Hands-On Review:Gibson True Vintage & Modern Classic Acoustic Guitars
Have your cake and eat it too
I’ve always loved classic cars. The blame probably lies with my grandfather and father, both dedicated car nuts. For my money, nothing the vaunted automobile powerhouses in Detroit, Europe, and Japan produce today can touch the vehicles of yesteryear. As a result, I’ve always driven older cars. Sure, they’re a little more work to care for and you don’t have the latest technology at your fingertips, but they’re lots of fun to drive and have tons of character and personality.
When my wife and I started having children a few years ago, my “old” (her description) 1949 Mercury sedan caused a dilemma. To start with, the seat belts in my car didn’t meet modern passenger car safety requirements, especially when it came to baby seats. There was also the issue of climate control. Oh, the heater in my honey worked great, but the air conditioning was nonexistent. I mean, AC wasn’t even a factory option when it was built, you know? It was obvious a newer, safer, more family-friendly vehicle would have to be acquired. One that possessed all the amenities that make modern travel a pleasure—for children and adults.
Gibson saves the day
Recently, Gibson has taken steps to ensure guitarists never have to face a similar dilemma when it comes to their acoustic guitars. The luthiers at Gibson Acoustic in Montana have introduced two new lines of acoustics: the True Vintage series and the Modern Classic models. Each series is made with the utmost care and craftsmanship in the Gibson tradition, but with different goals in mind. The True Vintage acoustics are for die-hard vintage players while the Modern Classic concept updates all of Gibson’s core acoustic models to deliver what today’s players want in an acoustic guitar.
The True Vintage series models are crafted as historic reproductions of some of the guitars that built the Gibson name, with authenticity, character, and accuracy as the guiding principles. The top five acoustic models in Gibson’s celebrated history were chosen and Gibson Montana’s luthiers set out to create exacting replicas of each: the Hummingbird, J-185, J-45, SJ-200, and Southern Jumbo.
The Modern Classics represent an initiative by Gibson to provide performing acoustic guitarists with all the features that make playing a little easier. The complete Modern Classic series is composed of a much larger group of guitars with four or five models in each of Gibson’s main acoustic guitar families: Jumbo, Super Jumbo, Small Bodies, and Round Shoulder and Square Shoulder Dreadnought.
The True Vintage series is a truly drool-inducing lineup of acoustics. Each one was chosen because of its popularity with today’s acoustic players, as well as its lasting heritage as a cornerstone of acoustic music. Able to draw upon a history that few modern manufacturers possess, Gibson Montana set out to make these five models appealingly authentic in both sight and sound. The choice woods and construction methods are where the heart, soul, and sound of each True Vintage model begins. Premium spruce, mahogany, and maple are used, appropriate to the individual model. The soundboard, body, and neck are crafted using tried-and-true techniques like dovetail neck joints and hand-carved braces for powerful dialed-in tone.
The finishing touches for each True Vintage model are found in details that should make any vintage guitar lover’s heart go pitter-pat. Madagascar rosewood is used for the bridge and fingerboard, and the fret ends are bound. A specially formulated amber toner is sprayed over the guitars to give them a dark, aged lacquer finish like a vintage Gibson acoustic. As a demonstration of how far Gibson went to ensure all the appointment details were historically correct, even the pickguards on the Hummingbird and J-200 models are vintage-cast style, made from the original vintage die-cast molds. Finally, each one gets set up with a bone nut and saddle and is detailed with an historically accurate orange label and packed into a vintage-style case. These are the finest Hummingbirds, J-185s, J-45s, SJ-200s, and Southern Jumbos that Gibson Montana has ever produced.
Modern work of art
What does the modern acoustic player want? That’s the question Gibson Montana asked itself in creating the Modern Classic acoustics. The goal of the Gibson Modern Classic is to creat the instrument for the modern player, yet be true to Gibson’s heritage by using a true dovetail neck joint, hand-scalloped bracing, and nitrocellulose lacquer finish on each model. Of course, with the huge stable of Gibson players around the world, they didn’t just query themselves. Player feedback was also considered in settling on those features that would distinguish the Modern Classic guitars. One of the most requested items was a set high-quality acoustic pickup and preamp system. To meet that need, Gibson went to L.R. Baggs for a high-fidelity under-saddle pickup and active transducer system with a volume control that’s tucked away inside the upper rim of the soundhole. It delivers amplified acoustic sound that’s true to your playing and easy to use.
Grover Rotomatic tuners deliver the improved tuning stability that’s appreciated on all-night jam sessions and gigs. The neck of each Modern Classic guitar also receives the new Big Sky treatment, where the edges of the fretboard are radiused for an extremely comfortable feel and enhanced playability. To complement the comfy neck feel, the string height is lowered for faster action. Each one is set up with a bone nut and a Tusq material saddle for the best of vintage and modern performance then slipped into a premium hardshell case built for the rigors of the road. To further distinguish the Modern Classics, each one has a distinct new label. Whether you’re a fan of big-bodied sound from Gibson’s Jumbo and Super Jumbo models; the familiar punchy, warm dreadnought tone; or the intimate responsiveness of one of Gibson’s small-bodied jewels, you’ll find a Modern Classic for you. Whether you love Gibson acoustics old and or new, the True Vintage and Modern Classic series are fantastic guitars.
Features & Specs
True Vintage Series:
- Top 5 historic acoustic models
- Crafted to vintage specifications
- Choice woods
- Madagascar rosewood fingerboard and bridge
- Bone nut and saddle
- Historically accurate bound fret ends
- Aged, dark lacquer toner
- Historic orange labels
- Premium vintage-style case
Modern Classic Series:
- Redesign of core acoustic models
- Delivers features for today’s acoustic player
- Big Sky radiused fingerboard edge
- L.R. Baggs pickup with active transducer
- Soundhole volume control
- Grover Rotomatic tuners
- Bone nut
- Tusq saddle
- Distinctive new labels
- Premium hardshell case