As someone who considers it essential to have a Les Paul in my tonal arsenal. I have sometimes found myself without one. My first Les Paul was a 2003 Classic, the one with ’1960′ etched into the scratch plate. I foolishly bought the guitar with a slim 1960′s tapered neck. Not realising that I found guitars with beefier necks more comfortable. It weighed a ton. Well over 10lbs The grain pattern on the back was akin to a piece of marble. It sounded fantastic but the combination of heavy body and skinny neck meant I was forever trying to keep it in tune.
I nicknamed it the millstone, and after buying my telecaster in 2005, by 2007. It was sold to a guy in a Gary Moore tribute band.
Then a few years later my brother offered me his 2001 Standard in a straight swap for a PRS McCarty. As this guitar had a 50s clubby style neck profile and was around 9lbs in weight a deal was done.
However 2 years later I needed some cash quickly and as he d always regretted letting it go. I sold it back to him for what Id paid for the PRS.
As my main guitar has still been my Fender Kotzen Telecaster for the last 9 years Id just not been playing the Gibson that much. However shortly afterwards I too felt the pang of regret.
After Gibson’s revision of the Les Paul Standard in 2002, there had been little change in the model until 2008, when the body had been chambered and new pickups and electronics came into play, the old standard became known as the Traditional then the design was revised again in 2012/13 and again in 2014.
What I’d really enjoyed was my brothers 2001 Standard. It was a clean example of the last year of the 90′s style Les Paul Standards. After searching around for some used 90s Standards. Last September, I put my overtime to good use when I chanced upon these limited edition Les Paul Traditional Pro 2′s. Built for a year for the American giant Guitar Centre these guitars are basically an old 90′s Les Paul Standard with a few extra bells and whistles. At £1399 for a brand new guitar, It seemed a better deal than taking a chance on a used example, where I may possibly have to pay out for set ups or re frets etc.
The first thing upon opening the guitar case was the impact of the Honeyburst finish. I fell in love with the figured maple top, its nicely flamed, but still has enough imperfections and flecks in the wood to look “vintage” rather than too pretty. The top is full gloss finish nitro cellulose lacquer. The back and sides and neck feature less coats of this for a pleasing ‘Matte’ finish. So the guitar feels playable from the off.
The second shock was the lack of weight. At around 8.5 lbs, this is the lightest Gibson Les Paul Ive played. At first I thought the body had been chambered, but the low end presence of the guitar indicated otherwise. As its a limited special run, specs on the body were scant. But it appears that it actually has modern 9 hole weight relief in the body’s upper bout. I emailed Guitar Centre for the construction specs, but instead they didn’t know and it was up to the ever efficient German retailer Thomann to confirm that they were weight relieved bodies.
After some research it appears that from 2013, Gibson has done a deal with the Fijian government who have the worlds largest managed forests of what we’d call tone woods. As generic South American Mahogany is rather heavy, it appears that the Fijian variety has less moisture content and when kiln dried is considerably lighter. This is why I suspect Gibson have abandoned tonal chambering on the 2014 Les Paul Standard and have instead gone back to the pre 2008 weight relief method.
The chambering debate is a thorny one. Ive played both and a tonally chambered guitar, generally has a better clean articulate voice, so note separation is much better . However for a distorted rock guitarist, playing through a high gain amp. Chambering kills off much of the instruments low end. So riffs never quite have enough low end on them.Some Pro s also complain of feedback at high stage volumes. PRS did make some chambered Singlecut’s briefly, but even they have abandoned the idea.
The 1950′s clubby neck is comfortable and not too clubby. The German automated PLEK setup is nice. Having locking Grover machine heads at this price point is a nice touch too.
The rosewood board on this instrument is of the new 2 piece “Laminate” variety. When Gibson moved over to using a laminate rosewood board, it seemed yet another controversy. It sounds ok, but Im curious to how it will fare when its time for a re fret. Gibson have noticed that people feel a little conned by not having solid rosewood anymore and have moved back to a 1 piece board on the Custom Shop models. Im open minded, Ive always found PRS use much nicer examples of wood anyway. But a Les Paul is a Les Paul…a design classic. Like a Leica Camera, so I guess this is a foible that I will put up with.
The general construction is high for this example, but Gibson are still hit and miss. Ive played R9′s that were lousy and fantastic Les Paul Studio’s. So more money doesnt always equal a better guitar.
The biggest surprise and at the same time disappointment of this guitar is the electronics.
The 2 humbucker’s are a Classic 57 in the neck and an overwound Super 57 in the bridge. The vibe of the bridge pickup with zebra bobbin magnets is hot vintage. A little bit like a Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro II.
The big surprise is that the pickups are both coil tappable using push/push controls on each volume pot. Thus giving us a much wider variations. When tapped, the single coil sounds are almost telecaster-esque, especially the bridge.
The other big surprise is the push/push pot on the lower tone control, that activates a 10db+ boost on both pickups powered by an onboard 9v battery, a little bit like the boost on a Fender Clapton Strat. This works well, however. The battery cover for the active circuit on the back plate of the guitar is so woefully and cheaply made that I just wouldn’t put a battery in there for fear of never getting it out. When the battery is not engaged, the pot functions as a killswitch and mutes the guitar.
However this is a lot of Les Paul for the money and where costs have been cut is the pickups, they feel cheap and plasticky and tonally a bit scratchy at high gain. I know its taste but I don’t like Alnico II magnets
they seem to middy to me. I prefer the fat warm majesty of an Alnico V magnet.
My first week of owning the guitar coincided with an audition for a female fronted rock band. The Traditional Pro 2 (long winded name eh?) held up tuning wise and sounded ok through the rented Blackstar amp.
When I joined a band a month later I found myself using my Telecaster as my main guitar. However the couple of rehearsals Ive done with the LP Trad Pro 2 have been good.
My next stage is too change the pickups out for some fatter sounding units. At this stage Bare Knuckle ‘Holy Divers’ are at the top of my wish list.
As these guitars ae a limited run, if your a UK consumer Id get one now. You may like the sound of the pickups, as all of these things are objective. But at these prices, they won’t hang around.