The Gibson Pete Townshend 50th Anniversary SG Standard Limited WHO Edition Guitar Review

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The Gibson Pete Townshend 50th Anniversary SG Standard Electric Guitar Review
I love Gibson SG guitars. Really, I do. So much so that I scrambled and bought a new SG for Christmas for me… The Gibson Pete Townshend 50th Anniversary SG Standard was out of manufacture, and a few of them were left at the online retailers. I knew I’d love some P90 goodness, an old-school SG setup, and that nice Gibson 60’s SlimTaper™ neck.

I really enjoyed my Christmas present. It made for lots of happy evenings of after-work picking and recording.
FactoryGibsonPeteTownshendHeadstock
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Quick Opinion:
It really was a strong purchase – and I’m glad I did it. My Pete Townshend arrived in absolute perfect shape, crafted with great care and put together perfectly. The neck was superb, the sound was fantastic, and the finish was remarkable. You’ve gotta love that new Canadian TKL case smell combined with that new hand-finished lacquer smell. Yowza.
The Pete Townshend SG plays like a dream and has a sound that is unmistakably golden. This guitar is a player, and begs to be taken out of its collector’s case and PLAYED.

Features:
The Gibson Pete Townshend 50th Anniversary SG Standard with P90s guitar is an excellent bundle bargain. It has what you’d expect from a Gibson Standard SG, plus a cool case. Overall, I think Gibson really packed a lot in to this instrument for the money.
* Mahogany body and neck
* Rosewood fretboard with 12” radius
* Dot inlays
* Polaris White nitrocellulose lacquer finish
* 22 frets on a 24 ¾” scale 60’s SlimTaper neck
* A wraparound compensated lightening bar saddle bridge
* Full size Grover nickel Rotomatic tuners
* 2 Alnico V P-90 pickups (vintage voiced, plus a little extra oomph)
* Totally cool “WHO” special silkscreened case
FactoryGibsonPeteTownshendCaseExterior

Playability
Along with the nice features, playability is where this Gibson SG shines. It feels great in the hands from start to finish. It begs to be played, and if you are like me, the neck is a real winner. Although I usually write a great deal about playability when I compose guitar reviews, I didn’t feel it was necessary to do so with this review. The Pete Townshend 50th Anniversary Gibson SG plays like an old friend in mint condition.

This guitar feels great in the hands. The finish is easy on the paws and the balance is typical for an SG – and it feels right at home. I love the way the fretboard radius is set up, and the frets are a breeze.

In general, this is the archetypical SG in many ways and it’s easy to play!
FactoryGibsonPeteTownshendBodyShot

Sound Sound, sound, sound, sound, sound… Rich, thick, full, strong, awesome, iconic, fantastic, unbelievable – these are the words that I would think every time I played my Pete Townshend.
The Gibson SG Pete Townshend guitar is no longer available through retail as a new guitar, but you can read lots about the many different Gibson SGs here at zZounds.com.

The pickups can be warm and full when they are not overdriven. When the pickup selector toggle is in the middle or neck position, the sound can be downright molasses thick – fairly amazing for a single coil pickup. Once you start to add overdrive or distortion, things get really deep. The midtones are warm without being muddy. One of the great things about a Gibson vintage-voiced P-90 is that it is versatile without losing EQ.

With the selector on the bridge pickup, the guitar downright wails with tube amplification. It’s snarky enough to get a good bite and definition of the higher pitches – but it doesn’t lose all its low-end tightness. The midtones are very strong in the bridge pickup. I do love Fender single-coil pickups, and they are very different than P-90s – but the completely different nature of the Gibson P-90 pickups is an incredible strong sound that has its own wonderful coloring: not all single coils are the same.
FactoryGibsonPeteTownshendBodyShot2
I really like zZounds and their service, and their people! Here’s a list of the current Gibson SGs offered at zZounds.

Fit and Finish
When I unboxed my Pete Townshend SG, I was actually impressed with pretty much all the aspects of the way it is built. Smooth finish, excellent choice of rosewood fretboard wood, hand-crafted fret-end binding, superb carving of the body and neck, and a flawless setup of the bridge, pickups, and headstock components… very nice!

Each of the Gibson “standards” I’ve owned (and those with fret-end binding) has a unique quality to the way the binding is scraped and cut down to meet the fret ends and the fretboard wood. Some guitars will have a little ridgy-ness to the top surface of the fretboard binding that’s scraped away, others will exhibit a baby-soft smoothness. Some guitars have both… but I always find that the fret-end binding technique (rough or smooth) makes the neck so very playable. My Townshend SG was the variety where the craftswoman/craftsman who dressed the fretboard binding really took a long time to do the finish work. It was as though the binding had been made ten minutes or so per side per fret. I think it’s the best I’ve seen, including my Les Paul Custom… Nice!

Funny thing about necks… they either feel right or they don’t. This one did. I think the craftsperson who did the neck really thought it through from beginning to end. Overall, a great guitar!
Here’s Gibson’s page detailing the wonderful SG Pete Townshend 50th Anniversary edition. (Opens new window.)

Wishes and Wants The wrap around Lightening Bar compensated tailpiece/bridge is excellent in comparison with the traditional smooth-top wrap-around tailpiece. However, I did not have much success in recording with the Pete Townshend and other guitars with TOMs or individual-saddle bridges.

The Ibanez AF75TDG Artcore Hollowbody Guitar with Bigsby Review with gold trim and Candy Apple Red metallic finish!

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The Ibanez Artcore Hollowbody AF75TDG Review – Bigsby, Gold, ACH and more!

I’ve really enjoyed having a few semi-hollowbody and hollowbody electric guitars over the years. They give something completely new to a palette of sound in a guitarist’s library. There are many, many famous hollowbody players in current and older times – for a good reason. Their sound is uniquely wonderful and truly a pleasure to the ear. With many hollowbody guitars, options on pickups, wiring, and amplifiers can even give you a choice of sounds that extends from jazz to rock to country to rockabilly to even some forms of heavy rock. They’re versatile, interesting, warm-sounding, and a real pleasure to play.

This review is about an open (true) hollowbody from the many offered by Ibanez. These “jazz boxes” are particularly well-built and sound delicious. I’ve owned my AF75 (reviewed here:) since 2005 and won’t part with it. I’ve even owned a handful of different widths and sizes of Ibanez hollowbodies, all from the nice Artcore line. I’ve sold my AF75TDG (CR – Candy Apple Red), but am now in the process of looking for another down the road pretty soon. Just looking at the pictures for this review made me really miss mine!
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGFront1ByJimPearson

Quick Opinion: Wow. Buy one.

Seriously. Just buy one. I’ll detail why in the review below.

You can read more, get pricing information, and purchase the Ibanez AF75TDG here at zZounds. These are great folks… click through and help an old hippie earn some income? 🙂

Playability: The Artcore series from Ibanez are generally very easy to play from the standpoint of the neck’s geometry and the overall weight of the guitar. The AF75 series guitars have nice medium-thick hollow bodies that have a nice acoustic sound and feel to them. Since they’re not thin like a flat-body, you’ll find yourself reaching over the top a bit to put your playing/plucking hand in the playing position. This isn’t a function of AF75s, but of any hollowbody in general. Since the Ibanez Artcore AF75s are thicker than most semi-hollowbody guitars (such as the Gibson ES or the Epiphone Sheraton, for example), you’ll find yourself feeling as though you have a heavier acoustic guitar in your hands. This isn’t a problem: it’s just something you get used to when playing thicker hollowbodies.

I feel that the neck has a nice grip to it, something like a shallow D, not as deep as a V or as flat as a C: something in the middle of neck profiles. I like the way it feels, it’s substantial, but without being a baseball bat. Folks with small hands generally appreciate the way the AF75TD neck plays: I donated a couple of my AFs to some wonderful old roots blues musicians via the Music Maker foundation – and they found them to be easy to play and a delight to hear.

IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGBack1ByJimPearson

A sultry curvy maple back – with that classic carved look


In general, the smooth, polished hard gloss finish is comfortable, the back is broad and comfy, and the fingerboard feels quite natural under the fretting fingers. On the whole, the AF75TDG is a lightweight hollowbody that is comfortable and a pleasure to play.

Sound: The sound of the AF75TDG is nothing short of wonderful. It has the low-output, warm, whole, broad sound you would expect from a jazz-boxy hollowbody electric guitar. The sound of the AF75TD is by far one of the strongest reasons to play and own one.

Here is a little breakdown of the way I feel about the TDG:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Hollowbody-ness
3) Body and neck woods
4) A tip for rounder sound!

IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGHeadstockFront1ByJimPearson

Nice headstock, pearly buttons


Pickups and Electronics: The ACH1 and ACH2 humbucking pickups shipped in the AF75TD are clean, smooth, and very rich. They are definitely on the low-output side of things, almost to the point of Vintage. The ACH1 (neck pickup) and the ACH2 (bridge pickup) use ceramic magnets. They lean towards the dark side (no pun intended… or is it? :-)) and tend to be harmonically medium: that is, they are not as full range as something like a Seymour Duncan SH1 or a DiMarzio PAF. They tend to capture the lows and low mids perfectly – making them ideal for jazz and classic rock and rockabilly.

The wiring is typical of Asian-made guitars, with ultra-mass-produced pots, switch, capacitor, and jack. The switch is surprisingly strong and solid for a “little box” switch. When I did some upgrades to my orange AF75, I actually left the original switch (the same one used in the AF75TD) in the guitar – I was very satisfied with the action and the connectivity it offered. The wires themselves are the typical fine-gauge vinyl-covered wires you would find in most any Asian-made instrument. No real problems here, just basic inexpensive stuff.

I found the solder joints to be solidly done and not sloppy with brown goop, nor were the leads sloppily attached to their access points. Overall, the wiring is good for simple clean sound. I do think that down the road that the pots will probably get scratchy, but I’m thinking that this would be a matter of decades and not one or two years – depending on the conditions in which the guitar lives.

Hollowbody-ness: The laminated plywood body top, back, and sides are lovely maple that is generally high grade in appearance and in grain. The outside ply of the plywood is also pretty nice looking on every model I’ve ever played. The consistency and thickness of the plywood appears to be very even and well-chosen. This lends itself to a strong open sound that is remarkably even for something with a pressed-maple laminate body.
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGHeadstockBack1ByJimPearson
The AF75 and AF75TDG are true hollowbody guitars – they don’t have center blocks and they’re not “dugout with F hole” guitars. All the other varieties of hollowbody and semihollowbody guitars have their place an their strong points, the true open holowbody truly has its hallmark for the warm and open sound it creates.

A side-effect of a hollowbody with F holes or a soundhole is that it will feed back (squeal or scream) if the guitar gets in a situation that is too loud or is too close to a loud amplifier or PA speaker. This is something that is known about how this design works, and is not peculiar to the Ibanez (or other similar guitars, for that matter). Many guitar players who play in large/loud/stage situations will often take no-stick tape such as painter’s tape and cover one or both F holes. Other creative solutions include using electrical tape to tape a small piece of paper or cardboard over the F holes. Note this: I’m not responsible for any modifications you make to your guitar! If you’re worried about damaging the finish on your guitar, don’t put tape on it.

IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGFloatingRollerBridgeDetail1ByjimPearson
Body and neck woods: As I touched on in the Hollowbody-ness section, the body wood is laminated maple plywood. Its a bright and resilient wood that actually allows some nice mid-tones to shine through. The brightness of the not-too-flexible maple plywood is largely balanced by the nature of the warm low-output pickups and the hollow body of the guitar. The woods are beautiful, very strong, and really make this guitar a special treat.

The neck tonal color is a delight. It is a mahogany and maple neck that is made of (according to Ibanez’s specs) three piece. It sustains nicely and carries the sound from the nut to the body very well.

A Tip for that Round Sound Want that super-jazz sound out of your AF75? Put flatwound strings on it. They come from the factory with D’Addario round-wound 10s. Without much (if any) adjustment, the AF75 can be upped to flatwound 11s or even better 12s. The 12s are a lot harder to bend and can really take some calluses, but they sound fantastic. With some careful adjustment, the AF series can generally take 13s as well. I love Fender flatwounds, but I don’t really like the rough G string (the 3rd string), which is wrapped (not plain) on flatwound sets in general. I like to use D’Addario Chromes on my hollowbody guitars because I like the quality, the sound, and the smoother G string. Another alternative is to buy your favorite brand’s flatwounds and replace the G string with an equal-diameter plain string from the same manufacturer’s roundwound set. I’ve done both and like both for different reasons. In short – its’ a personal choice.

Quality: Every single Ibanez AF75 (of any model, be it D, TG, T, or other!) has been made so well to the point where they are pretty much flawless. The workmanship is incredible, the attention to detail has been superb with every single Artcore I’ve played or handled.

The paint finish is a hard, glossy, smooth finish that’s almost as if the instrument’s wood was dipped in wet glass. The binding is all over the guitar, and is done without a single bump or split or mis-match. Very nice…
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGGoldBigsbyDetail1ByJimPearson
The fret ends were dressed better than average. My AF75TDG had no ragged ends, and the frets were pretty much level right out of the box. I found the neck to be buzz free, either with roundwound Ernie Ball strings or flatwound D’Addario strings. The surface of the fretboard is smooth, burr-free, and the inlays were done with a minimum of “fill ins.” Sometimes, however, Ibanez will have a little extra fill-in putty on guitars that have more ornate inlays. I’ve not had a problem with this, because it is generally almost unnoticeable, and the feel and sound and general look are not affected.

I loved the huge single swath of maple on the top ply of my AF75TDG. it looks almost like it is one large single piece of maple…
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGFHoleBodyDetail1ByJimPearson
Another note about the binding: it looks great and really dresses things up. LOTS of manufacturers don’t put binding in the F holes, including $800 (street) Epis… I think the binding is well done and is a nice touch. Also, the TDG has pearloid tuner buttons – they’re a nice touch. They don’t change the tuning any, but they look cool. 🙂

Shameless plug… Click here to see more about the Ibanez AF75TDG hollowbody here at zZounds.com here…. they’ve got guarantees that make it easy to try out something new!

Value: Wow. These are priced spot-on in the new market and are a screaming bargain in the used market. I’ve found that the street price of the AFTs is in line with or less expensive than comparable guitars from other manufacturers. On the used side, you can often snag an AFT with a real Ibanez case for a very reasonable price. They’re generally underappreciated in the market, but always loved by those who pick them up. They’re not low-value at all – they’re just not the mainstream guitar that commands $799 price tags.

Overall value? You can’t beat these in either new or used prices. If the AFT hasn’t been abused and misused, the guitar-for-the-buck ratio is wonderful. Seriously. Just buy one.
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGBindingAndHorndetail1ByJimPearson

Features: The Artcore is often referred to as a working guitarist’s working Jazz box. It’s versatile, plays great, sounds great, and is an excellent value. The features are above par and are nicely enumerated on the Ibanez site.

* Two nickel-covered jazzy vintage-y humbucker pickups
* Binding on the neck, headstock, body, back edges, heel, F holes, and side joint
* Nicely tapped-down electronics in the body
* Good quality tuners that are just a little bit better than average (easy to replace if you don’t like them)
* Good rosewood fretboard
* Excellent medium frets
* Extremely solid build and input jack mount
* Individual tone and volume controls for each of the two pickups
* A solid three-way switch
* A strong three-piece neck with truss rod that adjusts at the headstock
* A nice big ol’ Bigsby trem
* A rosewood bridge with excellent easy-adjusting heights
* A nice treble-side cutaway for high-note access.
IbanezArtcoreAF75TDGBackBeautyShot1ByJimPearson

Wishes: I really do wish these were offered with the alternative Bigsby that the Epiphone Swingster has. It’s smoother and easier and is a lot of fun to use.

As a long-time musician and guitar player, I don’t mind the floating body-top (not attached, sits on the body as bridges do with violins and other fiddly instruments) bridge. It adds plenty of wonderfulness to the sound, and gives the guitar professional a lot of flexibility. However, for the new guitar player or for someone who doesn’t understand adjustments, a floating bridge is a very scary thing once it is out of adjustment or is dropped/moved when changing strings. A mis-placed bridge begs for a tuning nightmare. Perhaps the AF75* series could ship with measurement instructions, a bridge-placement template, or even a bridge that sits in a small indentation in the top wood?

ESP LTD M-100FM/M-100/M100FM Guitar with Floyd Rose Review – Rockin’ a nice beginner’s metal axe!

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I originally wrote this review on October 24, 2007 when my son was playing it every day… It was a great instrument. I still think these are great beginner’s instruments and are a good introduction to the look and feel of an ESP or LTD.

ESP LTD M-100FM/M-100/M100FM Review

Sometimes a guitar player just needs the rock-solid tuning of a locking nut combined with either a Floyd Rose tremolo or a Licensed Floyd Rose tremolo. With these little combinations of metal strapped to your axe, you can pull and push to your heart’s content – and the guitar stays pretty much in tune.

Also, I’m a guitar nut. I like most guitars and guitar shapes (haven’t warmed up to the angular and heavy-handed BC Rich stuff, yet). One of my functional favorites is the venerable Stratocaster shape. There’s only one Strat, but it has spawned many different (and very similar) guitar shapes over the years. It would be really nice to have an affordable (read: not $399-$500) Stratocaster with a locking nut and Floyd Rose. One can purchase Fender’s version of the Floyd on older, (USA- and Japanese-made) Strats. However, they do tend to bring fairly good prices (lots of folks want a Strat with a Floyd). Bear in mind that I am not comparing, nor will I in the near future attempt to compare a Fender to an ESP in my reviews. I am just using the Fender as a point of common reference.

So what are our alternatives? There are a few in the sub-$300 market, but not many.

One such alternative is the ESP LTD M-100. The current iteration, the M-100FM (flamed maple), is a wonderful choice and an excellent intermediate guitar. (Although my son is an advanced player, this guitar is actually one of his favorites, so don’t let the “intermediate” term fool you.)

The M-100 also makes for an excellent modifiable instrument – one that can be bent to the player’s needs in a great many way. I REALLY like this instrument (and hope to buy one someday). I think most players who seek great tremolo work and locking tuning will find this instrument to be top-notch at a low price!

Free Shipping and more information/pricing can be found here at zZounds.com. Please check it out – it helps fund more in-depth reviews!

Quick Opinion: In a few short words? If you want a Floyd, a locking nut, a comfortable Strat-type shape, and awesome build quality, the M-100FM is a bargain and a dream to play.

Buy one. I bought one for my son (Awesome!), and I will buy one for myself at some point in the future. ESP, you are on my list of favorites now.

Modding: The M-100FM uses a 3-position blade switch. With this type of switch slot and a two-humbucker configuration, the guitar just screams for some interesting pickup combinations! If 4-wire/coil-tappable pickups are installed after purchase, and a Fender 5-way super-switch (also a nice one from DiMarzio with the same blade type and connection terminals) – you can get the standard three positions of humbuckers, plus two different coil taps. Awesome sounding, flexible, no cutting or permanent modifications required.

I like the LH-150 open-face pickups that came in the guitar – for the money, they sound fine and have a broad range of harmonics for heavier music, pinch harmonics/pinch squeals, and other high-gain effects. However, the pickups are easily upgradeable to some pretty spectacular options. Some DiMarzio humbuckers, Seymour Duncan Humbuckers, and even some Gibson humbuckers make for great replacements for tailoring sounds to your needs. If you want to go for the coil-tapping modification, modern DiMarzios and Seymours are already 4-lead. You can get a professional to turn your 2-lead Gibson/Epiphone pickup to a 4-lead for a minimal amount of money: Imagine a coil-tappable, Gibson PAF sound in a Floyd Rose-enabled comfortable double cutaway guitar! Some of the above pickup choices may make it such that the poles don’t quite line up with the strings, but the differences in sound make the offsets quite forgivable.

We modded my son’s M-100FM with a fairly hot GFS PAF on the neck position and a really awesome Gibson 490T from a 2002 SG – both with chrome/nickel covers. It looks good and sounds fantastic.

Playability: Once strings are installed and tuned, the playability is excellent. The neck is of the slightly thin variety (not paper thin like a Randy Rhodes, but thinner than the average Epiphone or Fender Stratocaster). Access to all 24 frets is a breeze, with the 5th and 6th strings being a bit difficult (as is always true with this particular body design type). The relatively flat profile is consistently-done and is quite comfortable.

I really like the weight and balance of the guitar. The body is light and is generally equally balanced to the maple-and rosewood fretboard. When I use one of my nice 2″ guitar straps with my son’s M-100FM, I can play for hours before I start to feel the guitar’s weight. Although the sound is not relative to a Les Paul/Firebird/Explorer’s heavy-body ever-lasting sustains, there is a great balance between weight and sustain.

The Licensed Floyd Rose tremolo works like a charm, is comfortable, and does its job with great aplomb. I added a fourth spring to the tremolo claw to help with keeping the trem unit flatter to the body. Since my son plays harder and thicker strings, the tremolo tended to pull up too much with just three springs. As a result, the trem does take more effort, but it is also more controllable and less wobbly when doing finely actuated whammies.

Features: The ESP LTD M-100FM guitar is a simple guitar – as most of this variety are. But don’t let the simplicity fool you.

The bolt-on neck is great, the two-humbucker and 3-way blade switch combination are excellent, and the licensed Floyd Rose trem system and locking nut are flawlessly executed.

Unlike some cheaper copies of this type of guitar, the M-100 has a counter-sink cut in the tail of the body to accommodate “pulling up on the whammy” in a significant way. This is not a guitar that has just had a Floyd bolted on for the sake of the feature alone. The set-up is excellent.

The body coating is a durable urethane/clear finish over a quilted (cap?) body with dark red or black stain underneath. The effect is beautiful – particularly with the spartan switch-and-two-knob configuration. The knobs are the simple, non-tapping, 1 tone and 1 volume variety.

I love the reversed headstock (longer low strings, shorter high strings). The tuners are fine and seem to be fairly precise, and the look is neat and attractive.

Quality: My son’s M-100FM is very well-made so far as finish and fit are concerned. The clearcoat-on-stain is a mile deep in looks, and is glossier than fresh black glass. The neck is consistent, well-shaped, and fits to the body like a glove.

Like many Korean (and other southeast-Asian) manufactures, the wiring and soldering isn’t as nice as the American stuff. The potentiometers are fairly cheap, too. There is only a minimal amount of shielding present in the body and covers. Some simple ROHS-compliant spray or metal linings would be great (and not too expensive to execute, I’d wager).

I love the way this guitar is put together. Very easy to expand, and most of everything is fairly accessible underneath the pickups and in the rear cavities (trem box and controls box).

Sound: The standard pups sound quite good (well above average for a guitar in this price range that has so many other features – pickups in most less expensive guitars are usually sacrificed along with cheap tuners – this one’s pretty good). The bolt-on neck is well-executed, so the sustainability is very good.

Overall, I like the way this guitar sounds at this price point.. If I were on an extremely limited budget and could not afford to mod this guitar, I would find that it would be perfect for heavier, overdriven, and/or distorted music. If you drop it through an all-tube, class-A amplifier with some serious watts, you’ll need better pickups.

Value: This guitar has a street value of about $325 – just over what they cost new through most retailers. Interestingly enough, VERY few of them come on the secondary used market (like eBay, Craigslist, and such). It appears that most people find their M-100FMs to be real keepers!

In my opinion, this guitar could easily be sold at a street price of $329, so I think it is a great value. These are great guitars as primary dive-bombers or as a great guitar library member – well worth the money and well worth keeping.

Wishes: More colors, please – perhaps white or antique white? Also, I’d like the option of a maple fretboard (WOW. A transparent black flamed-maple body or transparent antique white with a maple fretboard would absolutely ROCK (like on the MH-103)!).

ESP, I NEED ONE OF THESE or one of the MH-103s for my most recent album projects! (Hint hint hint hint hint hint) I like the red or the black just fine, thanks! 😉 Are you folks listening? 🙂

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Review – an owner’s view on a great guitar

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Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone 2011 Limited Edition in-depth review – from an owner’s perspective

Honey Burst Gibson Les Paul Studio with punch and bottom… Well-made, easy to play, and truly a phenomenal instrument… You don’t have to play metal or sludge or death throes music to enjoy a baritone. Baritones work very well in every type of electric guitar music I’ve played, including some new delicious blues progressions and some really comfortable progressive rock stuff… In my last album, I used my Gibson LP Studio Baritone as the bass guitar on one of the tunes… Crisper and a little tighter, the baritone (“Barry”, naturally!) sounds like a bass that has a real knack for brassier sound…

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Controls Detail Jim Pearson

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Controls Detail by Jim Pearson

I have to admit I’m partial to light burst, iced tea, honey burst, amber, and natural burst Gibson guitars. This one was right up my alley.

I’ve always liked baritones and extended-scale guitars (wish I had a Fender Bass 6 to play!)… It’s nice to be able to travel into the lows of a bass guitar, yet still be able to walk up the fretboard into plain old six territories too. It is a distinct pleasure to be able to cross the lines from bass to rhythm guitar to lead guitar – all on one instrument.

I like the feel of a seven string because it still seems like a plain 6 – just with a lower bottom (B or drop A in an easy-to-use package – nice!) Even long-scale 7-string guitars are nice – I have no issues with playing them. But it is the distinct pleasure of playing a true long-scale Bari that gets my nerves going.

Lots of deatails about the Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone here at zZounds.com!
GibsonLesPaulBaritoneHoneyBurstBodyShotFactoryPicture

When it comes to playing a baritone, it is a very small step to get used to the low B and the highest at B. Only occasionally do I find myself reaching for the high E string. With that said, there’s a critical thing about baritones that makes them special: That long AND slender neck. With a great seven-string guitar, you still get a wider neck… The wider 7-string neck takes a little getting used to (as a 5-string and P bass player, it’s not an issue for me in particular). But the baritone neck just feels like a 6 – one that’s a few inches longer and has a little wider feel to the first few frets. No big deal, really.

Baritones work very well in bass amps, and definitely rock a half stack of good tight speakers with a head running with tubes. Note that a cheap combo amp will woof out when you play a low-range guitar, particularly a baritone or 8-string guitar. I tried my baritone (and 7- and 8-string guitars) through my little Fender Mustang III combo: not a good fit. Use a more robust amp or use a nice bass amp.

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Body Detail Jim Pearson

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Body Detail after BurstBucker mods by Jim Pearson

Quick Opinion: The Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone is a real winner. If you want a guitar that goes low and strong, this one fits the bill nicely. Its cousin, the Gibson Explorer Baritone is also a real keeper. These two give you sounds that blend nicely in many genres – and are still comfortable to play for hours on end.

The quality of my Bari is excellent, the look is wonderful, and the overall feature list is great. The price was barely more than a gloss-finished Gibson Les Paul Studio, and is a real winner. Let’s see why in the body of this review.

The guitar handles many tunings very nicely. If you use lighter-gauge strings, you can do a C# tuning. With the factory strings (or the Ernie Ball Baritone strings I’m currently using), you can do the BEADF#B or BEADGB tuning no sweat. With the heavier strings of the Ernie Ball manufacture, dropping to A works very nicely, and dropping to G can work if you don’t play hard…

Playability: Playability is a huge strong suit for the Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone guitar. It feels great, with the neck like a hybrid 50s-60s LP neck (leaning to a 50s neck, just longer), and the body weight and size feels perfectly proportional to the neck. The guitar does a great job hanging from the strap and doesn’t nose-dive as much as many bass-ish guitars and other baritones. The nut is the same width as a “regular” Gibson Les Paul Studio at 1 11/16″.

The neck and fretboard angle feel great. The size of the frets is wonderful, and the width between the strings is comfortable. The guitar demands thicker strings than a 6, but the way the guitar is engineered, it all feels just right. The scale is 28″ – a long baritone and somewhat longer than most 7-string guitars. Comfortable and familiar – and yet exiting and different all at the same time.

The weight is good, it’s an LP – but isn’t a boat anchor. The balance is fine by my reckoning, and the neck-to-body-length ratio feels just fine. The body is described by Gibson as being “weight relieved,” not hollowed out entirely, but with some wood removed or not present. I like the “thunk – ring sound” of a solid body, but I also think this weight-relieved body is actually really very resonant and has nice overtones.

The Gibson LP Studio Baritone plays easily for a long-scale – and is very comfortably and thoughtfully built. Overall, the playability is top-notch and shouldn’t scare off too many 6-string players or even bass players.

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Sound: The Gibson LP Studio Baritone is a growlin’ howlin’ wolf with a barrel chest. It sounds perfect for low-end work and really does a NICE job of louder styles of music. If you had different pickups (see further notes below), it would also do smoother styles like traditional country-western, jazz, and even new age – the LP Studio Baritone is quite flexible… I use it for at least three different styles of music.

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Body Back Wood Jim Pearson

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Body Back Wood by Jim Pearson

Although many things make a particular instrument carry its unique sound, there are three high-level aspects that uniquely shape the sound of the Gibson LP Studio Baritone:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, body, neck, bridge, stop-bar, and length
3) String type, width and makeup.

Pickups and Electronics: The Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone uses standard Gibson LP pots, caps, jack, and switch electronics. Everything is solid, clean, and very simple. The pickups are the kind you’d usually find in a Gibson Explorer or a Gibson Flying V. They’re a pair of 496R hot ceramic and 500T super ceramic humbuckers. They’re loud, proud, and in the cloud. You can push any type of rock or pop-country or al music with these. They snarl, scream, and make tubes go wild. I like them with greenbacks or with Eminence speakers a great deal. If you’d like to play clean, old country, jazz, new age, or calmer progressive rock, these pickups probably push too far for those genres.
Rock: yes! “Clean” styles: not so much. That’s not a fault or a problem – it’s the way the pickups were meant to behave. With heavier music, the sound is “mission accomplished” in a big way. I have and enjoy another Gibson with the famed 496/500 pair and enjoy the sound… but I wanted something that can scream and can play smoother… I did the dastardly and put Burstbucker Pro 2 and 3 pickups in my Baritone… Now I can play *almost* as hard as the hot/super ceramics, but can easily play the clean stuff, too…


Tone woods: The Baritone has a grade-A maple top and a mahogany main body. The overall sound of the nicely weight-relieved mahogany with the beautiful thick maple on top is superb. I like the overtones it produces. The long neck and neck joint produce nice tones and sustains! Just like the man himself, the Les Paul guitar is a legend in its sound.

Strings and such: Be sure to buy a few different gauges of strings for your baritone and try them out. Save the factory ones if you can (you can’t buy those sets in any store or from Gibson: they’ve told me that they’re high-grade bulk plain nickel strings in select gauges .013 to .060). I bought Ernie Ball Baritone nickel-plate strings, Ernie Ball 7-string sets (two different gauges), and I also got a handful of bulk-by-size D’Addario strings. Remember: the tuner mount hole for the 6th string and the cut of the nut for the wound strings aren’t limitless in what they’ll handle. If you want to go for a massive gauge, it might not work without creating a new nut or tuners. My advice: stay close to the factory 13-60 gauge sizes.

What kind of strings am I now using on my Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone? After trying lots of strings, I ended up with buying a set of strings that actually worked perfectly for me: Ernie Ball 8-String Slinky nickel-wound strings. I ended up using the middle strings, from .013 to .064 (it leaves me with an extra .010 and .074 to use on my 8-string guitar). I love this combination and size set – and these strings work great with the original nut, bridge saddles, stop-bar, tuners, and intonation. It’s a $10 set of strings that makes the LP Baritone JUST RIGHT – growly, warm, NOT muddy, and truly tonally complex. Very nice! There aren’t any baritone sets that I found that didn’t have a HUGE 6th-string-gauge.

I’m using: .013 .017 .030 .042 .054 .064 – these sound great and even take on some bass-like properties on 5 and 6. I like the Ernie Ball strings. It would be nice to have a custom Gibson set for them – I like the Gibson-branded Brite Wires strings on my SG Standard – I’d like to try them in a .013-.064 set if they made them.

Quality: With any non-mass-produced instrument, there are almost always little flaws. My Gibson Reverse Flying V has little funky places in the lacquer where the body meets the neck joint. My Gibson SG Standard and LP Traditional Standard, however, really are perfect.

Comparatively, my Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone is about as perfect as I’ve ever seen with a nicely lacquered instrument. All the parts were just as I wanted them to be, the finish quality looks like that beautiful hand-lacquered shiny drooly look, and the wood selection is very nice.

Overall, the quality is easily a 10 out of 10. I rarely “give” this rating. Trust me. And mine was a customer-returned instrument. The electronics, solder joints, finish, frets, fretboard, and pickup windings are flawless. Really.

Value: This is a value instrument. It’s not often that one can pick up a USA hand-made instrument with woods and components this nice for as little money as these guitars cost. Other than the lack of binding and the dot inlays, this instrument is on par with a basic Standard.

These are worth a bit more “street” than they cost, in my opinion. With the white-fur Gibson case, the excellent fit-and-finish, and the killer rock pickups, these are right on the mark or even a bit of a bargain. The older Epiphone Baritones were fun to play, but none of them came with this kind of quality attached, and they had to have giant Celtic crosses on them (good for some peeps, not for others).

Value? Not cheap, by any means, but definitely a well-priced USA hand-made work of art. These are cheaper than even the Fender Standard Strat and Teles, and are more nicely built (in most cases). I’m REALLY glad Gibson decided not to cheap out and sell these in a gig bag.

Features: Simple. Well-made. perfect as it needs to be.

Gibson Les Paul Studio guitars are no-frills killer instruments. The Baritone is no exception. They don’t have any cool wake-me-up features, but they have just the right amount of what we need. Maybe it would be fun to have a piezo NanoMag or sweet custom-wound active pickups or something – but I like this guitar appointed the way it is.

* Nice rosewood and mahogany
* Grover Rotomatics (I switched mine to Gibson-packaged Vintage-style sealed chrome tulip tuners… yowza)
* Simple stop bar and TOM bridge
* Beautiful nitro finish, made by a hominid (human)
* NICE case
* That awesome “new Gibson” smell…

What’s not to like in a rockin’/country/pop/prog guitar? In this case, “enough is a feast.”

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Front Shot by Jim Pearson

Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone Front Shot by Jim Pearson

Wishes: I love speed knobs. The top-hat traditional knobs look great, but they aren’t as easy to turn in a hurry. Given that the current crop of OEM Gibson potentiometers aren’t quick-turn or easy-turn, the slipperyness and shape of the knobs makes it harder to have fine control when shaping the tone and volume in on-the-fly transitions. I do wish these were offered with 57 classic/57 classic plus or BurstBuckers as an OPTION. Some folks will really WANT the Explorer/V pickups; others will want something that can smooth out.

You know what? These could be body-bound, even if the neck wasn’t bound, and probably for nearly the same retail price. It isn’t the end of the world for me, but I think Gibson could pull it off.

I love the honey burst color. The heavy rock and metal friends I have wouldn’t play it unless it was red or black or silverburst (like its Explorer Baritone cousin). I’m thankful it wasn’t offered in faded cherry, faded brown, and faded black. I like the nitro gloss a lot. I do wish there was a color choice for those who aren’t die-hard honey and tea fans like me.

One other Wish: I REALLY wish Gibson would include heavy-duty vinyl “Gibson” stickers with their guitars. Seriously. I’d love to put one on my Mustang (Ford).