Explain Les Paul Models

Whizzinby

Rock Star
TGF Recording Artist
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I don’t want to hijack the other LP fandom threads, but for the hardcore LP wizards I need some thoughts on all of the various models they offer.

I have owned an LP Studio before many years ago and was sorta thinking I may want to buy another. The Schull video dropped comparing a few of the various LP models, some of the differences he highlighted I already knew, but I think it didn’t cover more of what I’m curious about, which is the different use case or application of each model by user. (Say, from a high level, noting that’s impossible to definitively answer for everyone)

Taking aside finish/construction details and equipment (tuners, push/pull etc) is the primary differentiator between all their various models just neck style and pickups?
  • Tribute
  • Studio
  • Special
  • Classic
  • Standard 50’s
  • Standard 60’s
  • Deluxe 70’s
  • Modern
I look at these from a glance and think “I like modern high gain, buy the one that says Modern” but then there is question does the extra chambering affect the mojo, or does he hotter pickups take away some of the mojo of what we expect from an LP.

“Is the Standard 50’s” an old fart guitar (joke) or is that simply just meaning built to 50’s spec but still able to get down in modern applications.

I’m rambling, but I think you guys get the drift. I’m sure they all sound like an LP, just trying to cut through all the models to see where I need focus, because there is no way I’ll be able to thoroughly compare all the models in person.

How do you personally distinguish them, and where do you think it really counts?
 
For the most part it's finish and binding, at least from the Tribute to Studio to Standard. My Tribute for instance has a thin satin nitro finish, so sanding sealer, no stain/finish on the back and neck, and no binding. The Studio adds a glossy nitro finish which takes more time and work, so it costs more. And going up to the Standard, you add in binding on the body/neck as well as figured maple tops.

What I don't understand is why some Gibson pickups cost more or less than others. As far as I know, the 490 series, the Burstbuckers, Classics, and Custombuckers are all made in the USA. I don't know why any of them would cost significantly more or less than any of the others. Unless they do the repro thing with fancy aged magnets and bobbins and what not.
 
Don't quote me but here we go.

Tribute: a studio with satin finish (more or less).
Studio: no binding, weight relieved a lot, pcb.
Special: the special has no maple cap and thinner body, 2 p90s, no binding, 50s neck.
Classic: 9 holes weight relieved, pcb, slim neck. Alnico V pick ups.
Standard 50’s: non weight relived, bigger neck, low output alnico 2 paf (bb1&2), no pcb
Standard 60’s: non weight relived, slimmer neck, mid output V paf, locking tuners, no pcb.
Deluxe 70’s: non weight relived, neck idk, mini humbuckers, no pcb
Modern: weight relived a lot, alnico 5 mid output paf, asymmetrical neck with compound radius, contour heel access, push pull pots, pcb.
 
The way too long LP intro song he did is some of the best writing he's done. When he's leaning into the 80s thing before he starts veering off into "should have gotten some metal in the diet before buying the $3700 hipster country hat".
 
Yeah I watched it, but it was partially that video that prompted this thread because while he did do a good job going spec sheet, he never really translated that to practical differences like how one model might suit one type of player versus the other, or beyond pickups, is there any meaningful differences tonally between them as a direct result of any of the chambering/finish differences. I fully get nobody could definitively answer those questions, but it sorta goes back to my original question (for those that have played a fair few of these models) taking aside the finish, weight and hardware differences, is the only practical difference between any of these simply the pickups and the style of neck and fretboard radius?
 
I hate to sound cliche but you really need to play them to see what you like. For instance, the pickups in a LPC I think are fantastic for hard rock and heavy music in general, and I do not like burstbuckers for the same. Most guys complain about the 60s necks being too thin. As someone with creepy and pudgy hands, you’d think I’d gravitate to that but no, even the baseball bat 57 reissue feels good to me. As much as it makes me gag to recommend this, take some time and go into a guitar center and play a bunch of them.
 
Don't quote me but here we go.

Tribute: a studio with satin finish (more or less).
Studio: no binding, weight relieved a lot, pcb.
Special: the special has no maple cap and thinner body, 2 p90s, no binding, 50s neck.
Classic: 9 holes weight relieved, pcb, slim neck. Alnico V pick ups.
Standard 50’s: non weight relived, bigger neck, low output alnico 2 paf (bb1&2), no pcb
Standard 60’s: non weight relived, slimmer neck, mid output V paf, locking tuners, no pcb.
Deluxe 70’s: non weight relived, neck idk, mini humbuckers, no pcb
Modern: weight relived a lot, alnico 5 mid output paf, asymmetrical neck with compound radius, contour heel access, push pull pots, pcb.

Another angle on the differences to consider...

The prototypical "standard" Les Paul line IS called the Standard. There are 2 typical specs:
- Standard 50s are modeled after the 1950 standards which had a bit of a chunkier neck and lower output pickups
- Standard 60s are modeled after the 1960 standards which had slimmer necks and slightly higher output pickups

Then you have have a few "lesser" models. These leave out some features, or craftsmanship (hand wiring, etc.), are weight relieved, etc., like:
- Studio, Tribute, Special, and Classic. (HotRats laid them out well).

Then you have a few "different" models...
- Deluxe as mentioned above - mini humbuckers
- A few P90 variants
- Modern - with (obviously) modern appointments - most notably the asymmetrical neck and push/pull controls.

Then you have the upper echelon version - like Reissues. These are made in the Gibson Custom Shop and are built to spec like the originals of their time. They'll have various finishes to choose from like VOS, light aging to heavy aging, etc. Most popular are:
- R8 = 1958 reissue
- R9 = 1959 reissue
- $0 = 1960 reissue
 
FYI some of the specs have drifted over the years. For instance, my LP Tribute is NOT weight relieved, with 490R/498T pickups, and a slim taper neck. The newer ones ARE weight relieved, have 490R/490T pickups, and a rounded neck. Also, mine had PCB and quick connect, not sure about current models but that has come and gone.
 
I look at these from a glance and think “I like modern high gain, buy the one that says Modern” but then there is question does the extra chambering affect the mojo, or does he hotter pickups take away some of the mojo of what we expect from an LP.

Personally, I don't think weight relief is anything you would ever really notice unless you knew. I would guess most people could play a weight relieved model next to a non-weight relieved model and not be able to tell any difference if the weight was the same. And pickups can always be changed.

So maybe the Modern is a good choice for you?

I think it's fair to say the biggest difference between all of them other than finish/binding is the pickups and the shape of the neck. Since pickups can easily be changed, I would look for the one that has the neck you like the best!

There are a few hardware differences too, but nothing too major (Vintage tuners vs Grovers, Nashville bridge vs ABR-1, etc.)
 
Personally, I don't think weight relief is anything you would ever really notice unless you knew. I would guess most people could play a weight relieved model next to a non-weight relieved model and not be able to tell any difference if the weight was the same. And pickups can always be changed.

So maybe the Modern is a good choice for you?

I think it's fair to say the biggest difference between all of them other than finish/binding is the pickups and the shape of the neck. Since pickups can easily be changed, I would look for the one that has the neck you like the best!

There are a few hardware differences too, but nothing too major (Vintage tuners vs Grovers, Nashville bridge vs ABR-1, etc.)

Yeah, agreed.

First off, I think if you can afford a Standard and want a classic Les Paul, I'd go that route. It has all the classic features (binding, inlaid headstock, Burstbucker pickups, figured top). And it should hold its value well after the initial depreciation.

Beyond that, go with what plays well, and know you can change the electronics. If the guitar has a PCB, you can get a wiring kit and switch for under $50, and then whatever pickups you want. The Tributes and Studios are a good value, especially if you get a little discount at the shop.
 
My choice would be a Epiphone Modern and swap Pup's save a fortune

I couldn't stand any of the Epiphones when I was shopping. They looked and felt super cheap. I thought the USA Tributes played and sounded really close to the Standards, they just had the thin satin finish and no binding. I'll admit it does look cheap but it's better IMO than the thick poly finish on the Epiphones and the veneer tops. I got mine for about $900 I think, when the Epiphones were selling for $550 I think. A little more but for me it was worth it. I did have to clean up the fret edges quite a bit as they were sharp and did swap the pickups/electronics as well.
 
I had a standard that was heavily weight relived with the asymmetrical neck and compound radius and all the PCB push pull stuff. Basically was the current modern and was a very good instrument.
 
I have a weight relieved Les paul supreme and it’s still a very heavy guitar. I bet the solid maple back adds a lot of weight.
 
Not any relevant ones, anyway. LPC is where it’s at.

My buddy has an old Studio with an ebony board and a REALLY tiny neck, it‘s the only other Les Paul I’ve played that I wanted to own. But it felt like a toy in comparison to his LPC. If I’m going to get a Les Paul, I want to get a big, chunky motherf*cker that feels like I’m playing a Les Paul and the LPC is just wear it’s at.

I was thiiiiiissssss close to getting an older Silverburst last fall but the Adam Jones sig caused all the prices to skyrocket on any Silverburst, so I got 4 other guitars instead.
 
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