Martin Grand J12-16GTE 12-String

A big, bright and shiny Grand J12-16GTE graces Martin’s 16 Series

The latest Martin to sport their largest body is a 12-string that gives mahogany lovers something to sing about.

Specs for the Grand J12-16GTE include: Grand Jumbo body size with 17” lower bout; solid mahogany back and sides; solid Sitka spruce top; graduated scalloped braces; Richlite fingerboard and bridge; one piece, solid wood neck; 1-13/16” width at nut, 2-1/4” at 12th fret, 2-5/16” string spacing; Performing Artist profile; satin finish body, with a gloss top; D-Tar Wave Length Multi-Source electronics

Big Sound for a Modest Price

Martin Grand J12-16GTEThe Martin Grand J12-16GTE is a Grand Jumbo 12-string made in Style 16, with a Gloss Top and on-board Electronic amplification. The Grand Jumbo size is the largest guitar body ever made by Martin. It has only recently joined the catalog and its creation was inspired by the classic Guild 12-strings of the 1960s. Grand J 12s have a pretty, popping voice that fills up a room with ease and adds jangly high-end harmony to any solo act, as well as providing considerable pizazz to ensembles or a jam session. At this price point, the new Grand J offers more tone per dollar than any other 12-string currently available from Martin.

Being made in modern Style 16, it has minimal appointments, with no purfling inlaid on the back, sides or top. But it does have a nice white-on-black herringbone rosette around the sound hole that ties in nicely with the black bridge and fingerboard. And on the whole, it has a woody simplicity that puts the focus on the mahogany back and sides, and the Sitka spruce top, busy with woven cross grain.

I have always been a fan of Sitka on mahogany and it works well with this extra-large body. There are all the bright and clear chimes one could desire coming off the trebles and harmony strings. And there is a nice definition in the bass, without all the smoke clouds that can gather under the low end of a rosewood guitar with a large bottom end. I was at once reminded of Leo Kottke’s “bigger than life” sound that he gets out of his own jumbo mahogany/Sitka 12-strings.

At first I was thinking it lacked a bit in the bass, until I heard someone else play it while I sat out front. It actually has ample bass response, without overdoing it. And then we plugged in the guitar and played it through a nice acoustic guitar amp. There is a lot of wow factor in that amplified voice! We did not have much time to experiment, so we just set it to 50/50 between the pickup and the mini-mic residing just inside the sound hole, near the bridge. The D-Tar Wave Length Multi-Source system is pretty easy to use, but can be dialed in with precision.

 Martin Grand J-12GTE

 Martin Grand J-12GTE

 Martin Grand J-12GTE

 Martin Grand J-12GTE

 D-Tar Wave Length Mic

 Solid mahogany back

 17 inches of solid Sitka

 12-string tuners

Starting in 2013, Style 16 Martins are made with the new “simplified dovetail neck joint”, which looks sort of like a miniature bow tie when seen from above before the fingerboard is put in place. The new joint provides a better connection between neck, neck block and body than the mortise and tenon joint it is replacing. And this Grand Jumbo has special scalloped braces, which are graduated to allow support where that big top needs it most, while allowing for optimum resonance where it counts.

When you add to all that the comfortable neck, this easily affordable Martin 12-string should sell well. In the same price range there is also the GPC12PA4, which is made from sapele, a species of African wood that looks similar to mahogany, but has a drier, less robust tone. The GPC has the advantages that come with a smaller body that is quite comfy but still has a good size sound chamber, a cutaway for high fret access, and an on-board tuner in the on-board controls. But for me, the GJ12-16 wins out.

In the acoustic voice department it has that big bottom end that comes from the Grand Jumbo body made from genuine mahogany. And when it comes to playing plugged in, it has an actual microphone that can be dialed in for a more “acoustic” sound. So if one doesn’t need those highest-most frets and has a stature large enough to handle the largest guitar made by Martin, I think this new 16 Series 12-string is worth the slight increase in price, over its PA4 brethren.

List Price: $1999.00

Call your Martin dealer for the real price.

And that is one man’s word on…

The Martin Grand J12-16GTE

Read more about C.F. Martin & Co. HERE

Read our primer about Martin Model Designations and Naming Conventions HERE

The official spec sheet can be found HERE.


6 thoughts on “Martin Grand J12-16GTE 12-String

  1. One Saturday afternoon in January 2016, I walked into my favorite shop for strings and picks and walked out with this guitar. In the shop, playing it seemed natural and when having it played to me, it hit all the notes, so to speak. I treated it more as a novelty in my collection since then, but during a home-bound period of convalescence, I have focused on incorporating it into my solo acoustic repertoire. I still feel a bit clumsy playing it, but overall, I am really happy when the guitar and I sync up. I think my blind date with this guitar is about to flourish into a solid performing relationship.

    1. Thank you for your enlightening comment, Jim. And for bringing to my attention the broken link in this review, which has now been repaired so the video portion is working.

  2. Hello Spoon, I recently purchased a J12-16GTE and am glad to say I am pleased with this guitar. It has sustain for days and has such a deep and sweet tone that rings out and is pleasing to the eye as well. For a large guitar it is quite comfortable to play in my lap and also with a strap. It is a pleasure to play and was easy to play right out of the box. Plugged in it sounds great and with the on-board mic and blend it does sounds as close to acoustic as any guitar pickup I have played. Thanks for your review of this wonderful 12 string offering from Martin, it helped a lot in the decision. It will stay in my stable for a long time to come!

  3. Just picked up this beauty a couple weeks ago and couldn’t be happier, big sound, sustain for ever and tone to die for. It seems to have it’s own reverb system built in without plugging in. Just a joy to play and hear, plugged in it can be tailored to to have a more acoustic sound using the mic blend and it keeps the quack down quite a bit. It does however pickup pic noise the higher your turn up the mic setting, so find a pic that has less string noise. All in all a very unique guitar and a keeper in my stable, Thanks Spoon for the review!

  4. I bought one of these beauties during the Christmas holidays.

    When I picked it up at Interstate Music in New Berlin Wisconsin and played it, I was sold on it right away. I have 3 other acoustic 12 strings and this one will be a favorite. What really shocked me was how good it sounded when hooked up to my Roland amp. What a sound. Will play it allot more in the acoustic mode but if you like electric better you will not be disappointed. But most settings will have to come off your amp. Except for volume there is not much you can change on the guitar. The other thing I liked about it so how easy it is to play. Like my Guild, you can pay this guitar all day. If you like playing an acoustic 12 string you will not be disappointed in this guitar.

    1. Thank you Mark, for your review of your recently acquired Grand J12-16GTE. It is a ringing endorsement, coming from someone who has four 12-string acoustic guitars.

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