Sunday, January 19, 2014

1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith

1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith (model 2461)

My first quality archtop I bought in 1998, when I turned 40. It was an Ibanez Johnny Smith (model 2461), signed by Ibanez master luthier Sugihara. It was a very beautiful instrument, with a good acoustic sound. It looked exactly like a Gibson Johnny Smith. The Ibanez Johnny Smith and Ibanez L5 models of the early and late 1970s are often advertised as being "from the golden age of Japanese guitar building" and as "lawsuit" models (because Gibson sued Ibanez for building replicas of their models in the late 70s). And in just about every ad for a guitar like this comes the statement "better than the original." That is bullshit really. To start with, both the Ibanez Johnny Smith and the Ibanez L5 model from that era carry laminate tops, whereas the Gibson originals have carved ones. So we are talking about different beasts really. The Ibanez JS and L5 models look like the originals but they hardly sound like them. That does not mean they are bad guitars, they are fine instruments, but if you really want an L5 or JS sound, you'd better look for the real thing.

I was always a bit uncomfortable with the electric sound of my Ibanez Johnny Smith. The floating pups (mmm ... what's the point of a floating pup on a laminate top anyway) sounded tinny and the the guitar did not produce the fat and darker ES 175 humbucker sound I was looking for. But at the time I simply was not aware yet of the fact that I preferred the classic sound of routed in humbuckers. So I never used it as much as I should have really. In the end, about 7 years later, I traded in the guitar against a Gibson 175 in a guitar store, which I liked much better sound wise. I got 1700 euro for the JS on the ES 175.

Later on I saw the store's price tag for the Ibanez on the internet and nearly fainted: 3500 euro!!!!! The store cashed in big time on the mythical status of these lawsuit archtops guitars of course. Golden era or not, that is way too much.  I recenly purchased a 1983 Ibanez FG 100 that I like much better than the JS sound wise.

I must admit that I once played a 70s Ibanez L5 that I really liked a lot. But no way it sounded like a real L5. But a great guitar in its own right. And the Ibanez JS is that probably too if you prefer a more trebly, acoustic sounding guitar. But do not believe the "better than the original" hype.

1970s Ibanez L5 (model 2460)

For the gear freaks here are some specs for the 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith:

Materials: Three-piece solid maple neck with adjustable truss rod; bookmatched arched spruce top; figured maple back and sides; solid ebony fingerboard and compensated bridge; mother of pearl block fingerboard inlay and peghead inlay; 5-ply body, headstock and pickguard binding, triple bound fingerboard, bound f-holes

Hardware: hardware includes art-deco gold-plated tailpiece and tuners, original ebony adjustable compensated bridge with inlaid feet, bound tortoise pickguard with twin floating mini-humbucking pickups, with 3 way rotary pickup selector and independent volume and tone controls, mini-jack output under pickguard.


  1. But into todays money they would cost what.? Though not the same as the original Gibson they were/are great instruments in their own right.

  2. i've owned a couple of the ibanez copies over the years. The L5, Johnny Smith and 175. None of them sounded very good IMO. They all had spliced necks of some type (some at the neck heel) and were generally budget guitars though perhaps for a poor working jazz musician at the time they were affordable alternative. I don't get that the Ibanez L5 is selling for $3k on ebay now since you can get something like the korean benson LBG 30 for $999 new.

  3. Yeah, these guitars are really overrated compared to what Ibanez is marketing now. Haveyou played the new GB models yet?

  4. I am not sure about blaming all that Ibanez '70 gibson copys.

    I saw several instruments (mostly L5 lookalikes) that are really great sounding and of best qualitys. (spruce top, hole neck)
    I might be that there where different "lines" of this copy models produced, like Epys eletist vs. none elitist models?!?


  5. You bought the wrong guitar. Ibanez catalogs show the 2461 as the laminated top version of their JS copy. The 2471 is the carved top version. Please know your stuff if you need to criticize.