New High Performance series delivers on modern performance needs & excellent value in U.S. handcrafted instruments.
For some time now, Gibson has recognized it has two distinct audiences: The first group are traditionalists who want instruments that precisely reflect the brand’s heritage. The second is composed of players looking for a guitar to take onstage or record with—one that can fully meet those needs with modern performance features and tweaks. This latter group is less concerned with exact historical accuracy; they want great sound capture and the playability features that make long sets and grueling recording sessions easier to handle.
Catering to these two groups, Gibson initially brought the Traditional versus High Performance (HP) concept to its most iconic electric guitars in 2016. For 2017, the company is expanding the idea into its 2017 acoustic guitar lineup with the introduction of five acoustic High Performance models.
While they may address modern performance needs, HP acoustics are still crafted with the same time-tested Gibson techniques and materials used in the company’s classic acoustics instruments. Nitrocellulose lacquer finishes and dovetail neck joints with hot-hide glue construction are just two notable examples.
Hand-built in Bozeman, Montana, like their more traditional brethren, all HP models share some series-specific design elements: Body depths have been slightly reduced for playing comfort and necks have a faster, more slender profile—what Gibson calls “Advanced Response.” Combined with a flatter fingerboard radius, HP necks make for an easier transition from electric guitar. And each HP is equipped with a model-specific L.R. Baggs dual-element pickup system for straightforward and faithful amplification.
The HP 415 W, 635 W, and HP 415 CEX models also are crafted entirely with sustainably harvested North American tonewoods.
Let’s take a look at each HP model.
HP 415 W Acoustic-Electric
The first thing that may catch your eye about the HP 415W is the richly figured walnut back and sides. Sonically falling between maple and mahogany, the solid walnut’s substantial mid- and low-end response matches up beautifully with the snappiness of the Sitka spruce top for a well-balanced range. That balance is nicely captured with the L.R. Baggs Element pickup system. The cutaway J-45 profile with its shallower body depth are great performance and comfort pluses.
The 2017 HP 415 W Acoustic-Electric is among the most affordable models in Gibson’s new High Performance lineup.
HP 415 CEX Acoustic-Electric
Earmarked exclusively for online sale, the new Gibson HP 415 CEX has the same visually and sonically pleasing combination of a Sitka Spruce top with lush brown walnut back and sides as the 415 W. Black binding helps delineate the two tonewoods. The stage-tested L.R. Baggs Element pickup amplifies all that beautifully balanced response with excellent accuracy.
The easy-playing HP 415 CEX is ideal for single-note leads and propulsive strumming with its nicely balanced range plus cutaway.
HP 635 W Square Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric
The HP 635W is the latest in a distinguished line of dreadnoughts that has included such icons as the Gibson Hummingbird and Dove. It too benefits from excellent walnut/Sitka spruce tonal balance while developing the powerful projection traditional to Gibson dreadnoughts. The 4” body depth and new neck profile are built for comfort and speed. The L.R. Baggs Element system makes hi-fi amplification a snap.
Modern acoustic players will find a lot to like in the big-voiced HP 635 W Square Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric.
HP 665 SB Acoustic-Electric
Recalling the small-bodied J-165 of recent years, the 3.5” body depth of the HP 665 SB develops an astounding amount of volume given its compact size. This is one slim-bodied acoustic that doesn’t require a big tradeoff in output. The rosewood back and sides below an optimally braced Sitka spruce top combine for strong mids and well balanced bass and treble response.
Despite its small body, the HP 665 Acoustic-Electric generates plenty of sonic punch.
HP 735 R Square Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric
Also built with the classic combination of a Sitka spruce top with rosewood body, the HP 735 R Square Shoulder Acoustic-Electric is equipped with a step-up L.R. Baggs VTC pickup system to capture all the nuances of the guitar’s output. Its mahogany neck sports the new, slimmer profile and is fitted with a smooth, fast Richlight fingerboard hand-inlaid with MOP position markers.
An upgraded L.R. Baggs VTC pickup system gives the HP 735R Acoustic-Electric the kind of plugged-in fidelity that brings out its tonal complexity.
HP 835 Supreme Acoustic-Electric
Gibson is clearly targeting the professional musician who is intent on making a powerful visual and sonic statement with the top-of-the-line HP 835 Supreme. The L.R. Baggs Sessions pickup system with a custom-designed EQ circuit is designed for no-compromise recording and live-sound applications. Top-shelf appointments include gold Grovers, elaborate hand-applied MOP headstock/fingerboard inlays and ivoroid binding.
Also new for 2017
While the new High Performance models are deservedly grabbing the lion’s share of attention for the moment, Gibson’s longstanding J-45 range continues to rule the roost when it comes to traditionally crafted slope-shouldered dreadnoughts.
The 2017 edition of the J-45 embodies all the power and punch of its forerunners. Commanding bass notes and tightly articulate trebles come courtesy of the traditional mahogany/Sitka spruce combination. With the L.R. Baggs premium VTC system, you’re ready to go direct in any amplified setting.
Deluxe appointments and a top-shelf pickup system ensure the continuing legendary status of the 2017 J-45 Slope Shoulder Dreadnought.
Those who love the complex and darker timbre of a rosewood top should give the 2017 J45 Custom Slope Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric an audition. With its slim-taper mahogany neck plus warm-sounding mahogany back and sides it will handle just about any playing style, rewarding the guitarist with world-class resonance and sustain. Hand-applied mother of pearl inlay work and a flawless nitrocellulose finish speak to this instrument’s extraordinary quality.
Everything about the 2017 Custom J-45 is lavish from the appointments to its profoundly rich sound palette.
Check out the entire collection of 2017 Gibson Acoustics.
Looking for the new electrics? Check them out at our Gibson USA 2017 page.
Tags: Acoustic Guitars