Gibson’s Murphy Lab goes unplugged as it unveils five ‘Light Aged’ reproductions of classic acoustic guitars

Gibson Murphy Lab 1933 L-00
(Image credit: Gibson)

Gibson has unveiled the first acoustic guitars to come out of the Murphy Lab, with five meticulous reproductions of L-00, J-45, Southern Jumbo, Hummingbird and SJ-200.

So exacting are these replicas, each given the 'Light Aged' treatment from Tom Murphy’s team, that Gibson has specified the year. The L-00, which comes dressed in Ebony, is a 1933 model, and a dead ringer for the guitar you would have pored over in the 1934 catalogue. 

The 1942 Banner J-45 is a ‘holy grail’ build for many players, a well-shod workhorse that might be a super high-end acoustic guitar in today’s money but still exudes a certain blue collar appeal. 

From the same year – well, spiritually, and literally – there is the 1942 Banner Southern Jumbo, and moving through the eras of Gibson’s mid-century acoustic guitar building to round out the collection we have a 1957 SJ-200 in Vintage Sunburst and 1960 Hummingbird in Heritage Cherry Sunburst.

As with the Murphy Lab electric guitars, the idea is that you are buying a brand-new vintage instrument, and the level of detail is crucial in selling the illusion. Each of these Murphy Lab acoustics ships in a period-correct guitar case

The Light Aged lacquer and hardware replicates decades of light play from a very careful owner who has looked after the instrument.

The joints have been set with hide glue as per the originals. The hardware has been lightly aged. There are bone nuts and saddles. Thermal-ageing of the tops should give them a touch of that magic EQ’ing that comes with age.

Gibson Murphy Lab 1933 L-00

(Image credit: Gibson)

While we would expect more to follow, this run is a greatest hits of Gibson acoustic design, and there is a lot of mojo to go around. The 1933 L-00 in Ebony is a pre-War doozy, a small-bodied instrument with thermally aged red spruce on the top, red spruce bracing, with mahogany on the back and sides.

What it lacks in size it will make up for in sound. These tend to punch beyond their weight. It has a V profile mahogany neck topped with a 12” radius rosewood fingerboard.

There are MOP dot inlays, 19 frets, a compound dovetail neck-to-body joint. Single-ply binding and a white pickguard offer a bit of contrast, a contrast that’s matched by the white buttons on the aged-nickel tuners. It is priced $5,499.

The 1942 Banner J-45 ups the size with its round-shouldered dreadnought shape, ups the volume, and has Adirondack spruce on the top, mahogany on the back and sides, and a hand-sprayed Vintage Sunburst finish that pairs nicely with an aged tortoiseshell pickguard.

The neck has a Historic profile. Like the L-00, the fingerboard is rosewood with dot inlays, with Legend Wire frets. It is priced $6,499. Like the J-45, the 1942 Banner Southern Jumbo is so-called for the “Only a Gibson is Good Enough” banner decal on the headstock, and like the J-45, this is the sort of acoustic you can throw anything at.

The Southern Jumbo will eat up big open chords. It will be a fun one for blues guitar. And it has a similar build; thermally aged Adirondack spruce on top, mahogany back and sides, a mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and there is hand-scalloped X-pattern red spruce bracing. 

But this time the neck has a C profile. The Southern Jumbo’s nut width is 1.77”. The Southern Jumbo is a little more dressed up with its ‘Firestripe’ pickguard and MOP parallelogram inlays. Where the J-45 has single-ply binding, the Southern Jumbo has multi-ply. And it is priced $6,799.

Next up it’s the ‘King of the Flat-tops’, the SJ-200, and with flame maple on the back and sides complementing that thermally aged Sitka spruce top, it sure has regal bearing.

Again there is hand-scalloped X-pattern bracing, Indian rosewood on the fingerboard and bridge, but just look at those. The bridge is in the “Four Bar Moustache” style with pearl inlay. The fingerboard has MOP graduated crown inlays. The pickguard is a work of art too. Where the others in series have a 24.75” scale, the SJ-200 comes in a little longer at 25.5”.

Gibson’s aspirational acoustic builds continued with the Hummingbird in 1960, with a square-shouldered dread’ profile and a decorative pickguard that applied finery to a flat-top that surely deserved it. 

We’ve got the multi-ply binding here. By many player’s lights, this is the holy grail for songwriters. 

The Hummingbird’s has big lungs courtesy of a thermally aged Sitka spruce top, with mahogany on the back and sides. This example has the traditional ‘belly up’ rosewood bridge and Gotoh tuners with Keystone buttons. 

MOP parallelograms are inlaid on the rosewood fingerboard. The Heritage Cherry Sunburst finish should certainly turn heads under that Lightly Aged nitro. It is priced $6,699.

For more details, head over to Gibson.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.