Since co-founding the Fender Custom Shop and eventually moving on to build his own custom guitars, preeminent luthier John Page recently partnered with HRS Unlimited to launch the John Page Classic guitar brand.
Their mission was to bring a more attainable “custom production” line of his hand-built guitars to the masses. The collaboration resulted in the John Page Classic Ashburn guitar, a streamlined custom S-style guitar that Guitar Worldreviewed last year, and which proved to be an immediate success.
The Ashburn struck a familiar chord, with its classic contours and premium components, but every part of the guitar—from its custom-designed Bloodline pickups to the contoured heel coupled with its threaded neck bolt assembly—was meticulously conceived for optimum performance in tone and comfort. The same holds true for the brand-new John Page Classic AJ. It shares many of the Ashburn’s unique elements but is redesigned as a superbly polished T-style instrument with finely tuned tweaks that will appeal to a wide variety of players, from rock and country shredders to blues hounds.
The AJ, which is named after Page’s son, is an evolution of Page’s first custom-designed P-1 single-cutaway guitar. But where the P-1 had a bulky 14-inch bout, the AJ exhibits a 13-inch lower bout that shaves some mass and displays a sleeker front and back contour on its alder body. The guitar also has a lower horn and contoured neck heel that allows for easy access to the upper frets. The neck attaches to the body via machine screws with threaded inserts that are recessed into a smooth heel. Incidentally, this clever design also affords seamless tone transfer between neck and body.
The AJ sports a 25 1/2-inch scale length, 22 nickel-silver frets, and a medium C-shape maple neck with maple fingerboard (rosewood is also available) that comfortably fits in the pocket of your hand. Its vintage T-style bridge plate with reverse pickup angle and three step-compensated brass saddles ensure spot-on intonation, and the Gotoh staggered vintage style tuners eliminate the need for a string tree.
Other premium features include John Page custom-wound Bloodline JP-3T (T-style bridge) and JP-3P (P-90 neck) pickups, short knurled chrome volume and tone knobs, a three-way switch and a side mounted input jack.
When I picked up the AJ, I immediately knew I was playing a professional guitar that felt custom made. The AJ hugs your body in a way that instills confidence in your playing and feels effortless once you grip the gracefully carved, satin maple neck. String tension was slinky, allowing me to bend toward the sky without worrying about fretting out, thanks to the AJ’s super flat 12-inch radius fingerboard.
The Bloodline pickups are simply outstanding. The JP-3T bridge pickup is incredibly smooth, mainly because its reverse-angle positioning responds with sparkle and clarity, unlike other T-style guitars. In the middle position, which engages both pickups, the tone becomes light and airy, perfect for jazzy runs. But its JP-3P neck pickup is the real magic here, with a perfect blend of firm snap and crystalline bite.
LIST PRICE: $1,639
MANUFACTURER: HRS Unlimited, www.johnpageclassic.com
• The AJ’s vintage T-style bridge has step-compensated brass saddles for accurate intonation, and its reverse-angled pickup mounting removes the ice pick harshness of the high strings for a sweeter tone.
• The Bloodline JP-3P P-90 pickup delivers responsive bite without the bark, and the Bloodline JP-3T T-style pickup is wound to perfection, with taut lows and clear highs.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The John Page Classic AJ is a perfectly conceived T-style guitar packed with stylized refinements and stellar tone that puts it in a league above custom guitars that are nearly twice its price.