Price paid: $ 700
Purchased from: Ebay Seller
Features — 10
This 2011 US made guitar features 22 frets on a rosewood fretboard inlaid with acrylic dot inlats. The all mahogany body on mine is a little thicker than most SGs. The bridge has the Nashville style Tune-O-Matic. It comes equipped with two Gibson P-90 pickups, a three way toggle switch, and volume and tone knobs for each pickup. The original owner swapped the original tuners out for Klusons, so I can't say anything about the original ones. He also gave me hardshell case with the guitar. The guitar has a nitrocellulose finish just like the Standard Gibson range as well as neck binding. It has a Mother of Pearl "Gibson" headstock inlay. Honestly, the only difference between this guitar and the SG Standard is the pickups and the dot inlays. Gibson calls the neck profile "rounded," and for this guitar I'd say it's a little on the thicker side for SG necks. Definitely not a baseball bat, but certainly more on the thick side. I have short, stout fingers and find it very comfortable.
If you're looking for a two-pickup P-90 equipped guitar, I can't see what other features you'd really want.
Sound — 9
I play in a rock cover band (Chuck Berry, Beatles, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Spice Girls, Metallica, Volbeat, Weezer, etc). I also use it for my original works (think stuff along the lines of the Guess Who, but with more modern fuzz-blues mixed in too). I also play in a worship band and have used it for jazz sessions.
I mainly run it through a Mesa Express 5:50 with some fuzz, overdrive, and modulation pedals. Since P-90s are single coil pickups, it does get some 60-cycle hum. As the gain starts to climb, the guitar can also be susceptible to feedback. Some might not like that, but it's one of my favourite features. I shielded the control and pickup cavity to reduce some of the buzz and make it more manageable at stage levels.
The sound itself is wonderful. The guitar, due to the P-90s, has a very strong mid presence. The cleans are shimmery and clear. The top end is a little rounded off, so you get the clean treble bite without the icepick treble punch that Stratocasters can have in their bridge pickup. The pickups break up easily and are very responsive to the volume and tone knobs. Adding drive is where this guitar really shines. The overdrive sounds just like your favourite classic rock albums: full and crunchy. Backing off on the volume allows the pickups to clean up and get a hint of breakup. These pickups play well with fuzz: from thick syrupy fuzz to slicing sustain, it's easy to see why many 60s and 70s guitarists used these pickups. These pickups also handle high gain well: the sound is amazing, full and snarly, but they are not as tight as humbuckers. It is a more loose sound.
I'll give it an 9 here for the hum. It's an incredible sound, but there is a trade for hum.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I have no idea about the factory setup, but the guitar is fully capable of being setup wonderfully. It has a Tune-O-Matic bridge and a truss-rod. With enough knowledge, anyone can set it up to play well. The pickups are attached to the pickguard and are lowered or raised by small screws on either side. Each of the poles on the pickup can be adjusted as well.
It has no manufacturing flaws: the finish is beautifully applied, the nut is well set, the binding is done well, and the frets are filed properly. I play the guitar every day and gig with it often, the only marks and dings are from me and the previous owner. The frets have stood the test of time quite well. I am most surprised by the lack of rust/oxidation occurring. Very impressed.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I've owned this guitar for the last six years and like I said, the guitar can and does withstanding gigging. The hardware is built to last. No clicking or snapping in the electronics. I swapped out the strap buttons for locking tuners since the included buttons were a bit on the small side. I'm sure that using strap button washers would've been fine, but I always switch to locking tuners for my gigging electrics. It's a $20 insurance. This is my go-to guitar. The finish is holding up well with no buckle rash. I do take care of it with regular cleaning and maintenance which goes to show that proper care goes a long way. That being said, I don't baby it either, it's a guitar and it's mean to be played hard.
I'll give it a 9 for the small strap buttons.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, I am very impressed with this guitar. I love the tone I can get with it and how easy it is to play. I first tried this model in a Guitar Center and fell in love. I started scouring the web for one that I could bond with. I've tried a couple now and they've all impressed me. I've also played plenty of Gibsons that don't come close to the craftsmanship put into this one. I've been playing for 15 years and have owned other SGs, Les Pauls, Stratocasters, Telecasters, Ibanez RGs, and plenty of others. This one is by far my favourite. I've also owned the newer Gibson SG Tribute models (with the P-90s) and these Classics are much nicer.
I'm giving it a 10 here because this is the guitar I plan on using for the rest of my life.