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This guitar 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".
heath.lane, on april 03, 2013 6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Price paid: $ 1400
Purchased from: Kansas
Features: 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. // 10
Sound: 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. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: 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! // 9
Reliability & Durability: 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. // 10
Overall Impression: 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: