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Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by stark, Dec 30, 2005.
Opinions on the Johnny A guitar please.
I'm pretty pleased with mine. I am commenting primarily from a playability perspective, as tone is going to be the biggest intangible. That said, it is wonderful through your XRay amp, Adam!
The build quality on mine is very good. The neck size is great for my hand size. I love the scale length, and the sound from the Classic '57s is sweet to my ears. I did a more involved review a while back. Following is a cut and paste of that post:
From February 2005 -
I have not done any previous gear reviews, and dont consider myself any type of authority. I am like most of the folks here at the Gear Page, a player who knows what works or doesnt work for me. So in that spirit Ill share as much factual information ( as opposed to only pure opinion) as I can about my new Gibson Johnny A.
I have #117, Sunset Glow finish, with the stop tail. I do not care for Bigsbys myself, but it is a feature on most of the Johnny As.
A visit to the Gibson site will tell you this guitar has a completely hollow body--with a solid, AAA maple top and what they call a tonally carved back and sides. The back and rims are carved from a single block of mahogany. The CS 336 is also made this way. The design has a contoured outer surface but a flat inner back. This was done to help with feedback, and while I dont know if that is actually the reason why, it doesnt have any serious feedback issues. I was curious about this aspect of construction. It does make for a thicker back than top. There is a block under the bridge area that is part of the single piece of mahogany. It has an overall good resonance acoustically.
The body size is smaller than a 335 which was one of the strong appeals for me. It is definitely more comfortable to play than my previously owned 335.
The neck is wonderful for my hand size, but this is an area where each of us probably has our strongest preferences. It is one piece mahogany. Gibson calls it a custom neck profile which doesnt help you if you cant hold one. I have a couple of other guitars which I pulled out to compare my only other Gibson - a '68 Les Paul Custom : the Johnny A has a much slimmer profile; a PRS Custom 24 I am not well versed in all the Wide-Fat-Thin PRS terms, so that I dont know which neck my PRS has, but I would say that the Johnny A is pretty much the same carve as my PRS. It is almost as thin as a Strat neck. It is 1 11/16 at the nut, and has a 251/2" sale.
I had read reviews, as you probably have, where the owners mentioned that the nut was cut too tight, resulting in strings sticking and then releasing when the Bigsby was used or notes bent. I thought this must be more of an isolated thing, but sure enough it seems to be the case with most, if not all these instruments. You would think that word would filter back to the folks in the custom shop. The cure in my case was found in a product from GHS called GraphitAll. It is a lubricant that is used sparingly in the slots and does the trick. I found it at my local music store.
Someone on another thread asked about the pick-ups. This is also an area where we all have different tastes and demands. It comes with 57 Classic humbuckers , typical Gibson 2 volume,2 tone wiring. I am good with them so far, but will need to play out more under a wider range of conditions to see if they give up the goods I am after. It is a warm sounding guitar if you want it to be, but not overly so. I wont really go more in this direction as it is in the arena of opinion, and YMMV, etc.
Fit and finish are very nice. I bought it from a dealer across the country ( I am in Alaska), who had pictures online, so I had a look at on that level. I was more than pleased when I actually saw it in person, as it is a beautiful guitar. I like the signature that someone here has You dont play the paint and I agree it is not the driving force to get a guitar, but it is an added nice feeling when it does happen to be beautiful.
Hopefully this will give you a little more perspective if you are interested in one of these models. I was concerned buying without trying, but the dealer offered a 48 hour approval, so I was willing to risk the shipping costs if it wasnt for me. I am pleased to have it.
Adam, do a search, there was a good thread way back that I was involved with. I had major problem with the dealer and Gibson's Custom shop. They actually built me a new guitar and the top cracked while it was still there in Nashvegas. Then I waited a few more months for another one to be built. My first # 72 was a joke. I now have # 99 and its killer, after having it set-up locally I am very happy with it. Nut and saddles recut, a fret dress, . That should not be but Out of the box q/c was awful. In terms of tones, basically it will give up anyting you want from almost tele snap to verge of mud h/b l/p sound. The "d" almost flat back neck is very comfortable and it is very well balanced as well . MTNdog gave up some good specs on itin the post above . There is a JA Registry is you search for it.
Ernie King is THE Man at the custom shop. He designed it with Johnny and can be very informative and helpfull over the phone. PM me for his direct # and extension. It sounds great with the 57 classic and frankly would not change a thing except perhaps a larger spring in the bigsby for a longer throw/pitch shift. I would also get the 48-72 hr approval, I was really hosed by a well know dealer who blamed the 1st p.o.s. JA I got on Gibson after he had me wait 6 months to get a "hand selected one"
Then again in your hands most any instrument will sounds good.
PM me for any other info you need.
Best and HNY.
Thanks for the info. Does the weight vary on these? I want one.
FYI........Mckenzie River Music in Eugene, Oregon has a used bigsby equiped model hanging on the wall. Serial number in the 90's. Didn't pick it up but saw it was there as I was leaving...
How much are they asking?
I love the Johnny A guitar. I don't own one, but would love to someday. I played one at Dave's last spring and it was incredible.
The JA is a killer design!
It has an instant vintage feel and look right out of the box.
The finish is nice and thin and the details like all the binding, etc... are like an LP Custom.
The neck carve is so nice and the 25.5 scale on a hollowbody is very sweet.
I think this is the coolest and best sounding hollowbody design from Gibson since the 335.
She really sings through a Bogner Shiva 1x12!
Here's #184 with a stoptail:
Don't know......didn't ask.
Didn't even pick it up. Saw it just as I was leaving. I do know its got a nice top and the back is the flat sawn mahogany like phretboreds.
It's got the whammy and I want a tuna...
The guy you want to talk to is Bob November, (541) 343- 9482. Owner, knowledgable and not a bad guy.
The McKenzie River Music guitar:
Info and price: http://www.mckenzierivermusic.com/01016.html.
I love my Johnny A, it's been a perfect guitar for me in some ways. I always wished someone would make a long-scale ES-335 style guitar & the JA fits that niche. if I have to take just one guitar to a gig that requires a lot of versatility the JA gets the nod, it can pretty much "do it all". The low end isn't quite as tight sounding as a solid-body but damn close, the pickup balance is better than an ES-335. The stock pickups sound pretty good but the guitar had more clarity after I put a couple of early pat# PUs in it.
I've owned two of them, the first, #63, sounded great but had a few things about it that I didn't like -- the neck was a bit flat on the back for my tastes, the frets a bit low, and the fingerboard wasn't perfectly straight on the treble side. I used it for awhile, then sold it and bought another one, #307 and it's a better guitar -- rounder neck profile, slightly taller frets, neck is dead straight. The profile is like a really good 1960 ES-335, wide but not too shallow. If you buy one I would avoid the lower numbers unless you can play it first, I think they got better & more consistent as time went by. The first one I bought used for $2700 and sold it for the same, the second one I bought brand new off ebay for $2800, both were stop-tails, & both weighed 7 lbs or less. I would have loved a natural finish top rather than a sunburst but I can't complain...
UPDATED 10/18/06 TO REFLECT FURTHER PLAYING EXPERIENCE:
Adam: I just got a Johnny A. I'm very much a Gibson player and it has taken me some getting used to, some of which is just adjusting the action, changing the string gauge, oiling the neck and getting comfortable. Based on my limited playing experience with this guitar, I'd say it's a pretty outstanding guitar and here are a few thoughts on pros and cons:
1. If you are very used to a classic Gibson scale length neck, it will take some getting used to. It does not feel to me like a 335/ LP or other 24-3/4 scale Gibson. More like a strat.
2. It is a very bright, articulate and ACCURATE guitar. Mine has Zero mud. You hear everything - almost like single coils but maybe clearer if that can be imagined. To me the tone is like that of a 335 or Les Paul mixed with a classic strat with a bit of hollowbody tone thrown in. It's a snappy guitar with a lot more low-end, mids and warmth than a typical strat yet it does much of what a strat can do but also can do great humbucker tones. It does amazing clean chords (esp. open chords which sound like a great huge acoustic guitar).
3. This guitar is probably best for funk, jazz, country and some kinds of rock and less perfect for blues (just my opinion though - others will certainly disagree). I got this to replace an older ES 336 but found that these 2 guitars (though in the same large ballpark) sound quite different. The Johnny A is brighter, snappier and this provides a better tone (IMO) at higher volumes. I can get the "Robben Ford/ Carlton" tone with a FullDrive II MOSFET easily with this guitar.
4. My JA seems well built. I put lower gauge strings on it and it loosened up. It came with 10s and a very high action set up that I've adjusted to taste. When I first got it, the endpin screw for the strap at the bottom was loose on the guitar (lame).
5. Looks - I'm not much into looks on guitars but, as others have said, this guitar looks great and is much more impressive in person than in photos where flashbulbs make it look a bit gaudy. It's more elegant that gaudy.
6. Ergonomics. Very comfortable. Light but this is not a balsa wood guitar. It feels more solid than my ES 446s. Everyone has their own take on necks but the neck is thin without being insubstantial. Its' wider rather than a fatter neck - not unlike some strat or PRS necks, though not identical to those. I'm pleased with it.
7. Appointments. Very nice and I don't evne like gold pickup covers but they do look good on this guitar.
Good luck in your shopping. It's hard to find these to play and I'd only touched one before I got mine. I'm getting more and more comfortable with it but it won't replace my Les Paul - it will be a good long-term companion I think.:RoCkIn
Mine does not have this problem... plenty of sustain. But that partly depends on what you are playing in through, amp/pedals etc. I use it for blues gigs very successfully. I agree though, it is a different feel that takes a little getting used to, but once you do, it's a great player.
I bought one exactly the same as the one pictured above (McKenzie River Music pic.) when I was at the Philly Guitar show in November. I`m really delighted with it. It was set up by Rob Videtto (Birds and Moons site) and there are no problems with quality of construction or playability.
I already have a Gibson 336, which I absolutely adore, but the Johnny A is a completely different creature. It is a much "sweeter" guitar in terms of tone and accomodates a higher gauge of strings much easier with the longer scale length - this gives it a little more "oomph" when you need it. The Bigsby is pretty sensitive, but I`m glad I chose this option and use it a lot.
It is a fantastic looking guitar and attracted huge attention when I displayed my collection at the Liverpool Guitar Show in November (I could have sold it and made a tidy profit if I`d wanted to!)
I`d say it has more going for it than either a 335 or a 336.
I paid $2400 for mine, brand new, at the Philly show.
Gerald (in England):RoCkIn
Gerald, that is a great price for a Johnny A new or used! I got mine from a reputable volume dealer at what I thought was a fair price for a new one but you waxed me!
Playon: I didn't mean to say the Johnny A has no sustain - mine rings out and the headstock vibrates a lot when you touch it after hitting a chord, but compared to my ES336 and a Historic Les Paul the sustain is noticeably less (but you are right, I'm not using any pedals at all - I'm sure that would change things). BTW, in his Guitar Player interview about the Johnny A Signature, Johnny A himself talked about how he wanted the notes on this guitar to "dissipate" more quickly for clarity - so I think this is part of the guitar's intended design. I think any hollowbody guitar will by nature have less sustain than a solidbody - it's a matter of degree.
In any case, it's a very find instrument and hopefully these will appreciate in value over time.
I love my Johnny A., non-bigsby. The only problem has been a volume pot that shorted out once, so far the fix has worked. I actually got to open for Johnny here in Reno at a large outdoor event, nice guy. I brought the guitar and he was jazzed to hear it in a more blues/rock environment. I think it is the best sounding/playing Gibson I have ever owned, and I've owned a few. In fact, I happen to know that it sounds KILLER through a Sex Amp!
Got back down the Mckenzie River music to pick up an amp repair.
Pulled their Johnny A down off the wall and played it dry. Feels very nice. Smaller neck, definately no baseball bat. Light weight. Balances nice. Smaller body than the 335 types and it fits real nice. It had a nice acoustic sound to it. Played very easily. The serial # is in the 90's. Condition appears good or better. It would be a nice guitar to own.
Liked it well enough I told him to find me one with the TOM.