Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

"Best" Les Pauls


Recommended Posts

I know this is a vague question, but which are the "best" LP's? Basically, which LP does Gibson consider to be their cream of the crop? I take it the custom is perhaps.


Another question is what is the Custom Shop all about? Is this where they make the "best" Gibson guitars (again, Gibson's intended Highest quality lineup)?


I own 2 beautiful original Nighthawk's from the 90's, a Jackson DK2M (came with Seymour Duncan JB's I believe), and an older Epi-Hawk (screwed on neck and a 5 way switch with a separate 2 way toggle switch that replaces the push-pull pot on original NH). Always loved the Les Paul tone and look, just want to educate myself more quickly by hearing form others who appreciate them and know the most about these pieces of work. I would like to get a feel for the models and understand what they are entailed with.


Overall, a lineup description and ranking associated with these would also be much appreciated to know which Les Paul is "better" than another. Thank you in advance!

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Yes the custom shop is considered the best (for like wood selection and possibly more experienced workers).. As for which is the best of the best.. Id say the Collectors Choice (or CC) line where they re-produce some of the original 59 bursts... Or the True Historics or what ever they are called now where they use some of the original tooling methods and plastics (apparently its molecular correct) and stuff like that.






However I will then say that the "best" is totally subjective... Every guitar no matter if its from the Custom shop or the USA line is unique.. Each one feels, looks and plays slightly different.. So paying more for a guitar doesn't mean its going to feel any better in your hands if it has a thinner or fatter neck than suits your style. You could find many USA models you like and don't like AND probably just as many Customs you like and don't like.. So as always the best advice, especially if you are willing to pay out a lot is to go and play as many as you can. It really is the ONLY way to find whats best for you. What we think is irrelevant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think this is going to be a subjective question and answers are going to differ. The biggest question is: What's your budget? This will determine which model fits and what you can afford. The next question is new or used?


This is the 2017 lineup:




In the Gibson USA line, you have:


1. Les Paul Standard T - This is their flagship model, AAA top ultra modern weight relief, slim taper neck, locking tuners, Burstbucker Pro pickups, push pull pots for coil split, out of phase and bypass. I love mine. $2799.00

2. Les Paul HP (High Performance) - Same as Standard but with auto-tuners, carved out heel for high fret access. Some love it, some don't. $3199.00

3. Les Paul Traditional - No weight relief, rounded neck, AA top, Burstbucker 1 and 2 pickups. It's more of a traditional Les Paul than the new Standards with latest upgrades. $2299.00

4. Les Paul Classic - 9 hole weight relief, '57 pickups, slim taper neck, plain top. $1999.00

5. Les Paul Studio - Ultra modern weight relief, 490/498 pickups, slim taper neck, plain/painted top, no binding. $1499.00

6. Les Paul Tribute - Same as Studio but with 9 hole weight relief, vintage look without binding. I have one of these as well and love it too. It plays and feels like my Standard, without the pretty top. $999.00

6. Les Paul Faded - Ultra modern weight relief, 490 pickups, faded/worn finish. This is the lower end. A friend of mine has one and it's nice but this compared to the Tributes I've played, the Tributes are better. $899.00


These are also available in the high performance model and they're about $300.00 more for the HP version.


The Customs are a whole other animal and you can get them with a variety of features, finishes, reissues, etc. You'll be paying two or three times as much for these models. I've played some Customs I loved, some not so much. I can't justify the additional expense for one of those models, even though they're fantastic.




They're all Les Pauls. The difference in them are the different features, tops, bindings, weight relief, neck, pickups, tuners, etc. The more you pay, the more you get. I love my 2017 Standard and my 2017 Tribute. The Tribute is a Goldtop and it has P90 pickups vs. humbuckers. But, playing without going through the amp, they feel the same as far as the neck and quality and playability. I've played the others after getting my Standard and I love it the best out of them all, so far. There was a 70's or early 80's Custom I played back in the early 80's and it was, by far, the nicest guitar I have ever played. It's a shame I couldn't afford it at the time.


If you go to the links I posted, they go into great detail what the specs are for the guitars in their 2017 lineup. And, if you read a lot through the threads here, particularly in the Lounge or Les Paul area, you can see pictures, read various threads with various information and questions asked and answered. I'm no expert on all the differences, feel and sound but as soon as I picked up my Standard, I knew it was coming home with me that night. I like to hold them and play them before buying them and I recommend doing the same. I did buy the Tribute online after playing another Tribute at a store.


All that being said, members here have praised their Studios, Classics, and Traditionals as well as their Standards. I'm probably leaving out a lot, which is why I posted links as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What we can do is help narrow things down for you in terms of neck size and what sort of music you want to play..


Gibson have fatter 50s necks and thinner 60s necks which can make a huge difference for some.. Some people can play both happily.. and then theres pickups.. You get higher and lower output pickups which can be useful if you play a specific type of music.


But yes.. Playing as many as you can, you will soon find out exactly what you like and don't like and it is WELL worth the effort when you find one that really speaks to you.


Well good luck on the hunt.. and feel free to ask more...


And of course we will expect to see pictures when you find your one ;) [thumbup]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If money is an issue and you'd rather not start with the top of the line at $2000 to 3000.00, I'd recommend looking at the Tribute or Studio and play a few of them. I really love my Tribute and it's a Goldtop. They play and feel like a Standard without all the frills. They're a good solid Les Paul and a great deal for around $1000.00. Definitely play as many as you can because you can play 30 of them and find that one you really love. I can't wait to hear about what you end up with and see the pictures.


Good luck in your quest!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, that's pretty subjective. For me, the "Best" Les Paul, is always the one I play the most, for whatever reason.

I Love all my Gibby's, Les Paul's, SG's, Lucille, even my old 1954 J-160! For various reasons. I tend to play my

TV yellow double cut LP Special P-90 "faded" and/or my Satin '61 SG reissue, the most. But, when I drag out one of the

other's I'm always smiling, and thinking "Man, I should play THIS one, a lot more!" So, I'm afraid I have no absolute

answer, to that "Best" question.


Sorry.... [tongue]




Link to comment
Share on other sites


As being new to forum, how do I post an image - meaning do I have to hide the Gibson logo or something like that? Just want to be clear on the rules. I didn't read the fine print when I joined :-)

No.. no real rules when it comes to that. The only real rules on here is don't talk politics or religion.... :)


And for posting pics.. What most of us do is upload to a photo image hosting site, we used to use photobucket but they stopped all that.. So now a lot of us are using http://imgur.com/ upload to there and use the BB code it gives you and copy that directly in to your post...


Also if you want light.. Theres a really cool LP Memphis.. Its built more like a semi hollow using laminates.. Check this


Ohh and by the way.. One last thing. When you go trying them in the shops make sure you use the same or a similar amp to what you have at home...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would have thought a Vintage 1959 with original PAF's.


Other than that I think it gets subjective. Although many say some of the the 90's & 2000's are some of the best ever.


I have a 2001 Gibson LP Std Plus AA & a 2013 Gibson LP Jr. special w/P90's that are pretty amazing Guitars.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're buying new a Custom Shop would be great. But that doesn't mean you can't buy a great Gibson off the rack. Or Epiphone for that matter. Some of the Epi Pro Series are pretty amazing Guitars. Like some the Dot 335 Pros & Casino's. (Probably other models too.)


However, if you are looking for Holy Grail you aren't looking for new. You're looking at the period around 1959 with Original PAF HB's. Particularly LP's & 335's. Many of those are true Holy Grail Guitars. Gibson, and many others, have been trying to replicate them for years & some come close. But none of the new ones have succeeded 100% in getting the Sound of those Original Holy Grail PAF equipped Gibson PAF Guitars.


If you've ever owned one you know what I'm talking about.


Good luck on your Quest,



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris, good luck in your search. Definitely play as many as you can and get a feel for the one you like best. The Custom Shop reissues are fantastic and great choices if you're going to be spending $5,000 - 10,000 or more. Do you have any good stores in your area that carry Custom Shop Gibsons or the Gibson USA range? I've only played a couple reissues and they were great. But, I like my Standard more than the ones I've played. Definitely check them out when you can and DEFINITELY post pictures once you find "the one." Good luck in your search and feel free to ask questions as you become better informed or would like opinions and other information. Welcome to the forums.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, by your own admission, and seeking of "Art," without trying to prejudice you, in any way, if you have the financial

means, the Custom Shop is the way to go! Gibson USA makes excellent versions, as well, but at a more "affordable" price



But, the "Holy Grail" of NEW Gibson's would be the Custom Shop versions. In fact, IF/When you figure out exactly the features

you love, or require, you can have one built specifically for you! No need to (only) shop off the rack, Custom Shop, or otherwise.

That's one of the features of the Custom Shop, is to build Custom ordered, guitars. Custom features and/or spec's, colors, tops, etc.!


Just be as picky as you were, with your piano, to get the Best one, for you, from said Custom Shop. They ALL differ slightly,



Good Luck!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mainly based on the cap and pickups chosen?....or the VOS work?

As far as I know its what ever you want.. Aging, special graphics, certain woods and pickups... But obviously within some sort of reason :)


Check out some of the stuff on the Gibson Custom Shop facebook page.. Some real nice stuff


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like the idea. To me that's more what a Custom Shop should be. The 'regular' CS lines could be called Premium, or Pro-built or something, and have CS refer instead to customer requested special orders.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My two cents... a guy like Warren Haynes would consider a vintage '59 Standard to be the Holy Grail. Whatever Gibsons makes now closest to that woul be the cream of thge crop. IMO, that's the Collector's Choice which replicates a specific original vintage guitar, usually a '59.


IMO, next is the Historics, which are built to the same specs as the Holy Grail guitars.


On the other side of the spectrum, you have guys like Dj Ashba who doesn't care about vintage guitar specs & prefers more modern features. Or Zakk Wylde who values choice & customization more than vintage specs. To these guys, the HP made to order customs are probably at the top of their list.


Next would be the production guitars & there are models that reflect the vintage specs & other models that are more modern.


As far as quality goes, the Custom Shop offers one level, the regular production shop offers another. Meaning the least expensive model (Studio Faded) up to the flagship Standard are built to the same high quality standard. The cost difference is in appointments. The most expensive models include binding, pearloid inlays, one piece backs, one piece necks, higher grade tops... the less expensive guitars will be missing those appointments in varying degrees.


But all Gibson guitars are high quality instruments... including your Nighthawks. I personally don't understand why that model didn't gain a lot of fans.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is the best one for me:




It's not a super expensive vintage or anything. It's a 2017 Standard T and it works for me. It has ultra modern weight relief so it's light, Burstbucker pups, locking tuners, great action on a rosewood board, push pulls for coil tapping and out of phase. So it's a real mahogany/maple cap Les Paul but with the features that I like, and I like it's looks as well.


I have 2 Custom Shop Gibsons, and they are wonderful. But this one is just a Gibson USA Standard and the quality was perfect. No finish flaws, nothing out spec. So you don't necessarily have to break the bank to get a good one.


You need to play a bunch of them, familiarize yourself with the different models (which you are doing here) and then find your "Best" one.


Enjoy the hunt. As an experienced musician you will know when you find the one. [thumbup]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what I know about Gibson USA...


-They're made in the USA on a production line, regardless of model across the range. Yes there are hand finished elements such as the rear profile of the necks making each '50s or'60s neck feel ever so slightly different to the player but they are all made to the same standard. What tend to differ are woods and processes used

-Gibson are fairly unique amongst guitar makers in that they use nitrocellulose lacquer to finish their guitars

-You pay for bling, quite handsomely. The Faded and Tribute models have thin layers of nitrocellulose lacquer- just a couple but it saves a lot of time and workmanship due to the drying process. Studios are spec'd pretty much the same except that they have multiple layers of nitro giving them a glossy finish. This adds a few hundred on to the price. Next up to be added is neck and body binding which adds on another few hundred and you get the LP Classic, with it's plain top which also happens to be thicker and more carved (curved) than on the studio and models below it. The Traditional and Standard models are the same but use more select wood choices for the maple tops with varying degrees of flaming so more $ again. Gibson also selects woods for the mahogany backs across the range with higher prices getting you lower density wood that is more clear (having less variations) so it is theoretically both lighter and prettier.


Despite what you might read I have never seen any evidence that a "low end" USA Gibson is made to a lower standard than a top of the line model. I have also encountered no evidence that the more expensive models have backs made of fewer pieces. The custom shop historics are all made with one piece backs though.


So, with a USA Gibson more money will buy you a prettier guitar but it won't necessarily buy you a better playing or sounding guitar. Given that Studios are also thinner guitars there's no guarantee that a top of the line model will be lighter either. One could argue that the price jumps for the extra features are not worth what they get you. I don't know whether you're paying for the privilege of having the top models or whether the top models subsidize the "low end" models as a sort of loss leader to draw new customers in...

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...