Price paid: $ 1500
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Features: I've always admired the looks of the Explorer. It, along with the Les Paul, are probably my two favorite guitars of all time. And I've also always liked the versatility of the Floyd Rose. So when I saw that Gibson was releasing an Explorer WITH a Floyd Rose, I HAD to have it. I saved, and saved and saved, and finally got the money I needed to buy it. So lets get down to the specifics here. I bought it new in 2011 from Guitar Center. The sticker price at the time was $1499. Since Gibson is an American company, it was obviously made in the USA. It has a 22-fret mahogany neck with a what I believe is a rosewood fingerboard (though it might be ebony), and dotted fret markers. This guitar only came in one color: White, which I'm sure was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of James Hetfield's (Metallica) "EET FUK" Explorer he used in the 80s. There is no pickguard, which I actually like.
As previously stated, it is equipped with an original Floyd Rose. It stays in tune no matter what. A very solid-built Floyd. The tuners are Grovers, and I've had no issues with them. The pickups are HOT passive pickups. In the bridge, there's a Gibson 500T, and in the neck, a Gibson 496R. These pickups are great for leads, but I wouldn't really use them for rhythm unless you're playing thrash metal or heavier. They tend to get too muddy in the bassier frequencies, I've noticed. As a result, I usually don't use it for more rhythm based songs, and I usually use it exclusively on my solos in the studio. Lastly, it comes with a Gibson hardshell case molded specifically for the guitar. Funny little note about the case: The inside smells like vanilla. It's plush, soft, and it protects the guitar well. And vanilla.
Overall, in the features section, I'd give it an 8. My reasoning behind this is that its a pretty loaded guitar in terms of features, but I think some of them could've been a little better thought out. For example, I don't like the placement of the pickup selector switch. It is by the volume and tone knobs, as opposed to on the lower cutaway like most explorers I've seen. It can be a pain getting to the switch quickly sometimes because of the whammy bar. // 8
Sound: I play in a hard rock band, but we verge on the metal side from time to time. To be honest, I find myself favoring my Les Paul Copy for most of my band's stuff. It's got a more classic hard rock sound and it fits the style better. However, on our more metal-based material, this is my go-to guitar. I play it through either a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL, or a 1971 Marshall Super Lead 100. On the JCM, I can get a pretty good tone, but through the Super Lead, it gets pretty muddy in the bassier chords.
I would say that if you play lead guitar in a metal band, this is your guitar. Otherwise, you might shy away from this guitar (or buy a new set of pickups for it). I really wish I could give two different ratings for this section. Because for what it does well, it does WELL. But for anything else, it's not a very good guitar. So for metal, this guitar gets a 10 in the sound department. If you play anything else, it gets a 6. So I'll split the difference at an 8 overall. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: Here's the section that I'm pretty critical of when it comes to this guitar. It's no secret that Gibson USA's quality control department has gone down the crapper in recent years. Poorly setup guitars out of the factory and other flaws. And this guitar was no exception. I had a bit of fret buzz on the lower frets when I got the guitar. I also noticed the Floyd wasn't flush with the routing hole, like there was too much tension on it.
I had to take it to my local music store for a "proper" setup. They discovered that the Floyd only had 1 spring holding it to the body. No bueno, Gibson. No bueno. The guitar's finish saved it from total disaster though. It looked (and still looks) fantastic. I really like the white. One of the big complaints I've read is the lack of color choices for this guitar, but to be honest, it's a limited edition, and the single color choice makes sense to me. It looks sexy. Overall, I'm giving it a 6 in this section. There were issues out of the factory, but they were fixable. And the guitar looked fantastic. // 6
Reliability & Durability: I've played this guitar now for the better part of 2 years. I've played countless gigs with it. Practiced till my fingers bled on it. Done solo take after solo take in the studio on it. And through it all, it has held up nicely. I've had no issues with the guitar falling apart, or going out of tune. Cosmetically, it has all of the things you would expect to see on a 2 year old guitar that has been gigged on. Scratches, smudges, a few paint chips where I've bumped the horn into an amp or something. But no fading in the finish paint. No tuners falling off. No broken truss rods or floyd rose parts. It has held up like a champ. It gets a 10 for this section. // 10
Overall Impression: As I previously stated, I play a throwback style of hard rock. Influences including Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, etc. And for that style, it's a little iffy. It's great for Metallica, and other kinda of thrashier metal (particularly the solos), but for the more blues-based hard rock, it wouldn't be my number one choice because it tends to just get too muddy in the rhythm area. A change in pickups would solve that.
It would fit perfectly for someone who plays lead guitar in a heavy/thrash/speed metal band who likes to abuse the whammy bar. If it were lost/stolen, I would probably find the a-s-hat who stole it and beat his brains out. Because it IS a limited edition, and to my knowledge, there aren't any new ones left in stores. Overall, a great metal guitar, and you can get away with it in the hard rock style if you really tweak your tones and maybe a new set of pickups as well. // 8