Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany Review – Now a “Faded Les Paul Studio”

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I first wrote this on November 26, 2006. These guitars are STILL an awesome deal. They’re still about the same price. And now they come in blue! They’re not called “Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany” any more… they’re “Faded Les Paul Studios.” Still looking forward to owning one. I’ve played tens of them over the years. Still feel the same positive way about them…

Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded Blue

The 2011 Les Paul Studio Faded in Blue

Gibson USA Vintage Mahogany Les Paul Review

One of the guitars on my “to get” list is the Gibson USA Vintage Mahogany Les Paul (faded cherry). I’ve played several examples a great number of times over the past year or so… and although I could not purchase this one for myself (budget, budget, budget), I felt the need to express my view on this instrument. This instrument is a fundamental instrument that incorporates critical elements of a fabulous-sounding instrument. In its basic-ness, this particular Les Paul is all about sound delivery in a price-friendly Gibson package.

Tone folks will find the Les Paul Vintage Mahogany to be a monster… Folks whose budgets cannot achieve the heights of the Les Paul Standard, or even the Classic or Studio, will find this instrument to be a real bargain. Perhaps enough of a bargain to truly bring great Gibson-ness to many musicians’ sound libraries.

This is a fabulous instrument – stay tuned and I’ll attempt to explain why it strikes me so well.

Quick Opinion: Grab one right now before they’re gone. Period. If I had the means, I would.

The “Les Paul Vintage Mahogany” isn’t in production any more, but you can get the Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded series (even in blue!) here at zZounds.com (free shipping and a love your guitar guarantee!).

Playability: The Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany is all Les Paul. It has the chunky 50’s-style neck one expects from many Les Paul models. The neck is tapered in a subtle way, and the radius is extremely comfortable.

Another interesting aspect of the neck’s playability is its consistency. It is even, smooth (if a little woody – like lots of natural-finish acoustic guitars, but not as wide), and very comfortable. As a person who truly likes the 60’s neck profiles (and the slimmer Epiphone neck profiles), the Les Paul Vintage Mahogany was different at first. However, after playing several examples over several months at my local, favorite Guitar Center, I adjusted to it. I am now more comfortable going between my Epi Les Paul and the Gibson.

The body’s weight seems to be really well-balanced. It doesn’t feel as weighty on the shoulder as a traditional Les Paul – but it still retains that singing, miles-of-sustain feel that makes Les Pauls so breathtakingly essential to many kinds of music. It plays like an old friend. It feels like an old friend, and is one of the most comfortable Gibson Les Pauls I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

Features: The features of the Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany are varied and interesting. This particular Les Paul is a marriage of basic simplicity and killer electronics. The fretboard is very nice, the tuners are the (to me, essential) traditional green-tulip tuners. The body has no binding, and the top wood has the same feel and color of the back and neck.

This particular Les Paul may be a lower-priced Gibson, but it comes with a real, deluxe Gibson hardshell case (update: This was true when the “Vintage Mahogany” was still being produced. The current “Faded Studio” only comes with a gig bag. Given that the guitar itself is about the same price, I’d say that it’s still a bargain: buy yourself a hard shell case though… it’s worth protecting.). This is unusual, considering the fact that some of the other “worn-finished”, less-expensive models only come with a gig bag (such as the Vee and the SG).

By far, one of the greatest values in the Vintage Les Paul Mahogany is its pickups. It comes with Burstbucker Pro humbucking pickups. I don’t know how different the wiring is (as opposed to the Standard, Classic, or Studio), but the sound is absolutely awesome. The Burstbucker Pros, combined with the case, make this guitar feature rich – even though it isn’t a fancy Les Paul.

Sound: Sound, sound, sound, sound, and sound. WOW. Pick up an old or vintage Les Paul, close your eyes – pop it through some Marshalls or even a deluxe Twin Reverb, dial up the amp, and let loose. Now do the same with one of the Vintage Mahogany Les Pauls. Listen… No matter if you can scream like Vai, cry and wail like Lang, or rip the souls of the audience into happy little pieces like Gilmour, or just play like a regular Jane or Joe, this instrument does not disappoint. It takes that vintage-ness of the old PAFs, adds more output, and makes the dynamic range of the sound more (a good thing) complex and rich.

I’ve played several of these through a very wide variety of amplifiers, including nice Class-A Mesas, wide-rich VOXs, chunky Marshall stacks, cheap starter combos, Fenders, and some Kranks and Line 6s… this horse can not only trot, canter, or gallop – it is a true thoroughbred: it brings crunchy, singing, sustaining sound to any style, amp, pedal, or volume.
Sound, sound, sound, sound.

Value: Based on its sound, its case (again, back when they were produced as “Vintage Mahogany”), its Burstbucker Pros, and its made-in-USA pedigree, this is absolutely worth much more than its street price. I’d put it at around $1k any day. The fact that you can buy it for much less makes it a 12-out-of-10 value any day of the week. If you’ve been thinking of going Gibson, or if you’re looking for that sweet, in-your-face rock. This guitar is a “jump on it now” opportunity. If you like warm, jazzy, neck-pickup sound that reminds you a little of B.B. King’s ES-combined with some of that Jimmy Page roots-blues-rock, this is the one for you. You won’t be sorry for getting one of these. Go to your favorite get-in-trouble guitar store and play an example or two. If you don’t have a git-box store nearby, check out your favorite online haunt and pick one up NOW.

With the current-generation Faded Les Pauls and their reinstated Burstbuckers (the faded studios had the 490-style pickups for a while), this guitar is still a bargain and a wonderful way to go. I would highly recommend these as a go-to-gigging or recording USA Les Paul. Note to those buying used “faded” Gibson Les Pauls: You cannot be sure from a picture which pickups you are getting. The only sure way is to either look at the back of the pickups for the stickers (Burstbuckers have stickers, 490s don’t), or look at the serial number, get the year of manufacture from the Guitar Dater project (or similar) do your research, or just ask Gibson through their customer support email.

Wishes: An optional 60’s neck would be fabulous (well, for me, anyway – sorry 50’s fans). (Update: I LOVE the blue! w00t! I do wish they still had the white-fur Gibson snakeskin case as a low-cost option.)