Following Ted Newman Jones’ passing in 2016, protégé Jeff Smith took over Newman Guitars and is furthering the vision, using the same offset body as Jones’ original guitars but employing modern methods. Their latest is the Honeycomb Chambered Jr. Sporting a 1 7/8″-thick laminated mahogany body with chambers, the Jr. is light and solidly built; the design was created with input from Billy Gibbons, who, while devising guitars for the latest ZZ Top tour, suggested the slightly thicker body with deeper honeycombs for better resonance and weight relief.
At 6.5 pounds, the Jr. is well-balanced, with a bolt-on cedar neck reinforced with carbon-fiber truss and carved to a soft-but-full V reminiscent of those found on many classic vintage guitars. Fretboard radius is 12″, scale is 24.75″, and hardware is top-quality including a Cream T Whiskerbucker (modeled on the PAF in Gibbons’ Pearly Gates), GraphTech Ratio locking tuners, TonePros locking bridge posts, and a Music City wraparound bridge. Adding to the coolness factor is a rosewood headstock overlay with Newman’s ambigram logo and another that glows in the dark at the body end of the fretboard. An acoustically loud instrument, the Jr. was incredibly resonant and responsive when cranked through a vintage 50-watt Marshall and ’66 Vibrolux Reverb. Tweaking the Volume and Tone knobs coaxed a range of tones from clean and bluesy for chord comping to balls-to-the-wall humbucker tones, perfect for hard rock and even heavy metal. Playing through the Marshall with the guitar’s Tone turned all the way down produced a smooth tone reminiscent of a vintage Gibson solidbody. While the action was low enough to shred, it also offered enough height and consistency to facilitate slide playing. In fact, tuning to open E was a blast, as the Jr. makes a fantastic slide machine, with fast action up and down the neck and its offset cutaway offering easy access to all 24 frets. Fretwork and intonation on our tester were perfect. The Jr. will appeal to most rock and blues players, and while some shy away from single-pickup guitars, the Jr. is incredibly versatile, capable of handling many types of music. And, vintage enthusiasts will appreciate the finish options, which mirror those on original Les Paul Juniors – Sunburst, TV Yellow, and Red.