9/07/2014

c.1976 Aria Model 9480 J-200 Copy Jumbo Guitar




If you're into countrified bling on the cheaper side... these old Japanese-made J-200 clones sure can't be beat. It's got real pearl all over the neck and headstock (minus the Aria logo which isn't the real stuff) and that semi-reflective translucent stuff used for the flowers on the pickguard.

This came in trade looking quite clean (save for the stenciled "Bob" on the lower bout which was removed by the last owner) but it certainly did need a bit of work: I leveled and dressed the frets, lubed and tightened up the tuners, shaved the bridge and cut a new bone nut and saddle, cleaned it up and gave it a good setup strung with regular 12s. It plays beautifully (standard 3/32" at 12th bass side action and 1/16" treble) and has that big, mid-frequency response and clarity that I expect from this body shape with a long (25 1/2" in this case) scale and x-bracing. What this type of guitar does really well is remain clear-sounding even while you're pounding the heck out of it to push the volume out there... hence the reason full-on strummers in the know tend to prefer jumbo models.


A "real" J-200 would have a moustache-style bridge but I have to admit (as a repairman) I think they're absurd. This decoratively-cut rosewood one is much more practical as it gives a better foot for the glue. A "real" J-200 would also be made from solid spruce and maple... this thing is laminate all over but it sure looks pretty, huh?

There's light pickwear here and there around the soundhole and a few tiny scratches here and there but overall this guitar is surprisingly clean. It's got the usual J-200 specs: 17 1/8" on the lower bout, 4 7/8" depth, 25 1/2" scale.


Fancy binding on the headstock... and a truss cover concealing a perfectly functional rod. The nut is a big hunk of new bone.


Nice pearl inlay in a radiused rosewood board. The neck shape is C-shaped and a lot like 50s Gibsons but if you've never played a J-200-ish guitar the long scale will make a Martin fan feel at home vs. the usual 24 3/4" Gibson scale.


The pickguard looks great! It has some pearly-looking material underneath the floral elements which lets them pop in the light.


I added some new ebony pins, too, since the original rosewood ones were pretty shot. The bone saddle is compensated.


Nice back, huh?



The worn plating of the gold-plated plain-Jane Japanese tuners gives this a more dignified look than straight-out gold bling.

In addition... the 3-piece (plus "wings" on the headstock) construction of the hard maple neck is genius: it's what's kept this neck perfectly straight and stable over time. There's a market tendency towards adoring 1-piece necks but they're far less stable than multi-piece necks.


The joint on this is a curious combination of glued/bolted construction. It's got a glued joint but there's a big bolt accessed at the neck block, too. It's worked well so far!






The serial places this at 1976.

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