The SGJ is, at the time of writing, the cheapest Gibson you can buy and has a street price of £499. This is for a full-fat US-made guitar, with all import taxes and VAT paid. It is astonishingly cheap so there has to be a catch.
Body and Hardware
Certainly it scores on it’s looks. The one I played had a rich cherry finish that complemented the classic SG shape very well. The solid mahogany body was a little open pored but the thin nitrocellulose finish was very well applied and the matt effect gave the guitar a no-nonsense look that was very attractive. It felt good to hold and you sense that with a little care, the finish would age well (hey, just like me).
The neck is maple and has a mortise and tenon join to the body. It’s finished in the same cherry and the nitro gives the neck a lovely satin feel. I’ve played a few otherwise lovely Fenders with thick urethane coated necks recently and they just felt sticky. The SG felt lovely, warm and smooth.
You get 24 cryogenically frozen frets (they did not feel any colder). Frets were well laid and nicely polished, which impressed me as this was a random guitar just pulled off the shelf. The 2014 SGJ has a nice slab of rosewood with a 12” radius so tempered enough for chord work but speedy for soloing. Gibson seem to have abandoned their experiment with baked maple boards – I played a few and they seemed fine but the traditionalist in me always liked rosewood.
The neck shape is described as a 50s Rounded. What this meant to me was a nicely meaty neck that really filled the hand nicely. The satin finish worked really well with this neck and it was supremely comfortable. This is a really great neck to play and if you are intimidated by the idea of a big neck, give this one a go, it is an absolute peach. The extra neck mass will help the tone along as well.
You get a silk-screened Gibson logo on the headstock and lovely green-tinged tuning pegs (much, much nicer than the ones on the similarly priced Melody Maker. There is a white tek-loid nut, which is pretty standard for Gibson.
Bridge is a classic tune-o-matic unit. There is a curious satin look to it that looked machine tooled – it gives this end of the guitar a very modern and attractive look.
New for 2014 are what Gibson call ’61 Zebra humbuckers. These are Alnico V units so should give you a vintage tone with a bit of bite. Visually, they are an improvements on the matt black units on the 2013 model. You’ve got 2 tone and 2 volume speed knobs (I’ve always wanted a speed knob). Not much more I can say about that – even I cannot get too excited about tone knobs. If I wanted to be really fussy, a coil tap would have been nice.
One word – neat. The thin finish means that every join is visible and there is no hiding place for dodgy joinery. But every joint, every angle is nicely finished and there is a simple pleasure to be had in just handling the thing and admiring how well the whole thing has been assembled. SGs always look delicate but there is a pleasing solidity in this one.
I don’t need to tell you that this is not always the case with Gibsons, who still are frustratingly inconsistent with quality control. But this SG is as well constructed and finished as any Gibson I’ve seen recently.
Next….we play the darn thing….