5/25/2016

1983 Gibson J-25 ASB Slope Dreadnought Guitar





Update April 2017: Since originally posting, this guitar has had a K&K Big Twin installed (my preferred pickup) and I've used it for shows 2-4 times a month since I bought it in May of 2016. The jack is to the treble side of the endpin/button on the side. This has been a faithful workhorse and the only adjustments necessary have been to the truss rod once or twice as the seasons changed. During outdoor gigs, I was the only guy playing acoustic on stage not constantly retuning as the weather got hot or cold and the sun went up and down. This is simply a great, working-man's guitar. Action is spot-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret.

The J-25 is an odd Gibson product -- it's an x-braced, laminate-top instrument with the outline and neck feel/style of a J-45, but sporting an Ovation-style synthetic back. The back is flatter than an ovation, but lightly arched, and has a "wedge" shape with a thicker front/back profile nearer the knee than the side nearer the arm. This makes it "handle" like a J-45 with a "Strat" tummy cut -- if you get what I mean. It fits like a glove, for a big (16" wide) guitar.

I had one of these, in natural (this one is "antique sunburst" or "ASB"), a couple years ago. I wrote an album's worth of songs on it, then recorded with it, and then sold it on. As I recall, it was to fund some new PA speakers (a pair of Yamaha 700w, lightweight units that are awesome). To make the long story a little shorter, I wanted one again! It turns out that these oddball instruments make perfect travel-friendly, outdoor gig-friendly, reliable beaters -- with the plusses of a somewhat-slope-dread tone (and bottom-end presence) and the classic, comfy, "Gibson neck." When I had that other J-25 I was taking it all over the place because I didn't have to worry about setting it down in sand, damp grass, on gravel -- you know the drill.

So -- when I spotted this on Reverb -- I grabbed it. It's even my birth year. I'm happy. It's happy. We've been taking breaks in the garden today.


I have to admit that this one is a lot cleaner than my last J-25, but does have a few nice playing-in love bites and minor wear here and there. The sunburst finish is also easy on the eyes.

Tonally, as stated, these have the same sort of response pattern as a standard-issue J-45/J-50, in that the mids are quite present and there's a boomy-yet-tight bass, but the laminate top and synthetic back lend a more glassy sound to high-register sustain and the tone is quite uncomplicated, overall. It surpasses expectations and is easily loud enough to cut in a jam, but it's not the refined, superlative voice of a solid-wood dreadnought of decent parentage. It's, however, not supposed to be -- and for an instrument I'm chunking chords on to sing by, I don't need that.


The guitar is entirely stock except for the tuners. This came with one of the original Gibson Deluxe tuners broken (I knew about it), so while this was shipping to me I ordered a set of those new-fangled Kluson Revolution tuners to replace them with. More on those in a sec.

Standard "Gibson" specs are abound, here -- a mahogany neck, 12" radius rosewood fretboard, medium-jumbo frets, 24 3/4" scale length, 1 11/16" nut width, and a medium-ish C-profile neck (it reminds me of late-50s Gib necks).


The dots are faux-pearl and I didn't even need to touch the frets. They were nearly unplayed.


While the black binding and 3-ply purfling isn't "usual" for a J-45-type instrument, it does look snazzy on this one and helps blend the black "bowl/oilpan" of the back.


The two-ring rosette echoes 60s/70s Gibsons while the pickguard echos 50s ones.


The bridge has the same plastic wedge in the middle, presumably, to keep pin-hole-wear to a minimum. I added ebony pins to replace worn plastic ones and compensated and adjusted the original synthetic saddle.

Aside from a setup, the only other work needed was to reglue the bridge which was lifting a bunch on the rear.




The new Kluson Revolution tuners have the same "keystone"-style buttons as the original tuners did and the same "screw-in" threaded shaft/retainer that tightens from the front of the headstock. That's why I bought these -- otherwise I could've popped-in any old Kluson copy.

Anyhow, I'm glad I did, because these are cool tuners. They're 19:1 ratio, very smooth, very stable, and sealed -- yet the footprint and vibe matches the original Kluson Deluxe-style units. It's a winning design. My only change was to remove the ugly little white plastic washer that always sits between the button and the smaller black metal washer that bumps up against the housing/shaft. For some reason, seeing that white plastic bit ruins the aesthetic for me -- maybe because I associate it with those terribly heavy old Rotomatics. Details, details...



The screw that's not in the heel is the original location of the strap button. It's a silly place, though, because it always leans the guitar forward when you're standing with it. I simply took the button off and installed it on the back of the neck heel in "proper Gibson fashion" and then tightened the screw back in place with a finish-washer to give it a cleaner look.







These may have been "dark years" for Gibson, judging by the internet crowds who like to scold anything and everything slightly out of their comfort zone (the 80s was a rough time for acoustic anything), but I think these J-25 products accomplished exactly what Gib was out to do: make a practical, tough-as-nails, affordable, Ovation-inspired, but classic-feeling guitar.

It works for me -- and will be getting a K&K pickup in it as soon as possible.

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