Up for sale, a 1954 Gibson J-160E in excellent condition and in perfect working order, complete with the original brown Lifton hardshell case. This J-160E hails from the model's introductory year, which is particularly impactful on the J-160E, as it was the only year that this guitar was offered with a solid spruce top and solid mahogany back (by mid-1955 this model had transitioned to a laminate top and back). Essentially an electrified version of the enduringly popular J-45 slope shoulder dreadnought, the J-160E is tonally and structurally unique in that it was the first Gibson model to offer an adjustable bridge (with two large thumbwheels on the Brazilian rosewood base to adjust saddle height), and also due to its ladder braced construction.
This guitar is a prime example of a first-year J-160E, with a sound that later iterations simply can't match. The guitar has a distinctive bark and percussive chop, with chords that have good note separation and clarity. The low end has focus and presence without getting too boomy, and the top end is particularly warm and clear. Of course the main impetus for owning a J-160E is the unique qualities of the pickup, which is simply a P-90 minus the cover, for a rich and cutting single coil sound. Plugged in, the guitar delivers a unique range of tonalities given the bronze strings and fully hollow dreadnought body. Of course the The J-160E is forever connected with the Beatles as well, as both John and George used their J-160Es extensively on stage and in the studio, and it's certainly a sound that you simply can't capture with any other instrument. Professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar, this Gibson is dialed in with comfortable action and 12-53 bronze strings.
The one-piece mahogany neck has a medium C-shaped profile carve with moderate shoulder at the nut, filling out with more heft as you travel up the fingerboard, measuring .850" deep at the 1st fret and .980" at the 9th. The neck joint is unique, meeting the body at the 15th fret with only 19 frets total to make room for the pickup in front of the soundhole (models from '55 and later would have a 20 fret neck, and thus different pickup placement as well). The bound Brazilian rosewood fretboard is an extremely dark and tight-grained cut of this tonewood with pearloid trapezoid inlay. The guitar has been refretted from frets 1-15 with flawless slender fretwire, closely matching the original "banjo" fretwire further up the neck. The original nylon nut measures 1 11/16" in width, and the headstock is fitted with a set of modern Gibson Deluxe Kluson-style tuners with correct push-in bushings and greened keystone buttons, perfectly matching the footprint and button style of the original Kluson gears.
The electronics work as they should, with the original P-90 pickup and harness. The Volume and Tone controls are capped with the original deeply ambered speed knobs, and the small red tortoise pickguard sits flush with the top on all edges, recently reseated and putting no untoward tension on the spruce. The original Brazilian rosewood bridge is intact, and the large nickel thumbwheels turn smoothly to adjust the saddle height. The saddle itself is a modern hand-carved piece of bone for optimal note clarity and sustain. Visible through the soundhole, the X-prefix factory order number is stamped on the heel block, translating to '54.
The warm Sunburst nitro lacquer gloss finish is original and exhibits tight lacquer checking on the instrument as a whole, with prominent strum wear across the soundhole. On the spruce top, there is one slender repaired split at the bass-side waist, a couple of the usual crack repairs on the bass-side edge of the pickguard, and a couple splits framing the pot shaft for the Volume knob. There is just one long repaired back crack on the treble side of the center seam which has been cleanly cleated, and the guitar shows various minor scuffs and nicks consistent with an instrument closing in on its 70th birthday. The neck also retains its smooth nitro gloss with palm wear through the finish on the profile shoulders behind frets 1-7.
The original brown Lifton hardshell case with pink plush interior is included. The case has the small Gibson badge beneath the handle on the exterior, a notably clean original leather handle, and all functional latches.