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Gibson Super Fusion J-190 EC Guitar

Gibson calls it the Super Fusion, a name that conjures images of John McLaughlin and Pete Cosey, but the J-190 EC’s fusion isn’t that of jazz and rock, but jazz and folk. An interesting pickup combination makes this flattop unlike any other acoustic-electric I’ve encountered. Its electrified sound doesn’t always include the harsh bite I’ve come to expect from acoustics with phono jacks.

Borrowing from the design of its classic J-160E, Gibson placed a single-coil pickup at the end of the neck. There’s also a transducer pickup under the saddle in the ebony bridge. Blending the sounds from both pickups using the two volume knobs and rolling off a bit with the tone knob can result in a convincing, if not all-the-way mellow, archtoplike tone. A mix of about 80% single coil and 20% transducer does the trick; the single coil keeps it plenty warm and the transducer delivers a cutting brightness. Once you have the mix right you’ll want the control of a master volume knob; unfortunately, Gibson didn’t include one.

Sans amp, the guitar is everything you’d expect from a Gibson acoustic at this price point ($4,710 list). An even, focused sound rings out sweetly from the solid sitka spruce top. The 20-fret neck with ebony fingerboard feels natural (nut width is 1 and 23/32 inches), and it’s especially enjoyable to play on when the guitar is strung with a set of nickel-wound strings. And, of course, this guitar is a wonderfully detailed piece of woodwork. The J-190 EC I played had a natural finish (a tobacco burst is pictured) and the grain in the figured maple back and flamed maple sides looks holographic when turned in the light. Other ornate features, such as the split block mother-of-pearl inlays in the fretboard, give you the impression you’re holding an important instrument. And considering the innovations made with the pickup combination, that would be exactly right.

Originally Published