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Gibson 2018 Buyer's Guide

by Richard Blenkinsop. Posted on 2017-09-06 10:15:11

Recently we announced the Gibson USA 2018 lineup. Consisting of Les Pauls, SGs, Firebirds, a Flying V, an Explorer, and a couple of High Performance guitars, there's something in there for everyone. To read the quick-spec rundown of the models, read our announcement here. Here, we're going to go into a bit more detail on each model, to hopefully help you figure out which guitar's the one for you.

It's worth noting that the only guitars this year that have G-Force (gibson's self-tuning device) on board are the Les Paul Standard High Performance and the SG Standard High Performance. They've also got a slightly wider neck, Fast-Access neck heel, adjustable titanium nut and a few other upgrades. All the other models in the Gibson 2018 range have manual tuners and regular neck width and nut.

Les Paul Standard

The Les Paul Standard is always the flagship model within the Gibson USA range. Launched in the late 50s, it's an ever-evolving instrument. As years went by, players wanted more out their guitars, which led to slightly hotter pickups amongst other small tweaks. The 2018 Gibson Les Paul Standard is a modern guitar, though it still very much has a foot in the era that spawned it. It's fitted with Burstbucker Pro pickups - these enhance the vintage PAF sound, with a touch more edge. They're hotter than the BBs in the Traditional, meaning they'll break up a bit earlier and the use of a stronger Alnico V magnet gives them a slightly beefier, chunkier tone. The pickups also have coil tap capability so you can get single coil style sounds out of it too.

The Asymmetrical Slim Taper neck profile means that it's a touch thinner on the treble side making lead work more comfortable. Locking tuners help tuning stability and cryogenically treated frets mean that they'll stand up to wear better. For 2018, the Gibson Les Paul Standard is available in some new, incredible, eye-catching finishes - Cobalt Burst and Blood Orange Burst, alongside the more traditional, Heritage Cherry Sunburst and Mojave Burst. As you might expect for a guitar of this quality, it comes supplied with a Gibson hardcase. An absolute workhorse of a guitar.

Les Paul Standard High Performance

The 2018 Gibson Les Paul Standard High Performance represents the next stage of evolution for this legendary guitar, and is absolutely packed full of nifty features designed to make guitarists' lives easier. It's got the self-tuning mechanism - G-Force, which has been updated again meaning that it tunes your guitar at the push of a button, quicker than ever. Like the regular LP Standard, you've got push and pull knobs to split the coils however, unique to the HP is the DIP switch inside that gives you up to 150 different wiring variations - did someone say versatile? If you want classic Les Paul tone, worry not - this guitar will give you that amongst everything else.

The High Performance also features a slightly wider neck (1.745" at nut) giving you a bit more surface to play on. It's not quite as wide as it was in 2015, but wide enough to notice a difference. I find it very comfortable - chords just seem to ring out really well and lead lines area a bit easier to pick out. The neck profile is the tried and tested Asymmetrical Slim Taper, which is a little thinner on the treble side. The HP Les Paul Standard has an adjustable titanium nut making tweaks to your action much easier and quicker, which, paired with titatnium saddles also maximise string resonanace.

You'll notice the incredible top on this - AAA+ figured maple which is shown off by all the finishes (Hot Pink Fade is exclusive to the HP range). The Gibson 2018 Les Paul Standard High Performance also comes supplied with a really high quality aluminium hard case.

Les Paul Traditional

The Les Paul Traditional is the one for the purists. It's loosely modelled on the all-hallowed 58/59/60 models, so it's got a fairly chunky Rounded neck profile, non-weight relieved mahogany body with maple top (AA figured, so probably closer to the look of a 59/60 than 58) and pickups that capture that legendary PAF sound. With a touch of overdrive, the pickups slightly enhance the high frequencies - the sound you've heard on so many classic rock records. The 2018 Gibson Les Paul Traditional also has Orange Drop capacitors giving you consistent tone - like it was way back when.

It's available in three classic finishes, including Tobacco Sunburst which we haven't seen for a while. You also get cryogenically treated frets making them a bit more hard-wearing, and vintage style keystone tuners. With the guitar, you get a classic style Gibson hardcase. The 2018 Les Paul Traditional has a classic spec that old-school players will love - it really does live up to its name!

Les Paul Classic

Possibly my favourite guitar in the Gibson 2018 range. Classic Les Paul styling with a pair of aggressive, gnarly sounding P90s. These pickups are basically oversized single coils and can really cut through a mix. The mahogany body has no weight relief and is topped with a maple cap - classic, old-school Les Paul setup. Playability is great with the Slim Taper neck profile and rolled fret binding. The guitar also has Orange Drop capacitors - these were introduced in the 60s and are heralded as the dons of the capacitor world (if such thing exists) - they give you consistent tone and help lend a touch of articulate mid-punch.

The 2018 Gibson Les Paul Classic is reminiscent of the legendary '54 Custom - particuarly in that beautiful Ebony finish! Like the other guitars in the 2018 Gibson range, the Les Paul Studio benefits from cryogenically treated frets meaning that they'll stand up to wear much better. It also comes supplied with a classic Gibson hardcase.

Les Paul Studio

This year's Les Paul Studio swaps out the usual 490R/498T pickups for a 57 Classic (neck) and a 57 Classic + (bridge). They're a touch brighter and sonically closer to the PAF style pickups that helped make the Les Paul so famous and desirable in the late 50s. What's handy with the Studio is that the pickups are coil-tapped; what this means is that you can pull up on the volume knobs to essentially change the pickups to single coils, making it a really versatile guitar.

The Les Paul Studio was originally designed to give you all the tones that a Standard could, without any of the flash aesthetic thus keeping the cost down. That's still pretty much the case today however what's new for the 2018 Studio is the neck binding - not only does this look really nice but feels comfortable on your fretting hand too. Like the other guitars in the 2018 Gibson range, the Les Paul Studio benefits from cryogenically treated frets meaning that they'll stand up to wear much better. It also comes supplied with a classic Gibson hardcase.

 

Les Paul Tribute

The Les Paul Tribute is pretty much what it says on tin - a tribute to Les Pauls of the past. A solid, non-weight relieved mahogany body and maple top fitted with classic sounding humbuckers give you that big, beefy tone the Gibson Les Paul is known for. The bridge pickup has plenty of mid-range bite and works really well with distortion - the neck pickup is a touch more mellow. Both pickups are wax-potted to lessen the likelihood of unwanted, microphonic feedback. The Slim Taper neck profile is a little thinner than a 50s style neck so it's going to comfortable for all players.

The Les Paul Tribute is a good option for players on a budget that want a rock-solid, reliable guitar that plays and sounds great. Like the other guitars in the 2018 Gibson range, it's got cryogenically treated frets so they'll stand up to wear much better. It also comes supplied with a really nice, freshly designed Gibson softshell case. An amazing guitar guitar for well under a grand.

Les Paul Faded

The Gibson Les Paul Faded is the most affordable singlecut model within the 2018 range. It's got a pair of Gibson 490R & T humbucking pickups giving you all the classic rock and blues tones you'd expect from a Les Paul. I find them to be a little more mellow (not quite as bright) than the 57 Classics that are in this year's LP Studio. They've got a fairly medium output, though they're wax potted meaning that if you're sticking it through a high-gain rig, you're less likely to encounter unwanted feedback. Jazz and blues players will love the thick, mellow, warm neck pickup tone and rock players will feel right at home with the punchy bridge pickup sound. This model also has Gibson's ultra-modern weight relief - this means the mahogany body has strategically routed holes cut into it to make the guitar lighter, without compromising tone.

For players that have lusted after a proper Gibson Les Paul but don't want to spend as much on a Standard or Traditional, this is a great option. It's a proper, American-made Gibson Les Paul and dishes out all the tones to prove it. Like the other guitars in the 2018 Gibson range, the Les Paul Faded benefits from cryogenically treated frets meaning that they'll stand up to wear much better. It also comes supplied with a really nice, freshly designed Gibson softshell case. At this price, it represents incredible value for money.

SG Standard

The Gibson SG Standard is one of the best selling Gibsons of all time and has been the first choice for jazz players and metalheads alike, thanks largely to the mahogany body, which lends both sustain and warmth to the sound. The 2018 model has a fairly new set of pickups in it - the 61R and 61T. These are based on the pickups found in the original 1961 SGs and capture that sacred PAF tone, but perhaps with a touch more of a modern edge.

The body shape and thickness mean that it's a bit lighter than most Les Pauls, plus the twin cutaway allows for easy access to the higher frets. This, combined with the Slim Taper neck profile makes it a good choice for lead players that find themselves at the top of the neck a lot. The guitar also benefits from cryogenically treated frets, meaning that they'll stand up to wear much better. The 2018 SG Standard comes with a hardcase and is available in the classic Heritage Cherry and Ebony finishes, alongside a new Autumn Shade.

SG Standard High Performance

This is a Gibson SG, like you've never seen before. It's made with a mahogany body - as you would expect, however the 2018 SG Standard High Performance also has a AA figured maple cap. Not only does this give an amazing visual effect (the finishes really pop!), but it also adds a touch of snap and articulation to the sound too. It's fitted with a 57 Classic in the neck, and a slightly hotter Super 57 Classic pickup in the bridge. These are based on the PAF-era pickups of the late 50s so will give you classic tones. If however, you want tonal variation, the HP SG has push/pull volume knobs to give you single-coil style sounds. There's also a DIP switch inside that gives you an even bigger range of tones, making it an incredibly versatile instrument.

The classic SG double cutaway makes for easy access to the higher frets, and the Slim Taper neck profile lends itself nicely to lead and rhythm playing alike. Like the other High Performance models we've seen over the last few years, the 2018 Gibson SG Standard HP Has Gibson's self-tuning mechanism on board. G-Force has recently been updated so that it now tunes your guitar, at the push of a button, quicker than ever. It's available in four really striking finishes and comes shipped in a superb quality aluminium hardcase.

SG Special

The 2018 Gibson SG Special is a really cool guitar, and is pretty unique. You'll no doubt recognise the legendary double-cut body shape that allows easy access to the highest notes on the fretboard. What's different about the Special is that it's fitted with Mini Humbuckers - these give a different sound to regular humbuckers - they're a touch brighter, and have slightly less output, meaning that they'll stay clean for a bit longer. Stick this guitar through an overdriven amp though and you'll get a nice bite that will cut through a band mix really well.

The 2018 Gibson SG Special has a nice 60s/70s vibe to it - both sonically and aesthetically. The neck profile is Gibson's famous Slim Taper - comfortable for pretty much any player. This model also has 24 frets, instead of the regular 22. Like the rest of the 2018 models, the SG Special benefits from cryogenically treated frets helping them stand up over time against fret-wear. It comes shipped with a softshell case and overall, represents really good value for money.

SG Faded

This is the most affordable SG in the Gibson 2018 range and offers incredible value for money. It's built in America to a high standard so will last you for years and years to come. This model is fitted with an 490R humbucking pickup in the neck and a 490T in the bridge - these are versatile pickups that give you a big, warm, rounded sound, with enough of an edge to work for rock and metal, as well as blues or even jazz. These pickups combined with the mahogany body will give you that classic Gibson sustain too.

SGs have been played by a huge range of players - Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Derek Trucks, Tony Iommi and Robby Krieger to name but a few! The double cutaway in the body makes accessing those really high notes on the treble strings much easier and, it's a lighter guitar. than most Les Pauls. The neck on this is a Slim Taper - comfortable for most players, inluding beginners and there's less wood to get your hand around. The Gibson 2018 SG Faded comes supplied with a really nice, padded softshell case.

Firebird

For years, the Gibson Firebird has proved to be a great choice for players that want an alternative to the Les Paul or the SG. Its shape is instantly recognisable and will help make you stand out. The sound is also different to Gibson's other guitars; the Firebird is fitted with a pair of Mini Humbuckers which have a little more bite and top end compared to their regular humbuckers. They've also got a relatively low output giving you a really nice clean tone, with a great bark to them when overdriven. The neck through body construction allows the Firebird to sustain really well, lending it nicely to blues and rock players.

The Slim Taper neck design makes it comfortable to play and the cryogenically treated frets will stand up to wear better. The 2018 Gibson Firebird also comes shipped with a great quality hardcase too.

 

Firebird Studio

The Firebird Studio has a flat body, unlike the other Firebird in the series - it's also got a non-reverse headstock and different pickups. The 2018 Firebird Studio is fitted with a pair of P-90s, which are essentially oversized, high output single coil pickups giving this guitar a fairly unique sound. They can cut through a mix really well and have a nice upper mid bite to them, particuarly when overdriven. Dial back on the tone knob though and you'll get a wide range of sounds out of it.

The Slim Taper neck design makes it comfortable to play and the cryogenically treated frets will stand up to wear better. The 2018 Gibson Firebird Studio also comes shipped with a great quality hardcase too.

 

Flying V

The Flying V is a classic. First introduced in 1958, it's as radical a body shape now as it was back then. Rife within rock and heavy metal, it's a guitar that will get you noticed straight away. The 2018 Gibson Flying V is fitted with a Burstbucker 2 in the neck and an even hotter Burstbucker 3 in the bridge. These pickups are based on those produced in the late 50s - back then, it was all done using machines that weren't anywhere near as precise as they are today. The result was a range of pickups with various outputs; the BB2 and BB3 are quite hot meaning that they'll break up sooner - ideal for rock and metal, though they clean up nicely too.

Aside from the look and the sound of the guitar, the 2018 Gibson Flying V plays great too, largely thanks to the comfortable Slim Taper neck profile. The frets are also cryogenically treated meaning that they'll stand up to wear much better. Also included with this guitar is a really good quality hardcase.

 

Explorer

This year's Gibson Explorer is sure to be a big hit. It's hugely reminiscent of the 1958-60 Korina Explorers, which now go for crazy money. Instead of korina however, the body is made from mahogany and is fitted with Burstbucker 2 and 3 pickups. These pickups are based on those produced in the late 50s - back then, it was all done using machines that weren't anywhere near as precise as they are today. The result was a range of pickups with various outputs; the BB2 and BB3 are quite hot meaning that they'll break up sooner - ideal for rock and metal, though they clean up nicely too.

The Explorer body shape is really unique and has been seen on stages around the world artist from U2 to Metallica. The 2018 Gibson Explorer has a Slim Taper neck profile making quick lead work comfortable for your fretting hand. It also comes shipped with a great quality hardcase.

 


By Richard Blenkinsop for Reidys. Posted on 2017-09-06 10:15:11