Good guitar for just about anyone!
I picked this AJ-220S up as a demo from Sweetwater. Was needing a good session and jamming guitar to take out instead of my better instruments. I've been playing most of my 60+ years and have had some very good guitars, and since I'm a fan of the Gibson AJ guitars I figured this Epi version would be a good knock-around box for outdoor stuff. For the money, how bad could it be, so I sprung for it.
I was impressed immediately with the guitar's tone - - rather loud for stock strings and the rather high setup. I have arthritis and always do custom setups on all my instruments, so first thing I did was remove the crappy factory strings, installed a bone saddle w/ Tusq bridge pins, retouched the fret ends a bit with emery cloth, oiled the rather dry rosewood fingerboard, polished the frets, and lowered the high action at the fingerboard nut. ( I can do all this, but most people would need to take it to a qualified guitar tech to get the setup done.) I put on some Martin SP lights and now this baby sings with sweet, ringing tones and nice harmonics, and best of all - it's much easier to play. At least the neck and fingerboard was nice and straight, and no buzzing or high frets. I am very impressed with the deep, throaty bass and punch this thing has - - and it should open up the more it's played.
That's all the good stuff - - now the not-so-good - - there were several finish flaws that were obviously missed in the inspection, grains underneath the finish that you could feel, and a couple of rather significant runs in the varnish down the top from the sound hole, but you kind of have to hunt for them if you don't have it in the light just right. There was some black dye slopped up onto the neck binding near the sound hole and even a little on the top, which I tried to remove. Also a few scratches visible underneath the varnish on the back, and no matter how cheap the guitar these are obvious signs of a poor QC. Of course there were a few body dings from being a demo, but that's why I got a discount for it so no problem. One of the sealed tuners was also very hard to turn, so I may replace them at some point. The guitar is also a little heavy overall, and the neck set was a bit high, making the saddle a little low, not a deal breaker but still decries poor QC from the factory. After my setup, however, it now plays like butter and sounds amazing. This higher-than-normal neck set does worry me as how long it will be before it becomes hard to play due to high action, but guess that goes with the territory. For now it's perfect. Another thing that I've heard a lot of nice comments about is the matte neck finish - - which I think looks just plain cheap. It has an almost white-ish sandblasted look, and just feels very cheap, and not at all like the satin-finish on other guitar necks. So, I took some oil and rottenstone (pumice) on a piece of felt and rubbed the back of the neck and headstock to make it a bit more shiny, and now it looks very classy and like it's been played for a few years. I know some of this stuff is just the perfectionist in me, but I've seen better quality-control in guitars costing much less, and believe me the woods are full of them. I've had a few Epiphones over the years, Hummingbirds, Doves, etc., and the QC on most any of them is far superior to this AJ model. Could be that this one just slipped by, but suffice it to say I'm not impressed with the shoddy QC on this guitar.
Overall, however, this is a decent guitar for the beginning to intermediate student who wants good sound and playability, or for the pro who wants a knock-around good-sounding guitar. Of course, that's probably going to be after a good setup, which is normal for any inexpensive guitar, and even some high-end ones. This AJ at least has the internal build and jumbo body to produce that cannon-like projection that you are looking for. Just be prepared to do some work on it to get there.