The lower end 2014 Gibson USA Les Paul line - which to get?
While I'm not a Les Paul player, I was happy to see Gibson dropping their prices for several USA models for 2014. In this article I'm concentrating on the first 6 of them from lowest-to-highest in price.
Yes, there are more than 6 models, but I'm sticking with the first 6 because that's what most people can afford. With that said, here we go.
This guitar is the perfect upgrade to anyone who owns an Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90 now, because it's the same guitar with more features. Same wraparound bridge, same color, but with the addition of more controls and a proper pickup selector on top instead of the bottom.
When you want a guitar that is the same type of P90 setup as the Epiphone with the same style bridge in a Gibson version, you literally cannot do any better than the '14 Melody Maker.
The best part about this Gibson is that it has both right and left-handed versions available. For lefty players, this is your 'Paul. (Look for "Left Handed" on that link, you'll see them.)
Several colors are available, but the best one is the gold top because it matches the black-covered pickups best. And yes, all LPJ models to the best of my knowledge all have those black pickup covers. If you're wondering if the pickup set is "hot", yes it is. The pair is a 490R and a 498T.
The pickup set in this one is new for '14, and it's called the '61 Zebra Humbucker. I have no idea what it sounds like, but I assume since "61" is in it, it's supposed to lean more towards classic rock "growl" of sorts, and that's not a bad thing.
The "M" is for Min-ETune, meaning yes, this guitar has the robot tuners on it. I consider this a novelty at best. Nice to have, but in the end it's annoying because it's a part of the guitar where you have to periodically recharge the battery. For those wondering, yes, you can tune the guitar manually without wrecking the Min-ETune gears. The guitar wouldn't be worth much if you couldn't do that.
Without question, my favorite 'Paul for 2014. The Inverness Green color option (seen above) is damned gorgeous, the neck is correct with the 60s slim profile, and the pickup combo is killer, with a Burstbucker Pro in the bridge and a Sidewinder P90H humbucker in the neck. Yes, the neck pickup is a humbucker, although it doesn't look like it. It's called the Sidewinder because there are two coils non-stacked side-by-side inside the pickup casing.
This guitar also features a 15db boost and push/pull for tap when needed. All the awesome goods are in this particular axe. Not good for metal, but good for everything, and I mean everything else. Doesn't get much better than this.
And yes, the Inverness Green is both on the front and back, which is exactly how it should be. Gibson nailed this one right.
This would be the best USA 'Paul for metal players because it has the 490R and 490T pickup combo along with orange drop capacitors in it.
Everything about this guitar is right except for one really, really annoying thing. The plastics.
The pick guard, pickup rings and poker chip (the plastic around the pickup selector switch) are what I describe as mustard-colored. If those plastics were proper aged white, this guitar would be perfect for most people. But that mustard-colored nonsense is an instant turnoff.
If you buy the '14 Studio, plan on spending a few extra bucks for replacement plastics, because believe me, you will hate that mustard color. And no, this is not one of those things where the photos make the guitar look bad. That plastic really does look that bad. Don't know what Gibson was thinking with that nonsense...
This is another one where Gibson got so close to getting this right but messed it up with the look, again with the plastics. If the pick guard, pickup rings and poker chip were aged white and the knobs gold, they could have nailed this one. But again, all that stuff can be replaced easily and for cheap.
With this one, the pickup set is a '57 Classic and a Burstbucker Pro, which is not as "hot" as the non-Pro Studio model above, but genuinely more usable for those who don't play metal all the time. The push/pull for coil split is on this one as well for when you want to get a Telecaster-like (sort of) sound out of it.
As for which I would go with, that's a tough call.
The Melody Maker has true real-deal P90s in it. Yes, that means they buzz (as in 60-cycle hum), but the spank you get out of those is amazing.
The Futura on the other hand has a look to die for, plus the slim 60s profile neck. I'd also find the 15db boost useful as well.
I'd probably go with the Futura because for me it has the most stuff I would find useful on a Les Paul. Definitely not as comfortable as the Melody Maker (it has a wraparound bridge while the Futura doesn't), but I'm pretty sure I'd like the neck better, and that's what would sell me on it more than anything else. That and the gloss Inverness Green (yes, it is a gloss). Supremely good looker.
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