Price paid: £ 3200
Purchased from: Andertons
Features: Made in 2008 in America. Basic spec run down is:
- solid one-piece mahogany body (some are made with two-piece bodies though)
- full flame maple top, I've had this one inspected and it seems to be AAAA
- mahogany set neck, long neck tenon
- rosewood fretboard
- 22 frets, what Gibson calls 'medium jumbo' (in reality these are some of the lowest frets I've ever played)
- typical Les Paul electronics, two volume and two tone with bumblebee capacitors, 3 way Switch.
- Gibson USA BurstBucker #1 pickup in the neck and a #2 pickup in the bridge
- tune-o-matic and stopbar bridge
- tuners are what Gibson simply call 'Vintage Gibson tuners', a Kluson style design.
- Bone nut
- thin nitro finish, with the gloss worn off. The chrome hardware is also smoked up and the creme binding is darkened. It's not a 'relic job', but it purposefully doesn't look Brand New either.
Included are an old-styled hardcase, basic cable, certificate of authenticity, etc. The same stuff every Gibson Custom Shop guitar has to be sold with. All-in-all, exactly what you'd expect and want from a top-end Gibson Les Paul. // 10
Sound: I mostly play straight-up classic and hard rock music, little bit of blues, little bit of pop, little bit of metal occasionally. I usually play through old Fender half stacks and combo amps, and I choose to get most of my overdrive from pedals rather than the amp or the guitar. This particular guitar is perfect for that. It delivers exactly the tone I've always thought a Gibson 1959 should have. Output on this particular one is medium, enough to Drive even a low-gain amp to breaking point but it won't naturally go into hard rock or metal levels of overdrive. It's a little on the noisy side since the pickups aren't wax-potted (this is on purpose to replicate the nature of original PAF pickups which also weren't potted). Pickups are very responsive.
Even unplugged, this guitar is very bright-sounding (much more than most Les Pauls) and resonate. Sustain for days, as you would expect.
However although this particular one suits the sound I want perfectly, I can't score the sound highly because I've tried over twenty of these specific types of Les Paul now and every single one has sounded completely different. This is the best sounding one I found and I couldn't ask for more, but at the same time I've also played ones which sounded worse than some cheap LP copies from Asia. So although I would rate my personal one a 10/10 no questions asked, I can't in good conscience give these guitars any more than a 5/10 for sound since they do vary so much. // 5
Action, Fit & Finish: Guitar was set-up well, though I couldn't honestly tell if this was Gibson's doing or the store's doing. The shop had only gotten this one in a week before and it was already very out of tune when I picked it up, so I imagine Gibson themselves didn't set it up very well. Pickups are set very low, and they have to be. I tinkered with raising them slightly and it threw the sound way off, I reset them to where they were and it all sounded fine again. These pickups definitely have a 'sweet spot' you have to keep them in.
The top isn't well bookmatched. In fact this is one of the worst bookmatch jobs I've ever seen, which is a shame because the flame maple itself is some of the best figured maple I've ever seen. Ultimately though this doesn't bother me much. The rest of the finish is as flawless as you can get. In case you're wondering, no it is not sticky on the back of the neck. It was sticky for roughly the first hour I played it, but that went away literally within the first hour of playing and now it's got a very sleek feel.
The neck itself isn't as thick as some 1959 or 1958 necks, though it is a little thicker than the '50s' neck Gibson put on their regular Standards and it's certainly thicker than the typical Epiphone, Squier, and of course Fender. This is by far the most comfortable neck I've ever come across, and was the main reason why I went for this specific guitar. Anyone Who says you can't play fast on thick necks is talking rubbish; my hand is more comfortable than ever with this neck and thanks to that I'm playing faster and cleaner than ever before. That said I played some of these that had even thicker necks that I could barely get my hand around at all. Neck size varies a lot so you need to go try the guitars out in person.
Body is pretty light, I've even had alder Strats that have weighed more than this. That's the beauty of high-grade one-piece bodies though. A couple of these I tried were made with two-piece bodies instead and were far, far heavier. Weight varies a lot with these guitars.
Apart from the dodgy bookmatching attempt, there are no other flaws with this guitar. Everything is built as solidly and smoothly as you could ever hope for. That's pretty much all you need to know; the weight and necks of these guitars vary a lot, but other than that they're as flawless as can be. Again though, I am knocking some points off this score because so many of these aspects come down to personal preference, I know many people would think this guitar played very poorly, so there you go. // 8
Reliability & Durability: This is easily the most reliable guitar I've ever come across. Had it for a little over three months now and I've not had a single problem, not even one single second of crackle from the pickup selector or anything. Everything seems like it will last longer than I will, and it would certainly withstand regular live use. The finish is very scratch-prone, but that's the nature of these thin nitro finishes. It's the fact that they're so thin that makes these guitars sound and play so well, so you can't complain about that; the faster this finish wears down, the better. The only thing I'd knock is the strap buttons. They're good as far as strap buttons go, but with a guitar like this, you can't take chances; you're going to have to replace them with proper strap locks. // 9
Overall Impression: I've been playing a little over three years now, mostly straight-up rock music as I said previous. Though I consider myself more of a guitar collector and enthusiast than 'a player'. I've owned three Gibsons before this (and borrowed and played many others), I previously owned an American Fender Stratocaster, and I've owned many other guitars on the cheaper and intermediate level (a Japanese-made bass and Strat, Korean-made Les Pauls and SGs, a couple of hollowbodies, an average Ibanez RG, etc etc etc), as well as owning a couple of Warmoth guitars. I've also spent some time as a guitar tech for some local players.
I really can't say whether or not this guitar is good for you all to go out and buy or not for two reasons. Firstly, since I am more of a collector than a player myself, I went looking at these Custom Shops to fulfill my fascination with wood quality and so on, though I know that for most more active players that doesn't matter so much and they'd be just as happy with a regular Gibson that costs half the price.
Secondly, as I've said throughout this review, there is no 'Standard' with these guitars. Just like real 1959 Les Pauls, these guitars vary a lot. Some I've played have had necks slimmer than 'slim' Fender necks, some I've played have had necks so thick I can't get my hand around them. Some have weighed 5.5lbs, some have weighed 12lbs. Some sound incredible, some sound awful. So no matter what score I gave mine, it would be useless to anyone reading this as just because mine happens to fit me perfectly doesn't mean every one does. You absolutely have to go out and try these guitars for yourself and just try to keep searching until you find the one that fits you. I played exactly 18 1959 Les Pauls, 4 1958 Les Pauls and one 1960 Les Paul from the Gibson Custom Shop plus about four regular Gibson Les Pauls before I finally found this one that fit me; all the others were massively 'wrong' in some way.
So go out to a store, try them in person, when you find the one that fits you, you buy that specific one. Don't even think about buying one of these online or used without trying it first (the exact one you'll be buying), and don't expect to find a good one quickly. So again, although for me personally my guitar is a 10/10 to me, I can't really hate this higher than a dead-average 5/10 because there are so many variations and it is so personal. And finally, the question everyone has to answer... if it was lost or stolen, would I buy another one? My answer would be no, simply because I know I would probably never find another one that sounded as good or played as well as this one does for me, so there'd be no point even trying. Though for what it's worth, when you do find that magical one that fits you perfectly, it really is something very special. // 5