Adam Black JA-15 review

  • £429

A great value archtop from a rising range.

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Our Verdict

There's no doubt that this is 'player's' guitar and easily giggable right off the shelf. The scratchplate bracket is fitted poorly, but value, tone, looks and charisma are far in excess of the modest price tag.

For

  • Terrific tone. Excellent playaility. Stunning sunburst finish.

Against

  • Poorly fitted scratchplate bracket.
Buying options

Adam Black's JA-15 is the middle model in a trio of archtops (inbetween the JA-10 and JA-20) and features a cutaway and a fingerboard-mounted humbucker with tone and volume controls for greater versatility, as well as a height and intonation adjustable tune-o-matic-style bridge.

With the addition of electrics and a cutaway, the JA-15 is more sonically able than its sibling the J-10, though in terms of dimensions and feel, the guitars are very similar - both when seated and on the strap when standing.

The cutaway offers clear access to the 20th fret, and while we'd have preferred to see 21 or even 22 frets, we suppose the idea is to ensure that the fingerboard-mounted humbucker is situated just shy of the node point of the imaginary 24th fret.

This sacrifice in the number of notes available is more than made up for in the resultant tone - just be aware that your highest note is a C, not a C# or D.

There's no real difference in construction in terms of quality across the range, though the JA-15 deserves the highest praise for overall finish.

The vintage sunburst is exquisite and really shows off the curly maple laminate in its best light. We had to keep reminding ourselves that this is a sub-£500 guitar - it looks and feels much better.

Sounds

It's obvious that Adam Black guitars receive a good set-up at the factory, which is vitally important when dealing with heavier strings like these.

Having a comfortable nut height, a low action and accurate intonation all play their part in making the playing experience something to inspire.

The acoustic tone of the JA-15 is not quite as loud as the simper JA-10 due to its cutaway, but it is every bit as rich in tone, sustain and balance. With the neck humbucker in play the first thing that strikes you is just how pure a reproduction of the acoustic tone it produces.

The sound is broad and open with a good measure of bass, a fine helping of refined midrange and the kind of treble content that is more waxed moustache than gnashing teeth.

We really liked the way the pickup supported the acoustic tone and with a little reverb added to our clean amp tone we achieved a classy and classic jazz tone.

Tech Specs

Country of OriginKorea
Available ControlsTone Volume
Available FinishAntique natural / vintage sunburst / blue burst.
Back MaterialSolid Maple
BridgeTune-o-matic
Case IncludedNo
Neck MaterialMaple
No of Strings6
Pickup TypeFloating fingerboard-mounted humbucker with scratchplate-mounted volume and tone controls.