Well the news is out – Gibson has finally seen the Downfall Video and realised that they were wrong all along about their 2015 line up. Hooray I hear you say.
Are you all mad?
The Gibson Les Paul (when made properly), is a quite stunning guitar. But seriously, when these first hit the stores they were asking best part of £3000 for a standard with a good flame top. But they have proven so popular that you can pick up a new one for little more than half that now on the interweb.
And why is that? Because they were far too removed from what a traditional Les Paul should be and the quality control was appalling for the price they were asking. Who really wanted the ‘Wider Neck’, the ugly ‘G-Force’ tuning system and an adjustable brass nut. All of which were put on to try to get around the deficiencies that Gibson had begun to manufacture into their own guitars to start with.
Players had complained that with the heavier frets, the string was getting caught in the binding edge. So rather than sort out the binding and do the job properly, they made the neck wider.
One of the most regular jobs I get asked for is to replace the Corian nut with bone, because it constantly causes tuning problems (though it shouldn’t if it’s cut properly). So they change it for Brass, which I thought was a rather silly idea that had gone out in the 70’s. (Sorry Bob!)
And they lowered the frets – which means that the guitar will need re fretting in 5 years rather than the usual 7-10 with their pathetically soft fretwire.
And then there was the internal electrics. What was that bloody circuit board all about? (This one dates back a little further I think – replaced a few myself). It’s supposed to be a £3000 guitar – surely they can manage a small metal plate and four CTS pots. Having the thing made up by machine was nothing more than a piece of ugly cost cutting, with no practical advantage whatsoever. Many of the imported instruments were found to have cracked boards in the UK.
Lets face it, many of the 2014 models are still on UK shelves. They couldn’t shift them at the prices either. Now they are available at significantly reduced cost at places like GAK and Dawsons, as the realisation sinks in that UK dealers network simply cannot take new product while the old stuff sits unwanted.
So what’s the real problem with Gibson?
They still haven’t figured out that a top Les Paul Standard is worth about £2000 tops.
Come on guys – it’s a factory made, mass produced, largely CNC cut guitar. Yes they are finished by hand, sanded with hand guided machines and sprayed by a person. But really? £3000 for your standard model. Guys, the world has moved on. There’s too much competition and the standard of the £700 far eastern guitar is far too high.
Gibson’s Standard offering should be pretty much a ’59/’61 LP standard (OK I know it will be chambered because the modern mahogany is a bit heavy). It should have good Kluson style tuners on it, a bone Nut, two PAFs, good hard fretwire, binding that fits and should retail at about £1700 with a good top on it. You shouldn’t have to pay VOS prices for that. If you think that all these ‘premium features’ like wider fretboards and the like are a real seller, make them the premium price feature. The fact that they haven’t, tells the real story. The players want the real thing – making the real thing the exception is just a ploy to keep the price of the ‘Custom shop’ guitars high – when the custom shop is simply code for ‘A real Les Paul Standard’.
But I’m happy!
In fact, I’m ecstatic. Because while the Gibson company tries every which way from Sunday to throw itself under the bus the guitar buyer is slowly starting to realise that the name on the headstock doesn’t supply any tone.
I have had customers this year who would never have previously thought have having a hand made guitar, simply because they thought it would be too expensive. But they have found that nearly all the good UK luthiers can beat the big boys for quality of parts, service, construction and tone. And not by a little. And you get the neck shape you want, you get to design the thing from top to bottom.
Custom treatment, and for a lot less than the ‘list price’ of a Les Paul ‘Custom’ (and at my prices, less than a standard, even with the recent discounts!).
So check out your local luthier. Buy British! There’s still a good few of us left and really care about what we do. (Once this industry has died out it will never return). Or go to your local music store and pick up the guitars, check the feel. I’ll bet you’ll find something for under a grand that you like the feel of. If the pickups aren’t up to much there’s always Bare Knuckles, another great British company making absolute premium products. You’ll still save a fortune.
And remember, the name on the headstock is not connected to the jack plug.
PS – Did you know, if you put Ace Frehley’s name on it, you can buy it for a meagre £7000 minus chump change. What a bargain….knock yourselves out!