Sound — 10
This guitar's tone is a tribute to the kind of Les Pauls that Gibson made in the late 50's: warm, clear highs and lows, and with moderate pickup output. This guitar is likely NOT a great choice for the more aggressive genres of metal, but is great for essentially any other rock/blues style where a warm tone can excel. In my case, I'm using the axe through a Budda Superdrive 80 halfstack and a variety of Budda and Boss effects. I'm a hard rock kinda guy in both what I write and songs I cover... and that means anything from early Aerosmith and Sabbath to recent songs by Alice in Chains, Tool, and Stone Temple Pilots. The guitar is quiet and easy to operate with just enough difference in the pickup tones to be able to find what you need.
Overall Impression — 9
For my hard rock and occasional blues playing, this is as sweet a Les Paul as I've ever owned or even played. I have another Les Paul with slightly more aggressive pickups that I usually grab on more heavy songs, but that's habit and not necessity. In my 20+ years of sweating on stages, I've rarely found a guitar I don't rewire. This is only the second ever that I don't want to risk changing the sound in the name of experimentation. The nut and the strap locks were the only things I've replaced besides strings, and I do that on everything. I love the guitar's look and tone, and it's weight isn't bad for an LP. I'm a big guy, so heavy axes don't phase me much. Practically the only real beef I had is that a late color addition came available (black cherry) that I would have preferred to the Santa Fe Sunrise... had it been available when I ordered this guitar. I would definitely have to find another were this one stolen.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I bought the guitar new in early 2004, and it has served beautifully since. I made two alterations that I make to all my guitars eventually: strap locks and a bone nut (cut by Jack Fortner, at Encore Music back then). It tends to stay in tune despite frantic bending, has survived dozens of gigs, rehearsals, jams, and countless hours of practive, and only after all these years can I feel the lacquer wearing down where the heel of my picking hand tends to be. That's not a criticism, that's impressive! I would use it without a backup, though I tend to bring diffenent types of guitars for different sounds... I never bring just one.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The guitar's fit and finish were first-rate, with no paint blems or binding issues what'soever. The bridge and pickups were adjusted very well and the guitar played with a low-to-medium action on it's stock 10s. The flame top is nicely matched, and I couldn't find any flaws or complaints.
Features — 9
My example is a "Santa Fe Sunrise" colored, 50s neck equipped, lovely beast of a guitar. Made in the USA, 22 frets, 24 3/4" scale, flame maple top over mahogany body with Gibson's metal button versions of their "Vintage" tuners. The guitar is basically all typical Les Paul: 2 humbuckers, tune-O-matic with stoptail, 3-position Switch. In this case, the guitar is almost a hybrid of a Standard and a Custom in that the fretboard is ebony and the binding goes all the way around the headstock, though it it single-layer binding instead of the multi-layer Customs get. The pickups are passive Burstbucker "Pro" 1(n) and 2(b). The axe came with typical stap buttons and a hard case.