Price paid: C$ 750
Purchased from: used
Sound — 10
I play a whole lot of reggae and world music and this guitar fits these styles perfectly. Bob Marley did play a Gibson Les Paul Junior with p90s I believe. However, this guitar is far from a one trick pony and it does so well at handling different styles, that I don't even really use any other guitars on stage! An interesting thing to note, p90 pickups will distort very quickly and are great for anything rock! Here are some great tones I have gotten from this guitar: -Bridge pickup + crunchy distortion gives an excellent AC/DC, Led Zeppelin rock sound. I find open first position chords tend to sound really muddy and rather awful with humbuckers and high gain but on this guitar it is the perfect balance of brightness, fullness and transparency. The pickups handle a lot of gain incredibly well, and the result is breathtaking. -Middle + bridge is great also and is a selection I use most of the time (when not soloing). You get a great basic tone, that is warm and defined and the more you mix in the bridge pick-up, the more bite you get. The more you back off the bridge, the more your tone mellows out. I use this setting with a Wah in the toe position and I get a great reggae skank sound. Without the wah and with some very slight overdrive, this guitar has the ultimate "could you be loved" style single note half palm muted reggae sound. With more overdrive it also has a great afrobeat sound, for distorted funky comping and for one note palm muted rhythm. -The neck pickup is what impressed me the most. Using the clean channel on my Fender deville and backing of on the tone, I get a great jazz tone. That's right, you heard me, Jazz tone. To me, the bridge and the neck pick-ups can be made to sound like two separate guitars! The tone is beautiful and mellow and rich. As I mentioned earlier, the solid mahogany body is extremely resonant when played unamplified and the neck pickup makes the guitar sound almost like an acoustic! I swear that the tone is so nice and "acoustic-like", I wouldn't be afraid to leave my Acoustic at home if I had to accompany a singer for an Acoustic song. Just turn off all overdrives and you have a great Acoustic sound for strumming, that is not thin and twangy or midrangy like some fenders. Also, I recently recorded some African style arpeggios very high on the neck. My plan was to record clean and then add chorus, to get a more Caribbean sound but the clean tone was so pretty and "roots" sounding that we just kept it as is. Truly felt like mama Africa in my hands! This guitar can be pretty noisy, especially when turning on different levels of gain. For example, I use a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 and I find that the p90s make this pedal distort way to quickly. For that reason, I tend to keep the overdrive knob at about.5 to 1 out of 10. Even at a quarter turn, I find my fulldrive sounds like a distortion more than an overdrive. Also when I click on my DS-1 or my bigmuff, the hum is very loud. Personally, I like that hum, kinda like a dog barks when he's happy to see you! If you expect to turn on a crazy amount of distortion and be dead silent when not playing its just not going to happen without serious noise suppression. It's not a problem for me because I turn these effects on for soloing and turn them off between songs or when I have to do low gain comping. One sound I Can Not get from this guitar is a great clean funk sound. Nothing beats a Strat for some funky kool and the gang or RHCP type comping. It's not a terrible funk sound, just not an ideal funk tone. For high gain leads, this guitar can sing, scream, cry, wail and everything in between. You can get beautiful meaty sustain and get into some Hendrix territory with some fuzz and a wah.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, this guitar is a true dream come true for me, an active musician that has had to play everything from rock to heavy metal to reggae to funk to afro beat to jazz. I feel like I can bring only this guitar to pretty much any musical setting and even if I had to play exclusively clean, country songs, it would still do a great job. I've been playing for about 20 years and 2 years professionally and own some acoustics, a rare Roland double humbucker guitar with a through neck and ebony fretboard (nice!) and a G&L. I truly hate my G&L and I'm looking to replace it with a Strat with single coils for that real Fender stratty tone. If it were lost I would seek out the exact same model and color because I adore this guitar. I love the p90s on this guitar. I feel like they give me the fullness of the Gibson sound but the definition, response and transparency you'd expect from single coils. I love that it is light as a feather and the double cutaway is an invaluable feature since I play mainly lead guitar. In an ideal world, these pickups would be completely dead silent, but the noise is only really obvious when stages of gain are added. I also really like ebony fretboards. If I could have gotten an ebony fretboard on a sub 1000$ guitar, I would have died and gone to heaven. Basically, this is a real chameleon of a guitar. It'll sound twangy and Fender like when you want it, and it'll handle the rock high gain stuff that gibsons are known for. It's a perfect guitar and the fact that it inexpensive really makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The strap pins were terrible but I hear that it is the case on many Gibsons. They are long and thin and don't get particularly large at the end, which means a strap could come off Very easily. I changed these pins with black earnie ball strap locks and not only do they look great, the guitar feels great and I am confident it will never ever fall. The black straplocks match wonderfully with the black pickups and pickguard too. The finish wears off by design but it has done so mainly in places where it is not noticeable like on the back of the neck and the back of the body where it would come in contact with my belt. I have even found little yellow paint flakes in my case but generally the guitar looks good and Vintage like which adds to the beauty of it. It does withstand everything I throw at it live and it has never failed me. Then again I'm not throwing it around on the stage floor but it can take some knocking around. The neck seems slightly weak though and because of the double cutaway it seems that if you smacked it hard enough, you could shatter the neck at the joint. You'd really have to abuse it for that to happen though and this is only an impression, I haven't actually tried running over it with my car for example.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar had a slightly high action but once adjusted it was absolutely perfect. Easy to play, with no fret slap and great sustain yet with a very low action. True to it's original model, it doesn't have any fancy crown or Diamond inlay at the headstock. No biggie. Also, the Dot inlays are nice and perloid, which is a nice touch for such a no frills entry-level priced guitar. A student of mine came in with a 600$ mexican Strat it it seemed to have plastic of white inlays. Yuck. The neck is sensitive though and pushing and pulling on it can cause the tuning to vary considerably. This is not a problem per say but if you are going to lift the guitar, rocker style, you can expect the tuning to be slightly affected. The fretwork is perfect. Nice and straight, just the right thickness and no protruding from the edges of the neck. The nut is not ideal and I think that lubricating it with graphite helps alot. I've noticed the strings do stick a little bit to the nut grooves, which means that if you tune up and then bend, this can pull the string out and flatten the notes. To remedy this, I always try to pull on a string slightly instead of using the tuners to coax it down if it is only slightly sharp; this means the string probably wont budge much while playing, however, graphite greatly helps this. I've heard this to be an issue even with some 2000$ Les Paul Standards so I don't feel particularly hard done by. The bridge pickup does protrude a good amount from the body which means I have struck it and the neck pickup occasionally when playing aggressively. I wouldn't say it has caused me to damage the guitar or myself so this is not even an issue.
Features — 9
According to Wikipedia, it seems the faded line was introduced around 2007 and was discontinued in 2009. These guitars are made in the USA. This model has the relatively rare feature of being a double-cut model (hence the DC faded name). It has 22 frets and the double cutaway really gives great access to the extreme upper register which is incredibly useful for lead guitar playing. I'd say it is even better than my G&L which has the traditional Strat "horn" but is thick where the neck is bolted on, which makes it harder to fit the thumb comfortably behind your fingers when fretting high notes. It also features a Standard Gibson tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece, although these are probably made of cheaper metal than a regular Gibson. I've read that many guitarists swap the bridge for higher quality bridges but it does a fine job for me and I haven't felt the need to change the hardware. This guitar is basically a solid slab of mahogany. Mahogany body and set neck with a mahogany fretboard. One interesting design aspect is that the pickup selector is not on top of the fretboard like most Les Paul's, it is close to the volume knobs. A traditional Strat player like me will like this although there is the risk of knocking it out of the "rhythm" position when playing very aggressively with your picking hand. Another interesting thing about this feature is that there is only one, lower cavity in which all the electronics are placed, unlike the usual Les Pauls that have an extra route for the pickup selector which makes the body feel like one solid piece of wood. Perhaps this affects the great resonant Acoustic tone this guitar has when played unamplified. Also, this guitar is light as a feather and feels much nicer to shlep around on a stage for 3 hours than traditional Les Pauls. It's body feels small and incredibly comfortable to handle. The neck is relatively thin, has a great profile and the fretwork is perfect. One slightly annoying feature is that the neck is very flexible and even slight pressure will cause the tuning to change. This is handy for a whammy bar-like effect but just to put it into perspective, if you lay the guitar flat on a table, the (light) weight of the guitar on the angled head is enough to make the tuning go down a solid quarter tone if not more. The two stock Gibson P90 pickups were the main attraction for me when I bought this guitar. I was expecting to get some real twangy transparent tone, which I did get but I got a whole lot more! (read below). The pickups are controled by a traditional 3-way Switch and feature two pairs of independent volume and tone knobs. My guitar is the TV yellow model which is really charming in my opinion. It is called TV yellow because apparently Gibson figured that yellow was the color that would look the best when the guitar would be broadcast on black and white television. I personally could have done without the whole faded gimmick, the guitar's finish is not glossy and will chip and wear off really easily, causing the guitar to "relic" which can be real appealing to some people I guess. I'm pretty careful with my guitars and it is already starting to wear a bit in its first year of ownership (even though I bought it second hand). It's not a make or break feature for me, but if I could have chosen, I would have prefered a matte but durable finish. The "vintage" style stock "Gibson deluxe" button tuners are nothing to write home about. I find they are too sensitive and only very slight turns cause important variations in tuning which took some getting used to for me. Also, the buttons would be nicer if they were ivoroid but instead they are cheapish looking off white plastic. They however compliment nicely the Vintage look of the guitar but I think that changing them would make this guitar absolutely perfect. This guitar traditionally came with a cheapo Gibson USA gigbag but mine came with a rather nice SKB hardcase, which made the 750 price tag even more enticing.