Gibson J160e Review ’s slope-shouldered dreadnoughts are among the guitar universe’s truly great designs. The convergence of curves and understated ornamentation are a study in proportional perfection, with the sort of simplicity and subdued, utilitarian elegance that makes Eames chairs, Coke bottles, and Boeing 707s iconic.
Though the mahogany-and-spruce J-45 is the most famous manifestation of the slope-shouldered profile, the shape has been the foundation for other Gibsons, including the J-35, the natural finished J-50, the 25 1/2″-scale Advanced Jumbo, the rare B-45 12-string, and the J-160 made famous by the Beatles. Gibson still produces many of these guitars, but the new J-15 and J-29 are the first new, non-signature-edition variations on the J body style in years—and very cool departures from the J-45’s sonic template.
The J-29 is the more traditional-looking of the new pair, but it’s a handsome devil. If you’ve grown accustomed to seeing slope-shouldered Gibsons in the classic J-45 sunburst, you’ll marvel at how attractive and visually balanced the profile looks in a natural blonde finish. The dramatically striped grain of the Indian rosewood back and sides beneath that nitrocellulose lacquer looks as deep and three-dimensional as an alpine lake.
But it’s the fretboard rosewood that’s most striking, with a red-to-chocolate fade running the neck’s length. The bridge is also rosewood, though it’s a simple, almost slight rectangular design, rather than the more substantial “belly-up” bridge associated with Gibson acoustics. The J’s austere roots (the first Js were designed and built during the Great Depression) are honored in the simple white/black/white rosette and binding, even if the woods exude an upmarket aura.
The J-29 isn’t the first or only rosewood-backed Gibson slope-shoulder. In fact, the company has built rosewood-backed J-45s quite recently. But it’s a compelling alternative for any player who loves the slope-shoulder style, but prefers the stronger projection of a rosewood, square-shouldered Gibson or a rival like the Martin D-28.