Guitar players tend to get a little emotional when it comes to discussing instruments, and one example of this is the debate between Gibson’s J-45 Custom and the J-45 Standard. To get a real sense of the difference between the two, you really need to sit down and play them side by side. The main difference is the tonewoods; the Custom uses rosewood back and sides while the Standard has mahogany back and sides. The Custom, modeled more after Gibson’s older guitars, tends to have better projection, a more aggressive and brighter sound than a sometimes-boxy Standard. But both guitars appeal to players all over the world. So the biggest difference may not be between the guitars at all, but the fingers that are playing them and the ears that are listening to them. Both are good and legendary guitars.
We checked out one of the latest Customs, which was really nice. The sound, tone and projection were even and very good, but the main thing was that intangible element of feel. Probably the first thing one gets a sense of upon playing this guitar is its workhorse, journeyman feel, especially standing up with it strapped on. It just feels like a guitar that will travel well night after night, always delivering. It had the feel of a lifetime guitar that’s only going to get better. The action was uniform and the intonation perfect all the way up the neck which joins the body at the 14th fret..
Aesthetically, the herringbone pattern of binding around the outer edges of the Sitka spruce top of the Custom is a nice touch. The headstock features a gorgeous, intricate abalone pattern and mother-of-pearl inlay; when combined with Gold Grover Rotomatic tuners white bridge pins, and a floral abalone rosette, the guitar is understatedly beautiful in both the sunburst and antique natural finishes.
It would make no sense, of course, to build a guitar this good and put in a cheap pickup, so Gibson went with L.R. Baggs Element electronics. The volume control is conveniently and discreetly placed inside the top of the soundhole, so the guitar is easy to work with in an amplified setting.
This is a nice ax, but check out both the J-45 Custom and its cousin the J-45 Standard to get a good sense of the difference, and of the controversy that can arise among guitars players who sometimes take this stuff a little too seriously. The Custom, with hardshell case, can be had for under $2,800 with a little shopping, a pretty good price when compared to what other guitars are going for these days.