When Gibson first developed the Studio series, it was intended to be an affordable alternative to the top-shelf stuff. But then Gibson’s Epiphone division really stepped up and filled that niche, building affordable Les Pauls, SGs and the like with all the visual bling like binding and full inlays. That took some of the pressure off the Studio in terms of being an affordable Les Paul, and allowed it to become more of a stripped down Les Paul for its own sake: its own model playing by its own rules. So you you can get some pretty interesting guitars under the ‘Studio’ moniker. Guitars like the Gibson USA Les Paul Studio 2013 Gold Series.
The Gibson USA Les Paul Studio 2013 Gold Series has a Mahogany body treated to Gibson’s ‘Modern’ weight relief process, a series of carefully calculated routs which bridge the gap between weight relief and chambering. In fact, Gibson Master Luthier Jim DeCola says “If you play a batch of weight-relieved Les Pauls and a batch of non-weight-relieved Les Pauls they will all have slight variations in tone even between those of the same type, but you’re very unlikely to hear consistent differences between the weight-relieved and non-weight-relieve guitars. if anything, the weight relieving enhances the resonance, which I feel helps with the sustain.” Sitting atop that weight-relieved body is a Maple top with a subtle figured shimmer – not quite a quilt or flame.
The neck is Mahogany with a ‘60s Slim Taper profile that measures .800″ deep at the 1st fret and .875″ at the 12th, and the fretboard is Grenadillo. Also known as Coyote, Grenadillo’s commonly used in South American guitar making, and it’s often used as a rosewood substitute. The frets and Corian nut are finished on Gibson’s PLEK machine, and the fretboard has no binding.
Hardware includes a gold Tune-O-Matic bridge and tailpiece, vintage-style tuners, black plastic speed knobs, push-pull volume pots for pickup coil splitting, and a gloss lacquer top with satin back, sides and neck finish.
The twin humbucking pickups are Gibson’s 490R with an Alnico II magnet in the neck position, and a 498T with stronger Alnico V magnet in the bridge.
I plugged the Studio into my Marshall DSL50 for testing, and immediately noticed that it sounded a little warmer and brighter than another Studio I’d recently played. This kind of variation is common between guitars of the same woods, because after all, you’re dealing with an instrument that is very much dependent upon the individual pieces of wood it’s made from. In this case this particular Studio sounded great for brash open chords but it ‘clamped down’ nicely for palm-muted rock riffs, and it gave a nice sting to bluesy double-stops. The neck pickup is smooth and full, great for jazzy clean tones or sustained overdriven bends. The single coil settings are a little muffled and are missing the clarity and zing of a true single coil but they’re still very handy to have, and Gibson have thoughtfully left the knobs raised just a little bit higher than usual to give you something to grip when engaging the soil splits. Playablity is very nice indeed – in fact it was a little easier to shred on this Studio than it is on my Les Paul Traditional.
In some ways this is a nice stripped-back Les Paul, with its more economical finish, and yet the tonal flexibility and the playability are worthy of considering on their own merits for what they can do for your music, completely removed from the fact that you can pick one of these up for a lot less than you would spend for a Les Paul Traditional or Standard. And the gold hardware is a very nice, classy touch.