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  • Writer's pictureThe Mighty Ship


Like most consumers, I have some degree of brand loyalty. Naturally, this is contingent on a variety of things including, but not limited to: accessibility, cost, quality, etc. For the majority of my guitar-playing journey, I've been a Martin guy. Ranking the big three, I placed Martin in the top spot above Gibson and then Taylor. I've loved the sound of Martin guitars since I heard my buddy John Maxwell's D-18 when we played together in "Cruachan!" back in the late '90s/early 2000s. They have that iconic look as well. Gibsons sounded good too, but just different...quieter, warmer, and woodier to my ears. Taylor always sounded a bit too bright for my liking (less the new American Dream models) and I hate the brand's pickguard. Based on that, Martins were my go-to...until I learnt about the IBG Epiphone J45 when I was looking for a quality sunburst, slope-shouldered dread that I could use in more (let's say) potentially rambunctious environments.

Epiphone, for those who don't know, are essentially now the more budget-focused line of guitars that Gibson owns. They are to Gibson as Squier is to Fender, Jasmine is to Takamine, etc. I'm no stranger to this brand as I had a little L00 when I was learning to play and I have a Casino that I rarely use anymore. Make no mistake about Epiphone guitars. If they were good enough for The Beatles and Oasis, they're certainly good enough for The Mighty Ship.

I watched every video I could on YouTube reviewing this J45. I couldn't find one that had an overtly bad thing to say about them. Understanding that a review coming from a music store is inherently biased, as their goal is simply to sell, I gave them less credence and more to private owners and their opinions. The clincher for me was a JP Cormier video in which he lauded the J200, the J45, and the Hummingbird. That was enough to send me to a local music store to see what all the hype was about.

Here's what I liked: I love the look of a sunburst, slope-shouldered dreadnaught, a shorter scale (24.724" / 628mm), slightly wider nut (1.693" / 43mm) and minimally narrower depth make them very comfortable to play. They seem to have lesser string tension...especially with a capo on higher frets. This led to me eventually buying three of them (two full bodied and one with a cutaway).

Here's what I wasn't so keen on: Indian Laurel is a lighter couloured wood so I darkened the fretboards and bridges as necessary with an ebony-coloured stain. I replaced the tuning machines with nickel Grovers 18:1. I ripped out the stock pickups and replaced them with K&K minis. My pal removed the thickest pickguards I'd ever seen on a guitar and we replaced them with Gibson J45 tortoise shell teardrop ones. Also, not ecstatic about the semi-gloss finish. I would have preferred a proper gloss one, but oh well. These are cosmetic things generally, but I know what I like. I will not play ugly guitars.

Now they look better, sound better, and feel better. Because I primarily play them electrified, I feel they sit a little better in my mix than my Martins do. Acoustically, they sound smaller and tinnier than my Martins, which is why I'd likely use those more for strictly acoustic performances (practices, jams, open-mics, etc). Are these Epiphones as good as Gibsons? Understanding that each guitar is different, likely not. I feel videos that compare them to their Gibson counterparts are inherently unfair. It is, however, the closest I can get to the classic J45 look and sound for about 1000$ and I'm not afraid to take them out of the house, which is why I bought them in the first place. I think this new Epiphone line includes some of the best budget guitars on the market.

Have you tried one yet? If so, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.


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