My opinion on the 2014 Gibson SGJ

trvotour

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Hello everyone !

I notice a lot of people post questions regarding the SGJ, especially from those who are considering acquiring this model of instrument. So I decided to take a few minutes and share my opinion after almost a year of ownership, and answer/address some of the more common questions I see.

My background with Guitars:

One of the hardest things about taking someone else's review at face value is that everyone has different expectations and desires; what works for one person doesn't work for everyone. I have owned/rented dozens of guitars, and have played all the "common" models (Tele's, Strat's, LP's, SG's, ES335/339, etc.), and by no means is any one of these particular instruments "better" then another- they are just different. Even within any particular model there is a vast amount of options and tonal variety that can be purchased. Is an SG with p90's tonally representative of "SG's" in general? I think anyone can agree that there is a vast amount of difference between EVERY individual instrument, so for the purposes of this review I will hope to offer some comparison to standard models that you all may be familiar with.

I have went back and forth as to whether I prefer Gibson's or Fender's, but the truth is it wasn't until I acquired my SGJ that I realized the value of sticking to one particular Axe. You begin to develop a strong connection with the instrument- knowing where to find the hidden tones and sounds that the instrument has to offer. I am very biased towards this instrument as I use nothing other then my Gibson SGJ now, but I will try to keep this review unbiased.

Overall:

Electronics-

Potentiometers 2 Volume Controls,
2 Tone Controls
Type 500K Non-Linear
Toggle Switch Three-way Toggle with Black Plastic Tip
Output Jack 1/4" Mono

Neck
Species Maple
Profile .818" / .963" '50s Rounded
Truss Rod Standard
Joint Angle 5° (+/- 15 seconds)
Adhesive Franklin Titebond 50

Hardware
Knobs Max Grib Black Speed
Control Plate Black
Trim Rings Black
Strings .009 - .046, Genuine Gibson strings
Strap Buttons Aluminum

Nut
Material White TekToid™
Width 1.695
Slots Gibson PLEK System

Pickups
Neck Position '61 Zebra (Alnico V)
Neck Position '61 Zebra (Alnico V)

Body
Body Mahogany
Adhesive Franklin Titebond 50


Build Quality:

You may be wondering where Gibson cut the corners in order to offer this guitar at such a low cost. There was definitely some liberties taken to allow the price tag to be where it is at, and this is probably the category that there was the most "give" from the traditional SG Standard design.

The guitar is by ALL means a no-nonsense guitar. No true finish, only an extremely thin nitro later, and little to no grain filler used prior to finishing. I have held around 8 Gibson SGJ's from the same year and each one has minor flaws or marks in the wood. Things such as a drastic color change between wood "panels", open pores on the wood, non-perfect body contour's (I had seen some where the grooves on the top of the body are no perfectly rounded). All of these to me were very easily overlooked- I loved the "raw" look to this guitar but to some people it is simply too "imperfect" for their own taste.

The wood used for the body is obviously not their highest grade. My particular body is constructed of three piece of mahogany glues together, as opposed to higher end Gibson models that may be comprised of 1 or two pieces of wood. With this being said, play a few. It isn't that I discourage online shopping- I am all for saving a few bucks, but there is something to be said about seeing the instrument first hand and inspecting it. Tonally, the body is great. It produces warm undertones and sustains very well.

The wood on the neck (Maple) is a stray from the traditional SG, that is built with Mahogany. This is one of the most important things to think about when picking up an SGJ. Hardware, electronics, etc are all replaceable, but you really want to make sure that the body/neck produce the tone you are looking for. The hard Maple neck to ME is a bonus. I enjoy the increased tuning stability, and I love the bright overtones that it adds to the guitar. It is probably in my imagination, but I enjoy the FEEL of a maple neck. The wood feels hard, and the tone sounds "spanky".

The electronics used on this guitar are pretty awesome. the two Zebra 61' Humbuckers are aggresive, bright, and they have a good amount of bite to them. They can be warmed up substantially with the tone controls, to the point where often I never find a huge need to play on the neck pickup. The humbuckers do an amazing job for hard-rock, some metal music, blues, really anything as long as you are able to manipulate the volume and tone controls effectively. The electronics are obviously a common mod for people who may be looking for a different sound- just remember that tone will always be subjective depending on the guitars wood. Even with the same pickups as a 2014 SG Standard, it will have a brighter tone. This could be due to the maple neck, slightly thinner body profile, etc.

The fret board was perfect for me, a tradition Gibson radius and a full two-octaves (24 frets). I never venture onto the upper frets enough to justify the need for 24 frets, although I play a lot of Eb tuning, and I do occasionally hit the 23rd/24th frets on solo's (Much to my neighbour's dismay). The 120th anniversary 12th fret is different for everyone, personally I like it. I feel that it stands the instrument out, and down the road (20-30 years) maybe it will add value to the guitar (Not that I plan on parting with it).

The finish

As you can imagine this is an area that bothers many people. The lack of a traditional layer of nitro (It is coated, just a very thin layer) lends to quicker wear. The stain was a tendency to "rub off" after a while, leaving a "worn" look. Mine didn't start to show real wear signs until 300-400 hours of play, but once the wear started it progressed fairly quickly.


I will add to this review over the next day, if you have ANY questions or comments feel free to reply and I will include your questions in my review.

T.
 

Biddlin

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What changes to setup or string brand or gauge have you made?
;>)/
 

trvotour

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What changes to setup or string brand or gauge have you made?
;>)/

Setup

I had purchased my SGJ from a local store, and I found the set-up to be PRETTY good. Not perfect. The string action was a little high for my own preferences, but it only took a few minutes of tweaking to get it to wear I wanted it.

I changed the stock strings to a set of Ernie Ball 10's. These have always been my go to strings, but I am contemplating a switch to 11's. Why you may ask?

The shorter scale length is GREAT for bends. I have a friend who plays an SG with 9's, and I think that is a little loose for my tastes. The 10's provide all the bend and give that I personally need, but I still find myself "over bending" when I am not paying attention.

My recommendation: get your favorite set of strings at the same time you buy the SGJ. Put them on right away, as you may find the stock strings a little bit "lifeless". Inspect your neck angle and ensure that it is proper, and check your action. I am pretty picky about set-up, and I know many people with SGJ's that have never felt a need to have a new set-up.
 

Kerry Brown

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Great review! When I bought my 2013 SGJ I tried several 2013s and 2014s. As you say there is some variation in fit, finish, and tone but I'm sure I would have been happy with any of them. I've had the 2013 for 11 months now and pretty much agree with everything you say about your 2014. Over the past 11 months other guitars have taken my fancy for a week or even a month at a time but I always come back to the SGJ as my goto guitar. There is just something that feels right about it. I mostly play blues with some rock thrown in but tone wise you can get most anything you want out of it, even chicken picken' in a pinch.
 

trvotour

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I use an Line 6 Amplifi 75, if any of you are interesting in hearing this guitar demonstrated through any particular amp/cab/pedal set-up, just post the signal chain and amp setting you would like demonstrated and I will post audio files.
 

gball

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There is definitely some kind of mojo/black magic about the SGJ's that is hard to explain. I find myself drawn to mine (a 2014 also) quite a bit. Much more so than I expected when I got it, and somewhat to my surprise.

My only complaint, and this is true of ALL SG's, is that the knobs are too close together. I fiddle with my knobs a lot while playing and the SG is one of the least ergonomic guitars I've ever played in this regard. The rest of the ergonomics are spot-on though, so I can look past it.
 

trvotour

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There is definitely some kind of mojo/black magic about the SGJ's that is hard to explain. I find myself drawn to mine (a 2014 also) quite a bit. Much more so than I expected when I got it, and somewhat to my surprise.

My only complaint, and this is true of ALL SG's, is that the knobs are too close together. I fiddle with my knobs a lot while playing and the SG is one of the least ergonomic guitars I've ever played in this regard. The rest of the ergonomics are spot-on though, so I can look past it.

Agreed. I believe that the 2014 model has a more noticeable "crowding" of knobs due to the enlarged speed knobs, with he original whole patterns. I would recommend switching to top hats if you find it too congested !
 

gball

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True - I did replace mine with reflectors, which helps the crowing and they look nice, but I do prefer the feel of speed knobs and I really like the new ones with the knurling on them (I put those on my LP)
 

Biddlin

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...I really like the new ones with the knurling on them (I put those on my LP)
+1 I have those on my LP Melody Makers and want more!
Really nice positive feel, especially when gigging with sweaty hands.:laugh2:
;>)/
 

nbeersiii

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I have the 14 LPJ and I love the maple neck and I really love the 61 pickups. They have just the right amount of umph I was looking for. I want a set for my Special HH cause the 490T blows.
 

gball

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I agree that the maple neck is a great thing, and the 61 Zebras are awesome pickups. I replaced the bridge one in mine with a Dirty Fingers because a high output ceramic pickup in the bridge just suits my style better, but the one in the neck stays.
 

lunchie

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<---- I love my 2014 SGJ. It did have issues one major one being the sharp lip between the fretboard and the neck. I'm glad I kept it though and didn't send it back because now its worn smooth and just in a couple small areas do you even notice it anymore. With some more playing it will be gone. You shouldn't have that with any guitar at any price point, but in the end it worked out alright.

The only thing I have done to it is replace the knobs. Tuners work fine, the nut does bind a bit sometimes (I just need to remember one of these days to lube it up), the hardware is cheap but works well, the switch works and stays where it is suppose to. My body was matched well and there were not finish flaws.

The pickups is where it really shines. Gibson lost some money putting those Zebra's in a cheap guitar ;). They are not my favorite overall Gibby pickup, but they are a 'rock' solid pickup. Pun intended :cool:.
 

lunchie

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I have the 14 LPJ and I love the maple neck and I really love the 61 pickups. They have just the right amount of umph I was looking for. I want a set for my Special HH cause the 490T blows.

Keep me in mind if you sell your 490Ts, I'd be interested in them for my Epi if the price is right.
 

Col Mustard

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Welcome to ETSG... that's a fine review and should be good reading for those still on the fence.
Personally I can't see why anyone would hesitate, when they've marked them down so low.
I don't think the 2013 SGJs are all gone yet, but they will be soon. And then there will be none
until Gibson sees the light and brings back the "SGJ ReIssue!" ...$1899

It's really interesting to me that the new SGJs are loaded with those great '61 pickups.
I've seen so many posts by players who are unhappy with the 490T, and I've had quite a bit of
experience with that earlier set myself. The 490R sounds great to my ear in either a Gibson or
an Epi. But my experience with the 490T is that they sound much better in an Epiphone guitar
than they did in the Gibsons I took them out of. I like to keep an open mind about all of these
things, and I tried to like the 490T and gave mine plenty of play time... but in the end I replaced
my last one with a Golden Age overwound bridge pickup from StewMac, and I'm much happier with
that. Epiphone guitars with Gibson pickups rock!

I wonder how many SGJ owners have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the '61s and yank them
out and sell them cheap... they sound like they'd be right up my alley.

Oh and after we read and enjoy your review, we have to remind you of our unofficial motto
on this site: PICTURES, OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN
 

gball

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I wonder how many SGJ owners have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the '61s and yank them
out and sell them cheap... they sound like they'd be right up my alley.

I played them for a couple of months before I decided the bridge pickup was a little too soft and "polite" so I dropped a Dirty Fingers in there. Just to be sure, about two weeks ago I put the Zebra back in. It only stayed for a couple of days before the DF went back in. The Zebra in the neck position is a (sonic) thing of beauty.
 

DrBGood

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... if you have ANY questions or comments feel free to reply and I will include your questions in my review.T.
I know this is an old one, but nobody talks about neck shape. I could get one for cheap around here, but before driving 2 hours, it'd be nice to know about the neck.
 

cerebral gasket

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The 0.818" at 1st fret, 0.963" at 12th fret, '50s Rounded (listed in the first post of this thread by the OP) is my favorite neck profile of all time.

I find the Slim Taper neck profile on the SG '61 Reissue to be my least favorite. It is very thin (front to back) and feels flat on the backside. There is no shoulder or roundness to it at all. I discovered that I do not get along with this type of neck profile back when I had a 2009 SG '61 Reissue along with a second hand 2004 SG Special at the same time. For me personally, the the SG Rounded neck on the 2004 SG Special was so much more playable to me compared to the Slim Taper on the SG '61 Reissue.

I also currently have a 2017 '58 Reissue Les Paul Junior DC that has a real chunky '50's neck that makes all my SG with chunky SG Rounded necks seem like Slim Taper by comparison, but not quite as extreme as an SG '61 Reissue.

I don't discuss this topic anymore because there are some folks who have the opinion that one can adapt to any neck profile, which I agree with to some extent, but why settle for something you don't like or does not fit when there are choices available? No two necks on any of my guitars are identical and I adapt to each one right away when switching back and forth between them. But none of my current guitars have Slim Taper necks.

For me personally, the neck profile is the deciding factor when I choose a guitar. I play the neck, not the bevels and could not care less if the guitar has an ABR-1 vs Nashville bridge. I will play whatever bridge comes with the guitar, but a Wraparound Bridge has been my favorite.
 
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