(Posted this on the Martin forum but this is the Gibson forum after all...:D/ )
Had a very enjoyable time today comparing an Adirondack topped, hide glue braced J-45 TV versus 3 different SJ WG's.
Firstly the TV: Lovely wide-grain adirondack, satin vintage patina sunburst and 'old ivory' colored binding and tuning peg heads. Light as a feather and no electrics installed. Lovely, felt like a genuine vintage already with the exception of a rather flat and shallow neck compared to what I was expecting. Still fast and comfortable. Setup could have been better though. Had very twangy/rattle in the top e and b strings. So much so I asked the shop to restring it as I thought the ball-end were buzzing from a poorly done initial setup. No difference. The shop then gave it a minor truss rod tweak. Better but still sharp and twangy with the rattle/buzz only in evidence if pushed a little harder. I am told that due to following vintage spec it doesn't have a compensated saddle. Well, IMO it needs one if that would fix the treble string thing. Overall sound wise though it was dark and deep and resonant. Very vintage tone already. With the aforementioned treble side issues it wasn't as balanced as I would have hoped. Overall it was a very lovable guitar with a great vibe. So much so that I wanted to love it more than I did. Not sure how the above issues could be fixed as I'm no techie but others may chip in if they wish. If the trebles stay thin though then vibe or not it wouldn't be for me.
The 3 WG SJ's were all different, one even in spec! It had a completely different pick guard to the other two and different quality of fretboard wood. The best of the three was also the newest (2009 model). It wasn't as dark/old sounding as the TV but it was deep and rich with reverby sustain and presence. This surprised me as its a mahogany guitar with rosewood fretboard and bridge. Speaking of fret boards it was figured and beautiful (Madagascar RW I believe) with the SJ Hex inlays. Lovely! On the treble side was sparkling and thick which balanced out the bass and mids. Engaging and very loud but curiously not particularly typical of the Gibson short scale, slope shouldered sound to my ears at least. More like I've heard the sound of AJ's described. No bad thing of course, just surprising the lower tension scale could generate that sort of punch and clarity.
Summary then: I wanted to love the TV as it felt as comfortable and familiar as a pair of old slippers. Convincing vintage vibe/tone/feel. I'm yet to be totally convinced though without a proper setup and testing it again. Shame about that on this level of guitar but not a total surprise from Gibson and probably an easy fix with a new saddle (?) done by a luthier.
The particular WG SJ I mentioned was a very satisfying surprise. 'Just' Sitka over hog, (albeit with a radiused top) but punchy, loud, deep and sparkling all at once. Easy playability with a more chunky, satisfying neck than the TV too. It was the pick of the litter.
Anyone have experience with these guitar models? EDIT to add: Just found this in the Gibson Forum archives that seems to suggest my J-45 dark and deep versus the SJ cut and punch/sparkle seems to apply to the actual vintage versions as well: "Can't speak to the newer ones but over the past 45 or so years I have played a whole lotta older J-45s and SJs and hands down the SJs always seem to be louder with a more woody sound and crackling edge. Makes absolutely no sense - must be the neck binding and board inlays. Ay any rate the J-45s all went bye bye." Gibson officiandos feel free to comment