Price paid: £ 699
Purchased from: Trevor Davies Music
Sound — 10
Well, it's a Les Paul. I play a wide range of styles, and as is to be expected, it's incredibly versatile and meets every requirement. I usually use it with a Laney VC30 amplifier and a wide array of effects. It is incredibly noise-free, compared to most of my other guitars, even those with humbuckers. I guess now I'm experiencing the real advantage of proper humbucker pickups. The way I can describe the sound is that it is very smooth and rich sounding, kind of dark, but not muddy at all. It maintains an incredible amount of clarity for a guitar with such a thick, woody tone - even complex chords don't lose their definition on distorted settings. Fantastic!
Overall Impression — 10
I play a lot of different styles and I haven't found anything that this guitar doesn't match - through a clean setting the bridge pickup will give you a chet atkins style country twang, the middle position will give a funky tone which would also be ideal for ska, and the neck is pure jazz. Any level of gain in any of these positions can push the guitar into blues, rock, grunge, punk, metal or anything else - the guitar is simply limited to what you as a guitarist can do with it. I've been playing for about 13 years and own a lot of guitars and pedals and a fair few effects, there's just too many to list. If this guitar was stolen or lost, or destroyed, or had any other unfortunate fate that made it impossible for me to play it again, I'd be absolutely gutted - of all the gibsons I've tried I've never found one quite like this one, it's unique, it's not something that can be replaced by simply buying another one. What I would do is go on yet another hunt for another guitar that I like just as much - it wouldn't even have to be a Gibson, it'd just have to be any guitar that I like as much. Although I'd probably be quick to seek out a les paul special double-cut, I REALLY love the sound of them! I love everything about this guitar except for the concern about the headstock (due to all the horror stories about how easily they break when the guitar falls over), somewhat aroused by the very small strap buttons. Luckily the guys at the shop gave me a good quality leather strap as part of the deal, which puts my mind at ease to some extent but I'm definitely considering straplocks. I compared this guitar with a whole lot of other Gibson guitars - A Les Paul Standard in the same shop, which I just didn't get on with at all, and a lot of '70s gibsons at a nearby Vintage Gibson dealer, which were all quite nice but just not as comfortable in my hands. But all in all, a fantastic guitar - my advice with regards to buying a Gibson would be, don't listen to all the comments you read on the internet about how "their CEO is killing the company" and "the quality control has gone downhill lately" - just go out and try a whole lot of Gibson guitars, and you may find one individual instrument which just makes you smile that you can't let go of. And even if you don't, there's plenty of other options if you look at other brands which may suit you better :)
Reliability & Durability — 9
I actually gigged with this guitar within about 2 weeks of owning it, and it withstood Live playing extremely well. The hardware is solid and dependable, and I should probably trust those suspiciously small strap buttons more than I currently do. The finish may not last, but then, it's a bare-bones guitar, the finish is one of the corners which was cut to make this guitar cost 700 and not 1700. So to complain that the finish will probably wear down wouldn't really be fair considering. Just picking up this guitar I can tell it was built to be played - It feels incredibly solid and the only thing I'm worried about is the traditionally fragile headstock, the les paul's achilles heel.
Action, Fit & Finish — 6
Well, the factory set up was not perfect. The string height was spot on for the lower strings but it was set incredibly low and somewhat buzzy on the treble side. A slight adjustment and all the buzzing is gone though. One thing I will compliment is that the pickups were adjusted perfectly for the string height, at the same tilt to match the slightly wonky factory bridge setup. And the intonation was spot-on, too. The whole guitar unless you look closely looks like it was made of one solid piece of mahogany (minus the fretboard of course). I wouldn't say the top is "bookmatched" since the grain is different on each side but you can't see the central joint unless you look very very closely. The finish is anything but perfect however - the cherry red stain seems to have made its way onto the fretboard edge where the fretboard meets the carved top, and there's even some red splodges on the fretwire and one of the side dots. Not a detail that affects the performance of the guitar so it doesn't bother me at all, but judging by all the Gibson-bashing on the internet based on things like this, I'm probably alone in thinking that Gibson caters only for people Who want a solid guitar to play. The pickup selector was a little crackly and the jack-plate is a bit oxidised as well, but that was most likely due to the fact it was hanging on the wall of my local shop for over a year before I bought it.
Features — 10
My Les Paul VM is a 2007 model, made in USA as all genuine gibsons are. It features a very uniquely crafted neck, which has a slim '60s profile on the lower frets but gradually gets chunkier higher up the fretboard and more closely resembles a '50s style neck at the heel. Just as you'd expect from a les paul, it has a 24.75" scale, 22 fret neck, single cutaway body, dual humbuckers, each with its own volume and tone control, a 3-way switch, a tune-o-matic/stopbar bridge/tailpiece.. you probably already know unless you're very new to the guitar world. The differences between this and a traditional les paul are, firstly, that the guitar has a mahogany top instead of the usual maple, hence the title "Vintage mahogany" - the whole guitar is mahogany, except for the fretboard which is the usual rosewood, secondly, the transparent satin finish, thirdly, the "bare bones" appearance (no binding or flametop or anything like that), and finally the body is chambered to reduce weight. The humbuckers are Gibson burstbuckers, and it has the regular "Gibson deluxe" tuners. The guitar came with a very nicely padded hardshell case which unleashes a very nice sweet smell when you open it! That's a nice touch.