Quite possibly Gibson’s most famous acoustic guitar, the J-45 has been played by luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly and Woody Guthrie. A competitor to the early Martin dreadnaughts, the J-45 became a favourite amongst country, folk and rock players alike. With Gibson pushing some of their technological boundaries over the last few years, they’ve invigorated their 2016 J-45 (also adding the ‘Progressive’ moniker to the name) - let’s see what’s under the hood.
A dreadnaught styled guitar, the J-45 is easily recognisable thanks to those classic sloped shoulders. A combination of Sitka spruce for the top and mahogany for the back and neck, this J-45 is nished in Gibson’s new ‘Autumn Burst’ finish. Rich and red-ish brown around the edges, the Autumn Burst lightens to a nice amber tone near the bridge with a tortoise guard adding some vintage vibes. Those classic parallelogram inlays are still a mainstay, and at first glance the whole package looks quite the standard J-45. Delve a little deeper however and you’ll find where the Progressive-ness comes from. Vintage looking tuning keys are actually a part of Gibson’s G Force Tuning System, which are mechanical tuners that give you quick access to a range of standard and alternate tunings at the press of the button. At the other end of the fretboard you’ll find a Tune-O-Matic styled bridge with titanium saddles that allows for string height adjustments and quicker intonation adjustments.
Add in the newer slightly wider yet skinny neck profile and L.R Baggs Lyric system and you’ve got quite a bit of innovation in this particular J-45. For those not aware, the ‘Lyric’ is an internal microphone that is mounted to the underside of the bridge plate. There’s a jack endpin and then a volume control, which you’ll find just inside the soundhole and that’s it. L.R Baggs are very quick to point out that this isn’t a pickup, it’s a microphone which then equates to the sound of a mic’d guitar. I’ve heard several in action and they do sound good to my ears.
Marketed as a ‘handmade guitar for the contemporary progressive acoustic player’, the J-45 does have a few bells and whistles. When it comes down to the nitty gritty though it is still a fine acoustic in the sloped shoulder Gibson tradition – woody and warm with a nice thick tone that isn’t ‘plinky’ or super bright. I’m sure with age (as many of those vintage J-45’s are now) they’ll develop and open into an even sweeter tone. Those wanting a vintage J-45 might not be completely fulfilled but if you’re looking for this style and sound with some extra features, you’re getting a modern take on a classic guitar.
For more info on Gibson guitars, visit www.gibsonami.com.
Hits and Misses
Classic looks with a twist
LR Baggs Lyric is a nice inclusion as standard
2016 innovations may not suit everyone