Guitar Center had their regular huge blowout “list” sale last Labor Day Weekend. Since last Christmas I had been contemplating picking up one of the Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany guitars. The sale over Christmas was a good one and this guitar was included in it, so I was hoping that it would be included again for this sale, too. This was a guitar that Sherry said that she liked a lot. This guitar has a “thin” nitrocellulose finish and has a matte finish that Sherry prefers on it rather than a glossy one. I had been struggling with selling my somewhat rare Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom that is the “star” of the most-read article on my blog. The fact of the matter is that I just don’t play it. So, if I can move to a new guitar that might fit my playing better, and it was on sale, I thought I’d better jump on it.
On Friday over lunch I hightailed it over to Guitar Center in Cedar Rapids, and found out that the guitar in question was, in fact, on sale! It was on sale for $200 off! This guitar is part of Gibson’s sub-$1000 line of guitars that includes most of the “Faded” line.
This is a pretty interesting guitar in a lot of ways. It seems that Guitar Center/Musician’s Friend has this guitar manufactured specifically for them. Apparently manufactured in large enough numbers that they can sell them very cheaply. On the surface, it looks just like the regular Gibson Les Paul Studio in what they call “Worn Brown” with Chrome Hardware. It’s their no-frills Les Paul which I prefer– no amber “top hat” volume and tone knobs, no gold hardware, no binding. Mahogany solid-body with chambers. The guitar itself is slightly thinner than other Les Pauls. The combination of the chambers and thinner body adds to the relative lightness of the guitar. A key difference of the Guitar Center version of this guitar, however, comes in the pickups. The regular Studio Les Paul, that Guitar Center sells for between $1100 and $1400 depending on options has 490R and 498T pickups, which are based on the original 1960′s “Patent Applied For” humbuckers. Guitar Center’s version of the Gibson Les Paul Studio has Burstbucker Pro pickups which are hotter.
Guitar Center had three of these left on Friday, and only one of them was still fresh-in-the-box. The other two were showing signs of demo floor abuse. Only pick scratches, but I wanted one that didn’t have any scratches on it. Additionally, there are slight variations in these guitars since they are hand assembled and finished in Nashville alongside the other Made in USA Gibsons. This one had a darker rosewood fretboard that I preferred. The neck was slightly wider than the other two, but not dramatically so. This guitar, like all Gibsons, came with a hard case, which is a really nice touch. [Note: it has been recently confirmed that Guitar Center no longer offers a hardshell case with the Vintage Mahogany Studios, only a gig bag. See the comments for more details]
Since I was selling the Jag, I was going to need a box to ship that in and they kindly let me take the box the Gibson was in which yielded me some interesting information about the guitar with the labelling on the box. Gibson calls this guitar a “Les Paul Studio Limited” and lists the options as “Worn Brown” and “Chrome.” It is given a model number of LPSTWBCH1, which would seem to mean “Les Paul Studio Worn Brown Chrome.”
So, having had this guitar for a number of weeks, I can say that this guitar certainly meets my expectations. In fact, it might surpass my expectations for a guitar that is considered the entry-level for the Gibson Les Paul line. Most of the complaints on Harmony Central surround fit and finish of these guitars. Indeed, Ian the sales assistant at Guitar Center suggested that I look at and play a bunch of these to make sure that I get one that feels and sounds to my satisfaction. I feel like I picked out the best of the three they had in the store. I didn’t experience any of the issues that some of the folks on the review site had experienced. It’s quite possible that Gibson has improved this guitar over time, too. It sounds great. I’m playing it through a homebrew tube amp called a P1 that a friend of mine made for me. The Burstbuckers overdrive the EL84 tube nicely adding to enough crunchy distortion for my tastes. The relative short scale of the Les Paul (24.75″) versus my Fender Strat (25.5″) takes a bit to get used to, but I’m adapting, and I find myself reaching for the LP more frequently. The setup was pretty basic, but the strings are a bit higher than I prefer and two of the strings could stand some tweaking for intonation and I’m going to be working on that in the near future. The vintage-style “green key” kluson tuners seem to do a relatively good job of holding the guitar in tune.
Overall, I would recommend this guitar for someone who wants to get into a Gibson LP for less money and the bonus upgrades on this model make it a steal, indeed. You can always go with an Epiphone, but I think the combination of features and looks makes this guitar an instant favorite for me.
UPDATE: This guitar has been discontinued in favor of a new Gibson Les Paul called the LPJ. It replaces the green key tuners for new black key tuners which match the black covers of the new “PAF” style 490R/498T pickups. Check it out at Sam Ash by clicking the image: