gear up: is gibson’s generation collection g-45 the acoustic for a new generation
By Ian Freeman
January 27, 2022
Last year Gibson released the Generations Collection, an affordable modern take on their iconic acoustic guitars. The inspiration behind the line is an old plan to modernize the iconic J-45 with a few tweaks and a Player Port, which would enhance the listener’s and the player’s experience. This design was modernized and laid the foundation for the new line.
The Bozeman, Montana-built collection consists of 4 models ranging from the Parlor to Super Jumbo and starts at $999. They have slimmer bodies for modern comfort and more effortless playing. Unbound solid spruce tops, ebony fingerboards, solid walnut bodies, Grover mini tuners, and scalloped bracing make the line very straightforward acoustic guitars. The larger G-Writer and G 200 models come with LR Baggs Element Bronze pick-ups, but there isn’t much in the way of bells and whistles beyond the Player Port. Which can be a gift or curse depending on what you’re looking for. If you want flash and embellishments, this might not be your style. But if you want a naturally beautiful, straight-ahead workhorse guitar, this could be for you.
The Gibson Player Port is not a new idea in the guitar world. Many have tried it with varying success. Even Gibson’s Player Port comes from a plan back in the 60’s to modernize the then and pretty much still iconic J-45. The idea behind it is pretty simple: add a second soundhole so that the player gets a more accurate account of what is projected forward. The challenge facing them, cutting holes into guitars change everything. So Gibson luthiers worked to design the new series to optimize the experience and not lose the Gibson acoustic sound.
After speaking to Amythyst Kiah and hearing her play the new guitar, we had to look for ourselves. Gibson was kind enough to let us look at the Generation G-45, the updated version of the J-45 that started this endeavor.
The Generations G 45 Timeline
Gibson’s J-45 is one of the most iconic shapes in their acoustic range and was released in several models, finishes, etc. The deep and husky tones characterize the Mahogany and Spruce construction and give it that rustic vibe. The J -15 had the same slope shoulder build, but the tone woods changed to Walnut and Spruce, giving it a warm yet slightly brighter sound. In 2019 Gibson released a G-45 that went for a more modern experience with a slimmer profile merging the J-45 shape with the J-15 tonewoods, and came in studio and standard versions. The Generations G-45 builds off of the legacy of the now-discontinued J-15 and G-45 studio and standard versions and looks to give a whole new affordable player experience.
The Generation G-45 keeps the Walnut and Spruce construction of its predecessors. It has a Gibson advanced profile neck which is closest to a gentle C neck, Ebony fretboard, TUSQ nut, 24.75” scale, 20 frets, and is lightweight even by acoustic standards. There’s no binding and little embellishments like the rosette around the ring, which is a sticker, giving it a more stripped-down aesthetic than previous iterations. It has a natural top and beautiful tree rings on the body if you’re into that kind of thing. And the body is a bit slimmer than the traditional J-45 making it more in line with the G-45 standard for more comfort playing.
There are no electronics, but it features the Gibson Player Port. The Player Port works, but I wouldn’t call it a make-or-break feature. I think it’s a novel feature and a kind of cool addition. Giving the player a more realistic depiction of what’s happening in front of them, thereby increasing the audience’s experience, is always welcome. But I don’t think it does enough to impact that experience. Not enough to make you change things dramatically.
As nothing is perfect, I was a little disappointed about some things. Being a fan of Gibson guitars, you look at the logo and the headstock, and while the headstock is fine, the logo isn’t an inlay or a sticker. It seems just airbrushed on. It also wasn’t the cleanest guitar I ever received. Meaning you could feel like tiny grains when you ran your hand across it. The frets were a little sharp on the ends. Just quality control issues. Nothing catastrophic but noteworthy nonetheless for the Gibson name, especially when considering the price you’re not looking to run to have to drop some money for a fret job or doing it yourself.
It does come in a pretty awesome Gibson hybrid, softer than a hard case but more rigid than a gig bag, new gig bag. It’s very sturdy, and when you open it up, it looks like the insides of a hard case. Cushion, secured neck, pockets, well built, and two back straps—a beautiful addition to the guitar.
Let me put your mind to rest from all of the affordability talk; the Generation G-45 sounds like a Gibson acoustic. Not a cheap version of a Gibson. The combination of Walnut and Spruce gives it a crisp resonance that is very articulate and a bit bright. It has good sustain, amazing volume, has good punch, is surprisingly loud with a depth of tones that make it great to play. It doesn’t quite hit that low-end that J-45’s are known for. I’d even say that it is even brighter sounding than the Taylor AD-17, which is comparable in price range and make. Despite being more affordable, the Generation G-45 delivers what it sets out to do tonally. It introduces a new generation to the Gibson acoustic signature sound, albeit a more modern, brighter version with a variety of tones that make it a good all-around instrument.
The Generation G-45 is a good acoustic guitar. It would be hard to say it’s not worth the money because that Gibson headstock comes with a premium. But I also think that is where some of the troubles lay. First the good. I like the stripped-down aesthetic, as it allows it to be available at the price. I like that it isn’t too old-school Gibson sounding. If you’re coming to get a J-45 at a cheaper price, you might be disappointed or pleasantly surprised because it’s not a J-45. It has that Gibson low-end, but it’s not as pronounced. Like I mentioned, it’s brighter sounding than the Taylor AD-17, and If you’re going to compare it to Martin, the closest I think would be the X series, but the electronics and the woods change things a bit tonally. But for my ears, I think the Gen G-45 hits a sweet spot for me as I’m not a big acoustic person, so I like a guitar that allows me to explore a range of songs, and I don’t feel like I need to throw on a Cowboy hat immediately. Coming from playing electric guitars, the slimmer profile made it a bit easier to get my arms around it, and overall I enjoyed the playability.
The words of caution would be; first, it’s not a J-45. The J-45 is iconic and has a mystique all its own. You might see the shape and the name and immediately think… cheaper version but expect the same. This isn’t that. Not a knock, just a warning. The lack of binding. Yes, I understand we will lose some stuff for the price, but binding on a guitar like this seems like a worthwhile expense and an interesting choice for Gibson. The Gen G-45 is a versatile, carry-around guitar, which might get bumped around a bit and the lack of binding makes it more susceptible to cracking. I also wasn’t thrilled about how I received it. I know people have gotten on Gibson for QC issues, but I have purchased a few and had no issues. This time, as I mentioned, the fret ends were a little sharp and the top felt gritty. Fret sprout happens, especially it being wood, and I received it in the winter, and it’s easily addressed, but for the Gibson premium rate, I would like a little white-glove service.
I like the Generation G -45. And out of the collection, it would be my choice, even over the ones that have pick-ups. Some have billed the Generation Collection as a beginner guitar, but I think it can easily be a main or a studio guitar. It’s not the J -45. It comes close to the J-15, which was another G-45 predecessor. Then there was the actual G-45 standard that was released a few years ago and was discontinued. Some might say the Gen G -45 might be a downgrade of the G-45 Standard, but for the price, you get Ebony over Richlite, the Player Port, but yes, you do lose the pick-ups. But I would say it’s an evolved G-45 standard. So the question is, what are you looking for? Are there other options in the price range? Yes. Are they a Gibson? No. Did Gibson nail the affordable acoustic guitar? I’d say they gave you a worthy contender. But for me, If this is Gibson’s way of fostering a new generation of guitar players, I think they are on the right track.
Body Finish: Satin Nitrocellulose Lacquer
Top: Stika Spruce
Bracing: Scalloped X-bracing
Neck/Fingerboard: Utile / Ebony
Neck Shape: Advanced Response
Scale Length: 24.75”
Fingerboard Radius: 16”
Number of Frets: 20
Fret Size: Standard
Nut Material: TUSQ
Nut Width: 1.73″
Saddle Material: TUSQ
Tuning Machines: Grover Mini Rotomatic
Bridge: Rectangular, Closed Slot, Striped Ebony
Get The Latest
Signup for the AFROPUNK newsletter