Review: Gibson J-200 Standard Acoustic-Electric Guitar


Gibson J-200 Standard Acoustic-Electric Guitar

MSRP: $4,925

Now entering its 76th year, the Gibson J-200 – the “King of the Flat-tops” – is as much of a legend as ever. The current crop of J-200s, made in Gibson’s Bozeman, Montana shop, is helping the company keep pace with a lot of stiff competition in the guitar industry these days.

The J-200 has long been a favorite of professionals, used by early guitar stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, as well as more modern legends like Jimmy Page and The Edge. The guitar doesn’t sound like a Martin or a Taylor, but then, they don’t sound like this Gibson. The new J-200 we played presented excellent craftsmanship, the result of Gibson’s strict inspection regimen. With superbly even balance and tone, the guitar fretted like a dream all the way up the neck, and unplugged barre chords sustained forever, almost as long as open ones.

The guitar is gorgeous both sonically and aesthetically, featuring the old Gibson crown peghead logo (sometimes called the “thistle” logo), which has since been used on the pegheads of many Gibson models. The tortoise pickguard is Gibson’s standard Super Jumbo shape with the traditional floral and vine design, and the guitar has the love-it-or-hate-it moustache bridge. The J-200 comes with built-in Fishman Ellipse Aura electronics, with a switch for selecting four tonal images. The controls are pretty convenient, just inside the top of the soundhole, but working the several switches can take some practice unless you find just one tone combination you like and stick with it, adjusting your tone with the controls on the PA or amp as needed.

Older J-200s are in high demand, especially ones from the days when the guitar was typically called the Super Jumbo, and ones made before the Norlin years when many Gibson products went south. Since new ownership took over in the 1980s, the quality of all Gibson products has improved, and the company is staying as viable as any guitar maker out there because of the craftsmanship on guitars like this one.

List price for this axe is $4,925, but it can easily be had for more than a thousand dollars less. Whether you buy one or not, you owe it to yourself to try one out, as this is one cool historical guitar. With its new J-200s, Gibson is continuing to hold its rightful place as one of the great guitar makers.

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