Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Tone of Gibson J-185 - and thoughts on removing pickup


Recommended Posts

Hi all - new forum member here

I have a new Gibson j-185 ('Original', 2020 model).  It looks fabulous, has a great neck and is super-comfortable - but I'm a bit underwhelmed with its acoustic tone.

It seems so 'stiff' and lacking in resonance. All I hear and sense are the strings, rather than the body of the guitar. It's sounds like a laminate rather than a 3 grand plus instrument. To some extent I know this might be  a function of the maple back and sides, but still I did expect more.  Anyone else have the same experience? Did the tone improve noticeably over time with this guitar?

Also, I wondered if removing the under-saddle pickup might improve the resonance and tone - and noticed someone else (Jinder) had posted on this, mentioning the big improvement he had on a not-dissimilar maple  SJ00. Anyone else had a similar experience? 

I am never going to gig the guitar so I am not bothered about losing the PU, other than in affecting possible resale value.

I'd appreciate any views on the J-185 - and whether anyone thinks removing the pickup is a good idea/utterly crazy.

Cheers, Steven  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi - thanks Brucebubs for the reply and the suggestion.

I am a fan of Sunbeams, though haven't tried them on it yet so will add to the list of possible remedies.

I like 'warm and mellow' strings, especially Thomastik Plectrums. These are on it at the moment and have helped the tone a bit. Just feels like the top isn't vibrating enough, hence why I thought about the pickup removal. It might just be a question of wait and see - and move it on in 12  months or so if doesn't win me round. 

Cheers, Steven      

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, stevegarside said:

Hi - thanks Brucebubs for the reply and the suggestion.

I am a fan of Sunbeams, though haven't tried them on it yet so will add to the list of possible remedies.

I like 'warm and mellow' strings, especially Thomastik Plectrums. These are on it at the moment and have helped the tone a bit. Just feels like the top isn't vibrating enough, hence why I thought about the pickup removal. It might just be a question of wait and see - and move it on in 12  months or so if doesn't win me round. 

Cheers, Steven      

I agree with “wait & see” figure out if you even want the guitar first. Sounds to me like you’re having a hard time bonding with it. I’ve had that with a few guitars in the past, & ended up either returning them, or selling them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, stevegarside said:

I have a new Gibson j-185 ('Original', 2020 model).  It looks fabulous, has a great neck and is super-comfortable - but I'm a bit underwhelmed with its acoustic tone.                                                 It seems so 'stiff' and lacking in resonance. All I hear and sense are the strings, rather than the body of the guitar.

That's a pretty accurate description of my experience with the few J-185s I've tried. Have yet to meet one that lives up to the intriguing look of this icon.                                                                                                           Something tells me it's thought to be a snappy live strummer.

Edited by E-minor7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome Steven - I have a 2012 J-185 with a Fishman Elipse Aura soundhole pickup.  It’s a rather massive thing, mounted on the left side of the soundhole.  Regardless of the extra baggage, this guitar has sounded full & rich since day one.  J-185s tend to be that way - they either sound really good or they don’t, and you typically will know it immediately.

Every guitar I’ve ever owned that I hoped would open up never did to any significant extent.  I’d like to be hopeful here, but I think you’d be better served by real world experience.  My guess is that what you’re hearing from the instrument now will not change dramatically.  You want a guitar that makes you swoon right out of the gate.  The J-185 example you have seems far from that ideal, so minimal tweaks will probably not be enough to bridge the gap.

By all means experiment with strings, because it’s super easy & they can make a big difference.  But if that doesn’t result in anything that moves the needle more than a little bit, return the guitar if you have that option, and look for another.  It may take time, but a good one is well worth the hunt, and they do exist.  Out of the thirty guitars I own, my J-185 would be the one to remain with me on that proverbial desert island.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As has been said it can take time for a guitar to realize it is no longer a tree.  But while you can nuance sound by putzing with strings and such there is nothing I have found you can  do easily to change a guitar's voice.  And while nobody likes this answer, even though guitars will "loosen/open up" to some extent with playing and the passage of time,   a new guitar with an anemic low end will become an old guitar with an anemic low end. 

Edited by zombywoof
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, 75 Hummingbird said:

Zomby ...you have a poetic way with words .

This is perhaps why a person should play the guitar before they buy the guitar .

Obviously always the best policy but as of late it sure has not gotten any easier to get up close and personal with a guitar. 

What gets me is something I have read on this forum and others - that the store had three of this or that model in and the salesman tells the potential buyer that the one they would be getting what was the best of the bunch.  Makes you wonder what they told the next person who called - that unfortunately they would only be getting second best.

Edited by zombywoof
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I owned a 2005 Koa b/s J185 for a number of years.  Took the guitar a good 3-4 years to open up.  And by that I mean the sound was not as compressed sounding, little more sustain and notes just seemed to be more dimensional.  What did not change appreciably was volume, bass and general tone.  It was better sounding guitar but not a “different” guitar.  I really thought the guitar had a beautiful tone but just not suited to me so I sold it.  The right person would love that guitar I believe.

Also I removed the UST from two J45’s and thought there was small increase in volume and note clarity that made the move worthwhile to me.  Once again, same guitar just somewhat improved.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have seen an improvement in every guitar that I’ve removed the undersaddle pickup from...which is all of my acoustics! I use soundhole pickups, which to my ear sound a ton better than USTs.

185s are incredibly balanced guitars-this is often mistaken for a sterile tone compared to something big and boomy like a D35 or SJ200, but get it on a mic or in a mix and that tone is unbeatable. I have a Dove from 1995 which, compared with my gigantosaurus-toned Maple AJ, sounds a little neutral and undynamic. In the studio though, every producer and session client picks the Dove when they hear it on mic-it’s so balanced and wonderful in a mix.

I would give the 185 time and try some different strings. They’re normally superb instruments...yours may be a duffer of course, but I’ve never met a bad one.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I first got my J-185 I felt the same way. Great body shape, so comfortable to hold and play but lacking in the tone department. Took a couple of years to really open up and now it's my favorite acoustic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@stevegarside, I would not change anything about the guitar. If you don't gel with it for whatever reason, it is better to return it while you still can. There is no shame in that.

The J-185 and its Everly brother have a distinct sound that I would best describe as balanced, with a perfect blend of brightness and punchy mids, a singer/songwriter's kind of guitar that doesn't drown you out while singing. While many would argue that this model is the perfect strummer, I like to do all sorts of fingerstyle playing on it as well. These guitars are very comfortable to hold and to play even for big guys; they are basically a J-200 shrunk down to the perfect dimensions and to just the right  sound and sound output. The model is also highly sought after by vintage collectors.

 

Edited by Leonard McCoy
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for the replies and the advice. Very much appreciated.

I am just going to give it time rather than rush it back. It's just so damned comfortable and pretty to give up on it.  That narrow waist, coupled with the wide lower bout  is wonderful. And Jalex's comments have convinced me there could be real rewards in patience. 

I don't mind the fairly weak low bottom either, as I like mid-range punchy. (My favourite guitar is a Martin all-solid Ovangkol which is extremely well-balanced.  A fabulous strummer).  It's  the stiffness that bothers me,  so I think I'm minded to follow Jinder who has had such a success with removing under saddle pick ups.  As I've resolved to live with it for 18 months at least, I might as well give it a few tweaks!

All the best. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my experience removing the pickup MIGHT elect a SLIGHT improvement in tone, but I highly doubt it will elect a world-changing difference that will all of a sudden made this guitar sound magical. If it sounds dead, flat and like a cheap laminate guitar there's probably nothing you're going to do that will change it so much that you'll turn it into something completely different than what it already is. Better to part ways with it and put that money toward a guitar you can't put down and just want to play all the time. 

I've been through this exact dilemma. I've owned two SJ200's. One was magical, the other one sounded like a cheap, plywood guitar. Sometimes it's just luck of the draw and some sound amazing, some sound like turds while most sounds decent. With all that said I've taken every stock pickup system out of every Gibson acoustic I've owned that came with a stock UST pickup. 

Edited by sbpark
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...