Picking up the guitar finds it to be light for an LP and well balanced. Strummed acoustically gives a full, bright tone that certainly suggests much electrified sonic pleasure ahead.
I’ve used Tonestack for clean tones and Bias for overdriven and distorted amp sounds and the neck pickup through the excellant AC4 model on Tonestack gives a full, warm tone perfect for jazz runs. The neck pickup stays defined and there is a clarity there that you do not always get on a Les Paul. I’ve played more than one Standard whose neck pickup is pure mud, this is better, much better. Perhaps those capacitors do open up the tone circuit after all.
Clean through the bridge, the tone is a little flat – but who plays a clean tone through an LP bridge pickup, come on! But engage the coil tap and something very interesting happen. This is a great coil tap and the split bridge pickup instantly gets a warm, clear character, more P90 than Tele. Clean. its a great tone, cutting enough for some country work but with a bit of overdrive it’s a fine blues tone that morphs into a real sweaty Johnny Thunders vibe. I played an old Melody Maker a few years back that was as rough a guitar as I have ever played but it had a great bridge single coil, and this is pretty close.
With both pickups split, there is a lovely, creamy sparkly tone, which takes you much closer to a Nile Rodgers sound than you would ever expect from a Gibson and through the neck pickup you have a lovely, clear Hendrix-SRV sound with a hint of growl. The coil-split is brilliantly voiced and really adds tonal versatility to this guitar.
Switching to Bias and the fun continues. Back to humbucker mode, the bridge unit really comes alive when you light a fire under it’s arse. It overdrives beautifully. It’s an Alnico 2 unit and so there is a limit to how much it will overdrive, but that lower output gives the tone a huge amount of definition and openness. There is a touch of the SGs here, a vicious snap and bark to the distorted tone that really made me smile. The neck pickup also overdrives really well with that lovely warm violin-like smoothness that may not be fashionable but is huge fun to play.
You’ve got all the classic LP tones here as well of course, but it is a much more versatile guitar than your average Les Paul. And it is lovely to play, the fretboard felt super smooth and those polished frets beg you to launch into huge bends. Tuning was rock solid.
Oh yes, the tuning. I’m not going to go into too much detail here. The G-Force unit offers a range of altered tuning and is quick and simple in operation. While I tested it, there were none of the issues that seem to plague the Min-e-tune setup the G-force replaced (like trying to tune the top E 3 octaves above -with hilarious consequences). I just wish that there was the option to have just normal Grovers. Though the G-Force had perfect manners while it was with me, I could never quite relax. I know that I would get used to it and the opportunity to change tunings instantly is really a miracle, I still wish Gibson would give you a choice.
So this is a £899 Les Paul that is well-built, looks beautiful and is lovely to play that gives you all the Les Paul tones you want as well as a hint of SG, a smattering of Strat and more than a soupcon of Les Paul Junior. You also get a very pretty reinforced hard case, made in the US. Is there anything it cannot do?
Well, its not built for extreme metal or djent. These detailed, open pickups are superb for everything from Jazz and country to heavy rock but they do struggle when you pile on the triple-digit distortion. But, would you use a Les Paul for that sort of thing anyway? You’d use a guitar called something like a Satanic Arseripper XL Extreme with 14 EMGS.
If you only play the hardest of metal then the Studio is probably not for you. If you play anything else, then this brilliantly thought out and versatile guitar must be one of the biggest bargains out there.
So Gibson, are we friends again? I’m still cross but if you can continue to knock out a guitar like this, with a proper hardcase, that can handle pretty much any music you want to play and do it with enormous style, then I might just forgive you.