Whether you prefer your guitars to be a little more traditional or a little more forward-looking, Gibson has catered to both schools of thought with their Gibson USA 2016 line-up. Most models give you the option of choosing between Traditional (T) and High Performance (HP) versions of a huge variety of models including the Les Paul Traditional, Standard and Studio, the Firebird, Flying V and Explorer, as well as various different SG models.
A NEW STANDARD
I like to think of the Les Paul Standard as being Gibson’s state-of-the-art take on the Les Paul. In other words think of it as the name applied to the pinnacle in ‘Les Paul For Now’ rather than ‘a remake of what a Les Paul was in the late 50s.’ If that’s what you want, check out the True Historic range or the Les Paul Traditional T. But the 2016 Standard is a guitar that pays tribute to its past without being shy of the present. For instance, it has an asymmetrical-neck and a compound-radius-fingerboard which is curvier at the nut end and flatter towards the body. Gibson uses AAA transparent tops (or C grade tops for solid-finish models) which look beautiful - but an even higher grade is used for the HP models and those are jaw-droppingly stunning. Gibson’s Modern Weight Relief is applied to the mahogany body: a series of strategically drilled holes that cut down on the Les Paul’s legendary weight without sapping away the tone. Some other more recent Standards had a more pronounced chambering but that’s not the case here. Grover locking kidney tuners are used (or the HP version has self-tuning G FORCE tuners which store plenty of alternate tunings accessible at the touch of a button). Gibson uses QC Lead Pro and QC Rhythm Pro humbucking pickups wired up to individual coil splits, a phase switch and a Pure Bypass switch, which routs the bridge pickup signal directly to the output jack, completely free of the filtering of the volume and tone controls. It’s a great way to instantly switch to a full-power lead sound regardless of where the controls are set.
Sonically, the Standard has a little more sting and versatility than the more sweet-sounding Traditional. It’s even capable of some pretty brutal metal tones as well as the very classy, articulate fusion sounds that you might expect from a guitar this fancy-lookin’. And of course it’s also great for blues, jazz, and even country, especially when you engage the coil taps. The out-of-phase sound is also incredible, very soulful and vocal, and a handy tool to have in the studio when you’re layering a number of guitar parts. But most crucially, this still sounds like a Les Paul, and it really hits home the point of this guitar: it’s a Les Paul as we know it, but a Les Paul for now, for those who want a more ergonomic, multi-functional take on a classic.
NOT YOUR GRANDPA’S LES PAUL
If you’re into the looks and tone of a Les Paul but you’ve never got along with the necks or the controls, the 2016 Standard could be the very guitar you’re looking for. The playability is more comfortable both in terms of fretboard feel and neck shape, and the addition of coil splits, phase switching and the Pure Bypass mean it’s one of the most versatile Les Pauls ever, and ideal for those playing in cover bands or in situations where they need a lot of sounds from one guitar.
Hits and Misses
Very versatile pickups and switching