Price paid: C$ 2450
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Sound — 10
I'm a classic rock and rock/blues type of nut who doesn't mind other styles as well including pop. Of course an LP works for most styles quite well, I own a little Traynor 15W SS amp for practise (DG15R) and a Peavey Bravo112 22W all tube amp. I have quite a few effects but usually all I go for is Reverb or Chorus (sometimes delay or wah). The noise from the guitar is negligible even when the gain on the amp is cranked.
I find the 57 Classic PUs much more clear than the Gibson 49/50's on my Elitists but that's not surprising they'd save the better ones for the Gibson guitars. The difference between the three positions is quite noticeable and I like all three positions. My favourites are middle for clean, Rhythm for some lead work when you want a browner sound and Treble for Distorted rhythm and lead sounds with bite. The volume and tone controls are very effective with the tone knob slowly rolling off the highs without turning the sound into mud. The volume control is also nicely scaled so that you can use most of it's range almost down to zero.
It's very easy to get pinch harmonics on this baby at the drop of a hat too.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing on & off for over 30 years now and currently own two Epiphone Elitist LPs, a '57 Gold Top and an LP Plus top both manufactured in '04 just after the name change from Elite. They are both great LPs but I really wanted the "real deal" too.
I'm extremely satisfied with my purchase because I did my research first, waited till the prices came down to buy and bought from a reputable store. Of course if it were stolen I'd hunt the theif down and kill him. I'd certainly do my best to replace this guitar if it ever got lost or badly damaged but it's not like you easily replace a special guitar. Each one has a bit of personality and finding similar feeling guitars will be a challenge.
I love the weight and of course the '59 neck profile. The sustain and resonance of the guitar as well & it's quite a knockout looks wise. These characteristics are what make a Les Paul for me and what attracted me to the Elitists as well. Many other copies are more modernized with slimmer necks, modified body shapes and less expensive woods and even though many are cheaper, the differences are enough to make me choose the Traditional.
I checked out the Standard Les Pauls too but they now have two-piece, chambered bodies and feel too light to me. Gibson has also added that strange jack (neutrix? )and strange straplocks to that model. The Standard was almost $200 more than the Traditional and to me the Trad just reminded me so much of older Les Pauls.
Some things that I think might be improvements or nice options are:
- Nickel hardware instead of chrome
- ABR1 TOM vs Nashville TOM (it would allow for lowering the stop bar tailpiece more deu to it's slimmer width and I've grown to like the ABR1 looks better)
- 4 Wires in the 57 Classics so that coil splitting or series/parallel wiring could be done later on.
- Non-period correct tuners (Grover 18:1 Chrome or Nickel for e.g.)
- Having the Pickguard & hardware provided but not installed so you can choose. I hear they do this with some other models.
- I'd also like to have gotten the Truss Rod wrench as I know how set up my guitars but apparently some idiots in the past have ruined their LPs with the tool and used the fact that Gibson supplied it as a cop-out to avoid repsonsibility for the damage. Now no one get the tool.
While many people like the looks of a Les Paul not all people can appreciate the unique feel to these iconic guitars. If you do like "real" LP's I'd highly recommend a Traditional. Just be sure to try as many as possible and be prepared to see past the factory set high action.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Of course this guitar will be dependable and even though I haven't lubed the nut yet, my bends and vibrato haven't knocked it out of tune so far. The hardware is chrome & while prefer nickel for its appearance the chrome will hold up better over the years without much patina occurring. The Tone Pros tuners are very smooth and feel solid enough but if I had my preference, I'd be just as happy with Grover 18:1 Nickel tuners like on my Elitists.(Even if this isn't period correct).
The finish is Nitrocellulous lacquer and of course is more fragile than polyurethane. Besides keeping it clean by wiping down after playing, I'll endeavour to give it a good polish periodically to keep it in good shape. I have a complaint here about the strap buttons... They're on solid enough but I simply don't trust any strap buttons but strap locks! Gibson is very stubborn about modifying your guitar and rumour has it installing straplocks may void their warranty. This is just asinine as a good set of strap locks can save a guitar IMO. If I do install some, I'll keep the originals in case I ever need to send this guitar back to Gibson (I have no idea why I'd need to do this though!)
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I recently went looking for a Traditional in my area (Calgary) and of the four shops authorized to sell Gibsons I didn't find any I really liked. Many had minor cosmetic flaws and didn't feel Stellar to me. For the money you pay for these I expect a top notch guitar. I eventually talked to a salesman (& active musician) at Long & McQuade and expressed my concerns. He offered to order one in for me (no obligation to buy) and passed along my checklist that I go thru when checking out a guitar to their warehouse guy. This helped avoid the obvious issues one can run into with Gibsons at times and my guitar arrived looking great.
The Binding work was very clean with no bleeding, the finish was very well done all over, the inlays crisp, the neck sanded evenly all down the sides and back. The strings lined up perfectly on the fingerboard, set back evenly on Low & Hi E. They also lined up nicely over the PU Pole pieces and the saddles were notched in the centred indicating all alignment was correct.
These guitars go thru Gibson's Pleck machine which is a CNC milling device. It does the fret finishing and nut filing so it's more consistent from guitar to guitar(Saves money in the long run as well I'm sure). The frets were nicely done and the nut wasn't too bad either. It's a little high for my taste but certainly within spec. The neck relief was minimal (almost stright at around 0.004 ") which I prefer as it's easier to add more but you can only tighten a truss rod so much.
The action was too high though and this seems to be common on Gibsons and set this way deliberately as the PUs were also too high. You can't lower the bridge without also lowering the Treble PU for fear of the strings laying on it once lowered. (The PU was that high!). This also means the Tail piece was set a little high as well so the strings don't lay on the back edge of the bridge.
I was easily able to correct this at home with a screwdriver. However the nut will get some work later to bring the height down a touch. I like around 0.015" Clearance at the first fret with the Low E and 0.010" for the high E as this eases fingering in the lower frets, helps intonation there and also helps with being able to lower the overall string height. Even though this guitar is now set up fine, I'm going to score it a little lower for the cruder setup made at the factory.
Features — 9
Made in 2010 in the USA. It's patterned after the older Standard Les Paul:
- 22 frets, 24-3//4 inch scale
- Rosewood Fingerboard with Tapezoid Inlays
- One piece Mahogany Neck
- Solid two-piece AA Maple Plus Top with some flame in Honey Burst
- Solid one-piece, weight relieved Mahogany Body
- Nashville Tune O Matic
- 57 Classic Pickup Neck & Classic Plus Bridge
- Tone Pros "Kluson Style" Tuners 16:1 ratio
- "Snakeskin" Case made in Canada includes the inspectors checklist, owners booklit but no Truss Rod adjustment tool