OK, here comes the full report on the 2017 Gibson Les Paul Tribute T. If you can hang with this post, I'll tell you about mine as honestly as I can. And bear in mind, I'm not usually bubbling over with enthusiasm for anything.
I have now set down and played the guitar pictured above for a while. First, I noticed that in regular room lighting (i.e. when you're not turning on all the lights to take pictures), this thing looks amazing. There's sort of a hint of amber in the gold top, and I love it. When the light hits it, it sort of shimmers and shines. It's a beautifully done finish and they nailed the color to suit my tastes perfect. This is a beautiful guitar.
Now as for playing this guitar. I've been playing guitar for 48 years now. Yes, forty-eight. I'm an old geezer. In that time, I've played, and owned, a lot of guitars. What I'm going to say is not just new purchase enthusiasm. I'm beyond that after all the guitars that I've owned and played down through the decades. I'd give it to you straight whether I liked the guitar or not. So here goes.
This is the nicest electric guitar that I've ever played. I'm not kidding. I started playing on a pre-CBS Fender Telecaster back when it was just a cheap used guitar (Man, would I like to have it back now!). Down through the decades I've played some memorable guitars. And after reading reviews of previous years of this model, I expected it to be OK, but not earth-shaking. But man, they did this one right! I don't know if I just got lucky or if they'll all be like this, but if they're all like this, it's going to be a banner year.
The action, right out of the box, is perfect. I do all my own setups, maintenance, and lutherie work, and I can set up a guitar to just the way I like it, and even get into some pretty heavy fixes and mods. But I'm not touching this one. It's perfect. If, later on down the road, it needs a tweak or two, I'll do it. But straight out of the box, it's like I set it up myself.
The fingerboard is the best feeling fingerboard I've ever played, and the neck profile is terrific. My usual electric is a Road Worn 50s Telecaster with the super thin nitro finish and all that. I'm pretty agile up and down the neck when I'm playing lead on my Telecaster. But there's something about this neck and fingerboard that makes me immediately, noticeably, faster and more agile. Long reaches that almost hurt on the Telecaster seem comfortable and easy on this 2017 Les Paul Tribute T. The rosewood of the fretboard seems to be very dense, fine grained wood, much more so than other rosewood fretboards that I've played. They've rolled the edge and it's rolled to perfection. And I can run my hand up and down the neck, deliberately trying to snag my hand on a fret end or something - smooth as silk.
When you play it, hammer ons, pull offs, trills, bends, etcetera are so easy you can almost just will them to happen. This guitar makes me sound like a much better guitarist than I really am. It's just a pleasure to play.
I expected to replace the tuning machines soon after buying the guitar, based on reviews of previous years' models of the same guitar, but that's another happy surprise. I don't know if they changed something from previous years or if I just got lucky and got a great set of tuners, or what. But these machines are buttery smooth, with a confidence-inspiring feel to them. They don't creep after you tune them. They feel as solid and precise as you could ask for. I won't be changing them. I love them. After ripping up and down the fretboard, bending everything all out of shape and working it as hard as I can, I checked and the guitar was still in tune. I figured that being a new guitar, with presumably new strings, it would be off. But it wasn't. I tuned it once, tweaked it again shortly after, then cut loose on it with no mercy (well, what passes for no mercy from me), and it's been in tune ever since. My Telecaster stays close, but would have needed tweaking after all those antics. Not this new Les Paul.
Intonation on every string was perfect up the neck as far as I can tell. I didn't check it with a strobe tuner, but I am quite happy with the intonation.
Pickups? Well, I was already thinking about a set of new pickups before it arrived. I like to tinker. But I won't be changing those either. I have not traditionally been a big 490 fan. But this set, or maybe those pickups in this body, or something, sound great to me. I can clean it up and play jazz like Wes Montgomery's take on "Round Midnight", or bump the gain and get some nice, bluesy snarl out of it. I was expecting to not like the pickups. Well, they got me. I didn't notice any muddiness. They sustain for a very long time. Playing chords, the note separation is nice and audible and it just sounds amazing. Lead work up the neck, this guitar makes me sound way better than I consider myself to be. These pickups just just sound great. I'll be keeping them. And I was sort of looking forward to swapping out the pups...maybe some Lollar Imperials or something. But no, despite being 490s, which I have always thought of as just sort of average, I really like these pickups. I guess I won't get to tinker with it after all.
The action on this guitar is very low, just the way I like it. You can blast up the neck with very little effort. But there's no fret buzz anywhere. I checked every single fret. And then I pulled out the slides. I figured that would be a real challenge. Despite the very low action setup, I tried four slides on this thing and they all sounded good. I liked my heavy Pyrex best on this guitar, but brass, heavy ceramic, and of course, the Coricidin bottle all worked well and sounded good, even with the low action. Hey, it's a gold top! I had to try the Coricidin bottle! I tend to like certain slide with certain guitars. This one is a heavy Pyrex guitar, but any of the others would have been acceptable. And with that low action!
I can't think of anything to complain about. The knobs are precise, well aligned and responsive. I love everything about this guitar. I should put a codicil in my will, insisting that they bury me with it. It's just a great, GREAT guitar! Gibson hit a home run with this one. Different people like different things, but I can't imagine anyone not liking this guitar if they saw it and played it.
I pre-ordered this guitar a while back, so I got one of the first ones released. Did they make sure the first few out the door were perfect? I don't know. Will they all be this good? I don't know. But I can tell you that my beloved Telecaster is going to be feeling a little forlorn. I don't want to put this thing down. Fit, finish, action, playability, sound, everything about this guitar is just as I would want it to be.
And at the price for one of these, if you've been wanting something like this, it's a genuine bargain, worth every penny. You get a really great, USA-made Gibson Les Paul for some pretty cheap money. I am honestly shocked that even going into it looking for reasons to start changing and tinkering, and expecting to find irritating little flaws to complain about, this guitar won me over in a matter of minutes. It's really that good.
If the particular guitar that I now own is representative of all of the 2017 Gibson line, it's very obvious that Gibson is listening to previous years customer complaints and doing something about those issues. If I ordered a guitar from a luthier, or the Gibson Custom Shop (I have two acoustics from the custom shop in Bozeman) and they sent me this guitar, I'd be delighted with my purchase.
If this is representative of the 2017 model year, then this year is going to be a high water mark in Gibson history. And that's saying something. I can recommend the 2017 Gibson Les Paul Tribute T without reservation to any and all Les Paul lovers out there. And at this price, you'd better go get one before they're sold out. Gibson, you have genuinely impressed me, and that ain't easy!