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Gibson Les Paul Special TV Yellow (2020)


Leonard McCoy
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Nothing beats the sweet smell of fresh nitrocellulose lacquer... just like Play-Doh.

Backstory: I actually sold all my Gibson and Fender electric guitars not too long ago as well as that sweet Fender 57 Custom Champ I wish I kept. Alas! here I am having another go at it — this time around with a brand-new Gibson Les Paul Special from the new 2020 Original Collection lineup.

Specs: I love the rounded fat 50's neck which gives ample support for resting your palm against the neck in a very relaxing manner. The guitar is very lightweight compared to a regular Les Paul (with a maple top) while being nicely balanced (no headstock-diving or the like). With just a wraparound tail piece you can also comfortably rest your picking hand onto it. And I always wanted P90 pickups. For all the specs, see here https://www.gibson.com/Guitar/USA2KP357/Les-Paul-Special/TV-Yellow.

Quality Control: A beautiful guitar with excellent build quality. No finish issues. Some minor nitpicks with the hardware, though. The pickup selector switch and nut were loose (you can see it in the photos even) and there was some type of residue firmly stuck to one of the control knobs, making the knob look cracked almost (super glue, finish?!). The pickup selector issue is actually not that straightforward to fix without the right tool at hand. I entirely blame the retailer for not looking over the guitar one bit before shipping it over. Naturally, Gibson's baby photo of that guitar showed none of those issues so it must have happened in transit or at the retailer somewhere. The fretboard is very dry, as is the case with most brand-new Gibsons, and the guitar needs a professional setup which I will do myself later (the nut slots and bridge need to be lowered a bit as well as the pickups — I'll follow Dan Erlewine's example here).

Sound: The amp is still in transit...

Photos: TV Yellow is really, really beautiful finish and very difficult to photograph right in color. It is slightly translucent which is why you can see the wood grain underneath.

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Edited by Leonard McCoy
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The Yamaha THR 10II practice amp came in, and the guitar and its P90 pickups sound amazing, but I'm quite confused as to why the neck pickup is controlled with the lower row knobs, and the bridge pickup with the upper. It should be reversed, or am I missing anything? It's not been that long since I last handled a left-handed Gibson Les Paul, and I remember it being wired differently.

Edited by Leonard McCoy
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Here are the steps I took to get the factory-new Gibson Les Paul Special playing brilliantly.

Setup:

  • Lowered the wraparound tailpiece to get a string action in the ball park of 3/64 at the 12th fret
  • Fine-tuned intonation
  • Tightened the pickup selector ring with a special spanner wrench
  • While turning the pickup selector switch a few too many times, I accidentally ripped off the black ground wire so I resoldered it to the pickup selector switch
  • Fine-tuned 12th fret action to 3.5/64 (bass) and 3/64 (treble) at the 12th fret
  • Filed down nut slots with double-edge nut files so that the strings almost touch the first fret now upon capoing up at the 3rd (very important if you want low action)
  • Threw away old strings
  • Investigated wiring problem in the control knob and pickup cavities (problem: lower row knobs control the neck pickup, upper row knobs the bridge pickup)
  • Oiled the very dry fretboard with PRS Fretboard Conditioner (what blaspemy!)
  • Adjusted height of pickup polepieces so that they match the 12"-radius fretboard (old zig-zag pattern)
  • Restrung with premium silk-wrapped Gibson Les Paul Les Paul guitar strings (10s)
  • Cleaned truss rod nut of dried nitrocellulose finish
  • Slighty fine-tuned neck relief (neck was already almost perfectly straight)
  • Adjusted pickup height to 3/32 (neck) and 2/32 (bridge)

Without tackling the nut slots, you can't really get such buzz-free low action at the 12th fret. I'm still pondering whether I should resolder the pickups to their correct pots.

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Second Impressions on this 2020 Gibson Les Paul Special TV Yellow Lefthand

Sound & Feel: The powerful P-90 pickups sound amazing—not harsh as modern humbuckers tend to do—and the 50's baseball neck is easy to play,  firm and stable, and very resonant. I was surprised at the quality of the tuners, as these types of tuners tend not tune, or hold the tuning, very well in my experience—quite the opposite here. All in all, it is very hard to put this guitar down. 

Build Quality: "Guitars leave the factory in playable condition, but are not completely set up." This is even more true with the USA line than with Custom Shop guitars where the builders are able to spend a lot more time (and your money) not only on the setup itself but also on the finer details of the guitar build (application of finish in certain problematic areas, binding and fretwork, etc). These are the problems I encountered with my Les Paul Special of the USA line:

  • The neck pocket exhibits a fine green line at the heel, which is a usual finish issue with semi-transparent finishes such as TV yellow, and owed to the fact that Gibson sprays the whole guitar over once assembled making areas where the body meets the neck especially problematic for even finish coverage.
  • The guitar pickups have been soldered to the wrong pots, as if this was a righty guitar. A major faux pas. I had to order a new soldering iron in order for me to do a proper job correcting that.
  • Some kind of unidentifiable finish or glue crust on one of the control knobs which I could clean up with Acetone and sharp nails.
  • A loose pickup selector ring which I could fasten with the right tool which I had to order first.
  • Sky-high action at the nut which I could bring down with my StewMac nut files, and other general setup issues as mentioned in the introduction and which were to be expected.
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, SteveFord said:

How can you fine tune intonation with a wrap around tail piece?  

On Intonating a Wraparound Tailpiece

You attempt to dial the intonation in as best as you can, even with a wraparound tailpiece, taking the outer E strings as basis for the adjustment of the tiny screws at the tail end of the tailpiece. In this case, the intonation of the strings was still a few cents off, which was easy enough to correct. The other strings will fall into place automatically, and no further adjustments can of course be made here (unless you file the tailpiece in places), but that is nothing to worry about (more on that in a bit). In general, for guitar setup work, don't be afraid to make adjustments to your liking, whether it concerns intonation, string action, or what not, if the adjustment is reversible.

A wraparound tailpiece is, in terms of intonation, not unlike the saddle of an acoustic guitar. The tailpiece is already angled correctly, just as an acoustic saddle would be, and the strings' takeoff points off the bridge fall naturally and correctly in place due to the different diameters of the strings, and even if the tailpiece is not slotted or ridged as this one is. This is also the reason why a wraparound tailpiece does intonate well—or well enough, I should say, for the equal temperament we attune our instruments to—and why such a guitar plays spot on, relatively speaking, up and down the neck, and not noticable better or worse than a Les Paul with an adjustable tune-o-matic bridge.

Edited by Leonard McCoy
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I just got one of these too, I struggled to find one in the yellow but I'm glad I eventually did. Gibson have been quite sparse in the UK lately, given whats been going on i suppose its to be expected.

Its my first new gibson and its near faultless, there was some polish compound on the highest frets and in the serial number and a tiny rough patch on the fretboard at the 12th about .5mm round so easily sorted. My wife got it me for Christmas and I found time to change the strings and tweak the set up today, just adjustment for preference really. Like you say lower at the nut and slightly lower the action, generally expected really.

I did have a moment of confusion trying to date it.  When I took the pickup out to have a look in the cavity, and saw the dated sticker, 19th July 20, serial puts it at 1st March 20 and I initially read the inspection leaflet as 9th February 20. Couldn't have been inspected and packed before being stamped. I then realised I was reading it as a brit, its 2nd September. I need a break from the booze. 

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On 1/1/2021 at 7:00 PM, Matt4356 said:

I just got one of these too, I struggled to find one in the yellow but I'm glad I eventually did. Gibson have been quite sparse in the UK lately, given whats been going on i suppose its to be expected.

Its my first new gibson and its near faultless, there was some polish compound on the highest frets and in the serial number and a tiny rough patch on the fretboard at the 12th about .5mm round so easily sorted. My wife got it me for Christmas and I found time to change the strings and tweak the set up today, just adjustment for preference really. Like you say lower at the nut and slightly lower the action, generally expected really.

I did have a moment of confusion trying to date it.  When I took the pickup out to have a look in the cavity, and saw the dated sticker, 19th July 20, serial puts it at 1st March 20 and I initially read the inspection leaflet as 9th February 20. Couldn't have been inspected and packed before being stamped. I then realised I was reading it as a brit, its 2nd September. I need a break from the booze. 

I'm glad everything worked out. I find mine (after doing the setup) incredibly easy to play and laughably easy to do all kinds of bends on up and down the cane.

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