Gibson J-45 Review – 2021 Guide

Vlad
| Last Updated: March 12, 2021

Acoustic guitars are often considered an amateur instrument, meant for those campfire parties and casual lounge music nights.

But, guitars such as the Gibson J-45 could prove you wrong in a second and within five seconds explain why it costs so much.

Let’s see what's so different about this acoustic guitar.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • A stripped-down round shoulder dreadnought design
  • Advanced response neck profile and flat fingerboard radius
  • Sitka spruce top with a walnut body
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews

PROS

  • Undersaddle pickup installed
  • Ideal neck profile for acoustic guitar players
  • Excellent semi-acoustic guitar at a reasonable price
  • Premium service included within the purchase of this model

CONS

  • Expensive model
  • Phony lifetime warranty
  • Cutaway design would be welcomed

Gibson J-45 Studio Specs 

  • Type of Guitar: Semi-acoustic guitar

  • Body Size and Type: Round shoulder body with a single-cutaway

  • Number of Strings: 6-string nylon guitar

  • Tonewood: Sitka Spruce top and Walnut back and sides with Teardrop pickguard

  • Bracing pattern: Traditional hand-scalloped X

  • Orientation: Available in right and left-hand orientation

  • Neck Profile: Mahogany Advanced Response type with compound dovetail joint 

  • Fretboard: 20-fret Walnut fretboard, 1.725 inches nut width and 16-inch radius

  • Scale Length: 24.75 inches

  • Bridge: Traditional belly up shape with Tusq saddle and pins

  • Color: Natural Sunburst color

  • Pickup Type: Fishman Sonitone undersaddle pickup 
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs

Pros

Here are the primary positives of this product. 

Excellent Semi-Acoustic Guitar at a Reasonable Price

Gibson J-45 Studio seems to share the sound traits with the original J-45, which is the best selling Gibson guitar ever. If you seek a warm tone with full low-end, you definitely should try out this guitar as its price seems to be very appealing. It seems as Gibson got reasonable at least with this guitar. 

Ideal Neck Profile for Acoustic Guitar Players

One of the rare reasons why people might turn away from the original J-45 is the fretboard radius which is the same size as found on Les Paul electric guitars. J-45 Studio comes with a larger fretboard so it will be more suitable for a real acoustic player that is used to have a more “meaty” neck beneath their fingertips.

Undersaddle Pickup Installed

These guitars have a wonderful sound and will sound terrific in any recording environment. But undersaddle pickup may be a convenient solution for both recording and live performances. 

Gibson picked the best way to leave the tonewood unchanged so the undersaddle pickup is combined with volume and tone control placed in the soundhole. It may be a minimalistic solution, but it captures the tone perfectly and the rest of the sound will be fixed on the mixer anyway.

Premium Service Included Within the Purchase of this Model

Gibson is known for being expensive, but many forget the fact that they include some services that aren’t usually found within other brands. Unless you’re tech-savvy you will have to pay to set the guitar up to your personal playing preference. Also, having a guitar of this quality somehow asks for a proper case. 

These services are included in the initial price of J-45 Studio so you may appreciate the time saved for going and browsing for all those third party services on your own.

Cons

However, it comes with some drawbacks, including:

Cutaway Design Would be Welcomed

Cutaway design helps you to reach higher notes much easier. The part of the body from the bottom side is removed to allow you much better ergonomy and it’s such a shame to find that Gibson J-15 doesn’t come with such a feature since the sound and playability is so good.

Expensive Model

This is undoubtedly a premium model that works great in all situations. But, it would be a lie that it isn’t an expensive one. too. Unless you’re a professional player it might be overkill for your purposes to have such an instrument.

Phony Lifetime Warranty

On paper, it sounds terrific, but in real life, this warranty protects the company more than the owner. Numerous reports even moving the place of the strap button voided the warranty, so don’t rely too much on it. And in the end, even if they accept the warranty, you may end up getting a new instrument instead of fixing the existing one. You might be aware that guitars vary from piece to piece, so this can be a bit of a letdown if you have found the one that sounds just like you wanted.

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers have overwhelming experience with this instrument. As most of them were either professional or experienced musicians we can be certain that their reviews are more than just trustworthy. 

The sound is described as very bright but with a decent thump as well and they tend to praise the comfort they had around the neck while playing and didn’t find any difficulties although it’s 4” larger in radius than a regular 12-inch neck profile. They think it’s because of the walnut which appears to be softer than rosewood.

It may not be the loudest acoustic guitar you have ever played but they are more than certain that this model will sound terrific in studio recording sessions. That’s why they recommend you to buy it while the price is so low because they are sure that the price will go up, just like it happened with the Gibson J-15 before.

Some buyers also report that the finish may be different from model to model and that some guitars may come with the tan stripe on the back, so if you’re ordering online, perhaps you should check this out in case you want to get a plain solid color back.

What Are the Components of the Gibson J-45 Studio? 

Gibson J-45 Studio has a typical bolt-on short scale neck for Gibson guitars with 20 standard frets. But, it’s being different because of the fingerboard radius. This neck profile is being named Advanced Response and it has a 16” fingerboard radius instead of the typical 12”. The nut, bridge pins, and saddle are made of Tusq, while the bridge has a traditional belly up layout. 

This guitar is also equipped with Fishman Sonitone undersaddle pickup that comes with the volume and tone control dials placed directly into the sound hole.

What Woods Are Used in a Gibson J-45 Studio Guitar?

Currently, there are two J-45 Studio models available. Both have a Sitka Spruce top and Mahogany neck and teardrop pickguard, but you can tell the difference if the back and the sides of the tonewood are made of Walnut or Rosewood.

How Thick is the Gibson J-45 Binding?

Gibson binding has about the same size on the back and on the top. It should be somewhere around 0.060" thick. Width may vary from model to model, but 0.200" seems to be a safe number.

What is the Nut Size on a Gibson J-45?

The nut width found on this guitar is 44.5mm or 1.72 inches and it’s made of Tusq material.

What Strings Come on a Gibson J-45?

Gibson J-45 comes with the unbranded .012-.053 string gauge pack, but it’s well known that Gibson uses D’Addario strings on their instruments.

What Types of Music is the Gibson J-45 Studio Best For?

As being one of the finest acoustic guitars on the market it will be suitable for all kinds of music. It will find a place in any genre but will excel in country, rock, blues, and pop tracks. It was made for all types of contemporary music as it will find a way to cut through the dense mix on its own.

If you need it for acoustic solo or duos, we don’t see any reason that will hold you back and because of its sound quality, you can use it on any stage virtually thanks to the undersaddle pickup system installed. 

What Ages and Skill Levels is the Gibson J-45 Studio Suitable For?

This guitar is intended for pure professionals at first who need the best sound for their performance. It’s a guitar that defined the standard which many others followed so you will be able to perform every technique you may have on it.

It’s an ideal instrument for studio equipment as well and while it may be a bit too much for semi-pro players, eventually this may be that single acoustic guitar that you will keep for the rest of your life.

We highly doubt that younger players will be interested in buying this guitar and those more experienced will understand why it’s so expensive and special.

Acoustic Guitar Body Shape Types

All acoustic guitars could be grouped into three categories

Dreadnought

This is the most common type of acoustic guitar made by Martin in 1916. It is named upon a battleship and it has a large body and full sound that covers the whole spectrum. It also generates a loud tone. So, if you’re not sure what type of guitar you need, dreadnought models are probably the best all-around way to go.  

There are some variations on dreadnought design, so perhaps we should mention round shoulder, Auditorium, and Grand Auditorium subtypes as well. 

Parlor

Those guitars date from the 1800s and were used regularly by blues players. Parlor guitars have a bit smaller bodies and may be better for those people who find dreadnought a bit large. They may also be an interesting model to have in case you want to bring your guitar on a vacation. 

They may not compete in terms of sustain, loudness, or low-range, but their sound is tight and balanced and may be much easier to place in the mix.

Jumbo

Back in 1937, Gibson made the first jumbo acoustic guitar. As its name says, those are large guitars, capable of incredibly loud output and they might be the best model if fully acoustic performance is your number one priority. But, along with the large body there comes more low-end range as well which may cause you some trouble if you plan to record it in the studio.

Anyway, they will also suit players who have a large body size or large hands. 

Classical

The main trademark of these guitars is open slot tuning machines. It will sound more mellow and subtle and it will be most suitable for the fingerpicking playing style and it’s widely used in the Flamenco music genre. This type of guitar usually comes with nylon strings. 

What is a Gibson J-45?

Gibson J-45 is a premium semi-acoustic guitar and all-time best-selling Gibson acoustic model. Originally it was sold for $45 and it was made to be an upgrade to the budget J-35 acoustic guitar.

What Year Did Gibson Introduce the J-45?

First Gibson J-45 was made as an acoustic guitar back in 1942. Nowadays, there are both semi-acoustic and acoustic models available for both right and left-handed players available in several versions honoring the specific historic models from the 1950s and 1960s.

Where Are Gibson J-45 Guitars Made?

Gibson J-45 is made in Bozeman, Montana at Gibson USA.

50’s J-45 Original (Source)

Gibson J-45 Guitar Types 

Several Gibson J-45 models are currently available:

J-45 Standard

This is the regular J-45 model. It’s made of Mahogany and Sitka Spruce top and Tusq bone and saddle. It comes equipped with LR Baggs VTC undersaddle pickup with soundhole volume and tone control.

50s J-45 Original

It’s pretty much like a J-45 standard but inspired by the vintage design from the 1950s in terms of tortoise pickguard and cream button tuners.

60s J-45 Original

Just like the 50's version, this guitar is made to honor the models from the 1960s which are most familiar with a bit more narrow nut width of 1.69”, adjustable saddle, double binding, and white pickguard with hot stamp logo.

J-45 Studio

Studio is the budget-version of the J-45 guitars and it has a thinner body.

Unlike the Standard, Studio is available in several tonewood materials to provide some tone variety. You can pick Walnut or Rosewood back and side tonewood. It’s also the only model with a Fishman Sonitone undersaddle pickup.

J-45 Sustainable

This guitar also comes with Walnut tonewood and contains no binding. The wax finish was manually rubbed in order to keep the guitar resonance intact.

What Makes the Gibson J-45 Stand Out From the Competition?

We should remind you that Gibson J-45 is the best selling Gibson acoustic guitar ever. It's a top-class guitar with excellent sound and even better builds quality. The craftsmanship of this guitar is second to none and you can easily tell they didn’t leave anything by chance.

It’s often considered as a benchmark model for other brands that try to compete against it and you know only a few guitars ever get such status. That’s why we think it’s a wonderful idea to include an undersaddle pickup which will improve its tone versatility even further. 


Comparison Overview 

Let’s see how Gibson J-45 stands against other premium models and what are the pros and cons of purchasing Gibson J-45 over them.

Gibson J-45 Studio vs Standard

The main difference between those two guitars is found in the price, neck profile, and tonewood material. Studio version sound is based on Walnut fretboard and Walnut tonewood so it will provide subtle but different tone qualities that will also have a bit different playability that should be noticeable for professional players. It’s a bit swallowed as well so the dynamic range is shifted towards the faster response. 

Neck profile is Advanced profile instead of a Slim Taper which means that the Studio fretboard has 4 inches of radius more and the Tusq and even the pickup is different.

We find this model to be worth considering if you’re a fan of the original J-45 but can’t stretch to the number it asks for.

Gibson J-45 vs Martin D28

Martin and Gibson have the authentic sound that is pretty much familiar in the acoustic guitar world. There is no better in this case, it’s all about your taste. But, in terms of tech difference, Martin has a 25.4” scale length which will provide a bit harder string tension in general, and along with a 16” fretboard radius it will feel different to play than a Gibson model.

So, if you’re an acoustic guitar player, perhaps Martin would suit you better. For modern players, Gibson will be a better solution as its tone might be a little bit more versatile than Martin.

In case your budget allows, having both is also a nice option as they complement each other pretty well.

Gibson J-45 vs Hummingbird

Both of these guitars share the Gibson overall tone, that’s for sure.

But, J-45 will have a much better low-end response while the Hummingbird will have a bit better sustain so it may sound more delicate. J-45 sound is more dry and tight, perhaps direct or raw would be the best description.

Regarding visual aspects, Hummingbird looks just gorgeous. It looks so vintage that it appears to be modern actually with all those beautiful details on the pickguard and inlays. It will be better eye-candy than J-45.

So, once again, we would like to help, but it’s all about your taste. You can’t go wrong with any of these guitars. If you insist, our pick would be the J-45 as we love how the treble shines in general.

Martin D18 vs Gibson J-45

In terms of price, those two models are matched but don’t have so much in common. D18 has a bigger fretboard radius, just like J-45 Studio. As for the sound, both are premium guitars and sound wonderful but different - J-45 seems to be more bright and modern, so it will be all based on your taste.

In case of appearance is important to you, Martin doesn’t care too much about it, so if you want something distinctive, Gibson is your call.

Gibson Southern Jumbo vs J-45

Besides a bit of a flatter neck profile, the differences are mostly cosmetic - SJ comes with a different pickguard, rosette, and inlay and it looks a bit better in our personal opinion. 

The only difference worth mentioning is that Southern Jumbo has a thinner neck profile and may create a feeling that the nut is wider. Also, SJ comes with open-style tuning machines while J-45 has vintage models instead. Those SJ tuners are preferred by some players as they are light weighted. So, in the end, the price will probably have to cut for you - SJ does look better but it also costs a bit more, so keep that in mind when making a decision.

Gibson J-35 vs J-45

Those two guitars have a lot in common, so the difference will be subtle. J-45 seems to have a bit of sweeter sound overall especially in the mid-range and the most significant difference will be the bracing pattern that is applied to J-45. The J-35 neck appears to be a bit chunkier as well.

And you should also know that currently there is no Gibson J-35 in production, so you may find it only on a used market.

Conclusion 

If you want to get a high-quality instrument, but the original J-45 is out of your budget, J-45 Studio appears to be more than a decent solution and should be at the top of your search. In this tier, every guitar works marvelously, so it will be all a matter of personal preference. 

People Also Ask

Hope this article helped you find out a bit more about this magnificent guitar. If you want, you can also find more info in this section as we answer some usual questions people ask about it. You may find a list of professional players that use J-45 or what’s the difference between J-50 and J-45.

Which Guitar is Better, Martin or Gibson?

As Gibson competes against Fender in the electric guitar world, it has a similar clash with Martin in the world of acoustic guitars. And, likewise, the fanbase is pretty strong and although Martin made the world of acoustic guitars moving in the first place, it’s pretty hard to declare a winner nowadays.

What is an Undersaddle Pickup?

This type of pickup is placed beneath the saddle and will capture a lot of string sound and generate a bright sound overall. But, it won’t capture a tone coming out from the body so you may consider swapping them to bridge plate pickups if your guitar is more expensive.

What is a Feeler Gauge?

cis a tool that is being used to measure the gaps for all kinds of mechanics and it has found its use for guitar parts, too. Find the closest gauge to measure the gap and if you can move the gauge freely, stack another feeler blade until you get a snug feel.

How to Check Relief for Gibson J-45 Neck

The procedure seems to be simple. Capo the first fret and then press the strings at the 14th fret as it’s the fret where the body joins with the neck and then measure the space between the strings and the fret at the 7th fret position by using the feeler gauge.

What Musicians Play Gibson J-45?

Gibson J-45 is a choice of many professional players, so let us list some of them:

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Ed Sheeran

  • David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)

  • Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)

  • Iggy Pop

  • Liam Galagher (Oasis)

  • Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)

  • Josh Homme (Queen of the Stone Age)
  • What is the Difference Between a Gibson J 50 and J-45?

    In general, both guitars are pretty much the same, at least taking sound aspects into account. But, if you want an all-natural finish, J-50 seems to be your choice. Also, this model has a headstock decoration and a bigger pickguard. If you don’t care for cosmetics, both guitars will serve you equally.

    How to Care for a Gibson J-45 Guitar

    Keeping your J-45 in the provided case will keep it from direct sunlight and any unwanted dust that tends to fall in the soundhole and beneath the bridge and the saddle easily. Regular wiping your strings before and after playing sessions with the string conditioner may prolong their lifespan significantly.

    How to Tell the Year of a J-45 Gibson Guitar

    If you take a look at the back of your headstock, you should find a serial number. The first number and fifth number combined should tell you about the manufacturing year. We recommend you to check your number on this link for more information.

    What is the Warranty on a Gibson J-45 Guitar?

    Gibson USA and Custom warranty have a limited lifetime warranty that protects you from any malfunctions that occur as a result of faulty materials or workmanship and provides you a repair free of charge or replacing an instrument in the most severe occasions. The warranty is void if the seller is not officially authorized, though.

    Vlad

    I'm a 35-year-old rock-oriented professional musician from Belgrade, Serbia with 20 years of field experience in various areas of the music industry. After graduating from elementary music school I joined my first band Alogia in 2001 which had incredible initial success with the debut album and became one of the greatest Balkan heavy metal acts ever. We have recorded several studio and live albums and played as an opening act for Whitesnake, Apocalyptica, and Paul Di’Anno. Meanwhile, I got a chance to collaborate with Roland Planet shop and get familiar with various music equipment for more than a decade. For the last eight years, I have done live audio mixing for numerous bands and other live and studio events, including some TV audio mixing for national television broadcast as well. Currently, I’m playing keyboards for one of the most authentic Serbian music rock legends - Dr. Nele Karajlić, also known for his work with Zabranjeno Pušenje and No Smoking Orchestra.