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Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

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Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:33 pm

As MusicWolf did it....

Well, this is my new Gibson 2018 Les Paul Classic Gold Top. Something I'd been very interested in ever since it was introduced late last year, and they've been pretty popular, as there was never one in a shop for long, But when Andertons suddenly got a decent stock in and dropped the price by £350, it was a no-brainer for me.

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Standard P90 pickups, Grover 'kidney-bean' tuners, aluminium ABR bridge and tail-piece (standard on 50s Les Pauls but have been made of a heavier alloy for years until recently), cryogenically treated frets (supposedly for a longer life), orange drop caps, alloy shielding/mounting plate in the control cavity, rosewood fingerboard and '60s 'slim taper' neck profile. It's a non-weight relieved body so is quite heavy. It also came with a standard Gibson case (which smells of marzipan so I air it outside as much as possible), a neat and very useful multi-tool and a basic leather strap.

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I'd like to report that it was 100% perfect, but it wasn't, and one small issue then led to another. The nut was the one obvious weak point with the slots being cut too narrow. It came strung with 0.009"s as standard, but the top E slot was still too small for the string, which was really binding in the slot and had to be pulled quite firmly to remove it from the slot. The edges of the nut itself were sharp and not rounded over as one would have expected. When I put on a set of my normal 0.010"s, the bottom E string didn't even fit in the slot but sat on top, whilst most of the other strings sat halfway down their respective slots. Who on earth would set their guitars up to leave the factory with a nut that's really cut for a set of 0.008"s?

Max said this seems to have been standard Gibson practice for decades, leaving it up to the point of sale to set it up as the buyer wants.

Now to me, this wasn't a problem, as I own a nice set of Hosco nut files, and the slots could all do with lowering slightly anyway. So some low-tack masking tape went on both sides of the nut to protect the finish, and the slots were re-cut and deepened. Which was all fine for me, but wouldn't be for 99% of the people who'd buy one.

Then I took the masking tape off and found that on the low E-side, at the curving bottom end of the headstock, the clear lacquer had pulled off the wood and was now showing as a lighter opaque area. I might have sworn a bit at this point. Obviously this shouldn't have happened. I tried sticking it back down using some cellulose thinners, which worked in placed but not others. So I've removed the lacquer there and now need to touch it up with some more clear lacquer (which I have lots of). Again, something I can do easily, but many others couldn't.

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But excepting that, it is a really nice guitar. Apart from the nut slot issue, the guitar came pretty well set up - but nothing that a few tweaks to the truss rod and bridge height (and the nut slot depth) and my skilful touch couldn't turn into an even better action (see the side view photo).

The neck is nice and comfortable. It's very slightly more square-shouldered than my 1996 Les Paul Jimmy Page model - but the neck on that was modelled directly from JP's No.2 guitar, a 1960 model with quite a thin neck compared to some of the clubbier necks from previous model years. As the necks were all hand shaped, they did vary quite a lot, even between consecutive serial number models, so there is no real right or wrong shape.

I've fitted straplocks and replaced the truss-rod cover that was engraved with 'Classic' on it for a blank one, so it's more like a 1956 model. Also got some top-hat knobs on the way to replace the speed knobs fitted to further increase the 1956 LP goldtop look. The binding in the cut-out stays the same height (exposing a small amount of the maple cap due to the arched top) as the original models did, whereas until very recently, almost all the Les Pauls built since their 1968 re-introduction, had binding that varied in depth and covered all the maple cap in this area. This further helps give it that 1956 model vibe.

I've also fitted some foam rubber under the pickups. On the neck pickup this helps keep the pickup level with the strings (the bottom of the pickup routs are parallel to the back of the guitar, but the 3° or so neck angle means that the strings aren't parallel to the back of the body) and on the bridge pickup, it's height meant that it was a bit wobbly, which it now isn't.

The current neck angle used by Gibson is slightly greater than they used to use, which allows for slightly sloppier construction tolerances and means that the bridge and tailpiece sit a bit higher than they really should do. (My 1996 Les Paul has a smaller neck angle and the bridge sits very close to the body, and the tailpiece is right down to it). I've wrapped some thin copper shielding tape around the threads of the bridge and tailpiece supports, which stops any slop in them when not under tension, and help stops any tendency for the bridge or tailpiece to move around when bending strings which in turn helps tuning stability.

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The Grover tuners do detract from that look slightly, as a 1956 Les Paul would have had tulip-buttoned Klusons fitted at the factory. However in the '70s, many people fitted replacement Grover tuners to their working '50s Les Pauls as a lot of the original Klusons weren't very good and started falling apart, as the Grovers were much better tuners.

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These are the top hat 'vintage amber' knobs that I got to replace the speed knobs. Unfortunately they are supposed to have white numbering and markings, but they don't have them which makes them hard to see, so I'm hopefully getting a replacement set that do.

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At the moment I've fitted some gold speed knobs. I've also fitted the metal dial pointers, and changed the selector knob switch from a cream one to to a vintage amber colour one. After I swapped the switch tip, I asked the wife if she'd noticed any difference, and was most surprised when she said she couldn't see that anything had changed.

Gibson have already stopped making these, so I was lucky to pick one up at the end of the run and at a decent discount. The 2019 Classic is back to humbuckers, so there's now not a P90 equipped Gold Top below a Custom Shop 1956 reproduction.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Music Wolf » Fri Aug 31, 2018 8:37 pm

I suspect that you are the guitarist equivalent on a Land Rover Defender owner. You’re only truly happy when it’s in bits and needs fixing ;)

Nice guitar :thumbup:
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby BJG145 » Fri Aug 31, 2018 8:53 pm

Very nice Wonks!
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Agharta » Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:20 pm

I can actually hear the sustain from the photos via the Internets.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:27 pm

No - don't even look at it!
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby ManFromGlass » Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:50 pm

A real looker!
So does it sound any good? ;)
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Agharta » Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:12 pm

Wonks wrote:No - don't even look at it!
I had my 11" Ray-bans on so that should be okay!
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby zenguitar » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:10 am

That guitar is fortunate to have fallen into a safe pair of hands.

Enjoy it mate :)

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 01, 2018 10:46 am

ManFromGlass wrote:So does it sound any good?

Adequate (in the fullest sense of the word). The current Gibson P90s are Alnico V but slightly overwound compared to more vintage types, resulting in a strong output (that's comparable to the BK Mules on my JP LP), but with a bit less detail as a result. In fact the Mules seem to have a bit more treble to them than the P90s, which are quite mid-heavy. For a P90, they are very quiet noise-wise, maybe more so than my Fender single coils.

I will undoubtedly swap the pickups out at some point in the future for some with slightly lower output and a bit more clarity, but I feel no urgent need to do so right away as it still has a very nice sound. I've yet to finish constructing my 330-style kit, for which I have a set of dog-ear Creamery P90s that I've waiting to fit for quite a while and see how they perform sonically. If I like them. I'll probably get a similar set for the Gold Top.

I've been playing it quite a bit, and the frets and fretboard are now feeling nice and smooth and it's very easy to play. It's non-weight relieved, so is a proper Les Paul weight, which can be a bit heavy for some. Without weighing it, it does feel about the same weight as my JP LP.

I have noticed that the headstock is bigger than that on my 1996 JP LP, so at some point in the past, Gibson have moved away from the original size of headstock. Maybe when they added those robot tuners they felt they needed more space to fit them, and the size has now stuck?
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby John Egan » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:02 am

Hi Wonks,
I love Les Pauls with P90s. That's a really nice guitar, especially now that you've sorted out the minor niggles. Isn't it a pity that Gibson of all people can't seem to recapture the art of supplying instruments that are 100% from the off. As you say, 99% of people who buy their products wouldn't be comfortable with making the adjustments. I'm also surprised that Andersons would let a nut setup like that reach a customer.
Enjoy. It should sound fabulous.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:08 am

Thanks. Yes, I find it hard to believe that the nut slots aren't cut to accommodate at least 0.010"s, let alone some being too small for the 0.009"s that were fitted.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby CS70 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:13 am

To be fair, I remember reading posts from Gibson's CEO where he explicitly said they don't set up guitars at the factory as general rule, but they expect the dealer to do so. As you say, if you wanted .08, a nut cut for .09 wouldn't do well. So apparently they leave the guitar as open as possible so that it can accomodate any setup.

Privately, I also suspect that some of the QC people at the factory like to do a quick setup and others don't, and if some dealers aren't very precise (it might happen ;-) ) that would result in some guitars coming in customer hands almost ready, and some totally whacked off.. which seems to be the common experience
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 01, 2018 12:42 pm

CS70 wrote: As you say, if you wanted .08, a nut cut for .09 wouldn't do well. So apparently they leave the guitar as open as possible so that it can accomodate any setup.

That's not what happens in reality. A set of nut files are expensive enough as they are, and my set of 10 starts with 0.010", then 0.013", then 0.016", with sizeable gaps up to 0.056". You really don't want the slot to be exactly the same size as the string or friction increases dramatically. It always needs to be a bit bigger, and so when using my 0.010" nut file for a 0.010" top E, I'll always run some folded fine sandpaper through the slot just to make it a bit wider. Also, different manufacturers use different string gauges to make up their sets, and even Gibson does two 0.009" sets, one going to 0.042", the other to 0.046". So if they are set up exactly for a Gibson 9-42 set, them you can't even fit a 9-46 set.

From what i can see. the PLEK robot tool that Gibson use to set the guitars up with, uses a common thin cutting tool to cut the nut slots, and to me it would seem that they are simply setting the width too narrow, even for the strings they fit themselves. There really is no need for this. It's not something you see complaints about on PRS guitars, yet no-one would say they were badly made as a result of having slightly wider nut slots.

The splayed string arrangement that Gibson have on their headstocks because of the 3+3 design means that you really need some slack in those slots otherwise there will be tuning issues. There's a lot of rubbish talked about this on various forums and YouTube about the Gibson headstock being inherently flawed and will always give tuning problems. The nut just needs to be cut correctly and be snag-free otherwise the lack of straight string pull will exacerbate problems. If there was a real 'inherent flaw', then you'd never get a Gibson to stay in tune properly, whereas it is easy to get one to do so.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Whenever I read stuff like this I am always inspired to pick up a guitar and play more. :mrgreen:
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Music Wolf » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:02 pm

Wonks wrote:There really is no need for this. It's not something you see complaints about on PRS guitars, yet no-one would say they were badly made as a result of having slightly wider nut slots.


Well I've just changed the strings on my latest PRS (which is only an SE model remember) fitting a set of Ernie Ball 10's. I couldn't find a spec for the factory fit but they were clearly 9's (I think most PRS guitars ship with 9's). There was no problem with fitting 10's, the slots look to have been cut at the factory to accommodate.

I've never owned a Gibson, so I can't comment on their build quality, but PRS have never let me down.

On a side note - how many people would want to fit 8's to a guitar with a Gibson scale length? The tension must be incredibly low.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:24 pm

Lots of people did. Jimmy Page for one during the classic LZ years. Billy Gibbons for another (who even uses 7s at times). I did when I started playing.
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby John Egan » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:35 pm

Wonks wrote:Lots of people did. Jimmy Page for one during the classic LZ years. Billy Gibbons for another (who even uses 7s at times). I did when I started playing.


I'm told James Burton uses 8s, too.
I'm old enough to remember 13s with a wound third and trying to make whole tone bends with my little finger at age 14 and believing that American players whose solos I was trying to play must be built like gorillas. It wasn't until 1963 or so that we learned about stringing down !
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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:59 pm

I used the good old digital calipers to measure the difference in headstock width with my JP LP, and found it was 2mm (ignoring small fractions of a mm) wider at the base and 4mm wider at the top.

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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby zenguitar » Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:13 pm

And some might suggest that that's within tolerance for the factory ;)

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Re: Gibson 2018 Classic Les Paul Gold Top

Postby CS70 » Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:28 pm

Wonks wrote:That's not what happens in reality.

No idea - I just play the thing. ;-)

I simply remember reading, but maybe it was just Harry making excuses, dunno.
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