The Gibson J-45 is a legendary acoustic guitar that has been one of Gibson’s biggest sellers since it was introduced seven decades ago, and is right up there with older Martins and Guilds as one of the most significant acoustics in history. J-45s have been played by John Lennon, James Taylor, Jeff Tweedy, John Hiatt, Brad Paisley and countless others, as well as many well-known acoustic blues performers. Now Gibson has issued the (very) limited edition J-45 PureVoice Custom Acoustic-Electric Guitar, with electronics that replicate the guitar’s legendary sound pretty much as well as can be imagined.
The J-45 PureVoice we tested was a really sweet guitar in every way, and continued the tradition of an instrument that has been responsible for some of the most famous songs of the past half-century or longer. Built at the Gibson Custom Shop in Bozeman, Montana, the guitar has a red spruce top and bracing, mahogany sides and back, and a mahogany neck with Indian rosewood fingerboard. Acoustically, perhaps the most impressive feature of the J-45 PureVoice was its bottom end, with great resonance and punch to the low E string. Overall the axe has excellent ring and sustain, especially on open chords, seeming to get even better as you climb the neck with chords like the “China Grove” open E (no 3rd) at the seventh fret.
When plugged in, the guitar is just as the marketing materials say it is, something that often isn’t the case with sales hyperbole. The untrained ear might not always notice it, but some undersaddle pickups produce a bit of a “quack” upon initial attack, which this guitar doesn’t do. The sound of the A3 electronics is smooth and balanced with the controls conveniently accessible while discreetly hidden inside the top of the soundhole.
The guitar has gold butterbean open-back tuners and a black Graph Tech nut instead of the more traditional bone nut, which may bother some people, but the black nut is supposed to be self-lubricating. The color is a custom Montana sunburst finish, and a black, four-latch hardshell case with royal blue interior is included.
The J-45 has long been nicknamed “The Workhorse,” and only time will tell if these limited edition PureVoice Customs will stand up over the long haul. But with availability at $2,999 for the short time you can find it (it’s being made to order and available only December 23rd through Gibson Acoustic’s Five Star Dealer Network and Sweetwater Sound), it’s a nice deal on a guitar that will function wonderfully in both acoustic and electric applications.