Purchased from: eBay
Features — 8
I have owned this guitar since 2010 - I was told it was unplayed, and the lack of any evidence of being played supported this claim. My Gibson Les Paul Smartwood Studio was manufactured, like all Gibson guitars, in Nashville, Tennessee. Crafted in 2009 - it has a semi-hollow, lightweight, unfinished, Rainforest Alliance-certified Swamp Ash body. The neck is Mahogany. The guitar has the same hardware as a Les Paul Studio - Deluxe Tuners, standard bridge, three-way toggle, and so on.
The body is something more to admire than to endure. As it is unfinished, it is very delicate. As I found out to my own foolish demise, it does not take kindly to even the slightest of knocks - earning myself a thick indentation around the jack input from racking it against a desk whilst playing. With no pick-guard, the body is prone to scratches around the strings as my rhythm playing is what most would describe as... energetic. On the flip side of the body, buckle rash has really taken its toll. Well, a guitarist would call it buckle rash - anybody else would say it looks as if it has been attacked by a cat with reinforced steel claws. Thankfully, I don't really care about this as it affects literally nothing for me- you don't see the back of a guitar whilst playing, or whilst in its case, or whilst hung on the wall. The guitar came with the standard Gibson USA hard case - black with white fur lining. As expected, but very good quality nonetheless.
On looks, I would give this guitar a solid 10/10. I love it. That's why I freakin' bought it. The swamp ash is light but has aged tremendously, stained with the musk of live venues and sweaty bedroom sessions. Looks a real treat, but significantly darker than when purchased. The chrome hardware is classy, as expected. I actually changed out the pickup selector ring from cream instead of black. I feel this coordinates better with the light finish of the guitar. I have left the volume and tone knobs as standard - they are speed knobs. Sometimes less is more.
Despite the alterations I have made to the appearance, this guitar is just as good looking now as it was when I bought it as standard. My one problem is that I would never dare gig this guitar in an energetic environment. Anything heavier than blues and this guitar would be beat the hell up. As I mentioned before, it does not take knocks lightly. So no pirouetting or stage acrobatics. I give this a 7 for practicality, as you'd have no problem as long as you look after it. The lack of finish leaves it exposed to the elements - so just don't expose it, asshat. P.S. I am the asshat.
Sound — 9
I play all styles of music. From Ludovico Einaudi to Avenged Sevenfold. I use a Bugera 6262 Infinium 120W half-stack for all of my live performances, and for most of my practice. With the gain high, this guitar is plenty capable of having a heavy, crunched distortion or mid-scoop that has no problems keeping up with any sub-genre of metal (I had a brief love affair with Drop B tuning as a 17 year-old - we all have regrets) and with the volume rolled off along with the tone, it has a beautiful blues feel to it. The "woman tone" is as dirty as you'd like it to be. "I just sniffed a fart" faces ensue - be warned.
With passive pickups, it is a very quiet guitar with little feedback. I had to adjust the pickups slightly as they were a little too close to the strings for my playing style when I bought it, but after that the noise was minimal - but still very strong and powerful through the amplifier. I would give this guitar a solid 9/10 for variety. It covers all genres with aptitude, with the exception of some high-gain techniques such as low pinch harmonics. For a hollow body, the tone is as full as any LP I have ever played. Weighing in at just under 5 kilograms, this guitar is a joy to have over your shoulder or knee. However, there is no compromise at all in tone and resonance. It is full, bright and bold. With Les Pauls, sustain is a main advantage, and this is no exception. You could hold a note on this until your fingers fell off.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
As we all know, Gibson QC has deteriorated over the years and a lot of crappy guitars are being let loose into the world. This one, unfortunately, was not set up at all well when I bought it. I don't know if it came straight for Tennessee in this condition or if the previous owner had fiddled around with it like a ponce, but the action was high, the pups were well off and for some ungodly reason the bridge was set to "almost falling out of the guitar but not quite, dude."
In terms of anything that could not be altered, it was spot on. It just so happened that someone somewhere had decided to set this guitar up whilst wearing boxing gloves, and/or whilst in a boxing match? God knows. If you're out there dude, guitar's aren't for you. You upset my girl and I don't believe there is any hope for you.
All manufactured aspects of this guitar were fantastic quality. The tuners had a good, firm resistance and were not loose, the wiring was all neat and clearly arranged, and the pup selector felt sturdy and not at all fragile. I will take into consideration that perhaps a gorilla set up this guitar and not let it affect the final score out of 10. If I had one niggle, it would be that the jack input was a little wonky. But shit, if I can't fix that then I'm as bad as the guy who set the up.
Reliability & Durability — 9
As mentioned beforehand, I would never gig this guitar in an energetic environment, as it is too delicate. However, I have gigged this at sit-arounds and more tame stage performances. Think Status Quo. It held its own fantastically, filling the room with sound without drawing any unnecessary feedback. I had to replace the strap buttons with as my playing position is low and puts strain on the strap. I use locking buttons so that my girl doesn't take a nose-dive for the often sticky and hard floor. And that's just my bedroom.
With this addition, the guitar is a very reliable gigging tool and I often play this as a sole instrument without backups. It has never let me down. I've never snapped a string on it, and I strum like my hands are on fire. I mean shit, some of the body is stained in blood from gigging. Poor technique or overly-excitable... you decide. As also mentioned before, the finish has darkened and she has picked up several knocks. However, I knew this guitar was delicate when I bought it and I feel its wounds give nothing but character. I like character.
Overall Impression — 9
If this guitar was stolen I would be devastated. I have owned several guitars since starting playing several years ago, and this is the only one I could never part with. I typically keep a guitar for a few months at a time before selling on. This one, since acquiring it, I have had no intention of getting rid of... ever. I think if I had a choice between taking my own life or selling this guitar, I'd be taking a toaster bath before you could say "priorities." I will never part with this guitar, and one day I shall gift it to my children and they'll totally not appreciate it at all because 2030's kids will have hover boards and shit and their guitars will play themselves. "You have to use your hands?" they'll say. "That's like a baby's toy" they'll say. Go on, name the film quote in the comments.
I have had rare Japanese Fenders, SGs, Standards and even a damn Rickenbacker. We don't talk about the fact I also used to own a Synyster Gates Custom S. None of the guitars I've ever owned come close to this for value for money and diversity. I feel very honoured that I managed to get myself one of these brand new before they discontinued production. Personally, I don't care about the fact that it's made from sustainable wood. I just think it looks cool. But I guess that's also a bonus that Gibson didn't destroy some poor monkey's last tree to make me this axe. I am yet to find a guitar that rivals this on any plains. I know this review is glowing, and I've tried to be as critical as possible, but shit - would you talk shit about the love of your life? Here's to many more happy years with my Smartwood, my Bettsy.