Purchased from: My Cousin
Sound — 8
I play everything from Clapton to Killswitch Engage, and this guitar was a natural choice for most of the stuff in between. However, upon trying it out, I felt that the Gibson treble pickup didn't have the high-gain punch I was looking for in the heavier end of things. I subsequently swapped out the pickups for the Zakk Wylde EMG pickups, which sound very good distorted and pretty decent clean, too. (I'm hanging onto the Gibson pickups, because I did like the sound and I may decide to put them in another guitar later.) So as long as you're familiar with the sound of an EMG 81/85 combination, you'll know how my SG sounds. I also, upon a lot of playing, found that the clear finish Gibson used was rather glossy on the back of the neck, and over the course of the show my hand would sweat and begin to stick on the finish. I sanded the clearcoat off the back of the neck to make a slightly rougher surface, which fixed this problem. (I didn't feel much guilt about taking sandpaper to a Gibson, due to the dings and scratches already in it.) I usually use this guitar with one of my Marshall amps (I have a 30-watt and a 100-watt half stack) and the sound is beautiful.
Overall Impression — 10
I love this guitar, and I have at some points considered buying a second one. I own a Jackson Dinky and an Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus, and neither one comes close to comparing with this. The neck is just as slick as the Jackson, and the sound is better than either one of them. I would buy it again if it were stolen or lost. It is a wonderful guitar, and for $650 list price, you can't beat the value of an actual USA-made Gibson.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar has never failed me in a Live gig. I've dropped the thing in a show and it didn't even go out of tune. That's my biggest criticism: the strap buttons could stand to be replaced. They're really small. If you use it Live, get strap locks (I should look into those). I have and will continue to use it on gigs without a backup. The finish is solid and will withstand playing for decades. It took me a few hours to sand it off the back of the neck, I don't think it's going to wear off from normal playing any time soon.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I don't know about factory setup, because my cousin had it setup for himself and when I bought it I tweaked it to fit my own style. I've found that the strings can be lowered very close to the frets, and it's not hard to do a very quick run on this comparable to playing a Jackson or Ibanez. I can't see any factory flaws with this guitar, although after changing out the pickups and most of the electronics, along with tweaking the action, sanding the neck, and my cousin's abuse, I don't know how good of a judge I'd be.
Features — 8
I don't know exactly what year it was made, since I bought it used off my cousin with a Gibson USA case. It was a little banged up (a few dings on the back from belts, etc), but playable. Made in the USA, 22 fret neck, solid mahogany body and neck, rosewood fretboard. Typical SG setup. Chrome stoptail bridge, three-way selector Switch. Faded cherry finish. The neck inlays are sort of an eclipsed moon shape, something I think only came out on early Faded SG's. Since I bought it, I've swapped out the Gibson humbuckers for the Zakk Wylde EMG set, and I also sanded down the back of the neck a bit. More on that in the next section.