I’m a Les Paul guy. Been playing them for years
and years, and to me nothing touches a great
one. They represent a cool factor to the highest degree and have been a staple of rock
since the beginning. From Jimmy Page to Ace
Frehley to Slash, the Les Paul is the prototypical rock guitar and icon. Over the years Gibson
has made many variations on the Les Paul, and
with the Custom Shop, VOS, Inspired By, and so
on, there are a lot of Les Pauls to choose from.
However, a real Gibson Les Paul doesn’t come
cheap by any means. With a list price of $2609,
the 2008 Les Paul Standard is not inexpensive
as far as guitars go, but in the Gibson line it certainly is not at the top of the price range. Let’s
dig in and see what Gibson has put together for
the new 2008 Les Paul Standard.
The ’08 Standard represents many of the familiar aspects of a Les Paul, but also brings some
new things to the table. Features include a
chambered body, enlarged neck tenon, Bourns
pots, TonePros locking bridge and tailpiece,
Neutrick locking output jack, straplocks, an
asymmetrical neck shape and a Plek guitar
setup. Pulling the LP out of the case I immediately noticed its weight. Having a ’ 74 LP Custom
as well as an ’03 R8, the guitar felt pretty light.
This is obviously due to the chambering, or
weight-relief. That said, it didn’t affect the tone
adversely to my ears. In fact, acoustically the
guitar has a very balanced tone with plenty of
shimmer and depth. Over the time I had the
Standard, I grew very accustomed to the weight
and actually rather enjoyed it when playing for
long periods of time.
The TonePros bridge adds stability and
increased sustain and is a welcome addition
to the guitar, as many of us already upgrade
our Les Pauls with TonePros bridges.
Probably the most significant improvement
to me was the out-of-the-box setup. Having
the guitar Plek’d at the factory, I was able
to tune up the LP in a few seconds and get
right to playing. Though the B and G strings
had some light buzzing from the nut up to
the 5th fret, I can’t discredit Gibson here
because the guitar traveled from Nashville to
my home in Scottsdale, Arizona, so a minor
truss rod adjustment was all that was necessary. It was without a doubt the best set up
Les Paul I’ve played out of the box.
Aesthetically, the 2008 Standard looks great.
The review guitar had a beautiful, lightly
flamed top in a Heritage Cherry Sunburst finish. The fit and finish on this guitar is excellent,
showing no paint flaws, poor fret dressing
or hardware issues that I could see. Gibson
dropped the pickguard from this model, which
is really just a choice you’ll have to live with.
It didn’t bother me, and it isn’t the first time
Gibson has shipped a Les Paul without one.
Also, the guitar ships in a very nice Gibson USA
hardshell case with a white padded interior.
I had the opportunity to spend a good amount
of time with the ’08 Standard at the studio.
Incidentally, I also had my ’ 74 Custom (stock)
and my ’03 Murphy R8 with Sheptone Tribute
pickups on hand throughout to see how the
’08 held up to the others. To start with, the
new neck profile feels great. It’s not as thick
and chunky as a ’ 58 profile, but certainly not as
thin as a ’ 60. The asymmetrical shape was very
comfortable to my hand, and it felt natural with
enough wood to get a strong handle on the
guitar. The idea behind the asymmetrical shape
is to have more meat on the bass side of the
neck, tapering off slightly on the treble side.
It works. The frets were finished perfectly and
didn’t have any high or low spots up and down
the neck. And as I’d mentioned, the intonation
was dead on due to the Plek, and the setup had
a very comfortable and low action.
Plugging into a JCM 800 half-stack showed
that it sounds very much like a Les Paul, but
with a twist. The chambering brings it slightly
into a Les Paul/ES-335 hybrid territory (an
80/20 ratio, I’d say). It’s hard to put a definition on that sound but it definitely brings a
little bit of a semi-hollowbody guitar tone.
Not a lot, but enough to notice the difference.
Comparing it to my ’03 R8 I felt the Standard
didn’t have as much bite and muscle to it, but
that may have also had to do with the pickups.
Tonally, the Burstbuckers are a bit rough. Not
necessarily a sweet or defined sound to my
ears, but more aggressive and slightly darker.
They sound like a higher gain pickup than
they are, and were a bit more muted sounding when compared to the ’03 R8 and quite
a bit darker than the ’ 74 Custom. That said,
when I recorded with the guitar I didn’t notice
as much of a discrepancy in the tone as when
all three were being played live. Pickups and
tone are very subjective, so even though they
wouldn’t be my first choice, another player
might find the Burstbuckers to be a perfect
complement to their style and amp choice.
There were a few choices that left me scratching my head, the first being the Neutrik locking
jack. In an era where innovative devices like
Snap-Jack allow for easy decoupling of the
cable to prevent stress damage on the instrument, or to stop an amp from toppling over,
the locking jack just doesn’t make sense to me.
In twenty years of playing Les Pauls, I’ve never
had a scenario where the cord came unplugged
from the guitar. Somebody at Gibson wanted to
make damn sure that cord wasn’t getting pulled
out! It became a nuisance to me every time I
went to unplug the cord, and it seemed like an
Another oddity is the semi-transparent control
cavity cover. It’s as if Gibson wants to highlight
the fact that they now employ a PCB to handle
all of the electronics. All pots are mounted
directly to the PCB, and the pickups, switch
and jack are all plugged in with connectors, not
soldered. Perhaps this is a time and cost-saving
move, but it brings up a variety of issues. What
happens if you want to change pickups or a pot
goes out? What if you want to make modifications to the circuit?
Finally, the pots felt cheap and flimsy. That could
be due to the fact that they had nearly no resistance to them or that I knew they were direct-mounted, but that didn’t affect the taper or the
tone to my ears.
The Final Mojo
Aside from some of the issues pointed out, I
really enjoyed this guitar. It represents a new
model with some welcome updates (the Plek
setup being the highlight to me), as well as a
few oddities. However, the new ’08 Standard is
still very much a Les Paul and should be considered if you’re looking for a moderately priced
new Les Paul.
you want an updated and moderately priced Les Paul.
you’re a traditionalist.
Head to premierguitar.com to
hear the ’08 Les Paul Standard
MSRP $4009 Street $2609
Our expert has stated his case,
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