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September 2014
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Gibson LG-2 American Eagle Acoustic Guitar Review

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When Gibson introduced its LG series of acoustics in 1942, the company had the student musician in mind. After all, the Kalamazoo, Michigan, outfit had already solidified its standing as a manufacturer of fine archtops and flattops. The LG-1, LG-2, and LG-3 were designed as small-bodied guitars with the simplest appointments, and the line’s elegant accessibility served Gibson well—both in terms of brand exposure and sales. In fact, the company made so many of them before they were phased out in the ’60s that they’ve be-come fairly common on the collector market—at least compared to much fancier and scarcer models, like the J-185 and the J-200.

But the number of collectors and players discovering that LGs tend to be sweet sounding, cool looking, and a more accessible means of getting in on the vintage Gibson game is on the rise, which means old LG prices are going up, too. Gibson must be aware of the in-creased demand, because it recently revisited the series with the new LG-2 American Eagle, which uses some of the original features as a point of departure for a sweet, and relatively affordable modern acoustic-electric.

Immaculate Conception … and Execution
Like the original LG-2, the American Eagle is a compact guitar—just 14.25" wide at the bass bout. It features a classic, all-solid tonewood combination of Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides, a mahogany neck, and a rosewood fretboard and bridge. Some very attractive pieces of wood were selected for the guitar, too. The top has a fine, even grain, and the mahogany has a rich pattern with a hint of almost curly figuring on the back and sides.

Much like its vintage antecedent, the LG-2 has a tastefully restrained demeanor. Simple mother-of-pearl dot markers adorn the fretboard, and a pair of similar dots is inlaid on the signature Gibson belly-up bridge. A simple rosette, multi-ply top binding, and single-ply back binding, as well as the same headstock logo that first appeared on late-’40s LGs tie the new LG-2 to its modest mid-century beginnings. But there are deviations from tradition, too. The American Eagle does away with a pickguard, and the more squared-off headstock looks more like that of a 1930s Gibson AJ. Further, while the original LG-2 was finished exclusively in sunburst, the new LG-2 is available exclusively in natural—just like the original LG-3 (which makes us wonder why the new guitar isn’t called the LG-3 American Eagle).

Regardless of nomenclature, the LG-2 is made at Gibson’s acoustic shop in Bozeman, Montana. This shop has put out guitars of superlative quality over the last several years, so it came as no surprise that our review guitar featured top-notch craftsmanship from stem to stern. The 19 frets are immaculately dressed and seated, and the Tusq nut and saddle are all tidily notched. All of the binding is perfectly flush with the body, and the nitrocellulose lacquer finish is remarkably thin, absolutely even, and rubbed to a beautiful gloss. On the interior, the scalloped top bracing is smoothly sanded and there’s not a trace of excess glue to be found.

The LG-2 excels in its most natural and obvious settings—country-blues fingerpicking and Travis picking—but its balanced, pianistic qualities also make it a great fit for styles you might not associate with steel-string….

Little Tone Machine
Small and light, the LG-2 is easy to get acquainted with and a joy to hold. Equipped with light-gauge strings and a factory-set action of 4/64" on the first string at the 12th fret, and 6/64" for the sixth, the guitar feels pretty close to perfect right out of the case. The neck has a traditional-feeling V shape but feels a lot less cumbersome and more playable than the baseball-bat-like profiles on some originals. The slightly shorter 24 3/4" scale will be familiar to players who favor Gibson electrics and most of the company’s acoustics, and the 1.725" nut—while not a fingerstyle-ideal 1.75"—provides ample room for fingerpicking while also being hospitable to chords with thumb-fretted bass notes.

If you’re accustomed to the sound of a larger-bodied flattop, the LG-2 can seem a bit muted and tame at first. But it doesn’t take much strumming before the excellent balance between the bass, mid, and treble registers become apparent—the first hint that this guitar could bloom into something extraordinary as it becomes more seasoned. Excellent sustain and a natural, rich reverberative quality reinforce that notion.

The LG-2 excels in its most natural and obvious settings—country-blues fingerpicking and Travis picking—but its balanced, pianistic qualities also make it a great fit for styles you might not associate with steel-string—like arrangements of piano pieces by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. In these classical settings, the note separation and tonal balance—essential qualities for harmonically and melodically complex pieces—are superb, and they’re further highlighted by the guitar’s dynamic, detailed responsiveness.

Ratings

Pros: Superb tonal balance. Excellent playability. Classy, minimalist styling. Streamlined electronics.

Cons: Some fingerstyle players will crave a 1.75" nut.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$1,899 (with hardsell case)
gibson.com

Despite lacking the power of a good dreadnought or jumbo, the LG-2 has a nicely defined and surprisingly present low end, and it responds well to rhythm styles that rely heavily on an articulate bass, like boom-chuck, Carter strumming, and fragmentary four-to-the-bar, Freddie Green-style rhythms. But the guitar soars in single-note settings, too: Florid improvisations and bluesy meanderings that make plentiful use of open strings sound warm, sweet, and super defined whether you use a flatpick or fingerpicking techniques.

One of the biggest differences between the American Eagle and its forebears is that it’s equipped with an L.R. Baggs Element pickup. The system is more inconspicuous than most: It has a 1/4" endpin jack and a single volume knob tucked discreetly inside the soundhole. The pickup is sonically unobtrusive, as well. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp or a DAW, the guitar sounds full and organic and has little of the noise and artificiality that tends to plague many undersaddle pickups. The bass sounds ample with-out being tubby, and the trebles clear and present.

The Verdict With the LG-2 American Eagle, Gibson has successfully revisited one of its entry-level flattops, respectfully incorporating many of its original constructional and cosmetic de-tails while making it friendlier to the modern player. While it’s an absolute peach of an instrument by any measure, it’s also a pretty reasonable deal by Gibson standards—particularly given how original specimens of this onetime sleeper have escalated in value.

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