SG Original review by Gibson

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.6 Superb
  • Users' score: 9 (12 votes)
Gibson: SG Original

Price paid: $ 1400

Purchased from: Kansas

Sound — 9
Like most Gibsons, with a little tweaking of your EQ, you can literally make it work for just about ANY style of music. But let's face it. Who REALLY wants to play anything on Gibson solidbody guitars aside from blues or rock?!?!? Through my Vox and my Marshall straight, the growl and bite from this guitar were everything you could want in the SG sound. I A/B'd it with my '65 Standard and my Burstbucker-Pro-equipped Historic Standard and it sounded every bit as ballsy and sweet as them. No real difference aside from low end response being a little different on each. The big AC/DC chords and Rolling Stones pseudo-country licks sounded perfect, and one feels instantly inspired to bang around a few huge open position chords to hear the sheer power. I can't give it a "10" because the '57 Classics don't possess quite the "chirp" and airiness of the original PAF and old Patent Number pickups, but it still sounds good, and odds are, you won't care once you're cranked up and wailing.

Overall Impression — 10
I am one of the biggest, most irritating SG experts/fans out there, but I think Gibson knocked it outta' the Park on this one! Even the QC is evidently back up to the Gibson I remember, and this is almost EXACTLY the SG I personally have been hoping they would produce since... Well... EVER! It rivals my '65 Standard, and that's saying something! I recommend for ANYONE out there who is a fan of the original first 5 or 6 years of SG's to grab one of these. This represents attributes of the "best of the best", and if not for the "2013 Model" or "Made in USA" stamps on the headstock, even a seasoned Gibson collector/player would have to give this a second look to "make sure it's a reissue". I am now not only a Gibson customer again, but this is the gem of my collection and I'm extremely PROUD once again to have bought a "new" Gibson. Thanks for a KILLER job, guys! Video of Gibson SG Original from YouTube:

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Reliability & Durability — 10
I wouldn't hesitate to use this without a backup, as it's a great example of what American luthiery is capable of. Sure, Gibson hit some low points recently, but this guitar is truly CUSTOM SHOP quality (and actually better than MOST of the CS guitars I've seen in the past decade). If I gig with it, I will put straplocks on it, but the chrome hardware will stay "pretty" much longer than nickel, so this is a guitar that could be played and still look nice. I ALWAYS worry about Gibson's finishes, because they just don't seem to hold up to abuse like the "good ol' days", but while it may not have quite the smooth, mirrorlike qualities of my '65 (which aside from some honest little dings and one or two weather-checking marks looks almost new still), I think it's the best finish I've seen on a non-custom-ordered Gibson in a LONG time.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
First thing, the color. FINALLY "Heritage Cherry" is RED again. It's a great balance between "as new" true Cherry circa the early '60s, and a slightly darker REALISTICALLY "aged" (NOT "faded") cherry. To top it off, the finish is MUCH better applied than many of the SG's I have seen come out of Big "G" in recent years, and as long as they didn't skimp on the filler, it won't sink into the grain and look bad in a few years. After years of awful-looking Heritage Cherry that was either brownish or orangey (and even with the Historic, I had to CUSTOM ORDER one to get it in REAL "Cherry" because all they offered was the unauthentically-"faded"/washed-out cherry), I am elated to have a CHERRY RED SG available again without having to pay a hefty premium. The PLEK'd nut provides not only excellent playability but a more apparently solid intonation. The neck profile is the BEST out there, and unlike a lot of the middle-range and lower-end Gibsons, this one actually had exquisite fret-work. My dealer set it up with my strings of choice (Ernie Ball 10's), and my only complaint (and the reason it didn't get a "10") was due to a funky angle on the Maestro's string-retainer/trem-bar mount piece, where the base plate had such an extreme angle on it that I fear finish damage from the bar's "walrus tooth" handle should the case get a major bump or if a string were to break with it in the "off" position (parallel to the tailpiece plate, instead of out over the pickups for playing). If Gibson sends me a replacement base piece with a slightly less-extreme angle, I'll gladly give it a "10" because I love the simplicity and coolness that is the Maestro. Everything else on this guitar, believe it or not, is great, couldn't ask for more!

Features — 10
I was lucky to get one of the first batch (made in December of 2012) of the new 2013 "SG Original", which is essentially Gibson USA's answer to those of us who've been clamoring for over a decade for a proper "reissue" of the early-to-mid '60s SG Standard (and NO, the "Historic"/Custom Shop model isn't acceptable as the "definitive SG reissue", it still lacks some aesthetic detail). Typical classic 2-humbucker ('57 Classics), 2-volume/2-tone/3 way toggle layout one wants on the SG, chrome hardware (like a late-'64 on, whereas the late-'60-'64 models featured primarily nickel), beautiful Maestro "lyre" Deluxe Vibrola unit (a simple, but effective and VERY classy looking tailpiece), which has only been available on Custom Shop models since they discontinued the '61 Reissue w/ Maestro ('99-'03). The only gripes one could possibly make (but I honestly don't see as a negative thing) would be the Nashville bridge instead of the "traditional" ABR, and the modern-style bolt-bushing tuners instead of press-in bushing versions... Other than that it's so ridiculously close to an "original" it's almost unbelievable. As a note, the REAL TonePros Klusons are actually great, and I had already put an identical set on my Historic one-off SG Standard, so I know how good they are. They still look "original enough", and functionally is superior, so they, like the bridge, are a sensible, practical upgrade that still looks "vintage" if you squint just a little. 2012 saw a return to the 1999-2003 style deeper beveling (which was more "vintage" looking than prior reissues), albeit a little differently-placed. But deep, well-balanced and sooooooooo 60's. 'Nuff said. Lines the pickguard edge almost perfectly, and has a great aesthetic appeal to it. Yeah, they could've used the "Historic" style beveling and made it just a wee bit more sexy, especially coupled with the Original's freakin' MAGNIFICENT new tapered horn tips (notice 95% or more of the '61-'67 style SG's the tips of the horns are MUCH thinner than the rest of the body, where your run of the mill CS/Historic model features VERY LITTLE tapering, which keeps them from looking like "the real deal"). If they would apply these horn tip profiles to the Historic/CS Standard it would be INDISTINGUISHABLE from the "real deal"... But I expect they'll improve the Historics accordingly if people turn out in droves to buy the "Original". If not for an ever-so-slight front-view silhouette variation of the cutaways, this guitar makes you actually make a double-take. It's THAT authentic. I cannot say that about a single "Historic" I've ever seen (including mine, which actually DOES have better features/sculpting than an off-the-shelf one, but I can still tell from 10 yards away it's not a Vintage piece). This thing, in almost every way, is MORE "Historically Accurate" than the lauded "Historic" Custom Shop models, and for much, much less money. In fact, I'm considering parting ways with my Custom one-off (still has plastic on the 'guard, never been played more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time) and replacing it with another "Original". Seriously.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Sweet, sweet picking there, Heath! And a very judicious, delicious use of the Vibrola. BRAVO, sir!
    hi heath im considering buying an sg original, but 'im having a hard time deciding about the original or the '13 standard, cause I wont be able to test them, a friend of mine is going to travel to the US in june 2013 and he will bring it to me, so I decided to ask you some questions about the guitar, here it goes: how is the sustain of the original compared to an sg with stoptail? is there a chance of poping a string out of its saddle with hard picking? is there much difference in playing feel of guitar with the vibrola compared with a guitar with stoptail? there are some problems about the case pressing the arm of the vibrola? if you could ask these question I would be very grateful thanks
    Hey man, sorry I haven't replied to your posts. It never sent me a notification I had responses. If you're still wondering: 1) Sustain is not affected, unless you're measuring the difference with some kind of seismological device. The idea of "sustain" on a solidbody electric is EXTREMELY subjective and arguable. I have found that whether it's a stopbar, a Maestro/Deluxe Lyre Vibrola or a Bigsby, honestly the human ear cannot distinguish any real difference. It's all metal screwed into the wood directly, and what people need to get into their heads is that it's the "break" points (i.e. the bridge saddles and the nut) that have the most relevance when talking about sustain. If those points are solid, you get good sustain. Cheap plastic nuts will knock a little sustain off, as will cheap pot metal bridges, but with quality parts and solid contact, it's all good. People need to stop using their fear of learning how to use and maintain a tremolo/vibrola to fuel anti-whammy sentiment. 2) Strings won't pop out of a saddle that's cut right. I actually play with a VERY heavy right hand, and I've only had a couple guitars ever where this happened, and in both cases it was because the saddles weren't notched deeply enough. There IS less break-angle on the vibrola equipped guitar, but again, if the guitar's set up properly, no worries. 3) Playing feel actually might be a little more "loose" because of the decreased bridge saddle break angle (much like the folks who wrap their strings OVER their stoptails before going over the bridge, instead of simply through them as designed), but it's not a bad thing at all, and in fact, makes vibrato and bends more friendly I think. 4) I don't even own a single SG with a stoptail (all mine have vibrolas, even my Epiphones), and I HAVE had one or two in the past that have issues with the bar angle prohibiting smooth case interaction, but 95% of them don't, and I think they've ironed out the problems with the newer ones. As long as it's not pressing down on the end of the bar tip it's okay. Pressing down on the mounting screw on the string retainer piece won't ever be an issue; the only time I've seen that as a problem is if the guitar is subjected to abuse and I've seen the bottom of the mounting bolt take a nick out of a finish because someone dropped an amp on a case (not mine of course, since I'm not in jail for, but under normal, responsible conditions it's just fine. 5) Lastly, regarding your question in the below post, many players (including Angus Young, Eric Clapton and many others) have done just fine playing their vibrola-equipped SG's sans-bar. The only difference in "stability" comes if you break a string, in which the other strings will be slightly affected (depending on which string is broken and your choice in string gauges), but other than that it's like having a stopbar or a trapeze tailpiece. Bottom line is you really get used to it once you put a little effort into it, and I like having it as an option on my guitars. Plus, you have to admit that the vibrola makes the SG look "complete", and to me just further exemplifies (in addition to the sexy aesthetics, the full access to ALL frets, etc.) what makes the SG stand out compared to its older sister, the "traditional" Les Paul. If you haven't already gotten one or the other, my vote is for the Original, because it's one classy beast that stands out in the crowd while invoking some of the coolest features of SG's of the past.
    just one more thing: in case I just remove the arm of the trem, the vibrola should just work like a regular stopbar right? or it could affect tuning stability somehow?
    My Last Words
    2 9's and 2 10's, get real people.
    Well, I think it's justified. The guitar isn't really that cheap. I understand when people whine about high ratings when they are talking about cheap beginner guitars. But this guitar costs over $1000 so you would expect it to be pretty good.
    Oddly enough, if I were to "rate and review" my 2003 Historic/Custom Shop SG Standard, you wouldn't see a single "10", because while it's a nice quality guitar for the most part, its historical inaccuracies and a few other details fall short of what one would expect for a guitar I paid twice as much for as the new USA SG Original. So considering the guitar you get for far less than a Custom Shop reissue-wannabe, this guitar is surprisingly nice, and every bit "as good as" and in some cases BETTER than its overpriced CS sister.
    Pick one up, play it, hear it and then you won't be so skeptical. It's really that nice, which I HAVEN'T been able to say about a new Gibson in a long, long time. They've upped their game recently, and it shows on guitars like this.