Purchased from: Trade from Craigslist
Features — 6
I have the 2013 model in ebony, which I got in a trade. I've heard rumors that earlier models had some problems with the Richlite in the fretboard causing the frets to pop out, but I've had no such problems with mine.
Despite what you might hear from others, the Midtown Custom isn't a true semi-hollow bodied guitar. It's more of a solid body guitar with chambering and a couple of "F holes" to make it look like a semi-hollow. First off, it's a heavy guitar, about as heavy as a Les Paul Standard, which is unusual with a true semi-hollow guitar; look at the thickness of the side walls of the body, and you'll see this is really a chambered solid body masquerading as a semi-hollow. More importantly, it doesn't have the resonance of a semi hollow guitar at all, either unplugged or amplified. This is disappointing, because I was hoping for at least SOME of the spaciousness and resonance of a semi hollow body with this guitar, but there is none. You might as well as play a Les Paul, sound-wise. If I did a blindfold test, I'd guess it was a solid bodied guitar.
Sound — 5
I play mostly jazz, so I like to play solely on clean settings. The sound is nothing to write home about, at least for jazz. It sounds sort of like a Les Paul with a thinner sound, and not enough bottom end. Or I guess sort of like an ES-355 without the rich resonance. Basically, it sounds flat, with little depth or richness in its sound, and I think the problem is that the body is not semi-hollow (you can't help but make the comparison, since the guitar tries to look like one), and the wrong kind of pickups. This guitar uses Burstbuckers, and I find these pickups focus too much on output for this guitar, rather than sonic richness. Gibson '57 Classics, along with a thinner body, would have been a much better choice for this axe, but then again, you'd end up with a mini ES-335.
The electronics don't help the sound much either. When the tone controls are set to 10, the sound is trebly and thin, with little bottom end. Roll the tone controls down, and the sound turns muddy, though the bass increases a little bit. It's hard to get a good sound out of this guitar using the controls on the guitar alone; you need to fiddle with your amp settings too, in order to get a good sound. I'd think a change of pots and a rewiring could fix this, but why have to do it at all on a $1,400 Gibson?
Overall, the Midtown Custom doesn't sound bad, and with some adjustments to the amplifier, I can get an acceptable sound, but I expect much more from Gibson than this.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This is where the guitar shines, and is what has inspired me to keep my Midtown Custom. The looks, construction, playability and feel are all top notch. This is what separates a good Gibson guitar from other brands. The ebony finish with white binding looks incredible, like the guitar is wearing a finely tailored tuxedo. Plus, the "Custom" look of the neck and headstock - block fret markers, binding on the headstock, split diamond, etc. - make it look like something Wes Montgomery would have played. It's a guitar that calls out to you "Play me!" when it's sitting on a stand. Plus, the feel of this guitar is amazing - it's heavy and solid like a tank, plus it feels perfectly balanced across the entire guitar. The neck profile is on the thin side but the weight of the guitar and rock-solid feel make the neck seem thicker. Although the sound leaves something to be desired, the feel and playability of this guitar is awesome, so good that it outweighs its shortcomings in sound.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This feels like probably the sturdiest guitar I've ever owned. It's heavy and well balanced, and not a knob or screw feels loose or out of place. The finish seems almost bullet proof. No rattles, buzzes or undesired sounds whatsoever come out of this guitar. Everything on this guitar feels and looks tight and polished. I'm not a professional musician, so I've never played this guitar live. However, I can't see why this axe couldn't withstand regular gigging. If my past history with Gibsons means anything, I expect this to last a very long time.
Overall Impression — 6
The Midtown Custom is a good guitar, but not a great one. If it weren't for its stunning looks and feel, I would sell mine, because the sound leaves a lot to be desired. My biggest problem with it is that it doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it meant for jazz guitarists? It looks like a jazz box, but it has no depth to its sound, and the sound is too thin for most jazz playing. Is it a blues axe? Maybe, but an ES-335 sounds much better. This leaves me with the conclusion that Gibson made this guitar for rock or metal guitarists who want to be able to say they have a semi-hollow body guitar in their arsenal. Those of you looking for a true semi-hollow or hollow bodied electric should skip this one.