I want to love you Gibson, but you make it so hard sometimes. Your crazed CEO, those weird USB-powered Firebirds, the dodgy quality control, those I could just, just live with. But then you go too far. You create pocket money masterpieces like the SGJ, the LPG and the Melody Maker, you let us fall in love with them….and then you stop making them!
“Thats it”! I cried !” No more Gibson for me, you can make overpriced guitars for the same lifestyle market of over-50s who look absurd on Harley Davidsons, but I’ll not be playing them”
Then what do you do? You release the 2015 Les Paul Studio.
The Studio has been around in various forms for a long time and has long been the bridge between the very cheap models and the full-fat Les Pauls. But in 2015, this is the cheapest humbucker-equipped Les Paul at £899. That is £360 more than the already-missed LPJ – See? I’m still cross.
So what do you get for that sort of money. Well, it’s pretty, really pretty. I’m holding a wine-red finish that is incredibly well applied and shows off the maple cap very well. The maple is classed as B grade but I really like it, it’s visually much more arresting than your everyday bookmatched job. The maple cap goes over a weight relieved mahogany body which is….a Les Paul body! C’mon, you’ve all played a dozen of them, you know what it means – this is a nice one, it hurts the ribs of course, but it is well cut and finished and that wine-red shows off the mahogany as well as the maple.
The set-neck is mahogany – I’ve played some great maple neck Les Pauls recently, but it’s always nice to see a mahogany neck. It’s described as a slim taper – this is not Ibanez Wizard thin but it is a wider and shallower neck than you’ll normally get on a Les Paul. My personal taste is for a beefier 50’s profile to suit my huge sausage fingers but this neck is perfectly comfortable and I suspect will be a popular choice among most guitarists. The finish on the neck is again very well applied and is warm and comfortable.
Now things get interesting. The fretboard is a single piece of fairly thick, well finished rosewood, finished off with trapezoid inlays (I love these!) The experiment with baked maple really seems to be consigned to history now. 22 frets of course, all of which are very neatly laid and polished. But look at the nut and what do you see? A cyrogenically treated brass nut – brass seems to be making a bit of a comeback and as I own several old Japanese guitars with brass hardware I really think that a touch of brass can really sweeten a tone. This nut is adjustable as well – a very nice touch which could be very useful.
The rest of the hardware is a satin tune-a-matic bridge made of zamak (no, me neither). It’s a restrained look that suits this guitar very well.
The tuning pegs? Well, they look like good old-fashioned pegs to me…..OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE THEY DONE? What they have done dear reader is install the G-Force automatic tuning system. And there are no options, Gibson have installed this pretty much on every 2015 Les Paul, and if you want a Studio, it’s the G-Force or nothing. It’s a bold move as the older min-e-tune system could be temperamental (it scared me several times) and certainly angered a lot of Les Paul nuts. You can use the pegs manually (they are geared 40/1) but Gibson think this is the future. So there.
I’ll be looking at the G-Force when I play this thing, but in the meantime I’ll look at the electrics.
Pickups are a 57 Classic at the neck and a slightly hotter 57 Plus at the bridge. These are pretty decent pickups (and, with the aged ivory surrounds, look lovely too). They are Alnico 2 so the tone should certainly be vintage and sweet rather than metal mayhem, but I like the sound of that too. The wiring has been beefed up and the circuit has orange drop capacitors. This may be a good thing, it may be a bad thing but the Great Capacitor Craze of 2014 has left me cold (seriously, where did this sudden obsession with capacitors come from)
The Studio has speed knobs (the best sort on a Les Paul) and a coil-tap. I love a coil-tap, I think they should be compulsory.
So this is a very attractive, very well assembled guitar that has been skillfully set up. Once again, and I bang on about this all the time, check the Gibson you are going to buy before you buy it as the next one on the line might not be as good. Balance is good and even the silk-screened Les Paul 100 logo is not too annoying.
But this is not a beauty parade, we’re all about the tone! Tomorrow, I play the damn thing……..