Gib­son Les Paul Trib­ute 2018

Who says you can’t get a bona fide Amer­i­can-made LP for un­der a grand?

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

It wasn’t long ago that Les Paul Stu­dios were the most af­ford­able line in the range, giv­ing gui­tarists that clas­sic ma­hogany body/maple cap and dou­ble hum­bucker tone with­out any need for re­mort­gag­ing their homes. Now with this year’s models creep­ing up to the £1,300 mark, it’s the re­vamped Trib­ute se­ries that is now serv­ing those in pur­suit of qual­ity, Amer­i­can-made in­stru­ments on a more wal­let­friendly bud­get.

At first glance, not a whole lot seems dif­fer­ent com­pared to the older Stan­dards although the cut of the body feels marginally thin­ner. Un­like the Les Paul Faded, which sits at a sim­i­lar en­try-level Gib­son price point, this gui­tar has no weight re­lief what­so­ever – ef­fec­tively pay­ing ‘trib­ute’ to the chunky blocks of wood that the brand built its name on, though in this case with­out be­ing over­whelm­ingly heavy. The Faded Honey­burst and Gold Top colour schemes in satin fin­ish, along with acrylic trape­zoid in­lays, gold/sil­ver top hat con­trols and vin­tage key­stone tuners, also do well in hark­ing back to the time­less looks of the Gib­son glory years. Fol­low­ing the news of the Mem­phis fac­tory’s sale late last year after re­ports of mount­ing debts and de­clin­ing sales, this is some­thing the wider world could do with be­ing re­minded of.

De­spite all its at­tempts to up­date their solid bodies with ro­botic tuners, neon colours and float­ing bridges in re­cent years, the pub­lic vote through sales has been fairly unan­i­mous: it’s the clas­sic fea­tures that re­main the main sell­ing point for any in­stru­ment em­bla­zoned with the com­pany’s logo. After all, why change a win­ning for­mula? Of course, not all change need be un­nec­es­sary. Sweet­en­ing the deal with the Trib­ute 2018 is the avail­abil­ity of all models in left-handed for the ex­act same price and cryo­geni­cally-treated frets (see p92) across the en­tire Gib­son 2018 cat­a­logue, topped off by all-new brown leather gig bags that are equally as sturdy as they are pleas­ing on the eye.

Util­is­ing the same pickup com­bi­na­tion found in most Cus­toms, a 490 in the neck and slightly hot­ter 498 by the bridge, the Trib­ute can cover a lot of tonal ground – from warm blues and woolly jazz to heavy rock, though it nat­u­rally falls short on coun­try spank, like any gui­tar lack­ing the glassi­ness of sin­gle coils. Di­alling down the tone while on the rhythm set­ting in­vites even thicker sounds, rem­i­nis­cent of the creamy leads made fa­mous by Slash or Gary Moore. The tre­ble pickup of­fers a lot more grit – suit­able for ev­ery­thing from jan­gly in­die-rock chords to full-blown heavy metal wor­ship – and most im­pres­sively of all, cleans up in­cred­i­bly well at around 3 on the vol­ume dial.

With low ac­tion out of

good for jan­gly in­die rock and heavy metal wor­ship

the box and set up with light gauge strings run­ning across its slim ta­per neck, the Trib­ute is easy to pick up and play – an ideal pur­chase, then, for newer play­ers look­ing to get their sec­ond or third in­stru­ment. Hav­ing said that, we found for more pro­fes­sional sit­u­a­tions, it falls slightly short on tun­ing sta­bil­ity. The gui­tar doesn’t ‘lock’ it­self into a tun­ing quite as nat­u­rally as higher-end or vin­tage Les Pauls, which of­ten sit at the top of the list of de­pend­able work­horses for record­ing or tour­ing mu­si­cians be­cause of their re­li­able and rugged re­sis­tance.

As far as com­pro­mises go, it’s not a bad one – once set­tled into a tighter setup with heav­ier gauge strings, the is­sue could be per­fectly man­age­able or even com­pletely erad­i­cated. Truth be told, the ma­hogany, maple and rose­wood won’t be the finest ly­ing around in the Gib­son fac­tory, but it’s good enough to bear the stamp and, most im­por­tantly of all, it sounds the part, too.

The Faded Honey­burst’s plain top gives the in­stru­ment a sim­ple el­e­gance that’s much more mod­est than the high-end quilts and flames, while the Gold Top screams vin­tage class – nei­ther giv­ing any in­di­ca­tion of their lower price point. If the Trib­ute’s main goal is to of­fer play­ers a taste of Gib­son’s great­est legacy and ac­cess to sounds at the heart of many a clas­sic record­ing – at a frac­tion of the cost – then it’s un­doubt­edly a re­sound­ing suc­cess.

Amit Sharma

A PAF-style al­nico pickup in the­neck­ismatched­bya twinon­the­bridge

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