Sound — 6
They sound great, although both sound different. The custom has a more "singing" tone than any other guitar I have ever played, and simplistic controls are fantasic... I mostly use two humbucker guitars with three way switches and a volume dial only, so I love the custom one. On the other hand, the other MIII's have a wide variety of sounds (9 of them, to be exact! ) and can pull off lots of nice tones. I prefer to have 24 frets to play with, but my 22 fret guitar has a creamy neck pickup sound, due to the spacing being different. Unusually, the custom one with the shorter scale will bend strings significantly easier than all my 25.5" scale guitars. The Standard MIII is unconventional as far as a typical guitar goes, they are, however, great shred guitars, but SO much more, with all the tones you have at your fingertips! I give this guitar a 10, because if you can't get a tone you like with this guitar, I have to question if you can really even play the damn thing; ) Zebra pickups are cool, the 500T will send punchy overdrive sounds through any amp, the 496R is pretty good too, especially with the 4 conductor wiring. The NSX single coil sounds good as well. I believe you could improve the sound by changing pickups, but I don't tend to change pickups on USA guitars, and I don't buy them if they don't sound good to start with!
Overall Impression — 10
Rock. Metal. Whatever I feel like? Been playing over 10 years. I play through a 5150 stack, or my Boss recorder into my high end pioneer monitors, through a sound shaper EQ. This guitar gets me sounds I like, I would kill if either were stolen, and yes, they would be replaced. They are my favorite Gibson, and pretty much my favorite "original" model of any company. I also have a couple Steinberger GM's with transtrems, a Gibson SG Goddess, a Jackson archtop soloist limited, a MusicMan Axis (which is right there on my favoritism scale!! ), a Peavey Wolfgang (which is inferior to The Music Man, in pretty much every way - for being nearly the same guitar, they sure don't feel or sound the same to me! ), an Ibanez RG770DX, and a couple others not as important as these. I love the effortless access, all the way to the last fret. I hate nothing about them, other than I can't find a Deluxe one anywhere. I'm on the fence about the tiger pickguard standards and deluxes have... but if you want something different, and out of the norm, something that broke the "conventional" mold, this is your dream axe! I wish it could wash dishes too, but oh well... :)
Reliability & Durability — 8
Everything is solid on this guitar, just don't drop it! With a floyd, don't gig without backup, it would take too long to restring! Reliability and durability... check. Finishes are nice, but good luck finding great ones these days, most fans of these guitars were shredders, and they tend to wear the finish off. That is no fault of Gibson, or the guitars!
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Much better than a Strat, or a Les Paul, in my personal opinion. These MIII's I have also have the lowest of low action, even lower than all the Jacksons, Ibanezes, and Steinbergers I have had... and I do know how to set up a guitar, and even change my own strings! I can't comment on the factory set up, as both the guitars I have were used when I got them, and they have been out of production for 12 years now. Gibson F'd up when they quit making this model, because they are spectacular guitars. Someone knew what they were doing when they made these guitars, and dig the pearloid arrowhead inlays! How is that for different?
Features — 10
I have a MIII custom with 22 frets, abalone Dot inlays, 24.75" scale, quilted maple top, and in cherry sunburst with 2 humbuckers, one volume and a three way Switch. And, an amber MIII (I believe custom shop, not a Standard) No pickguard, Standard MIII switching system, HSH configuration, 24 fret, grey pearloid arrowhead inlays. Both have Gibson, Schaller (german made) Floyd Rose tremolos, the amber one will pull up, the custom one is flat to body.