E string was too easy to pull off the end of the frets.
For comparison, Collings and Taylor default spacing is 2-3/16″ while Huss and Dalton uses 2-7/32″.
The difference at the 12th fret is literally the width of the high E string. So it is not a major change, but I did notice how much easier it is to waggle that string up near the body without feeling like it would come off the frets.
Anyway, all Martin guitars with this modern taper have a High Performance Neck, no matter what “profile” the neck has.
At present, all High Performance Necks come with Martin’s Modified Low Oval Profile, except guitars in the Performing Artist Series, which have the Performing Artist Profile that is shallower and flatter than the MLO. The PA Profile offers the most electric guitar like neck on a Martin acoustic guitar.
Anyway, it is correct to say a GPCPA1 has a High Performance neck and so does a 15 Series guitar even though they have a different profile or “shape” to the wood behind the fingerboard.
“High Performance Neck” is a descriptive marketing term and does not appear as a technical “spec”, as the spec sheet shows the taper as separate specs for the nut width and 12th fret width, and string spacing.
And to makes sure I was accurate in this assessment, I wrote to Tim Teel, Director of Instrument Design at C. F. Martin & Co. Here is what he had to say:
In a nutshell you have a pretty good handle on it. Here is how I would explain it.
Martin guitar has a registered trademark on the term ‘High Performance Neck’.
It was first used in connection with the Performing Artist Series of guitars.
In today’s world we use the term ‘High Performance Neck’ to describe PA guitars, 15 Series and 17 Series guitars, the new Standard Series guitars with this neck, Retro Series guitars, DJr… and so on.
Keep in mind that this term may or may not appear regularly in literature, and you are correct that in the world of specs it is broken down into the sub comment parts.
One correction – not all 15’s have the HPN. Some older models have the standard taper.
Hope this helps!
And I hope that clears things up in general.
Thanks for the great question!