Gibson J-45 Standard review (2024)

MusicRadar Verdict

For us, the J-45 Standard is the quintessential Gibson acoustic guitar. Its warm bellowing tone, effortless playability and charming good looks combine to create a truly timeless instrument. As well as the tried a tested formula of solid mahogany and sitka spruce, this modern version of the "workhorse" includes the LR Baggs VTC pickup system, which we feel is a match made in heaven.


  • +

    Stunning tone and looks

  • +

    Very playable

  • +

    LR Baggs VTC pickup


  • -

    The finish is a little sticky to start with

  • -

    The price has skyrocketed in recent years

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  • What is it?
  • Hands-on demos
  • Specifications

Gibson J-45 Standard review: what is it?

Dylan, Lennon, Gilmour, Presley and Springsteen are just a handful of names that have utilised Gibson's iconic acoustic to put the world to rights. Now, with names like that attached to this round-shoulder dreadnought, it's no wonder it's Gibson's best-selling acoustic of all time.

While the J-45 has had some revisions over the years - especially in the early days - for the most part, it's stayed true to the winning formula of solid mahogany back and sides with a solid sitka spruce top - and that's precisely what we find on this modern example. Of course, the body is then dressed in the now legendary sunburst getup, making it unmistakably a J-45.

Celebrated for its warm and all-encompassing tone, present midrange and tight bass, the J-45 is often described as a sonic chameleon - able to adapt to any musical situation. It's no wonder it's favoured by strummers and finger-pickers alike, who can't get enough of its timeless charm and room-filling tone.

This contemporary version of the J-45 also features a mahogany neck with a comfortable slim taper profile, rosewood fingerboard and compound dovetail neck joint. Rounding out the spec sheet is the renowned LR Baggs VTC acoustic pickup system, which allows you to hit the road with your new guitar, confident that you'll have the best tone in the room.

Gibson J-45 Standard review: Performance & verdict

Gibson J-45 Standard review (1)

Looks and playability

This guitar has a lot of history attached to it, which is something you can feel as soon as you lift the lid on the stylish Gibson-branded case. Sitting cosied up against the plush black interior, this stunning acoustic looks every bit as good today as it did in 1942. The elegant sunburst finish is simply gorgeous, and this is only enhanced by the lustrous shine of the nitrocellulose lacquer. Luckily, our model has no marks or finishing issues that would detract from its handsome good looks - something that's not always the case with Gibson, even at this price point.

Okay, so it looks the part, but how does it feel to play? Well, Gibson fans will immediately feel comfortable with the slim taper mahogany neck. For us, it feels like an old friend you've known for a lifetime. The neck isn't too fat or too thin, and to be honest, it isn't a million miles away from our beloved '60s reissue ES-335 - making it incredibly easy to manoeuvre and handle.

Of course, the J-45 sports the typical 24.75 scale length, 20 "standard" frets, mother-of-pearl dot inlays and is finished in full nitro lacquer just like the body. Now, we did experience a slight "stickiness" to the back of the neck for a good while after receiving the guitar - and this was due to the finish. Unfortunately, this is something we've encountered many times over the years with brand-new Gibson guitars. Although it eventually sorted itself out after a few plays and a lot of wiping down after each use, it is mildly annoying.


Gibson J-45 Standard review (2)

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Gibson J-45 Standard review (3)

Martin D-18: Martin's spruce-topped, mahogany back and side dreadnought is a cannon of a guitar, producing a bold tone that demands to be heard.

Epiphone Inspired By Gibson J-45: Looking for the J-45 tone on a budget? Well, the Epiphone Inspired By Gibson J-45 is the guitar for you. This budget version gets scarily close to the authentic model at a fraction of the cost.

The humble J-45 has found favour with many different players over the years. From rebellious singer-songwriters to bluegrass aficionados, pop-punk heroes and hard-rock icons, the J-45 has become the sound of so many hit records - and it's easy to see why.

Its earthy and woody mid-range invokes images of a long-forgotten era, while the tight bass and sweet treble ensure it still has something to offer the modern player. This is what makes the J-45 easily one of the greatest flat-tops ever made - sitting right next to the famed Martin D-28 at the top of the acoustic guitar tree.

We've said it already, but it's worth repeating; the Gibson J-45 is timeless. There isn't a style the workhorse can't do. We found it performed just as well with hard-strummed cowboy chords as it did with delicate fingerpicking - and it can certainly hang with the best of them in a delta blues jam session.

Thanks to its traditional hand-scalloped X-bracing, each note rings out true and clear, with a piano-like percussive nature to sharply-picked single notes. It's also worth noting that this classic flat-top is loud - very loud! There is a great deal of headroom in the top - meaning you can wail away on those country chords until you're blue in the face and the top won't compress too much.

Historically, the J-45 has been a cherished recording instrument - you only need to look at the hit records made using one to see that - but with the addition of the LR Baggs VTC acoustic pickup system, this modern interpretation is also a very valuable stage companion.

Luckily, this simple-to-use pickup does a fantastic job of retaining the tonal character of the unplugged J-45. The guitar's power and sonic balance are represented incredibly well here, and without the scratchy top-end you typically find with other under-saddle transducers.

We also like how Gibson has been sure to hide the controls so as not to upset the tasteful silhouette of this legendary guitar. You'll find the volume and tone control tucked inside the soundhole, and while they may not be visible, they are just in reach if you need to make adjustments while performing.

Final verdict

For us, the J-45 Standard is the quintessential Gibson acoustic guitar. Its warm bellowing tone, effortless playability and charming good looks combine to create a truly timeless instrument.

As well as the tried a tested formula of solid mahogany and sitka spruce, this modern version of the "workhorse" includes the LR Baggs VTC pickup system, which we feel is a match made in heaven. This uncomplicated pickup perfectly captures this Gibson's wide dynamic range, meaning you can hit the stage with your beloved new acoustic safe in the knowledge that the audience is hearing the guitar exactly as you do.

Now, we can't talk about this new era of the J-45 and not mention its rather hefty price tag. It wasn't that long ago that this famous Gibson model would set you back around £1,800, and now you won't get much change from 3K with a brand-new J-45 costing a staggering £2,799 - that's certainly a damn sight more than the $45 listed in the original ad from the '40s.

Well, is it worth it? We'd say yes. While it's difficult to justify the new price point, the price of all guitars has increased in recent years, and this isn't limited to Gibson. So, while this expense may be eye-watering for some, the truth of the matter is, if you want the sound of this legendary guitar, then only a Gibson is good enough, and this new era of J-45 is among the best the guitar giant has produced in a very long time.

Gibson J-45 Standard review: hands-on demos

Guitar Center


Gibson J-45 Standard review: Specifications

  • Body Style: Round Shoulder
  • Back & Sides: Mahogany
  • Top: Sitka Spruce
  • Bracing: Traditional Hand-Scalloped X-Bracing
  • Body Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Profile: Slim Taper
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Tuning Machines: Grover Rotomatics
  • Under Saddle Pickup: LR Baggs VTC
  • Case: Hardshell Case
  • Contact: Gibson
Gibson J-45 Standard review (5)

Daryl Robertson

Senior Deals Writer

I'm a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. My gear reviews have also been published in prominent publications, including Total Guitar and Future Music magazines, as well as Guitar World.

I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, particularly guitars, pianos, and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation and selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems, and ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer who holds a first-class Bachelor's degree in Creative Sound Production from the University of Abertay and I have plenty of experience working in various venues around Scotland.


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Gibson J-45 Standard review (2024)


Gibson J-45 Standard review? ›

For us, the J-45 Standard is the quintessential Gibson acoustic guitar. Its warm bellowing tone, effortless playability and charming good looks combine to create a truly timeless instrument.

Why is the Gibson J-45 so good? ›

For us, the J-45 Standard is the quintessential Gibson acoustic guitar. Its warm bellowing tone, effortless playability and charming good looks combine to create a truly timeless instrument.

What does the J stand for in Gibson J-45? ›

The Gibson J-45 is a guitar manufactured by the Gibson Guitar Corporation. Generally regarded as Gibson's most famous and widely used acoustic guitar model, it is considered the workhorse of guitars. The Jumbo guitar is signified by the "J" and not to be confused with C.F. Martin & Company's Dreadnought body style.

Is the Gibson J-45 loud? ›

The J-45 Standard isn't the loudest out of the box, but it matures well, is balanced, and has a medium feel neck.

What musicians play a Gibson J-45? ›

Some artists known for their use of a J-45 or a variant thereof include Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Woody Guthrie, Donovan, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, James Taylor, John Hiatt, Lightnin' Hopkins, Gillian Welch, and the list goes on.

Is Gibson J-45 solid wood? ›

The J-45 Standard features all that rich tone, thanks to its solid Sitka spruce top and a solid mahogany body.

Did John Lennon play a Gibson J-45? ›

7. The J-45 remains Gibson's best-selling acoustic guitar ever. 8. John Lennon had an epiphany playing a Gibson J-45.

Is a Gibson J-45 a dreadnought? ›

Gibson 50's J-45 Original Slope Shoulder Dreadnought guitar Sunburst.

What's the difference between a J-45 and an J50? ›

In 1950, Gibson added a triple-bound top to the J-50, further differentiating it from the J-45. Five years later, Gibson altered the bracing in the lower bout and introduced a 20th fret as well as a larger pickguard with a point toward the upper bout, replacing the conventional teardrop.

Where are the Gibson J45 made? ›

The guitar is hand built at the Gibson factory in Bozeman, Montana.

Do Gibsons sound better than Fender? ›

Both brands have a long history of producing high-quality instruments with distinct characteristics. Gibson guitars offer a warm, rich tone and are well-suited for rock and metal genres, while Fender guitars provide bright, versatile tones and are popular in blues, country, and pop.

What year is Gibson J 45? ›

Gibson named the model "J-45" with the J to represent Gibson's 16" wide Jumbo sized body and "45" to represent its introductory price in 1942: a staggering $45. The J-45 has remained in production almost seamlessly since 1942 but has changed in appearance and construction.

What amp did Tom Petty use? ›

Vox Amplifiers

A massive proponent of Vox Amps, Petty could often be seen with a wall of the vintage-styled amps, complete with rails to secure the head components to the speaker cabinets.

What type of guitar is a J-45? ›

There's a reason why the Gibson J-45™ is considered the industry standard workhorse acoustic guitar.

What guitar does Eric Clapton play? ›

Blackie is the nickname given by Eric Clapton to his favorite Fender Stratocaster.

What guitar did Led Zeppelin use? ›

Page is synonymous with the Les Paul nowadays, but for almost all of Led Zeppelin's debut album, Led Zeppelin I, he used a Telecaster. Though he loved the Tele, Page explained, Led Zeppelin's needs – onstage and in the studio – began to rapidly change after the tremendous success of their debut album.

What is Gibson's most popular guitar? ›

Gibson Les Paul

“The Les Paul debuted in 1952, and it went through a lot of changes throughout the 50s. Everybody considers the 1959 the pinnacle for the Les Paul. That was the year that every famous guitar player — so almost all of the top 25 guitarists of all time — played a Gibson Les Paul.

Which Gibson is best for punk rock? ›

So, if you're looking for an unadorned, humble guitar that can deliver an explosive tone at the strike of a power chord, the best punk guitar for you is the Gibson Les Paul Junior.

Why Gibson is better than Fender? ›

Gibson guitars often feature thicker bodies made of mahogany, while Fender guitars typically have lighter bodies made of alder or ash. Gibson guitars also incorporate maple tops, which contribute to their unique warmth and resonance.

What guitar pick did Jerry Garcia use? ›

One electric Adamas 2mm Graphite pick, one acoustic Fender Heavy pick, framed together with a black and white photograph of Jerry with his guitar. Both unused. The Adamas pick is rare as they have not been produced since the 1980s.


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