So it looks like a well-crafted and well-though out guitar, but what does it sound like. Picking the thing up it immediately feels light and balanced and that neck does feel big, but also warm and comfortable – that light nitro finish just makes the SG so nice to hold.
Played acoustically there is a surprisingly clangy roar to the tone, it feels very springy and lively – is that the effect of that maple neck? This suggests that the wood has been properly seasoned and bodes well for the amplified tone.
I’m using the clean tones from Tonestack and the heavy amps from Bias for this. And the Torpedo Reverb from Tonestack loves this guitar. The bridge pickup clean is clear and bright and harmonically rich. Played lightly there is a really very good snappy country tone in there but it is touch sensitive enough to add a touch of grunt with hard picking for a nice Robben Ford clean-ish tone.
Both pickups can give you a nicely compressed funk tone with chord work or a nice, thicker blues-country sound for solo work.
The neck pickup, despite being pushed back by that 24 fret board, is rich and plummy without any hint of that Les Paul murk. There is a subtle brightness here which is a long way from a strat but much more usable than many other Gibsons I’ve tried.
Do you get the idea that I like the clean tones here? Lets whack it up and push it through the pretty good Boogie in Bias. Now the neck pickup has a lovely warm flutey smoothness that is wonderful for legato lines (the neck is perfect for this, it feels wonderful and relaxing to play even at high speed, and of course that SG shape gives you superb access to all of those 24 frets) and yet always has a tightness and definition.
So that neck 61 humbucker is really, really good. The bridge unit is simply sensational. Revved up it’s searing, cutting but with a creamy top that stops it ever being shrill. Even at heavy distortion there is a clarity and separation to chord note and lead playing is lovely, saturate it as much as you like and it never falls apart into mush and the comfortable bridge allows very effective muting, Knock off some volume on the guitar or clean up the amp a little and you have all those classic SG noises – I spent an hour just doing the best Angus impersonation I’ve ever done. At lower output, the tone controls really kick in too. These 61 pickups are sensational, a huge step forward than the units used on the 2013 model and frankly compare well with any pickup Gibson use these days.
It’s perhaps not quite set up for the most extreme, densely saturated extreme metal out there – but for everything else, and I mean everything from country, jazz to Metallica’s greatest hits, it attacks it with enormous enthusiasm and a sense of joy.
So the UK street price is £499, it has utterly fantastic pickups, looks beautiful, has a dazzling neck and has that name on the headstock and “made in the USA” stamped on the back. In turns of tone, it is the best sounding Gibson – of any price – I’ve played in years. And even if you don’t like it, resale value will stay high. In terms of quality, it is outstanding, in terms of value, there is nothing to match it.
All this is said on the understanding that the example I played was picked at random by me from a wall stacked with SGs – but you know that with Gibson, the one consistent thing about them is their lack of consistency. With a Gibson, always check the guitar you want to buy and thing long and hard before buying one online. This one was a peach, the next one along may not have been…..