Do you think that Gibson executives wake up and say “2015? it was all a dream!”? Gibson had a torrid time in 2015 – their attempt to redefine what a Gibson was led to warehouses full of unsold stock (and a lot of bargains for the crafty shopper). But whisper it, the 2015 Gibsons were generally very good, and some were astonishing value for money.
So Gibson have gone back for the future, and done the sensible thing in giving auto tuning and magic nuts as an option. But their core range for 2016 is the T range. Solid, traditional designs at a very reasonable price.
And today I have the Les Paul Studio Faded. It’s in worn brown, and it is very……brown. But it is not unattractive, and theere is a hint of flame in that maple top. Oh yes, for the price of £649 (£649!) you get a mahogany body with a half decent maple top. Finish is pretty good, there are some marks and blemishes but since when has there been a Gibson that does not have that.
The neck has a very pleasant rounded neck profile and a decent slap of rosewood for the board. The neck is a bit narrower than the 2015 model and I think will be more approachable as a result. Fretting is cleanly done – Gibson have done very well here over the past few years.
The whole thing is topped off with a nice, traditional headstock. No auto tuners, no squiggles – just a very tasteful headstock with very pretty green tuners. At the other end there is a nicely chromed tune-a-matic bridge. rather more attractive than the 2015 satin hardware.
What do you want, its a Les Paul. Solidly put together without being too crushingly heavy. It balances well and that neck feels very comfortable – now I quite liked the wide 2015 neck but I think this slightly slimmer version with a 12″ radius might be more approachable for some.
Like nearly all the cheaper Gibsons I’ve played for years, this has a lively and responsive acoustic character which translates to a very pleasing bouncy clean tone when plugged into my Yerasov amp. I like the Burstbucker Pro pickups, clean there is a snappy quality to them at the bridge and a fluid richness at the neck – without being too soupy. In between, there is a creamy, compressed funk tone.
Overdriven, the bridge especially is lively, rich and detailed. I think these pickups have a richness and personality which is lacking in the 490 pickups that Gibson is using a lot in 2015-16. That neck also helps with some big, big blues bends. Go to the neck and of course you get a decent woman tone and every other LP tone that players have been knocking out since Clapton first picked up his 1960 Paul.
Go massively distorted and the Studio has a go but it’s heart is not really in it and the more dirt is piled on the more of the distinctly organic, woody character of the guitar is lost.
But, until then, this is another, another cracking little Gibson. Construction is solid, if not the aesthetically polished you’ll ever find but the basic tones are all present and correct. Spend twice as much and you’ll get a visually more appealing guitar with a little more presence but this is lovely to play, sounds great and has a list price of a frankly silly £649, for a US Gibson. If the rest of the 2016 is as solid as this, then I think the Gibson board might sleep a little easier in their beds.