Gibson Les Paul Faded VS Les Paul Studio: A Comparison

Every year, Gibson make a few changes to the lineup of guitars they offer. Both the Gibson Les Paul Faded and Les Paul Studio, in one form or another, are usually in the lineup and usually come in at the lower end of the price range. This year, the Les Paul Faded is the most affordable Gibson USA model, with the Studio not too far ahead of it.


With these two American made Les Pauls coming in at much less than a Traditional or Standard, you might be wondering what the difference between the 2018 Gibson Les Paul Faded and Studio is. On paper, they are very similar but there are small differences that add up to justify the price difference between them.

Les Paul Faded 2018

Les Paul Studio 2018
Pickups 490R & T (Alnico #2) 57 Classic & 57 Classic+ (Alnico #2)
Both with individual coil tap function
Neck Slim Taper profile
Maple neck
Rosewood fingerboard
Slim Taper profile
Mahogany neck
Rosewood fingerboard
Body Ultra modern weight relief
Average body weight: 4lbs 6.7oz
Plain maple top
Ultra modern weight relief
Average body weight: 4lbs 6.7oz
Plain maple top
Features Vintage keystone style tuners
Black top hat knobs
Faded Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
Comes with gigbag
Grover kidney tuners
Speed knobs
Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
Comes with hardcase and Gibson multi-tool



What’s the difference between the Les Paul Studio and Faded? – Sound

We’ll start with the pickups. The Gibson Les Paul Faded and Studio come fitted with different pickup sets so they do sound slightly different, though they’ve both still got that classic Les Paul sound you’d associate with the guitar i.e. big, beefy, warm, with plenty of sustain.

Gibson have changed the pickups on the Studio this year – it’s fitted with a 57 Classic in the neck and a 57 Classic + in the bridge. As you might have guessed, these are based on the legendary pickups of the late 50s so deliver that old school Gibby tone. The Alnico 490s in the Les Paul Faded are a slightly more modern pickup, with a touch more presence in the upper mids. I find the 57s to have a bit more warmth to them. It’s also worth noting that the 57 Classic + in the bridge of the Studio is slightly overwound. What does that mean? Well, the strings move less near the bridge and the pickup in the Studio helps make up for that so in theory, you’ll get a better balance between the two pickups. The way I hear it, the bridge pickup on the Les Paul Studio breaks up a bit sooner – as expected, which might give it the slight edge if you’re playing hard rock or metal.


Gibson Les Paul Studio 2018 in Smokehouse Burst


The Les Paul Studio also allows you to coil tap the pickups, which the Faded doesn’t. By pulling up on the volume knobs, you can get the humbuckers to sound more like single coil pickups (like you’d see in a Strat or Tele) giving you a thinner, snappier sound. Coil tapped pickups essentially give you another set of sounds in the same guitar – go from classic Les Paul to Strat-esque sounds in a second! This makes the Les Paul Studio more versatile than the Faded.


Simply pull up on these to get single coil style tones


Another difference is that the Les Paul Faded has a maple neck, and the Studio has a mahogany neck (both with rosewood fingerboards). Maple is denser and stiffer than mahogany so in theory, might sustain a little better. It does sustain really nicely – but the Studio does too! Whilst the neck material is certainly different on these two guitars, how much it affects the difference in tone between them is borderline negligable.

What’s the difference between the Les Paul Studio and Faded? – Feel and Features

In terms of how they feel, they are very similar – they share the same neck profile, average body weight and body depth. One thing that is different is the control knobs – black top hat style on the Faded; speed knobs on the Studio. Neither is better – just different. How the guitars are finished is also different which affects how they both feel, as well as how they look.


Gibson Les Paul Faded 2018 in Worn Cherry


One of the biggest practical differences between the Gibson Les Paul Faded and Studio is the case. The Faded comes supplied with a gigbag and the Studio includes a hardcase, as well as a Gibson multi-tool that makes restringing and tweaking your action a bit easier. A decent hardcase is usually over £100 so here, you can really see where your extra money goes. Other differences include Grover tuners on the Studio – they’re a tad surdier than the vintage keystone style tuners on the Faded.


The Gibson Les Paul Faded and Les Paul Studio are both towards the more affordable end of what Gibson do, and mean that more players have access to this legendary guitar. The Les Paul Studio was designed as a stripped down version of the Standard, without any of the flash extras but still with great playability and sound – it’s since become somewhat of a classic guitar in its own right. The Les Paul Faded, in the last few years has been the cheapest Les Paul in the series but it’s still an American Gibson, packed with amazing features.


The gigbag (with Faded) and hardcase (with Studio)


For me, the main differences between these two guitars are the coil tap function, higher output bridge pickup and hardcase with the Studio. Overall, the guitars really aren’t wildly different, but the Les Paul Studio is more versatile – being able to go from a super distorted metal sound to a snappy single coil sound is something the Faded can’t do, and it’s nice having a little extra bite in the bridge pickup. The full body, higher gloss finish on the Studio also makes the guitar look more expensive. They do however, both give you the classic, beefy Gibson Les Paul tone that’s been so rife throughout rock and blues over the last 60 years so you’ll not go far wrong with either!


  • Robert Crick

    I have both a 2003 alphine white Studio with Seymour Duncan pups and a 2018 Worn Brown Faded with 490R & 490T pups l love the sound of both guitars and both play excellent LOVE my Les Paul’s I also own an Epiphone Les Paul Standard with 57 classic & 57 classic + pups in Honey Burst which also plays and sounds great

    • David Smith

      I’ve tried the Fender Strat at times but felt it was too cumbersome to get used to. The Les always felt comfortable. And the legendary sustain when used with compression & distortion is ‘off the hook’.

    • Heavytrain

      I just bought a 2017 Worn Cherry Faded from GC in great shape and love playing it. I also own an Epiphone Traditional III Pro Limited Edition with the Gibson 57 and 57+ pups. I bought the Epiphone 1959 Standard and was not impressed so I returned it. The Gibson has way better tone and feel and for 685.00 I feel like I got an awesome deal. I do need to clean it up and bought Musicnomad F1 for the fretboard and l was going to use the Musicnomad Guitar One on the body, it’s an all in one cleaner polish and wax but I am not sure about using it on the faded finish after reading that the lacquer is very thin and I do not want to damage it. If you have any thoughts on that your input would be appreciated.