Features — 9
This guitar is a 1997 reissue of the classic Gibson Explorer. It has gold hardware, (bridge, pickup covers, tuners, the whole shebang,) and golden translucent volume knobs. My tone knob fell off a few years ago (I've had the guitar for about five-six years now), and I just left it off because I thought it looked pretty cool. I play for hours a day, every day, so the gold plating on the tuners and the bridge pickup has started to wear off, but it still looks really good. It's equipped with two humbuckers, one in bridge and one in the neck. I flipped my pickup selector so that the bridge pickup is in the up position, and I lowered my neck pickup into the body and raised the bridge pickup to a fraction of an inch under the strings. I'm a metal player, so I'm not exactly gentle on the guitar, and it holds up beautifully to everything I put it through. Overall, she's a beautiful beastie, and is honestly my true love.
Sound — 10
I play mostly sludge/prog metal, and this guitar sounds absolutely perfect for that. It has sustain unrivaled by any guitar I've ever played, and every time it feedbacks it brings in a symphony of harmonics through the body wood. Because it's such a big guitar, the low-end response is absolutely amazing. I've never heard such a big sounding guitar to play rhythm with, and honestly it's the only thing I've ever played that I can make sound like two guitars, it just has that much sound. It distorts with tremendous power and clarity, and because I put the bridge pickup so low, when I flick over to that one then it sounds almost like a hollowbody, so I don't even have to turn off my distortion pedal (a Boss Metal Core) to play the clean parts of a song. My main amp is a Vox AD15, which I play straight through, and a Marshall J200 or something, which I use my Metal Core or classic Soviet Big Muff with, and those combinations are so heavy and can shift from thick and sludgy to clear and aggressive.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I got it second-hand, and the guy before me was mostly a blues player, so the setup was a little bit weird. I twisted the action around a little bit myself, but my friend set it up a couple years ago and I've pretty much left it as he did. Besides that, the only flaws are ones that I've caused myself (dropping the guitar, whacking the headstock into ceilings, etc). The bridge had one issue, too, but that's a very individual problem. I use DR's DDT strings, from 12-60, and the A string was a little bit too big for the bridge so it kept snapping until I filed down the bridge a tiny bit. That only takes a few minutes, though, and it's really no big deal.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The button straps were fine, but I use an ancient leather strap which was quite worn, so I swapped out for StrapLocks super quick (I highly recommend doing that as soon as you can.) The finish is amazing, and this guitar will last you through tour after tour after tour. It's been my main guitar for ages, and I can't imagine ever trading it out for anything else. One issue is that a soft case will never work for this. The shape is so odd that the only thing you can use is a full-on road case, which can make it a little bit hard to transport easily (it will not fit in the back of a Prius).
Overall Impression — 10
As a prog metal player, I love this guitar. As a blues player, I love this guitar. As a Spanish player, I love this guitar. Everything about this guitar makes me so happy, and it's so comfortable to play, this was the single best acquisition I've ever made. If it were broken or stolen, I would buy another one as soon as I stopped crying. This guitar is my baby, and my best friend, and everything about her is unique and wonderful. I've played dozens of other guitars in this time, and the only two that have ever even come close were a $2,200 Jackson RR and a $1,700 Jackson King V with EMGs. Neither caught up to my Explorer, and since my Explorer was originally a $700-900 guitar, nothing can compare. If you want a great guitar for metal, rock, or anything, I highly recommend buying this guitar. You won't regret for a second.