Midtown Custom review by Gibson

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Features: 6
  • Sound: 5
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 7.4 Good
  • Users' score: 8 (15 votes)
Gibson: Midtown Custom

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.

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I wish there was a way I could edit my review, because I'd forgotten to comment about the Richlite fretboard, which seems to have caused a lot of controversies in other forums. I think the fretboard is great on the Midtown. The Richlite looks a lot like ebony, it adds a nice dark hue to the fretboard, and it feels smooth and soft to the touch. What's not to like? I would not hesitate to buy another guitar with Richlite. I think most of the dumb criticisms about this guitar having a fretboard made of recycled milk jugs and saw dust are from people who haven't spent any real time playing a guitar with a Richlite fretboard.
    Agreed 100%. I have a Martin X-series with a Richlite board and I think its just fine. As far as Gibson using it I think it's a great looking alternative to the baked maple boards they were trying on a few models.
    Well I don't play jazz but I love every thing bout this guitar, I'm going to change the pickups though but not cause i don't like them more cause i like gibson p94's better.....but it's true the guitar is nothing like a 335...but then again why compare?
    if you want a 335 then get one. this isn't a fair review because you are trying to make it something its not. it's a great guitar for hard rock and i think a relative bargain compared to the price of other gibsons.
    Well said. I haven't heard of this model until I saw this review so I looked it up for myself and it actually seems like a nice guitar. Not to mention like you say that price is very un-gibson like for a decent looking guitar from them nowadays.
    Some comparison to the 335 is inevitable, because Gibson itself calls the guitar a cross between a Les Paul and a 335, and their own publicity makes several comparisons of it to the 335. Plus, Gibson describes the Midtown Custom as having "a deep, rich resonance all its own." If it does, then I'm not hearing it on my Midtown. Again, it's not a bad guitar, but for my purposes, it doesn't quite live up to what I expected.
    I've had one for 2 years now. You're right. It's a rock guitar. That's what I use it for and get amazing sounds with it. You might have to touch the knobs on your amp but stuff s**t
    Reviews are completely subjective. If the reviewer was expecting to get something similar to ES335 and didn't get it and it didn't really work for what he was after, then it's pretty fair to give it lower ratings. I mean, if it leaves a lot to be desired, it doesn't deserve a higher rating. I think this was a good, honest review. But if you have a different point of view, you could post your own review. As I said, reviews are subjective. The rating depends on what the reviewer is expecting from the guitar and what the guitar actually has to offer. We have too many 10/10 reviews on this site. And it is good to compare this to other guitars. If it was advertised as a mix of Les Paul and ES335, I think it should also be compared to those guitars.
    Emenius Sleepus
    I don't believe that he was trying to make it something it's not. Indeed as he said, - it's probably aimed at rock/metal players that are looking for a chambered/semi hollow instrument to augment what they have. But there's an objective criticism of relatively dull sound, and an instrument that doesn't know what it wants to be. Sounds like it's underpowered for a metal axe, and not rich enough in tone for a cleanly-played jazz guitar. Mind you, perhaps some different pickups could redress some of the issues mentioned.
    Fuck you ****ers!This guitar is just awesome! Had it for two years and will never part from it! IF you cant get it to sound great your a ****! Ok? Check this out little babies
    I've had this guitar for a couple of years and keep falling in love with it. I traded a fellow a Fender AVRI 62 Strat for it and at first I had second thoughts but those soon went away. Im not a huge fan of Burstbucker pickups because they can get a bit muddy but they aren't any muddier nor shrill than they are in any of the other Gibsons I have owned. To me this guitar feels like a 335 but sounds like an SG. And I'm ok with that, because the SG is one of my favorite guitars of all time. I might send these pups to Jason Lollar to be rewound or maybe just stick a set of Seymour Duncan Seth Lovers in it. But for the money this thing is sweet. And the Richlite doesn't bother me one bit.
    HMMMM sounds not too appealing to me. I like chambered instruments, but there have to be enough chambering to feel it in weight and sound
    I wasn't expecting an ES 335 clone when I got this guitar! What I was expecting is a guitar with some of that unique, full-bodied resonance that you only get with a semi-hollow or hollow bodied guitar, and I didn't get it. I actually agree with the guy above who said that if I wanted a 335, I should have bought a 335. I didn't want a 335.
    Like it or not : Gbson quality has been going down hill for years, if not decades..this guitar is no exception, rather the norm. Look up what Gibson employyes say about their company (and their boss) to get an idea about with what heart and soul these guitars are build nowadays. Made in America and Gibson has become a badge for people who need to compensate shortcomings..there are far superior guitars out there, not all of them from the US of A...
    I played this guitar for a couple of days at home and I agree pretty much with the review. The guitar is advertised and sold as a (semi)hollow in most of the big guitar stores and hence, the comparison to ES-types etc. is legit... Again i have to agree to the reviewer, this guitar sounds, plays and feels like a solid body. A thinner, more high-focused Les Paul tone, is what I got from it. The overall package is impressive for the price, considering the fact, that you'll get a vanilla-flavoured Gibson USA hardcase. However, on my particular Midtown the finish was sloppy. The F-holes were carved in poorly, or they just forgot the last sanding... Also the paint around the f-holes had some gaps. All in all, these minor opticle shortcommings weren't really bad, but then again you're almost spending a thousand bucks, so why don't upgrade 300 for a proper hollow body or save 200 and go for a US-Les Paul studio (2013 Version for instance). Much more bang for the cash, in my oppinion.
    It's a pity, that you play this guitar as if you were a rock guitarist who wants to be able to have a semi-hollow body guitar in his arsenal. Where is the soloing on clean settings? With my GMC it sounds like Pat Metheny. And please tell me, why it isn't a true semi-hollow? What was your real intention for this review?