Les Paul Traditional review by Gibson

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  • Features: 8
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 6
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.8 (112 votes)
Gibson: Les Paul Traditional
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Price paid: $ 1900

Features — 8
I own two models - 2011 and 2014. The former comes with 57 classic pickups and the 2014 comes with 59 tribute humbuckers. The 2011 model has a slimmer C-shaped neck and PLEK'd frets. The 2014 model has a fatter late 50s neck and only the nut was PLEK'd. They both have mahogany bodies and AA figured maple tops. Fretboard is rosewood. The 2011 model is weight relieved (traditionally). They both came with Gibson cases. The 2011 model came in black "snake skin-like" case and the 2014 model comes in the brown historic-type case.

Sound — 10
The sound is the best feature of both guitars. It's simply classic Les Paul sound, although the two guitars sound different. The 2011 model growls more easily and is more creamy and mellow. The 2014 one has more bite and is more sensitive to the playing style. It is more glassy with very characteristic top end. I play mainly blues and classic rock. The 2011 model would be better for blues imo and the 2014 better for Led Zeppelin kind of solos. I play through Vox AC15, Vox Tonelab LE and sometimes through Guitar Rig-type software.

I recorded some samples from both of these guitars. You can watch the video below. The video doesn't cover even 10% of the tone spectrum you can get with these guitars, but it should give you some idea about the differences. The 2011 model sounds more appealing to me when played on its own, the 2014 one will sit in the mix better and cut through the band more easily.

Action, Fit & Finish — 6
Very different between the two guitars. The 2014's setup was very poor. Extremely high string action, overbowed neck, tail piece and bridge not set up right. It doesn't take much effort to correct all this though. Fretwork is also not as good on this model as on the 2011. The 2011 was set up nicely and the fretwork is much better (PLEK). It did have a different flaw though. One of the pieces of mahogany that the back is made of, didn't seem to be dried very well and shrinked, leaving a small gap on the back of the body where the two pieces were glued. It doesn't affect anything and the guitar has a killer sound, but it shouldn't happen in a 2k guitar.

Reliability & Durability — 8
Hard to say yet, as I've only owned them for a couple of months. They seem sturdy though. Both these guitars will withstand live playing no problem. They are after all professional instruments. The hardware on both guitars is of good quality (well... maybe the tuners could be better). The strap buttons are larger on the 2014 model than on the 2011 one. I'd recommend strap locks for the 2011 model if you play live a lot.

I would always carry a backup with me for a gig, but this guitar seems very sturdy so far, so I have no strong reasons to believe it would suddenly break in the middle of a gig. The nitro finish on both guitars requires some special care. I wipe the guitar every time I finish playing. I also bought dedicated conditioners from Gibson. You can ruin the finish very easily if you're not careful. That's the price for it being gorgeous.

Overall Impression — 8
I play blues and classic rock. These guitars match these styles very well. I'm very satisfied with the sound of both these guitars. It's simply amazing. I had a couple of high quality Les Paul copies in the past and they simply sound cheap, compared to the real thing. I think these guitars will stay with me for a long time.

The wood quality and setup is a different thing though. At this price I'd expect better. My 1981 Greco is simply built better. I care about the sound most, so it's not a huge deal for me, but objectively speaking, Gibson has a lot to improve here. A lot of people say Les Pauls are overpriced and more of a hype than really good instruments. It's true... to an extent. They are expensive and they leave some room for improvement (wood, playability, setup)... but the sound cannot be beaten. If you are like me and care about the sound most, you cannot go wrong with a Les Paul. The moment you plug it to a tube amp, it produces the tones you've been familiar with for a long time.

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