Purchased from: trade
Features — 9
Made in 2012, designed by Gibson Custom shop vet JT Ribicoff for Samick (made in Indonesia). 22 frets, not an expert on neck profiles, this one is slim and fast, a shredder neck. Frets are fat, I found them a little high and uncomfortable on the edges at first, they feel fine to me now. Decent Grover-style tuners, stays in tune. Quilted maple top on three piece mahogany body, back is siena brown, neck is mahogany too, very nice binding all around, black headstock, black custom hardware (TOM bridge with string-through body), two very high output HBs in white with white rings, This piece is so stylized it's practically kitsch; I think it looks amazing. There are four control knobs, but they're not the typical 2V 2T, more later. Great feature set in its price range, if you like original gear. I found a PDF of the JTR line here.
Sound — 8
I've listened to a lot of Led Zep, and this guitar sounds like Page's LP. BUT. It takes a lot of time to figure out how to use it,a nd some things you expect from a MP just aren't there. First, the four knobs are volume, tone, a five-way selector and a pickup blender. The tone knob gives only subtle variations; in the first selector position, which Ribicoff has said is supposed to be the 1950s (V +T), there's no variation at all from the tone knob. It works better in positions 3-5, which give you different shades of compression. (Position 4 works only with the bridge pup and enables you to use the three-way as a kill switch.) Ribicoff has said that this is great for shredders and slide players. I don't shred, but slide is my game, and he ain't lyin'. With a DigiTech Bad Monkey, you can get lap steel (!!), Derek Trucks or Elmore sounds from this axe. If you want to go from treble to bass sounds, the best solution I found is to use the last compression setting, set the tone, then use the blend pot. Unlike a typical LP, you can't get a great round jazz sound out of this guitar, at least not very easily. For rock or blues, it's a monster. I keep looking at it and thinking, I'm gonna mod this sucker, pop the harness out (just in case) and put in standard LP wiring. Then I play it, and it does what it does so well that I end up leaving it alone. I'm knocking off a couple of points for the hole where jazz should be, but let me repeat, it's got great sounds in it.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I got the guitar used and redid setup. Intonation is fine. I raised the action a bit for slide, no issues. I also put a 13 for the high E (rest of set is 11-50), and pleasant surprise, the guitar is still easy to fret. Reviewers have said the fret ends are sharp, I repeat, I got used to them very quickly, no cuts to my tender paws. Pickups required adjustment to my taste, because they are SO powerful; I didn't put an ohm meter to them but I did lower them a bit. Strap pegs are very large, you won't need straplocks. The custom hardware on this thing is a pleasure to behold. You will need an allen wrench to change the knobs if you care to. Weight is about 8-9 pounds, not too heavy for a Paul. The wiring inside the cavity is totally foreign to me. You will find it hard to mod that harness unless you are really expert.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It's a very solid piece. I haven't played it out yet - I have other guitars - but I will, because it's made to play with a band and it will get attention on stage. People always say you should bring a backup, well, I don't. I would play this without one. Any finish will wear off with time, this one seems pretty tough but who knows? I always find this category a bit silly, because I would not buy a guitar I could not play live. If someone does, it's a mistake. That's what they're made for - to entertain people, starting with yourself. A cheap guitar can be great to play, but if it's not playable, it's not cheap, it's worthless.
Overall Impression — 9
I play rock, blues, some jazz, classic soul. I've been playing nearly 50 years. I own a number of amps, mainly Peaveys, and a number of guitars, mainly Reverends (great). I've owned good, great and garbage gear. This is a great guitar - the looks, the concept, the playability, the sound, are all very distinct, and the features all work very well. Ribicoff also designed more conventional pieces for Samick; in fact, I was planning to trade for a LN-10, a very sweet LP Junior style, but when I saw this in the room I had to have it. If I lost it, not sure I'd look for another. There are so many great guitars in the world right now. But the point is that I'd miss it. It's a very rewarding guitar to play - its voice allows you to try things, and hit them, that are very difficult with other electrics. In other words, it's inspiring. I don't know what these sell for new. I see them regularly in the used market for around $400. That's about the price of an Epi LP Standard, and I'd take this over the Epi in a second, unless I played jazz and it were my only guitar. I tried to contact Samick to see how I could mod the guitar to get that round sound, no one replied, shame on them. I'll live with it. If you are looking for a dedicated slide guitar, and one of these comes your way, grab it. I rated it 8 because of the versatility issue above. For an custom guitar in its price range, it's a 10. So compromise on 9.