Gibson Les Paul Classic Guitar - Review / Heavenly Photo Gallery
Following years of extensive study and pure music making enjoyment that includes hands on experience playing this highly sought after, multi genre, artistically contoured instrument, a collectors choice which was originally developed and introduced to the musical world as a result of the combined efforts of legendary guitarist extraordinaire Les Paul and Gibson designers, I'm reasonably confident if polled today, the vast majority of apprentice guitar novices, intermediates, hobby buffs, legitimate six stringed maestros, and of course, profit driven vintage guitar investors and or collectors, would be in unanimous agreement. A consensus voicing a harmoniously unified opinion in perfect pitch and sync when it comes to orally reciting the universally understood essential elements of a complete, credible, and in some rare cases, invaluable electric guitar collection. Moreover, many accomplished players that I've become acquainted with throughout the years, strongly believe It should be a high crime punishable in a way that would permanently instill the basic historical principles and perspective of which the name "Gibson Les Paul" signifies, if by chance ownership of a "Classic" were to be absent from the serious collector's showroom. Gross negligence indeed.
Yes I understand, substantial exaggeration and embellishment liberties taken on my part regarding the literal criminality of non ownership, however, the sentiment and spirit of how important this guitar truly is to the music world, regardless of how I personally augment the historical significance, cannot be over stated and will remain "On the Record". We would have to assume, according to the staunchest of aficionados, at least one legendary Gibson Les Paul would need to be represented within the contextual physical arrangement of instruments that adorn the sacred showcase in order to achieve the qualifying threshold of a "Genuine Guitar Collection". Is the "Classic" worthy of "Legendary" designation? A guitar that could fill the bill so to speak as illustrious Gibson Ambassador within the ultimate guitar collection? My personal opinion and observation expressed below articulates my general thoughts, assessment, and findings pertaining to this inherently uncontentious subject. All data and supporting evidence contained within this extensive review was collected as a result of my thorough research and evaluation in several key areas including mechanical performance, ease of play, aesthetic appeal, collectibility, and finally, a detailed perspective focused on the "Classic's" rightful overall placement within the historical archives. Even if you're not a musician, nor musically inclined for that matter, I invite you to join me and indulge for a few fleeting moments in a guitarist's Utopia, a place where the Les Paul Classic will forever live on in the physical and spiritual world, an instrument that has undoubtedly touched your life in one way or another, either directly or indirectly.
Join me, as together we'll explore in full illustrious detailed text and images, what I and almost all of my personal acquaintances believes to be, metaphorically speaking, a canonized spiritual entity in waiting despite a few moderately important issues related to ownership upkeep and maintenance that I've uncovered first hand over the past few years. Please keep in mind, different experts inherently have the propensity to review guitars and accessories based upon their own set of unique judging criteria and the following sub-categories contain the specifics pertaining to my personal method of evaluating this salacious six string play maker. I've applied several years of playing experience and insight which culminated in the following extensive review - I hope you find it educational, entertaining, and of course, a visually appealing experience -
Voluptuous, full bodied presence accentuated by precisely crafted, artistically applied curvatures and flowing contours, perfectly shaped lines, illustrious light reflecting nickel hardware, sturdy simulated marble tuning keys, golden hued fretboard inlays, complimentary unshielded black powerhouse humbucking pickups, meticulously machined and manually smoothed body from top to bottom, multi layer protective paint, hand sprayed, buffed, and polished customized hi-gloss finish which extends from front, wrapping contiguously and uninterrupted all the way around to the back, and finally, hermetically sealed, airtight, highly durable binding components, cap off the physical manifestation of what many consider to be the epitome of a Rock n' Roll legend. And that's just a brief, detailed description of the breathtakingly stunning physical appearance, wait until we get to tonal quality and sound.
This particular model is tightly fitted with one of the most easily manipulated neck and string action setups available in the makers long prestigious lineage of premier Gibson guitar products. In line with many other templates, the Classic was designed and manufactured with both the 1950s style broader neck and the narrower, less strenuous to grasp, 1960s slim tapered neck. Both are very "playable" and the choice was and still is yours, if there's one to be found considering it's officially retired from the production line and status into the foreseeable future is "Discontinued". All things considered however, the 60's blueprint made it easier to play and a little more physically compatible for both students and professionals of all ages. Unquestionably, it's a preferred choice of the music making majority and due in large part to this playability aspect, it seems to attract a much broader, diverse demographic of bi gendered guitarists.
For example, either neck will usually suffice and just about anyone at any reasonable age should find it relatively easy to adapt given a little play time, but the 1960s neck will accommodate both the guitarist endowed with more than adequate finger length and also individuals who may have come up a bit shorthanded on the "Digit Scale". And even though the 60's slimmer style neck might feel a bit too narrow for more aggressive or "Busy" guitarists during the breaking in stage, after a few weeks of becoming acclimated by making slight finger or hand movement adjustments, the player should begin to feel a naturally occurring harmonious, comfortable, compatible, physical and spiritual musician / instrument relationship begin to emerge and develop.
There really are no significant quality issues that I could identify as the classic is made with the same materials by the same superbly skilled craftsmen as her siblings the Standard, Custom, Premium, and all others, so essentially, it's simply another quintessential Gibson by its very nature. The signature rosewood fretboard is smooth, durable, and ultra functional if maintained according to recommendations, despite frets that seem to be raised a bit higher than competitor models, and when conditioned regularly with lemon oil applied with a soft cloth or other comparable organic based moisturizing solution, in conjunction with the owners choice of "Easy Slide" administered lightly, the ability to ride your hands smoothly up and down the entire length of the neck unimpeded without significant sticking, should be the typical outcome. Overall, it's just a pleasure and true honor to own and play.
Without complication, intimidation, nor excessive amplification, with the mere swipe of a pick or fingertip touch, brace yourself for the subsequent full force harmonic impact of the entire compliment of audible tones that can be emitted by this genuine heavyweight, not withstanding talent level of course. From the uninhibited, viciously searing bite of exceedingly high pitched screaming lead solo riffs, to a subdued, laid back, subtle, undistorted, mild, unassuming yet powerfully emotional B.B. King style blues mood, or, exuberantly frantic classical oriented arpeggio run up the entire length of the fretboard. Just about everything and anything you could possibly ask for and would expect out of a premier guitar maker. In my opinion, and I've played just about all noteworthy top brands, the tonal qualities and expansive range of music making sounds and abstract accents that can be generated by the Classic is second to none, and that assessment takes into consideration notable guitars made by Fender, Ibanez, and Gretch. Although each in this potent line up has a unique set of offerings in their own right.
One major reason why the Classic is extremely versatile in offering a myriad of distinct signals virtually at will, is not only the select maple and mahogany woods used to create the body of the instrument, but also the electronic components contained within the structure. (Legal contention regarding imported wood not withstanding). The Gibson Les Paul Classic is fully loaded with scorching yet easily reigned in 496R and 500T ceramic magnet pickups that can be adjusted to adapt to any style of music from metal, to ballads, classical to funk, and from country western to blues, with a simple finger tip flick of a toggle switch combined with factory direct top hat style tone and volume control manipulation. The sound possibilities and capabilities seem almost infinite enabling the passionate musician to transition between the entire spectrum of genres with relative ease. At times, depending on applications, the blazing open ended, unbridled pickups can project a somewhat overpowering, raw signal especially when playing softer songs, hence my decision to make a receding adjustment from the very first day of ownership to create a little more distance between pickups and strings to temper the white hot action to a more controlled level. A simple yet very effective minor adjustment performed easily and swiftly by the player of any experience level to create the desired space results in a time friendly remedy to achieve desired customized sound. On the flip side, if your preference is unmatched power and glory, the factory settings should undoubtedly accommodate your wishes.
If you're unfamiliar with the tonal qualities or overall sound, slide in the Guns & Roses earth shattering premiere CD "Appetite For Destruction" and listen closely to Slash as he blazes through an ingenious, unrelenting, raucous symphony of classic riffs that dominate this angst laden work of retro-fidelic art, and if you love the sound, you'll love the guitar. Slash has played the Les Paul Classic throughout his illustrious note bending career and I think it would be a rather difficult proposition to find a more influential heavy rock champion who has exemplified and defined this genre of music over the last three decades by carving a sizzling path right through the center of the prevailing momentum gaining punk and new wave incarnation of the experimental mid 1980s. I would summarize the humbucker experience in one brief sentence. "The Classic will accommodate almost any style or genre of music, but it truly shines above all others when decibel levels are exceedingly pronounced."
Once again, just to reiterate in unequivocal terms, the Classic is quintessential Gibson. The finest of wood and durable precious metal hardware combined with Alnico Pick Up's, work in complete harmony to create not only legendary sound, tonal qualities, and searing sustain that transcends playing styles which can be applied to all music genres, but a rock solid supporting physical structure complete with nickel highlights that piece together in a precisely calibrated, tight fit. Just one of several physical and intangible components that attribute to the price tag premium. The keys facilitate snug string winding around the pegs at evenly distributed intervals for easy tuning, and the bridge saddles are preset to perfection. Easy manipulation facilitates precise intonation adjustments that can be performed in minutes using ordinary household hand tools, and nothing that I've discovered to date seems to indicate a sacrifice of quality materials and or craftsmanship at the manufacturing stage. The factory direct to player top hat controls twist smoothly without any distinguishable coverage gaps fostering even volume and tone signal distribution. The rhythm to lead toggle switch is tight and precise in connection leaving no significant audible artifacts or "Crackling" sounds in between selections.
Like all other Gibson Les Paul models, the Classic weighs in with a dense, sturdy, seemingly indestructible body design without detracting from the artistic splendor that originally set the benchmark for all other guitar manufacturers decades ago. Similar in appearance to the Les Paul "Standard" except the open ended black pickups and golden hued fretboard inlays give it a uniquely "Classic" tweak. From personal experience, when you play the Classic in a standing position with strap securely affixed and draped around your upper back and shoulder area, the weighty impact, if you remain in the same position for an extended period of time, can cause moderate discomfort. However, if this is any consolation, all the other top tier name brands seem to be following in the Gibson tradition by adding more "Substance" to their ax lines, so essentially, if the current trend continues to gain interest and momentum, it appears as if many or possibly even all guitar manufacturers regardless of model, will eventually "Feel" the same when played in a standing position. A wide guitar strap can alleviate this discomfort to a degree.
~ Aesthetic Appeal
What can I say that has not already been seen by a universal live, studio, or home based audience? I think most would agree, it's not only a meticulously crafted quality instrument, but also a masterfully designed striking work of eclectic art. The Les Paul Classic is made from the exact same top quality electronic components as all other Gibson models and the only real noticeable difference if you compare the hi-gloss finishes, is essentially the distinct crosscut "Tiger Striped" natural wood grain effect featured and clearly visible on the top to back of select premium guitars, or, the signature narrow pinstripe that enhances the perimeter of a "Custom" edition, verses an original face and back found on the Classic, Standard, and Traditional models. Another distinguishing feature that sets the Classic apart from her siblings is the open faced sizzling hot ceramic magnet pickups that pave the way for an ultra sensitive, unimpeded direct signal detection and interface that generates a scorching "Hot & Alive" sounding experience. The black pickup exteriors are an appealing visual contrast to all factory custom colors but especially mix nicely with the Gold Top edition. In my opinion, the combination of black on hi-gloss bullion gold background provides just the right complimentary tone. The smooth dark pickups trimmed with cream colored perimeter protection, rising up and slightly above a gleaming golden surface is really sight to behold. The total visual impact is fully appreciated when you open the hard case for the very first time and allow the light to illuminate the guitar at just the right angle which produces a flawless, gem like sparkle effect that emanates from the clear coat style finish accentuated perfectly by the nickel hardware. The unparalleled quasi euphoric feeling of unlatching the locks, lifting the lid, and seeing your new guitar for the very first time resting motionless, silently, peacefully, and harmoniously in her soft felt laced cradle with silk blanket comforter gently pushed aside, is truly a one of a kind experience. A climax almost surreal in nature for the guitar player.
~ Price Point
Considering Gibson retired the Les Paul Classic and it's out of production presumably for an undetermined length of time which may indeed turn out to be designated either permanent or intermittent status, not withstanding the potential for spontaneous, sporadic re-issue cameo appearances via limited quantity production and distribution, which occurs quite frequently as a modestly successful marketing strategy within the industry in the years subsequent to discontinuing highly sought after models, current demand would seem to far out pace dwindling supply after factoring in the finite number of instruments in existence. Even if a small batch of new re-issued instruments are periodically brought to market in the future, the available inventory would still remain relatively inadequate to serve a growing public interest.
Just like all other products and commodities that are traded on the open market, accurate intrinsic value needs to be determined to facilitate an informed, reasonably negotiated, and fair buy/sell transaction. Prevailing market conditions coupled with basic supply and demand fundamentals will ultimately set the highest bid and lowest ask price as a negotiations starting point. Presumably, unless and until Gibson resumes fully ramped up production of this retired model, which is an unprecedented occurrence within the industry, the collectibility aspect right along with intrinsic or "Real" value, should continue to increase justifying premium prices paid by both players and collectors alike who wish to own what many in the industry consider a prized piece of Gibson music making history.
One of the best and most efficient ways to get a good feel for current or projected market conditions and or pricing would be to perform in depth research via related search inquiries. However, a word of caution when proceeding. Auction listings and or pawn shop buy offers can, and often times do, contaminate the legitimate value estimation process, and in my opinion, advertisements by these specific entities must be significantly discounted or removed entirely from the overall equation. It's common knowledge that auctions and or pawn shops conduct a somewhat unconventional style of business, hence, even though they are vital economic drivers within the larger macro picture, merchandise bought and sold via these venues do not always reflect "Real" worth and or market conditions. From personal experience, I find prices quoted in many cases, more indicative of a sellers "Desperation", as opposed to an accurate reflection of genuine value. For this primary reason, I tend to discount and in most instances, completely discard auction transactions especially when researching collectibles.
Quotes gathered from untainted sources generally apply to used instruments, and after analyzing several comparables, even the inexperienced novice buyer should be able to at least calculate a ballpark asking figure for reference purposes and then the price can simply be massaged upward and applied to a vintage or new guitar, notwithstanding the instruments physical condition. For additional perspective, In its last year of production, a new factory shipped Les Paul Classic garnered a price point of between $1,799 to 1,999 depending on color. This should give you a good idea of what the asking price was for the final pristine group of instruments produced, and future retail cost estimation for a new guitar if and when Gibson rev's up production once again to craft a limited re-issue batch.
Although everyone, from the consummate professional, to the inexperienced novice understands the extremely difficult, if not impossible task of trying to predict future price appreciation trends, and how in many cases it can turn out to be an inexact science at best, or, a fundamental exercise in futility at worst, common sense would seem to dictate a justified escalating premium value now and in the future, with modest adjustments made for mechanical and or aesthetic condition. If regularly scheduled daily production of the Les Paul Classic has indeed ceased permanently. The experienced stringed instrument appraiser would presumably come to the logical conclusion that intrinsic value should inevitably increase and sustain regular, possibly frequent price up ticks even if brand new "Re-issue" guitars periodically emerge from the Gibson factories in coming years. With that said, I'm sure we all realize trying to predict future value, even as it relates to a highly collectible instrument such as the Gibson, is indeed a speculative endeavor.
One predominant reason for unwavering demand is the longstanding, world renown and widely recognized quality driven "Gibson" brand name coupled with the company's unmatched dedication to producing a high end guitar uncompromising in playability, structure, and physical appearance. These guiding principles have helped the company achieve and maintain an unblemished history regarding the respective product line. Albeit the cost of a Gibson guitar is primarily attributed to the tangible and intangible elements associated with the company's unmatched quality and craftsmanship, I think we can all agree, an inherent modest premium is built into the price due in small part to mere name recognition. Similar in nature to an added "Ownership Tax" automatically factored into a Mercedes Benz or Audi. Some of the working mechanical parts may be of the same quality that you would find on a less costly Ford or Chevy, but when evaluated in totality, the balance of precisely fabricated custom materials used, combined with superior skills and craftsmanship performed by highly dedicated builders, can for many buyers, be sufficient justification for a premium price tag.
- The Les Paul Classic is no fragile instrument and is indeed a rather hefty weight to carry on the shoulder and upper back area for an extended period of time however, some of the newest Fender Stratocaster models I've test driven lately either meet, or, may even exceed the Les Paul Classic in pure poundage. So my assumption is the following, competing guitar designers of all shapes and sizes are tweaking their lighter weight instruments by adding a little more substance to the body in an apparent effort to extract a maximum sustain effect by closely aligning their instruments to relevant Gibson specs. A brand that is world-renowned within the industry as upholding a prestigious reputation for building guitars that produce the brightest, long lasting sustain -
- Upkeep and aesthetic maintenance is a little higher than other guitars. The multi layered hi-gloss finish, although the most durable of its kind, requires at least a semi annual application of silicone based polish or similar solution to help preserve the natural luster and brilliance. The finish will actually maintain its shine for extended periods even without regular tender loving care treatments however, an ounce of preventative maintenance can indeed help to mitigate or minimize the need for costly minor cosmetic repairs in the future -
- Price is at the high end of the spectrum which can be a significant budgetary consideration for many, but in my opinion, the old saying "You Get What You Pay For" certainly applies here. The materials used in harmony with the top tier level of craftsmanship and attention to detail exercised by Gibson quality control personnel in concert with dedicated, talented, and supremely skilled guitar builders or "Luthiers" as they are called, is second to none. Common comparison - "Mercedes & Chevy". Both are great cars however, craftsmanship, fabrication methods, and certain components used by Mercedes are considered by most experts to be superior -
- Small to tiny inclusions or imperfections can be found on the exterior surface of almost all new Gibson Les Paul Guitars. I have yet to find one that is virtually "Pristine" or "Perfect" so to speak in appearance which can be a disappointment. This is the expected price we musicians pay for more attention to detailed hand craftsmanship during the production phase -
- The 496R and 500T alnico ceramic magnet pickups, which come standard on this particular model, are in my opinion the hottest and most sensitive units Gibson Manufacturing ever produced, and from the moment you release the ax from its lair and insert the life line, you will be exposed to the uniquely "Classic" experience, fully absorbed and appreciated. The guitar produces such an incredible sound emission from an immensely powerful overall structure, from technological and fundamental structure aspects, that I executed a slight pickup adjustment to temper reception sensitivity ever so slightly. It was just my personal preference and all of my musical acquaintances found the factory direct settings to be near perfection and to their satisfaction, so no modifications were made. Listen to "GUNS & ROSES" "Appetite for Destruction", if you find Slashs' ax works to your liking then I would assume no pickup adjustment would be necessary -
- NOTEWORTHY ROCK HISTORY SNIPPET <> Legendary heavy rock guitarist extraordinaire Slash, who boisterously and unrelentingly spearheaded the quasi psychotic exceedingly intoxicating ax attack of "Guns N' Roses", "Snakepit", and "Velvet Revolver", single handedly resurrected, revitalized, rejuvenated, re-calibrated, and somewhat aggressively, redefined a profusely anemic, waning "Hard Rock" music genre in the struggling for direction 1980s while wielding the decibel bending raw power of a heritage cherry sunburst dipped edition Gibson Les Paul Classic. And in doing so, with signature top hat and occasional leather strapped love taps administered to a rather tame, submissive guitar, unleashed upon the pure hard rock starved universe no less than a flurry of ridiculously innovative and maniacally melodic guitar riffs frequently followed up with a gentle signature slithering serpentine motioned "slash" across the guitar strings to emphasize virile dominating innuendo, reminder, and intent. A historical turning point in rock re-establishment worthy of praise from all genuine music aficionados and casual listeners alike ~ ONE MAN - ONE GUITAR - ONE MISSION - ONE MISSION ACCOMPLISHED ~
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