Gibson caused quite a kerfuffle with their Gibson USA 2015 line, which featured G FORCE automatic tuners, wider necks, adjustable zero-fret nuts and all sorts of other tweaks. In 2016 those tweaks are further enhanced and refined under the banner of High Performance (HP), and you can get HP or Traditional (T) versions of most 2016 Gibson USA guitars. The T models are much more in line with the 2013 model year. It’s great that players now have the option, because each has a lot to recommend it. At the time of writing, the first batch of T models had just arrived in Australia, with the HPs to follow.
The Les Paul Studio Faded 2016 T is one of the more affordable Les Pauls, and unlike, say, the very stripped-down CM 2016 T, it’s a fully kitted out, ready-to-rock, twin-pickup beastie. In many ways it’s like an old-school Standard or the current Traditional minus the fancy wood and paint job, instead rocking a faded finish that lets the wood breathe, and gives you the feel of a really well-worn vintage guitar. The body is made of mahogany, and in the case of the review guitar it seems to be a single piece of wood although the spec allows for multiple pieces. The top is book matched plain maple. The neck is one-piece mahogany with a light rosewood fingerboard and 22 frets, and the inlays are trapezoids (a nice concession to fanciness when they could have gone with plain dots to knock a couple extra bucks off: trapezoids really do enhance the ‘real Les Paul’ vibe. Ditto the pickguard). The pickups are a matched set of BB Pro humbuckers with Alnico V magnets and a vintage output level. They’re connected to the standard two-volume/two-tone/one-pickup-selector arrangement.
MORE PAUL FOR LES
It’s quite amazing but of the four guitars we tested on the day these came in to Gibson, this Studio Faded was the best-sounding of the lot. And that’s saying something because they all sounded great. This had more punch and body, more dynamics, and a little more hair in the top end. This made it a really great hard rock guitar, and perfect for nasty blues. I guess the lack of a thick finish allows the wood to breathe a little more. The apparently single-piece body probably helps too. Whatever it is, there’s something in this guitar that expresses a very no-nonsense vibe that filters through into your music. And there’s also something about its look that makes you want to play harder too. It’s a blend of aggressive and classic, and it works brilliantly.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you want a true Les Paul but you’re on a bit of a budget, this will get you the tone and most of the look. Gibson scores a huge win with this one.
Hits and Misses
Truly great sound.
Just a padded gig guide. A case would be nice.