SGJ review by Gibson

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 7
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 7
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (20 votes)
Gibson: SGJ

Price paid: C$ 500

Purchased from: Kijiji

Features — 9
Made in 2014 as a Gibson 120th anniversary model. Not to be confused with the SG J. (I don't know why Gibson would make 2 nearly identical guitar models with in a year from each other and give them the same name). So to be clear, this is NOT the one with black pickup covers, top hat knobs and single coloured finish options. This one in fact has different knobs, pickups, finish options, 12th-fret inlays, and a brushed nickel bridge and tailpiece. (Still not seeing why Gibson would do something like this...)

The features of this thing are similar to many SG's, googling this thing would be the best way to get a full idea of the features, I'll just explain what features stood out to me on this guitar compared to a run of the mill Gibson SG Standard.

First of all the 24-fret neck is interesting, comes in handy on the rare occasion, but the scale feels the same as a 22-fret SG, wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Upon the first time picking up this guitar and feeling the neck, I wasn't too certain I'd like it. The '50s slim profile neck was actually quite a bit thicker than the other guitars I had been playing at the time, but within a matter of minutes the profile really started to grow on me. The satin finish had a huge part in this attraction, as the neck felt much more maneuverable compared to a Gibson SG Standard with a glossy neck etc.

Gibson calls this a "Fireburst" Satin finish, but to be honest, its a little darker looking than their photos on their website, so I'd say it looks more like a slightly darker tobbaco burst. The satin on the body and neck makes this guitar super smooth, and in part does make this guitar a fraction of a pound lighter than if it had been glossed. The back of it is all black which looks very sleek from the player's perspective, and the front is fairly attractive as well. Curiously, there is also a small area of light gloss below the highest string, where there would usually be a pickguard etc, and this helps if you're a type of player that likes to rest their pinky or on the guitar body etc.

Bridges, tuning machines, electronics, etc are all what you'd expect from any run of the mill SG. Surprisingly the tuning on this thing is not that bad for an SG. Most SG's that haven't been set up properly, or in a while will not hold tuning for too long, depending how aggressive the player etc. That being said, this stays in tune fairly well, and the intonation as I got it is close to perfect, at least within the first 12 frets.

Overall the body is super light, nice and slim, but still has enough mass to it to give that mid-chunky SG tone, couldn't really ask for a better feeling guitar for the price.

Sound — 7
I play mostly using a high gain sound for genres such as alt rock, grunge, pop punk, melodic/post-hardcore, even a bit of "djent" as you might say. I don't play anything in the realm of classic rock, or '80s metal, but this thing would probably be more suited for those than what I use it for. I currently have 2 separate setups to play this thing, the first being into my Line 6 PODHD500X, straight into my interface and monitored back out through my studio monitors, with a guitar room short reverb model, this thing sounds recording ready for those without access to a real guitar room and sweet amp.

The second setup consists of an Orange Tiny Terror Head, powering a Peavey 4x12 Cab (not sure the model unfortunately). This is where the tonal issues with this thing become more apparent.

The direct tone with the Line 6 POD is more manageable, so the high end doesn't seem over bright, but when plugged into an amp, the highs can get a bit too bright. Nothing too unbearably harsh, but the '61 Zebra Humbucker Bridge can be quite noisy. When playing, this noisiness is not too noticeable other than a slight top end fizz (as common with the 80's hair metal tone), but on the cut offs of notes, even with a properly dialed in noise gate, the brightness seems to come out a bit and sizzle out unpleasantly. This is so slight it probably not be picked up to the ear of a beginner player, so it's not too big of a deal, but its most noticeable when palm muting, as I seem to be doing a lot of that...

This sizzle is not to be mistaken with a poor setup, this thing has virtually no fret buzz, and on top of that I have wrapped a sock around the neck to reduce string noise, I also have a guitar with an identical bridge so I can tell this is not the doing of the bridge, especially since the problem is only noticeable on a high gain setting. The Neck Pickup is super smooth and buttery on a clean setting, I usually just stick to Bridge for Distortion, Neck for Cleans, and this thing covers that fairly well. I would actually go as far as to say the Clean Neck tones are actually better than the Distorted Bridge tones, in terms of how close they are to a professional level sound and tonality.

Overall, you can definitely gig this thing and not worry too much about the sound and the high fizz I was talking about, not everyone out there is an experienced guitarist with a well-trained ear. It does sound quite full and punchy, but I would say it lacks bottom focus and definition which would not make this suited for drop tunings unless you are to swap the pickups out.

Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I received it setup in Standard tuning with .9-.42 gauge strings (different from the .10-.46 as is common on most factory fresh guitars). This was from the previous owner of 1 year. I still have the same gauge strings on as I have not taken it to the shop yet, but I play Drop D tuning 100% of the time on this guitar, so I'm probably going to get it set up with Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottoms (.10-.52) and I'm sure once I do this, it will sound and feel a whole lot better. Also I found the frets/ fretboard edge to be slightly sharp at first, but this was probably due to being unfamiliar with the grip of this neck as well as sitting, I play mostly standing with my guitar slightly low and I never notice it anymore, but if I was more of a sitting at home shredder, I might want to take it in to the shop to treat the edges a bit.

Overall the action and everything else is great, no flaws whatsoever, just not quite suited for my style with the current string gauge.

Reliability & Durability — 8
This thing is damn reliable and solid, don't let the price tag fool you. I've seen newer Gibson models for more than twice the price made half as well as this thing, so do the math on that one. The Hardware is pretty much brilliant. The plastic tuning heads (as common with most Gibson models) would probably chip or break if you bumped them into anything too hard, an easy replacement, I like the colour and feel of the classic Kluson tuners, and I don't go crazy enough on stage or in practice to wack them on anything (at least not on a regular basis), but if you are the type of performer to really move around and stuff, you might wanna think about getting different tuning heads.

The second thing would be the strap buttons. The buttons themselves are solid, but playing an SG live or standing definitely calls for some sort of straplocks to combat the placement of the neck button on the neck that is common on most SG's. Schaller straplocks would be okay, but I personally do not like how much they wiggle around. On top of that, they would definitely feel like they stick out too much on that neck peg. I use Straptight Straplocks which are these little clips made of tough plastic, and they do the job perfectly. They keep the strap tight to the buttons, they virtually never come off, they're cheap, and easy to use. Seriously, check them out if you're looking for an alternate option the Straplock struggle that many performing guitarists face.

Overall Impression — 9
All in all, I would say this guitar is better than 99% of guitars at the same price. If your a beginner and don't know much about entry-level guitars, this thing will do you perfect. I wouldn't even call this an entry-level guitar as it surpasses any Epiphones on the market, but the price is fairly entry-level, so let's call it an entry into the world of Gibson guitars. If you got this as a beginner I'm sure it would last you 5+ years minimum before you would be looking to upgrade to something better.

If you want to compare this thing to other Gibson SG's in the $1500+ price range then yeah it would be lacking in a few features and wouldn't quite stack up to the sound and playability of a mid-level SG, but the price difference is nowhere near equivalent to the difference in quality. There's some aspects of this guitar that I would argue to be better than most mid-level SG's, but ultimately the pickups possibly neck binding are probably the only thing stopping this thing from being a Perfect SG.

Long story short, if you see this thing sitting around at a shop or online and you have the money for it, buy it. It will prove far more than worth the money you spent for it.

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