We take a look at this Maryland-based builder’s take on a flatop LP-shape
Cost: $2800.00 from Knaggsguitars.com
Check out my UG shot of the Knaggs Kenai J H2 for sound demos and my thoughts!
Overview & Final Score: 8.6
This was my first time ever picking up a Knaggs guitar and I am so glad they sent me a Junior-style one. My love all of things flat top Les Paul are well known and this Kenai J didn’t disappoint. The specific model I was sent features a semi-gloss finish in the Ferrari Red color. A set-in neck holds the 24.75″ scale length guitar to 22 medium frets, Mahogany body and neck, and a Rosewood fretboard. A wrap around bridge (huge personal favorite of mine) holds the strings on one end while solid Vintage Kluson tuners handle the rest.
The Kenai J also features a bone nut, which was well cut, and fairly simple electronics. One master volume, one master tone, and a 3-way switchable configuration control the dual humbucking pickups that came in this lovely Kenai J. The guitar also arrived with a heavy duty hard case, unique pickguard design, and dot inlays.
I have to say, the simple appearance of the Kenai J is very misleading as I found a wealth of great sounds within. First off, this guitar does something that I specifically always lose my mind over. The neck pickup doesn’t get muddy, like at all. It’s crystal clear until you pretty much roll all the tone off on your guitar and amp. I love that and it gives Knaggs’ Kenai J a ton of versatile lead tones that go from John Mayer to Melanie Faye and then to bare bone garage rock. It never loses any of that smooth, buttery LP-neck pickup tone that we all know and love, but it does it with just a little bit of the balls of an archtop missing. Despite that, I actually feel it serves the guitar well, and gives it a bit more chime than power.
The bridge tone is certainly more familiar, with solid output and tons of crunch. This Kenai J nicely pushed my Vox tube amp into vintage rock crunch, more British invasion than American. Despite its boutique price tag and origins, this really is a stunning garage rock or punk rock guitar through and through. It is lightweight, straightforward, surprisingly versatile tone wise, and feels awesome to hit a down stroke on. Knaggs impressed me more than I thought with this one, as I figured it would be kind of a more boring LP-derivative than it ended up being.
Man, this thing really didn’t disappoint here either. Knaggs’ Kenai J has some of the best tuning stability of any LP-style guitar I’ve played. Usually the non-straight string angle of the headstock leads to tuning issues on even the most expensive guitars. This thing was tuned up once when I got it and never looked back. Maybe I just got lucky? I don’t know, but the tuning stability was awesome.
On the neck feel and action side of things it was also a complete joy to play. The medium frets were incredibly well done and the action and neck finish were great. None of that sticky feeling that sometimes pops up on guitars that have complete neck to body finish like this Kenai J does. The frets were easy to access, comfortable, and the neck shape sat really close to a classic LP, just a bit thinner which I prefer anyways.
Finish & Construction: 9
Not any different from the other sections but the finish and construction was seemingly up to the standard the price sets. The Ferrari Red finish came out spotless. It has an almost matte-like final appearance which fits well with the stripped down, sweaty stage ready vibe of LP Junior type guitars. It simultaneously feels both thin and really strong. The hardware and build quality is perfect as far as I can see, no extraneous noise, buzz, or loose sockets. It also comes with a very impressive hard case that should make this guitar easy to safely transport. With such a stripped down guitar, I always feel glad to know there is less room for things to go wrong or break as well.
With value, context is everything. You’re certainly getting everything that you pay for with the Knaggs Kenai J. That’s why it is getting a relatively strong score from me here. However, for almost $3,000, you have to be okay spending that money for build quality and slightly unique design instead of features. Personally, I just feel there are so many other great LP-junior influenced guitars out there for below $3k. But this Kenai J does have some added value that others don’t. First off, it’s a USA-made product from a smaller company, something all of us are usually happy to support. Secondly, it isn’t just another LP copy. It really has some of that classic Knaggs’ design and magic that makes the brand so popular.
Good for: Garage Rock, Punk Rock, Fans of Stripped Down Guitars, Gigging Musicians, Classic Rock & Blues