Price paid: € 570
Purchased from: Merula
Sound — 10
The main distinctive feature of this SG is indeed the PU configuration. The P90 give a unique sound, but a very enjoyable one. They are a bit noisier than I would want them, and they are non reverse-wound, so middle position (both PUs activated) does not have any humbucking ability. On the other hand the sound is GORGEOUS. The neck PU is wonderful for crystal clear clean tones. The birdge one is perfect for distorted leads. Each one is great for slightly overdriven rhythm parts, with different characters. The neck pickup also works like a charm with massive gain to achieve dirty sounds (think early Black Sabbath, as an idea). The only combo I use less is with both PUs, beacuse I find the sound "too full", and it seems to leave less room for other instruments in the mix. But it's only my taste. I play this guitar with my JCM2000 valve amp, but this Gibson-Marshall combo also "accepts" pedals easily. I also tried it with a 15 W Laney valve combo, albeit with less gain it gives a more "crunchy" tone, but still a very good one. To make a long story short, most people associate Gibson with humbuckers, but these singlecoils sound really great. What impressed me most is that you don't need to "hunt" for a good sound. They simply come out from this guitar.
Overall Impression — 10
When Gibson decided to give us empty-pockets a guitar, they had to decide HOW to let us save our hard earned money. And they decided to strip those things that were not absolutely necessary, but still give you good quality where it really counts. And it's a wise decision, in my humble opinion. This is to be considered a cheap guitar. When I bought it, I had entered the shop thinking I was going to buy and Epiphone. An Epiphone would have been cheaper, but the difference in cost was not so big. The difference of quality, sound, and feel was HUGE. So, to put things into perspective: can you buy a better guitar than this? Yes, you probably can. Can you buy a better guitar at this price point? I highly doubt it. It's worth every penny and a lot more. For me, I'm in love with this baby.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I think it will be durable. The hardware is premium quality, and it might die well after me. The only thing that might not be as durable is the finish. I'll have to wait and see. So far, after ~4 months it shows no sign of wear, but who knows? However, this is a guitar that asks to be played, not to be put on a display stand. So, should the finish wear off somehow after years, I suppose it's not going to be a fatal flaw.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Mixed news on this topic. The finish is peculiar. I have a worn white one, and it looks very nice. It's a sort of matte white that has the same gross surface of unfinished wood, so to speak. This finish also covers the back of the neck and head, while the front of the head is painted black. Other finishes are worn black (same as white, but err..... black!), worn cherry and worn natural. These two finishes (worn cherry and worn natural) show the wood grain underneath. Beware, this is to be considered a sort of "cheap" Gibson, so the body is made with two or three pieces, and each of these guitars is a different body. Gibson seems not to pay too much attention on grain matching the pieces, and natural or cherry finishes don't cover these inconsistencies. White and black don't suffer from this problem. I don't know how durable this finish will be with years of use. For sure, this matte finish on the neck renders it very fast and very confortable to play with. My guitar was not set up too well from the factory. The action was very high, and this may be a matter of personal taste. But the intonation was WAY off. The nut lacked proper lubrication, so some of the strings "sticked" when tuning. Moreover, some of the frets were not perfectly filed, so that it could slightly hurt on your hand if you slided it on the side of the neck. Nothing that you can't set up fine yourself, but be prepared to spend some time setting it properly, or consider the added cost should you have someone do it for you. However the important things were all ok, and the guitar had no real flaws. I've seen some reports on the internet of people who got some defective guitars, one way or another (mainly finish blemishes, or dings, or scratches). The usual suggestion is needed here, don't buy a guitar you have not seen and played.
Features — 10
Mahogany body and neck, Rosewood fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets and a (supposedly) PLEK cut Corian nut. No bindings, no bells, no whistles. Four different finishes, (worn white, worn black, worn cherry and worn natural), none of them laquered, no sunburst or multicolor options. And you can have the small (can you say 60s?) pickguard any color you want, as long as it's black. Again, no frills. Two Alnico V P90 pickups, with the usual Gibson controls, instead of the more iconic humbuckers people usually think about when you say 'Gibson'.