New Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Studio “Vintage Mahogany”

Gibson Les Paul Studio Vintage Mahogany

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: After a strange couple of years of rebranding and an unfortunate 2015 model year it appears that Gibson has brought the Worn Studio series back for 2016– almost exactly the way it was in 2012. This is slightly different than my 2008 as it has a maple cap over the mahogany, otherwise it is very similar. Take a look at models for sale at

5 thoughts on “New Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Studio “Vintage Mahogany”

  1. Pingback: New Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Studio “Vintage Mahogany”

  2. just bought this guitar a week ago from GC in North Houston. interestingly it doesn’t come with a hard case anymore…nowadays they come with a rather cheesy Gibson soft gig bag. I love it. I have short arms & the shorter scale suits me perfectly. I also love the chambered lightness (or relative lightness compared to traditional Les Pauls), even tho elsewhere on the net the “chambered” versions receive some scorn from fans of the traditional LP.

    I traded my high-end Epiphone SG (G-400 Limited Edition 1966 Reissue…not a “bolt-on”) in towards this guitar, and GC gave me a good price. I can tell you having owned both tho, that the Gibson is obviously a superior instrument. The Epiphone was a great axe, but the little things on the Gibson are so much cleaner (fret ends, etc) & nicer.

    I bought the only one they had, so I didn’t have the luxury of getting one w/o the pickguard scratches. Ah well. Love the feel of the neck. Thanks for the article! Great writeup on a fantastic guitar

  3. Thanks for the comment, Dr. Prince!

    I wasn’t aware that they are no longer including the hardshell case– that’s kind of a bummer. I took a quick look over at the GC site, and confirmed they appear to have taken the hardshell from just the “worn”/”faded” line which is too bad. It used to be one of the things you could count on from it being an American-made guitar. Of course, everything else about the guitar still applies.

    I see that Fender is implementing a similar tactic with their “American Special” line– street price around $800-$900, limited options and a gig bag. Notably, they use the CBS-era headstock and logos and not the “spaghetti” style pre-CBS logo and headstock reserved for the American Standard line.

    Anyone who does a substantial amount of load-in/load-out associated with gigging would want to invest the $200 for a good case. In addition to protecting the guitar from shock and banging around, it also helps manage temperature and humidity, which are sometimes as damaging as a drop or shock would be.

  4. Hi,

    I’m looking to buy a second hand Studio off Craigslist. I played it yesterday and it was great. However, I noticed that the decal on the headstock said “Junior” after the LEs Paul script. The seller said that her bought the guitar either in 07 or 08 from Guitar Center, and when I called Gibson to inquire, they said it was probably a retailer specific version like you mentioned in your piece. Do either of you LP Studios say “Junior” below the Les Paul script but still say Studio on the truss rod cover?

  5. Hi,
    First, thanks for the stop and the question! My guitar has “Studio” on the truss rod cover. In fact, the Studio and the Junior are pretty different guitars even though they share the “Les Paul” name. Most Studios tend to be just “stripped down” versions of the regular Les Pauls– the Deluxe, Custom, Goldtop or the Standard for example. Typically, the Studios have Humbucker pickups, although the original Les Pauls from the 50’s (and the subsequent replicas) did have P-90 single-coils. Also, the Les Paul (these days) tends to be considered a chambered or maybe “semi-hollowbody).

    The LP Junior is more of a “slab” guitar and has one P-90 pickup.

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