Price paid: $ 1363.35
Purchased from: Coda Music
Sound — 10
Lets start by eliminating this myth - the Explorer is not just a hard rock/metal guitar. It is versatile. You can get a nice blues sound, clean sound, classic rock sound, mild distortion and hard metal distortion, it all sounds good. Think who've used this guitar and embraced it; Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), The Edge (U2), Rivers Cuomos (Weezer), Wayne Static (Static-X), Metallica (pre-AJFA) and many others. This guitar is a nice guitar for most styles, though it's shape immediately suggests rock. The 496R is nice, sounds good for blues and rock. Sometimes to bassy, but the tone/volume knobs can calm it down. Same with the 500T which is uber-hot, but still useful in certain styles particularly dirty sounds. And single notes ring nicely with an attack for blues runs. With a three way pick-up selector you can use 3 settings; 1)496R 2)496R + 500T 3)500T. I tend to use option 1 and 2 for cleans. Option 3 for just about all of my dirty sounds. If you roll all the knobs to 10 and crank up the gain you can get a nice metal crunch. Roll em back and its more rock n roll. It's a gorgeus pick-up combination. I play bits of everything; blues, classic rock, and some modern rock (Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Filter, Nirvana) and some softer stuff (Counting Crows, Coldplay, Starsailor). This guitar suits most of those styles. Though you can't get any sounds remotely like single coil sounds, so i struggle to get any Chili Peppers or Starsailor sounds. I don't gig or play my own music, I play for fun. If you play soft/clean stuff exclusively, look away from this and consider a s/c Fender, if you want buckers, a Les Paul or SG might be better.
Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing 2 years. I'm no shredder or guitar Prodigy, I just play what I hear and like. My favourite band is Foo Fighters, but I also dig the sounds of RHCP, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Filter and softer Indie bands like Starsailor, Coldplay and Radiohead. I play through a Line 6 Flextone II which suits me fine. This guitar sounds good with any number of effects too. I also own an Ibanez RG320 which is alright, but I only have it because I wanted a Strat. Silly me should have bought a Strat and upgraded it. Oh well. I also have a Washburn D10CE Electro acoustic. I've also owned in the past a sunburst Squier Strat and a Fender Telecoustic. This is one of my favourite guitar models. Now if only I could get a HSS config Strat and a Flying V to put alongside it. :D I love this guitar because it goes where I want to go. It plays easy. I can do lead/rhythm/freaky stuff all on the same guitar. Looks okay too.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Gibson finishes are amazingly thick. Had to get straplocks installed. YOU MUST GET STRAPLOCKS! One strap button is on the back of the guitar, without straplocks the guitar comes off the strap. Could be goodbye headstock. Had to get it set up again soon after purchase because I had issues with fretbuzz, but I'm sure it was to do with me accidently changing the bridge height while changing strings. All fine now.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
No dents. A couple of minor scuffs from nearly a years' playing it. Well finished, no sharp frets or bent parts. All solid as a rock. Pickup selector sometimes gets noisy, but its easily fixable and doesn't bother me. Action nice and low.
Features — 10
American made. 1 Tone knob, 2 Volume knobs. 496R pickup in the neck, 500T for the bridge pick-up. It's got an ebony finish, chrome hardware, tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. Came with a lovely hardcase. Built in 2001 but purchased in 2003. Everything you need - tuning stability, decent pickups, solid finish and a good quality body. No whisltles and bells like trems or effects. Supposedly rosewood fretboard, looks ebony, but it could be a heavily dyed rosewood.