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J-185- thoughts?


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Hey guys and girls- just want to get your take on the J-185......pros and cons........considering one going forward.....I do have a J-200 which is a great guitar.....but wondering if the

smaller body changes things up-...........thanks for any feedback..............

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I owned a 2005 with Koa back and sides so not your standard version. I eventually sold it because I didn’t think it suited my style but here are some of my impressions. One, has to the most comfortable to play guitar I have ever owned. It just seems to sit right and combined with the short scale, it was a joy to play. Two, it is very evenly balanced across the entire fretboard, this was especially true after the Koa had a few years to open up (Koa is stubborn). Three, mine had more sustain on individual notes than I expected, maybe a result of the Koa again? So why did I sell it? I describe myself as an old chord brasher (another way of saying I’m not that good) so I find that the guitars I gravitate to more are like the AJ, J45 and D28. More bass, more volume. The J185 to me is a more “refined” guitar, extremely well suited to finger picking and when my friends who are accomplished than me at that art I loved it. Hope this helps some.

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I recently acquired a 185..........a 2003 build that's in good condition.  I've owned a couple different 200s in the past and found them to be rather quiet instruments, not the big boomer it's size might infer...........I find the 185 similar in that regard.  The commonality between them is the maple and the pinched waist body shape, but the 185 has a width of 16" making it, for myself at least, feel more like a Gibson jumbo........J-45, Hummingbird, etc.........quite comfortable to sit with.  (I don't think maple is the source of reduced volume as the Dove is maple and it is a loud instrument.)  Been through several different string sets and seem to have settled on RotoSound Jumbo King........I liked the 0.012 gauge but a recent change to their 0.013 medium set made a very big difference.  Tuned down a half step, the mediums generate a lot more volume, have made the tone noticeably warmer and the tension feels very good.  The 0.013 high E corrected a small intonation issue on this particular guitar that was present with an 0.012.  To my ear the balance improved as well........single notes and chords have consistent volume and tone up and down the fretboard.  

Some claim the first-run 185s to be the finest instruments Gibson ever built.  That's certainly debatable and quite subjective but I will say it's as well-made and playable as any other Gibson I have owned, and there have been many.  I like the fact that this one is over 20 years old now and has pretty much settled into what it's gonna be.  It's a very good player and I am happy to have landed it.

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I have always played J200s, they’re a fine fit for me. I owned a J180 for a few years (basically a J185 with two large pickguards) and found it exhibited a different enough flavour to my J200 to keep it around. 

It was a phenomenally comfortable guitar-it fell into my lap and hand as if it were tailor made for me. The neck was excellent and I enjoyed the shorter scale. Like Buc, I used Medium strings tuned down to Eb. It could give the chunk and clang of a J200 if played in a certain way, but was largely more refined and incredibly balanced-I found it recorded very very well and sat in a mix with barely any need for EQ tweaking. 

Live it was excellent and very feedback resistant. I removed the wretched UST and fitted a Rare Earth pickup which was a marvellous fit.

I really enjoyed owning it. I moved it on because I’d been looking for the “right” Dove and a guitar dealer friend of mine who had been assisting with the search called me and said “I have the best Dove I’ve ever heard sitting in front of me with your name on it. Come and get it”

That was my ‘95 Dove which has been on every record I’ve made since then and has given me hundreds of songs. I really liked the J180 but I got the Dove in a straight trade and have zero regrets. Anything lesser and I’d have kept the J180, but my Dove is just ridiculously good, the best guitar I’ve ever owned. 

You owe it to yourself to hang with the J185 and see how you gel with it. They’re a friendly, personable and VERY comfortable instrument that may just be the ticket for you. They’re very well loved, that’s for sure.

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