The Big Review: Gibson Generation Collection G-45 & G-00

Do Gibson’s new soundport-equipped acoustic guitars give you the best seat in the house?

SUMMARY

The Generation Collection channels Gibson’s history of innovation to deliver fresh and affordable new takes on classic models – and the Player Port is far more than a gimmick.
Gibson Generation Collection G-45 & G-00
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Like all good stories, the tale of Gibson’s new line of hand-built acoustics begins with the chance discovery of an ancient artefact. From the company archive – which we imagine is something like the enormous warehouse in which the Ark Of The Covenant is entombed at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie – a long-forgotten 1964 blueprint was recently unearthed depicting a model that never went into production named the Modern J-45. This deeply weird take on Gibson’s iconic slope-shouldered design incorporated both an archtop bridge and tailpiece and, in lieu of a soundhole in the top of the guitar, a large circular soundport in the lower side.

Excited by the potential of this idea, Gibson Brand President Cesar Gueikian and Head Of Product Development Mat Koehler set about creating an instrument from the original blueprint to test the concept. This was then reinterpreted for the 21st century and the Generation Collection was born. Our review guitars represent half of the new range: the G-45 slope-shouldered jumbo and smaller-bodied G-00. Stay tuned for a look at the fancier G-Writer (£1,449) and G-200 (£1,799) models next month.

At first glance these sparsely appointed instruments look pretty traditional and understated with their unbound Sitka spruce tops, striped ebony fingerboards and conventional bridges, and black plastic scratchplates. However, turning either guitar’s slightly slimmed-down body reveals backs and sides of lustrous figured walnut, which retains much of its character under the thin satin nitrocellulose finish. Walnut can be wonderful in the right hands and Gibson has proved in the past that it knows what it’s doing with this tonewood.

The big eyebrow-raiser, of course, is the elliptical plastic-edged soundport – or Player Port, as Gibson is calling it – relocated from its position on the lower side in the 1964 blueprints to the shoulder of the instrument. Anyone keeping track of trends in acoustic guitar making will doubtless associate soundports with the work of bleeding edge steel-string luthiers such as Grit Laskin, Michael Greenfield and Casimi Guitars, rather than a company that can trace its lineage back to the 1890s. But then again, there’s that blueprint from 1964, and there’s little doubt that the Ted McCarty era was a whirlwind of innovation at Gibson.

Gibson Generation G-00
Gibson Generation G-00

Both review instruments feature compound dovetail-joined 14-fret necks set with hot hide glue and made from utile, a mahogany-like timber you may also know as sipo. Both necks are carved to Gibson’s Advanced Response profile – in real terms a gentle C – and are slim, with a 43.8mm nut width. Fretwork is good throughout and while we’re talking dimensions, as you’d expect, both guitars are built around Gibson’s nominal 24.75-inch scale length.

In a continuation of the Spartan vibe established by the lack of body binding, the headstocks are capped with walnut with a plain silver logo decal and the side position markers are small circles of white plastic – functional, if not particularly beautiful. There are no onboard electronics – you’ll have to go elsewhere in the range for that – but both guitars come with strap buttons already mounted, an indication that they are intended as much for the upstanding as the seated unplugged warrior.

Gibson Generation G-45

In use

We kick off our taster session with the smaller-bodied G-00, which sits beautifully on the lap. Before the initial strum we can’t resist a quick peek through the Player Port. This reveals a standard, albeit slightly untidy, traditional bracing pattern of an X and twin tone bars. Interestingly, the X is uncapped.

Gibson Generation G-45
Gibson Generation G-45

A light Sitka spruce top can be a joy over walnut, and tapping behind the rectangular ebony bridge reveals a tight little sweet spot and a surprising amount of resonance through the Player Port. A sign of good things to come?

Our first open chords in standard tuning are something of a revelation. It would not be unfair to expect a freshly minted small-body guitar to have a pronounced boxy character but the G-00 is surprisingly breathy with a lively shimmer. The timbral spectrum, typical of walnut, emphasises the fundamental of the note while still providing enough upper-partial content to ensure you have a good time.

Gibson Generation G-45

Dropping the G-00 into DADGAD takes us into some delicious 60s folk-revival territory. It’s a warm, dry sound that is very inviting. The trebles sparkle and the bass response, while not exactly authoritative, is present and supportive throughout.

Swapping over to the G-45 we are immediately struck by the fact that, no matter how much you mess with it the vintage formula, this guitar still sounds like a J-45. Everything we have grown to love about the voice of the classic slope-shoulder design is present and correct in this guitar, from the woody trebles to the slightly smeared bass response.

Gibson Generation G-00 and G-45

Due to the proximity of the Player Port to our right ear, what we also have in this case is a far more present playing experience. If you are a soundport virgin, we urge you to try it at least once. It’s an interesting sensation, and one that’s a lot like listening to a detailed close-mic’d recording. It really can be quite intoxicating.

In the interests of science, we put a hand over the Player Port to see how much difference it makes. Not only is the sonic contrast marked but we can also feel a slightly disconcerting vacuum sensation as the skin of our palm is gently sucked into the hole with every note. In nearly 20 years of playing soundport-equipped guitars this reviewer can honestly say that has never happened before!

Gibson Generation G-00 and G-45

Dropping into Orkney tuning to test the bass response with a low C reveals a different facet to the G-45. The shorter-scale trebles become thicker and more expressive in a lower tuning and there is also the perception of a lot more sympathetic resonance than usual. The bass now growls deep but there is enough steel on the initial transient (thanks in no small part to the Sitka spruce top) to keep things articulate and detailed. Throughout our low-slung explorations on both guitars, intonation remains impressively accurate.

Given the quality of sound and the obvious potential applications as recording guitars (blending a soundport mic into a mix can deliver wonderful results) it’s easy to see the Gibson Generation Collection as a very attractive option. However, once you factor in the accessibility of the pricing of these US-built, nitro-finished instruments, we might be looking at some of the very best acoustic guitars at this end of the market.

Key Features

G-00

  • PRICE £899 (inc gigbag)
  • DESCRIPTION 6-string acoustic guitar, made in the USA
  • BUILD Solid walnut back and sides with Player Port soundport design, solid Sitka spruce soundboard with scalloped X-bracing, utile neck with compound dovetail joint, striped ebony fingerboard and bridge, Tusq nut and saddle, 20 standard frets
  • HARDWARE Chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, 2x strap buttons
  • ELECTRONICS None
  • SCALE LENGTH 24.75”/628.65mm
  • NECK WIDTH 43.8mm at nut, 53.8mm at 12th fret
  • NECK DEPTH 21.1mm at first fret, 23.5mm at 9th fret
  • STRING SPACING 37.8mm at nut, 56.9mm at bridge
  • WEIGHT 1.69kg/3.72lb
  • LEFT-HANDERS No
  • FINISH Satin nitrocellulose

G-45

  • PRICE £1,099 (inc gigbag)
  • DESCRIPTION 6-string acoustic guitar, made in the USA
  • BUILD Solid walnut back and sides with Player Port soundport design, solid Sitka spruce soundboard with scalloped X-bracing, utile neck with compound dovetail joint, striped ebony fingerboard and bridge, Tusq nut and saddle, 20 standard frets
  • HARDWARE Chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, 2x strap buttons
  • ELECTRONICS None
  • SCALE LENGTH 24.75” / 628.65mm
  • NECK WIDTH 43.8mm at nut, 53.8mm at 12th fret
  • NECK DEPTH 21.1mm at first fret, 23.5mm at 9th fret
  • STRING SPACING 37.8mm at nut, 56.9mm at bridge
  • WEIGHT 1.76kg/3.88lb
  • LEFT-HANDERS No
  • FINISH Satin nitrocellulose
  • CONTACT gibson.com

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