Gibson J45 Studio – Review of Walnut Burst Gibson AE Guitar

The Gibson J45 is one of the most easily recognized and widely used acoustic guitars in music history. And while you can still find vintage J45s for sale, Gibson Acoustic continues to make several iterations of this classic model.

Today we'll be looking at the Gibson J 45 Studio Walnut, a stripped-down version of the standard J45. This guitar has some key differences from the Standard, but we think it's worth considering.

Things to Consider Before Buying a High-End Guitar

It's a good idea to put in some serious thought before buying any guitar, but this is especially true when considering a higher-end instrument like the J45 Studio Walnut. Here are some things to keep in mind before you buy:

  • What tonewoods do you prefer? If you're buying a guitar from Gibson Acoustic, you probably have an idea of what tonewood combinations you prefer. You might like the nuanced sound of rosewood, or maybe you prefer the darker warmth of mahogany. Either way, tonewoods are important -- they're one of the few things on a guitar that you can't upgrade later.
  • What about electronics? If you're a performer, you probably want to make sure you get a guitar with a good electronics system. Higher-end pickups tend to capture the full sound of your guitar, and your playing dynamics will come across more readily.
  • Body Style -- While the dreadnought is the most popular acoustic guitar body type, it's a good idea to think about what body style suits your music best. Body depth is also important -- for instance, the J 45 Studio's slimmer depth allows for increased comfort when playing.

Our Picks for Review

Guitar

Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Gibson

J 45 Studio

Cell

Alternative

Epiphone

J45

Cell

Alternative

Gibson

J45 Studio Rosewood

Cell

Alternative

Gibson

J45 Standard

Cell

Gibson J 45 Studio

PRO's & CON's of Gibson J45 Studio

But first, let's check out some pros and cons:

Pros

  • Slim dreadnaught body is easy to hold and projects well
  • It's a more affordable version on the J45 Standard
  • All-solid construction provides a full, rich tone
  • Balanced, focused sound is ideal for recording

Cons

  • Walnut back and sides mean the tone differs considerably from the of the J45 Standard, which has mahogany back and sides
  • This guitar is still fairly expensive, and it may be out of reach for some players

Features and Benefits

Now we'll get into some of the specific features of the J 45 Studio Walnut. We think this is an interesting guitar with a lot to offer.

Body Style and Build Quality

The first thing you notice about the J 45 Studio Walnut is likely the body style. This guitar is a round-shouldered dreadnought, which lacks the squared-off top of the traditional dreadnaught. Some players believe that this cuts down on the boomy bass that most dreadnaughts have.

The J 45 Studio also features traditional hand scalloped x bracing. This is a bracing style that can increase the responsiveness of the soundboard since the guitar's top can vibrate more freely. It also can bolster the bass response, which helps balance out the guitar's slender body. (If you want to learn more about traditional hand scalloped x bracing and what it does for tone, check out this cool video.)

The shallower body is an important feature to note, as it's one of the main things distinguishing this model from the J 45 Standard. However, the decreased depth allows for increased projection, which may be a plus for some players.

The build quality of the J 45 Studio Walnut is also excellent. The multi ply top single-ply back binding contrasts beautifully with the guitar's dark walnut burst finish. And in terms of tonewoods, we think it's built well too. It has a solid Sitka spruce top, and the back and sides are solid walnuts. Walnut is an interesting choice of wood. Sonically, it's between rosewood and maple. This means it has a defined high end, but it's also capable of nuance.

And lastly, the slim mahogany neck is made with the Advanced Response profile, one of the many neck shapes made by Gibson Acoustic. It's designed to be comfortably playable, although it isn't as fast as the Slim Taper neck profile that comes on the J45 Standard.

Sound and Playability

Like we mentioned above, the Advanced Response neck on the J 45 Studio Walnut makes it highly comfortable to play. The walnut fingerboard allows a finer kind of dexterity when playing, too. And lastly, the round-shouldered dreadnought build is likely to be easier for a lot of players to hold. Traditional dreadnaughts can be somewhat bulky, but the slimmer body of the J 45 Studio Walnut is equally easy to play sitting or standing.

The best way we can think to describe the sound of the J45 Studio is "earthy" -- it has some grit to it, and there's plenty of midranges. The sound is also incredibly focused. Most full-size J45 Standards have a somewhat thumpy bass effect, but the bass from this guitar is well-defined. The highs are articulate and sparking. If you want to hear this guitar for yourself, though, check out this sound demo.

Of course, part of the sound of an acoustic-electric guitar is determined by its electronics. The J 45 Studio Walnut comes equipped with a Fishman Sonitone system. This is a little surprising since this pickup system is usually found in lower-end guitars. It's nice to have a quality plug and play option, and the Sonitone isn't necessarily bad. However, it has a definite piezo "quack" to our ears. Higher-end J45s (and most higher-end Gibson Acoustic models) come with the L.R. Baggs VTC pickup, which offers a fuller, more natural sound

Appointments

Before we get into appointments, we want to note that the J 45 Studio Walnut comes in two finish options -- walnut burst and antique natural. If you like the look of the classic J45, you'll probably want to go with a walnut burst. It's a beautiful dark sunburst that gives the guitar a sleek, professional look.

If the walnut burst isn't your cup of tea, antique natural may be right for you. This is a classic finish that really shows off the grain of the Sitka spruce top.

Even though the J 45 Studio is considered to be a step down from the Standard, we think the Gibson J45 Studio is a remarkably well-appointed guitar. Here are some of its notable appointments:

  • Tusq nut and saddle
  • Walnut bridge and fingerboard (the fingerboard has 20 frets)
  • Grover Rotomatic tuners

If you want to see how the walnut burst and antique natural J45 Studios look and sound compared to a J45 Standard, check out this interesting video.

More: Best Gibson Acoustic Guitar

Social Proof of the Guitar

The J 45 Studio is a fairly high-end guitar, so you probably want to make sure it's the right guitar for you before you click "add to cart.". If you can't play one in person before you buy, the net best thing is to read reviews from guitarists who have bought or played it. We went ahead and scoured the internet to find some reviews of this guitar, and they were largely positive. Here are some of the highlights:

Gibson J45 Studio Review 01

Like this player, you might be worried that the J 45 Studio looks like a cheap knockoff of the standard. However, this review is especially helpful because it compares the Studio to the Standard, and in this guitarist's opinion, neither is necessarily better than the other.

Gibson J45 Studio Review 02

This is a helpful review because it gives you some insight into the J 45 Studio's tone. Since the body is shallower than that of the Standard, you might worry that the tone may not be as rich. However, this person thought the tone had just enough bass, and they also found this guitar to be very playable.

Gibson J45 Studio Review 03

This highly detailed review helps you get a sense of what the J 45 Studio sounds like. For this person, the mix of bright, clear highs and a focused bass response makes this a tonally excellent model.

Alternatives to Martin LX1E

If you're considering buying a high-end guitar like the J45 Studio, it's a good idea to make sure it's the right instrument for you. In order to help you make that decision, we've gathered three alternative options you may want to consider.

Epiphone J45

How it Compares to Gibson J45 Studio

  • The all-solid build is the same as the Gibson J45
  • Fishman Sonitone pickup is the same as the pickup in the Studio
  • Fingerboard and bridge are Indian laurel instead of walnut
  • It costs about $1000 less than the J45 Studio

Review

Lots of people dream of owning a J45. But if the J45 Studio is a little too expensive, you might be interested in the Epiphone version. Epiphone is Gibson's budget brand, but Epiphone guitars are great options in their own right.

We think the Epiphone J45 is actually more true to the original Gibson J45 than the Gibson J45 Studio is. The Epiphone version has a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, and it has the same Fishman electronics as the Studio. If you like the sound of the Gibson J45 but want an affordable alternative, make sure you check this one out!

Gibson J 45 Studio Rosewood

How It Compares To Gibson J45 Studio

  • Solid rosewood back and sides combined with solid Sitka spruce top offers classic Gibson acoustic tone
  • Rosewood fingerboard and slim neck make it comfortable to play for hours
  • It has the same Fishman Sonitone electronics as the Studio
  • Because rosewood is largely considered to be a superior tonewood to walnut, this model is more expensive

Review

The earthy sound of walnut adds a lot to the tone of the J45, but it isn't for everyone. If you prefer the classic tonewood combination of spruce and rosewood, then the Gibson J 45 Studio Rosewood might be for you. This version has solid rosewood back and sides for a beautifully detailed tone and the fast-playing rosewood fretboard offers incredible playability.

If you like the J45 Studio but want something with rosewood, make sure you check this one out!

Gibson J45 Standard

How It Compares To Gibson J45 Studio

  • Tonewood construction is true to the original J45 design
  • A much better pickup system lets you avoid the piezo "quack" associated with most under saddle pickups
  • This guitar is more expensive than the J45 Studio
  • Rolled, beveled fingerboard edge makes this guitar extraordinarily playable

Review

If you have a little more to spend and want to upgrade from the J45 Studio, this is a great option to choose. This guitar from Gibson Acoustic has a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides. Notably, it has a much better electronics system -- the L.R. Baggs VTC pickup. This translates to a more natural, detailed sound when playing plugged in.

If you want an upgraded version of the J45 with excellent electronics, make sure you give this one a look!

In Conclusion

If you want to play with classic Gibson J45 tone but want something a little different (and less expensive), then the Gibson J 45 Studio Walnut is a great option. This guitar's slimmer body and balanced tone make it ideal for recording, and it maintains the comfortable playability that you get with the J45 Standard. If you want a more affordable version of an iconic guitar, check out the J 45 Studio Walnut today!

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