So the 2015 Standard looks great, but what does it sound like? Oh noble reader, check out Part 2 of this exclusive review here…
As I tend to do, I’m testing the clean tones through Tonestack with the rockier side going through Bias. But this is the Standard, right? So I’m also putting it through a Yerasov 15 – a dazzling 15 watt all-valve Russian-made combo that had blown the UK away in 2014 (probably not the best choice of words at the moment).
In my hands it’s as comfortable a Les Paul as I’ve ever played, balance is good, weight is reasonable and it all feels tight and well assembled. Played acoustically there is a brightness there, a percussive twang to the tone – pretty much all the recent Gibson stuff I’ve played acoustically has had this very stong unamplified tone, often much more impressive than older Gibsons from the 80s and 90s – are woods being seasoned better now?
Plugged in to the ampsims…ohhh mama! I’ve recently loved, loved the tones of the 2015 LP Studio. The pickups in the Standard are alnico 5, with more output than the Studio pickups but there is still the same clarity and chime played clean here. The bridge is simply lovely, with a creaminess to go with the brightness – there is great unconventional country tone in there. With both pickups, there is a very vibrant funky tone that leaps out at you. Now the neck…it’s a great fat rich jazz tone right there but with no hint of mush, everything just seems to sparkle. The coil taps work incredibly well, with little drop in output and massive depths of clarity and articulation, especially on that neck. It is not quite a replacement for a Baja Tele, but the single coil tones are really very, very good.
Moving into overdriven territory, the tones break up in a very musical way. There is grit, touch definition and enormous warmth when you play rhythm, the solo tone is incredibly rich. I loved the whiplash ferocity of the 2014 SGJ, this is different, more mature, sophisticated and expressive. That wider neck does help here, with that little extra space to really dig into notes. As stellar as clean performance is, I think it is here, with so much of the tone depending on how much you rip into the strings or a bend a note, that this guitar is happiest
But will it do metal? Oh yes, it will lap it all up as far as the toughest djent, where the subtle, rich Burst Buckers get too much of the dynamics squeezed out of them. But up to then, that bridge humbucker, especially with the tone bypassed, is saturated, incredibly dynamic and amazingly responsive to your technique.
And through the Yerasov? This amp, with its warm voicing, is made for this guitar and with the volume above 12 o’clock you are in a world of the richest, creamiest overdrive, ludicrously responsive to your touch. Ampsims, even on an Ipad, have come so far in the past few years but sometimes you just want the sheer sense of all that air being pushed by a big speaker. The cats aren’t used to this sort of noise, but my god, it was glorious.
There is simply not a bad tone on this guitar – now consider that for a while. I’ve played a dozen Les Pauls that had one setting on one amp that simply blew you away but could not do anything else. This Standard can do anything, clean is wonderful and the single coils are the best coil-tapped buckers I’ve ever played. But drive this guitar and you realise just what this Standard can do, and why Standards are so important, and yes, why you would spend over £2,500 on one.
It’s not perfect, I’d check the finish very closely if I was buying one and the neck – as good as it is – does not have the almost supernatural comfort of a high-end PRS. And it is expensive, and the PRSs and Tom Andersons in this price range are so incredibly good.
But this is the best Les Paul Standard I have ever played – by several miles – the best sounding, the most versatile, the most comfortable. And I know that if I bought it I would play it every day until the day I died. Look at it that way, and it might even be a bit of a bargain.