The Gibson M2 S-Series: USA-made Les Paul-Shaped Sonic Demon! Beginner’s Paradise

The Gibson M2 S-Series: USA-made Les Paul-Shaped Sonic Demon!!
Perfect for Beginners and Pros, Modders, and Gigging Bands On A Budget

Update: I’ve written a second review with lots of pictures of the inside and outside of my M2.

Update: Gibson now has a product page for the M2 here!

I was fortunate this past Christmas holiday: my wonderful spouse bought me a Gibson! I had been eyeballing the Amazon-exclusive M2 Electric Guitar since they were available on the Amazon site. I was particularly enamored with the Citron Green. Having played my Gibson Firebird Zero for a while now (with my awesome Gibson 57A3 pickups plugged in to the quick-connect system after I took pictures, modded the Zero, and started recording!), I’m very happy with the S-Series. This green monster is wonderful at about 2/3 the price (on sale) of the Firebird Zero, with very few compromises.

I’ve actually kept my eye out for another Amazon sale. I’m hoping to grab a blue, gray, or red one!

zZounds does not have the Gibson M2, since it is an Amazon exclusive. But you can still get the Firebird Zero S2-Series Guitar here!

Quick Opinion:
The Gibson M2 S Series LP-shaped guitar is a wonder of simple engineering, USA handmade goodness, and a perfect student’s instrument! I can’t express enough the fact that this guitar sounds, plays, feels, and IS better than pretty much every Asian-made beginner’s guitar on the market – at any base-model price.

It comes in lots of colors, including an almost PeptoPink, it’s easily available, and Amazon backs up their exclusive Gibsons with their usual easy-return customer service. You can try one out with the knowledge that it is backed by a pro-customer-service company. You can see the specs and buy the M2 here at (opens new window).

The new Gibson M2 electric guitar is huge on features for such a low-end guitar, is made in America, and is the absolute pinnacle of well-made very basic entry-level guitars. You would be hard-pressed to find a nicer and better-playing guitar in this price range with a gig bag, much less one made in the USA. I do see that many Poly-Painted Epiphones are nicer in features and glossy finishes: but the Epiphones still don’t have that American touch to them.

– Series: S Series
– Body Style: Les Paul in general shape, like an LP Melody maker or a thin LP Special. VERY Light! Very well balanced
– Back: Solid poplar
– Neck: One piece solid maple with satin nitro finish
– Neck profile: Slim taper (this is similar to the 60s neck shape on many SGs and Firebirds – but it feels narrower in some way. Each one I’ve played is typical Gibson: hand-hewn and a little different from guitar to guitar.
– Fingerboard: One piece solid rosewood – this is a nice feature for this price point
– Scale length: 24.75 – just as most Gibsons are…
– Number of frets: 22
– Nut: Tektoid – mine are nicely cut and required no work. Nice job on this one Gibson!
– Inlay: Acrylic dots
– Bridge: Adjustable wraparound – this guitar’s cost has a savings by not including the stop tail and its studs.
– Knobs: Black top hats – these are the traditional “student” Gibson knobs. They’re slippery to me, so I usually replace them with knurls or speed knobs.
– Tuners: Mini-buttons – these are a surprise hit! These are a cost savings over Grovers – and the ratio is actually really nice!
– Plating: Chrome
– Neck pickup: Gibson Pro Bucker Rhythm
– Bridge pickup: Gibson Pro Bucker Lead
– Controls: 1 volume, 1 tone, 1 toggle switch (the toggle is the traditional 3-way: neck-neck and bridge-bridge)
– Case: S Series padded gig bag
I know that the M2 isn’t available outside Amazon, but there are other affordable Gibson S Series electric guitars out there at my favorite online retailer:

Several nice features to point out:
* The paint finish is lacquer, and has a nice smooth feel to it. It’s a bit more satin than the Firebird Zero lacquer, and you can see and feel lots of Poplar grain with your eyes and fingers. It’s interesting: you can see the beautiful waves of Poplar grain on the top and the back of my M2. It’s attractive, actually. The guitar feels right at home when I play it.
* The neck is a nice semi-satin. It doesn’t grab at the player’s skin when palms get sweaty: and it still feels much smoother than most maple necks on inexpensive guitars.
* The electronics are loosely based on the Gibson Quick Connect system. The pickups can be easily switched with others that have the five-pin Quick Connect fitting. A VERY easy upgrade if you ever want BurstBuckers, maybe some 57s, or something screamin’ like some Gibson Dirty Fingers humbuckers or a Gibson 500T Super Ceramic!
* All the non-pickup electronics are attached to the pickguard: to work on them, you don’t even have to pull the strings. The pickguard is completely unfettered when the guitar is strung.
* The controls are simple: one volume, one tone, and a three-way. The jack is front-panel, easy-to-use and will accept an L-connector guitar cable.
* The tuners! WOW. I’m still blown away. Just as nice as the Firebird Zero, just 3+3 instead of inline. My first thought when I saw the pictures was “I’ll find some Klusons or Grovers and replace those: they look maybe too cheap.” I WAS WRONG. They’re high-ratio (maybe 18:1 or 19:1?), very smooth, and work really very well!
* The M2 has a new take on a Melody-Maker-like headstock: it’s thin, without the added wood to give the wide sweeping book-top headstock, but it still looks like Gibson.
* I’ll say it again: it comes with a simply nice gig bag. You rarely get a gig bag with entry-level instruments below $500.

If you’re thinking about hard shell cases, it fits great in a traditional Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul hard case. it fits in my Gibson LP cases, my Epiphone LP case, my SKB LP case, and even some old-fashioned cheap rectangular cases.

This Epiphone case fits the M2 just fine. The M2 is thin, so it isn’t quite as “clamped down” as it would be with a thicker LP shape…

This guitar is nicely balanced. it is thin and light – so much so that when you put it on a strap, it is almost non-fatiguing when you stand and play for hours. If you are a young player with small hands and a petite body, this guitar feels right at home and won’t make you topple over like a traditional weight LP Standard or Traditional. It’s perfect for comfy jamming.

Similar to the Gibson Firebird Zero, I like the finish. It feels good when you’re playing the guitar. The M2 is more satin than the Zero, but it is FAR better than the flat-black guitars that proliferate in the entry-level guitar market. With most non-gloss guitars, fingerprints and funky patches crop up on the first day you play them. With the M2, it looks like the finish has just enough natural gloss to wear in nicely and make a breathable instrument in its old age.

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To reiterate what I said in my Gibson Firebird Zero review (opens a new window), I’ve played (literally) thousands of 2-humbucker electric guitars in my 5+ decade life. Some were $100 new, some were $7000 new. Lots in between. The sound of an electric guitar is partly subjective and partly objective. “How you play it and through what device(s) you play it really change things.”

I think this next part of the Firebird Zero review works just fine for the M2, too, so here’s a short excerpt paste:

For me, the best two measures are: Absolutely clean straight circuit with no effects and no pushing the pre-amp; and a good tube pre-amp running just hard enough to make the sound just a touch growly or fat-jazzy to really feel the body of the sound. Of course, other types of play are important, such as rock, jazz, metal, new age, pedals and such, but the first two of these are the most telling of all.

A good pickup is what you need it to be. Need that SRV sound? Scooped pickup EQ and overdrive is the best way to see if you like the pickups. Need that Tony Iommi sound? Good balance with very clean highs and crushing miss with balanced lows… Need that Dwayne Allman or Derek Trucks sound? Good balance on the three main EQs with emphasis on tight highs and very tight lows…

Me? I like a balanced pickup with all three main EQs about equal. I want the pickup to clean up for jazzy or mellow passages, and I want it to have crystal clarity when I overdrive it or run it through several effects pedals. I also want the bass sounds to be very present and clean: no mud. Miss? I like them to be present in the harmonics and not scooped out or enhanced.

These pickups are different than the Firebird Zero pickups in their makeup, their thickness (sound), and their EQ. They’re a bit drier, have a bit more honk in the bridge, and reflect the thin small body and the maple neck pretty accurately. They are just that, accurate. They’re not overwhelming, they’re not bad, just accurate. These aren’t high-output metal pickups that will pop to top off your Mesa, but they drive a nice tube amp in a very respectable way.

However: Compared to pretty much every bargain pickup on the market in sub-$500 guitars, these are awesome. They sound much cleaner and more refined than the average super-cheap double-black humbucker out there in the entry-level guitar market.They do clean up pretty well and can do good old heavy metal just fine. If you want to chug-a-lug some grinding country or throw down on some hard rock, they do a decent job. They’re head and shoulders above almost everything in their price/type class. I like them much better than the low-quality humbucker pups in pretty much every intro-level HH guitar I’ve owned or played. That said, remember: these are entry-level pickups.

Besides, they are fun and easy to replace if want to get a black one and Get Your Tony Iommi going with some Gibson signature pickups or some Seymour Distortions (OK, or your DiMarzio Super 2s, EMGs, etc). Actually, plugging in a Gibson 500T Super Ceramic in the bridge gives a face-blowing metal sound. NICE!

Fit and Finish
Just like my Gibson Firebird Zero, my wild and crazy-looking Citron Green M2 came well-painted and nicely strung. In the case of my M2, however, the Green Bean Machine Christmas M2 was much better in its setup and playability right out of the box. Interestingly, it comes in the same really nice shipping box as a top-level high-end Les Paul like a Standard, Custom, or Traditional. I liked the new plastic fret protector that’s inserted between the frets and the strings for shipment – it’s a great and inexpensive way to prevent shipping crushes causing string indents. It’s nice enough to keep and put back every time you put your guitar in the gig bag or case.

My lovely from-my-super-awesome-wife gift M2 came MUCH better intonated than my Firebird Zero. it was either a good match from the parts bin, or the set up tech really spent time adjusting things. I only had to move the three plain-string saddles (kind of typical to find intonation issues on a low-end guitar. It did well for a wrap-around bridge guitar when it was properly intonated using one of my Peterson strobe tuners).

Last request on this review. I pay for my site myself, write all the materials, and take most of the pictures myself. It really helps if you visit zZounds with this link and buy your gear. I don’t get credit for anything when other pages see my cookie and offer a cookie of their own. Visit my awesome Sponsor,

Wishes and Wants
I do wish that other vendors offered versions of the M2, or maybe even just colors. I like Amazon, truly: and I do like the idea of competition and multiple sourcing.

Epiphone Les Paul Classic Quilt-Top Review – the beginning of six years of playing an awesome Les Paul!

Originally posted May 8, 2006… I had this guitar until last month… sold it to a beginner who needed a good first Les Paul. I’ll miss it. Very much.

Epiphone Les Paul Classic Quilt Top Review

Over the years, there have been many guitars I have played and loved. One guitar, however, has been consistently my favorite to play – the Les Paul. I love Firebirds, Stratocasters, Telecasters, SGs, Ibanezs, PRSs and lists of others. But, time after time, I always come back to a Les Paul. The way they play, sound, feel, and look just says something to my soul. I know that Les Pauls aren’t for everyone – no problem. They’re just wonderful to me.

Quick Opinion: The Epiphone version of the Les Paul Classic Quilt Top is a well-done rendition, with great features and decent sound. The guitar does not approach its Gibson cousin, but is definitely worth its price and then some.

The Epiphone Les Paul Classic is not currently in production, but you can find out more about Epiphone Les Paul guitars and get Free Shipping at

Playability: In the world of Les Pauls, there are two main camps. Those that like thick necks and those that like more modern C-shaped necks. The Epiphone Les Paul’s neck is much more comperable to a modern Tele or Strat than a 50s Les Paul. The neck is slightly less beefy than the 60s-neck Gibson Les Pauls, and significantly less beefy than the 50s-neck Gibson Les Pauls. If you’re a modern Fender fan, the Epihpone will probably feel much more at home than the Gibson necks. If you’re used to Ibanez electrics or modern ESP/LTDs, for example, you’ll find the Epiphone very similar.

The neck plays like greased lightening, and is very comfortable from a grip point of view. The string spacing is excellent for most hands, and the string height is actually superb – right out of the box. In general, Les Pauls have a short-ish scale length (means, the length of the string is a little less than the average guitar). The shorter scale makes thicker strings a little more comfortable to play, and makes reasonable string-bending possible with 10s or 11s.

The balance of neck and body is good, and the fretboard is comfortable and smooth. Some may find the weight of Les Pauls (in general) a bit much to lug for hours at a time, but I think it is a reasonable trade-off for the MILES of sustain and depth of the guitar’s sound.

Features The Epiphone Les Paul Classic Quilt top is very high in the features list arena. Were this a Gibson, the features of this guitar would be between a Les Paul Studio and a Les Paul Standard. The single-ply cream-colored binding is applied to the top edges and the fretboard. The back is pretty much a natural mahogany color, and the entire guitar is gloss finish (including the back of the neck). The quality of the smoothness of the finish is very good, although my particular guitar has a few blemishes underneath the top coat on the back (almost like a filler was applied to the wood, then finished over without coloring the filler).

The Classic Quilt Top is actually a beautiful instrument, with mahogany body and quilted maple carved cap/top. The fretboard is a comfortable and nice quality rosewood, and the headstock overlay is fairly well done. The stop-bar tailpiece is standard Gibson stuff, as is the Tune-o-matic bridge. The guitar sports two tone knobs and two volume knobs, with one of each for each of the two pickups. My Classic came with superb, chrome full-sized Grover tuners. Epiphone appears to have made the switch from the jade-keystone-two-screw vintage tuners not long before my instrument was made – all the catalogs and internet sites still showed the guitar with the vintage tuners and not Grovers. (As an aside, I found some new Gibson-authorized Grover chrome tuners that have the keystone/tulip shape for the tuner buttons – and they were a direct replacement for the factory Grovers. I just like the keystone shape of the tuners better than the butterbean shape.)

Overall, the Epi Classic is complete with features that compare favorably with other, nicer Les Pauls.

Sound: Sustain, sustain, clarity, clarity, and clarity. When you look up sustain in the dictionary, there’s a picture of my Les Paul. Nuff said.

The pickups are a little on the low-output side (although still better than the Classic’s less expensive siblings). When compared to Burstbuckers or Classic Gibson pickups, the edge, bite, and growl are significantly more tame with the Epi’s pickups. But to put them in real perspective, they are more versatile, warmer, and more creamy than any other humbucker I’ve played in guitars in the same price range. Pickups are almost a matter of preference – when concerning their overall sound. Some like the visceral sound of EMGs, some like the mellow twangy-beefy of Fenders, and others like the true-blue broad-spectrum sound of Burstbuckers. The pickups in the Epi are most comperable to the Gibson humbuckers, but with less output and less tonal range. I realize I ramble on this part of the subject, but I think most will agree that you will always want more pickup sound (unless you’ve bought a top-of-the-line Gibson/Fender/Etc.).

The sound of this particular Epi Les Paul is good for rock (almost all types), good and gutsy blues, electronica, and some forms of traditional metal.

Value: This is a $550 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). This guitar is significantly nicer than the lower-end Epi Les Pauls, and is an excellent value for the money, the sustain, and the features.

Wishes: I love my Les Paul. Even when my budget will allow me to buy the Gibson Les Paul Standard of many a dream, my Epi will still get lots of play time and recording time.

However – The finish flaws on the back side could have been avoided. Also, as seems typical of many Chinese Epis, my guitar’s lead wire solders were not very good. I had to re-solder most of the wiring into the pots before I could get the guitar to behave correctly (as was true of at least 6 other classics at my favorite guitar stores).

I do wish the pickups were covered with nickel covers. I do think the sound might change a bit with nickel covers – but to me, after looking at Les Pauls for so many years, nickel-covered pickups were traditional. Perhaps this model could be offered with more than one type of pickup system.