New for 2014 is Gibson’s J-29 acoustic-electric, a guitar that combines the attributes of some of the company’s best-sellers and is definitely a winner. Part of the J-45 family, this round-shoulder dreadnought is an appealing new axe for someone wanting a natural-looking guitar with some classic Gibson features.
The J-29 I tried out sounded really nice, with great response, tone, balance, action and intonation – an extremely well-built guitar all across the board in the sonics department. It performed equally well whether I was fingerpicking or using a plectrum, playing single notes or strumming, and stayed in tune well when capoed (though the quality and placement of the capo have more to do with this). The guitar uses Gibson’s 1930’s-style advanced x-top bracing, which no doubt contributes to the great sound. Also determining the sound, though, are the use of rosewood for the sides and back in combination with Sitka spruce for the top.
The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard that has MOP dot inlay, and is a 24 ¾” short-scale neck ala the J-45, but with only 19 frets total instead of 20, if that even matters to most players since this isn’t a cutaway guitar. The round profile neck was a little deep for my own left hand, tiring it out faster than a thinner or “Slim Taper” neck would, but for someone who is happy with the rest of this guitar’s characteristics, especially someone playing mostly open chords, this is something that can easily be adjusted to.
The antique natural nitrocellulose finish works well with the white binding around the top, rosewood rectangle bridge with white pins, and AJ (advanced jumbo)-style tortoise pickguard. A very attractive combination. It comes with the excellent and always-dependable LR Baggs Element pickup system. My only gripe here, as with so many acoustics, is the absence of a strap button under the neck. I know that there is something to be said for tradition and that strap buttons aren’t part of that tradition, but it sure does make life easier for those of us who play standing up. So, all in all, this fine guitar is definitely worth a test drive, especially with the reasonable street price of around $2,250 or maybe less.