A Note on Gibson’s Recent Price Increase and Spec Changes

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Earlier this week, Gibson released (or was it leaked?) statements concerning a price increase and changes to most of their models that left most of the guitar community feeling underwhelmed. Now, bear in mind that the source for this announcement was from Gibson’s Amazon.com page, the URL for which is no longer active. Could be a mistake, but our friends at Reverb.com, while unable to reveal their sources, have confirmed that the announcement is indeed genuine. (See comments)

Before we get into it, I want to say that I’m concerned by this announcement but only because I love Gibson’s instruments so much. Sure, we’re way into Jazzmasters and the like here, but I cut my teeth on Gibson guitars. Some of my earliest musical memories are deeply connected to the image and sound of Angus Young’s fleet of SGs, Jimmy Page’s EDS-1275 doubleneck, Johnny Marr’s ES-355, and I’ve always idolized the classiness of a white Les Paul Custom. My first “real” guitar was an early graduation gift from my parents, a black Gibson Les Paul Standard that they picked up for well under street price. And I got that one because high school Michael saw an old photo of Joe Perry playing almost the exact thing. Some of the best guitars I’ve owned were Gibsons, from my ’77 Walnut ES-355 to the ’68 SG Standard I sold to Other Mike for what would become my trusty Jazzmaster. I’ve owned various Les Paul Jrs, a stunning ’59 ES-330, and Gibson J-series acoustics that have blown my mind. My current acoustic is a ’64 J-50 that’s played-in and beat up, but sounds huge; the guitar I sold to fund that purchase was an ’03 J-45, which was the best acoustic I’d ever played until the ’64 came into my life.

My hope in responding to this announcement isn’t simply to complain, but to come from a place of deep respect for a company that’s meant so much to me over the years; a company that, as it seems to this casual observer, has been in decline for some time. This week’s announcement feels like an even steeper descent to me, and though I have little voice on the issue, it felt right to call out what appears to be another major misstep.

Let’s take a look at the text:

“Gibson USA continues to raise the bar of Quality, Prestige and Innovation with the new line up of 2015 guitars. All Gibson USA guitars except for the Les Paul Supreme, Firebird and Derek Trucks SG will ship with the G-Force tuning system. Among many of the added features is the new Zero Fret Nut which is a patented applied for nut that has adjustable action capabilities. The new Tune-O-Matic Bridge features a hex wrench adjustment on thumbscrews for easy action adjustments. All guitars receive a professional set up with accurate intonation, and a new PLEK program with 27% lower fret wire. All models now have Pearloid Inlays and the fingerboard is a thicker one piece rosewood which is sanded and buffed with a new oil treatment for smoother and easier playability. To take it a step further Gibson USA has increased playing comfort by widened the neck and fingerboard by .050 per side. Sparing no expense, Gibson USA even changed the internal wires from 28 awg to 26 awg, along with a new and improved jack design and together they give you an improved uninterrupted signal. For 2015 Gibson will be producing gloss lacquer finishes and no more Satin or Vintage Gloss finishes. On top of all the upgrades Gibson USA did not stop there. They are now introducing a removable Les Paul pick guard with NO SCREWS NEEDED. In honor of Les Paul’s 100th birthday all LP and SG guitars will carry the 100 logo on the headstock and a Les Paul Hologram on the back of the headstock for authenticity and tribute to the man himself. To wrap everything up, each 2015 Gibson USA guitar ships in a Gibson Hard Shell case.”

That’s a lot to take in, so let’s go through it piece by piece.

“All Gibson USA guitars except for the Les Paul Supreme, Firebird and Derek Trucks SG will ship with the G-Force tuning system.”

That’s a pretty huge statement. Note that it says “All Gibson USA guitars…” with three exceptions listed. The above leads me to the conclusion that the Les Paul Custom, SG, Flying V History, Trini Lopez, Les Paul Traditional, Grace Potter V, RD Artist, etc. will all include the G-Force tuning system. Does this also include acoustic models? I ask because the language used is “All Gibson USA” and not “All Gibson Memphis” or “All Gibson Nashville”, without mention of Gibson Montana.

aa430cc388df770d58f3c7bf2eb194a99248353cThe G-Force system (not pictured above) if you didn’t know, is just Gibson’s Min-ETune but rebranded. Part of the evolution of the Robot system, the Min-ETune promised quicker and more accurate tuning with a smaller overall footprint, taking the tuning facilities out of the signal path of the pickups completely. Never a fan of self-tuning guitars personally, I certainly can’t fault Gibson for developing a product, but to force that product onto every model –– a product that most musicians don’t seem to want –– doesn’t seem like a wise move.

As a tech, I’ve worked on plenty of the Robot and Min-ETune guitars, but would you guess that one of the most frequent requests I’ve gotten with the lower-model Robot guitars is to remove the Robot tuners and convert them to a normal guitar? At first, it was because the battery life wasn’t feasible for most touring acts. (I mean, who has time to charge their guitar between sets?) Later, either the owner felt the tuners weren’t dependable or didn’t look good, which I’ve heard quite a few times. The Robot models were fundamentally great guitars, so it wasn’t much of a problem to put them back to, um, regular guitar specs.

LP-Std-HeroOf course, some people find the Robot/Min-ETune guitars to be useful, and that’s great! I knew a guy that used his blueburst first-edition Robot Les Paul and loves it because he can go from Standard to any number of slide tunings he uses on a regular basis. It works for him, and that’s great. However, it seems to be a smaller subset of players that actually want guitars to tune themselves, and offering the Min-ETune as standard across the board doesn’t make me want to purchase a new Gibson any time soon.

“Among many of the added features is the new Zero Fret Nut which is a patented applied for nut that has adjustable action capabilities.”

One of the most common complaints players have about factory-fresh Gibson guitars is that the nut isn’t up to snuff. Either the owner isn’t happy with Corian or Tektoid™ as a nut material, or it’s improperly cut at the factory with the strings too high off the fretboard or pinging wildly with string bending. One of the most frequent jobs I take for Gibson guitars is replacing the nut with a hand-cut piece of bone.

61y2CirnMkL__SL1500__zps9c453266_uofv8cThe new Gibson “Zero Fret Nut” is a nut that has an adjustable brass insert that allows the user to fine-tune action without having to use files. (This idea isn’t exactly new; for years Warwick has offered an adjustable nut on some of their models.) The brass insert also mimics the zero fret found on old Gretsch and Teisco guitars, which governed string height at the first fret by being taller than the other frets while doing away with the need for exacting nut shaping techniques. Traditional zero frets also have the added effect of making open notes sound as if they’re being fretted, resulting in brighter tones from open strings. This was also the goal with the brass nut craze of the ’70s and ’80s, a modification that’s largely reversed on most instruments today.

I can see how this new Zero Fret Nut makes sense from a manufacturing standpoint; workers don’t have to spend more time trying to properly slot nut after nut all day long, which takes up time and money. Instead, they can simply use a small tool to raise the strings until they’re at a satisfactory height, then send it out the door. However, we know from Gibson’s adjustable acoustic bridge of the ’60s that having movable parts at such critical points in the string path isn’t necessarily a recipe for great tone. And although there are some players who prefer brass nuts on their guitars, with the market so obsessed with vintage originality and “tone” most brass nuts are tossed with preference for era-correct materials.

As a tech, I can see myself replacing a lot of these next year.

“The new Tune-O-Matic Bridge features a hex wrench adjustment on thumbscrews for easy action adjustments.”

I’m not going to poo-poo this out of hand, as we’ve all been stuck with too-low or too-high action on a guitar with a TOM bridge and have had to struggle with gripping thumbwheels as hard as we can before the next song starts. The proper way would always be to loosen the strings before adjusting action, but I won’t pretend that not everyone wants to go to that trouble. Of course, thumbwheels aren’t always hard to turn, but anything that makes adjustment easier is potentially a good thing.

The only objection I have to this change is that Allen keys aren’t usually my favorite way to make bridge adjustments, whether it be action or intonation. The Mastery Bridge is an exception to this, being designed with ease of use in mind, but adjusting intonation with hex keys on most other bridges is not fun at all. I’m also curious to how exactly this thumbscrew adjustment works, whether the key inserts at the top or from the side. Without more info, I really don’t know how this might play out.

“All guitars receive a professional set up with accurate intonation, and a new PLEK program with 27% lower fret wire.”

As a tech, I’m somewhat glad to hear this. If these factory setups are actually setups, then I’m excited to walk into a shop and play an on-the-rack Gibson and know it’s going to feel great. Factory “setups” are often disappointing, with action left high to hide bad fret jobs, lessening buzz and rattle that shouldn’t be there in the first place. I mean, sure, a percentage of my business comes from fixing factory mistakes, but if this means that a customer can buy a guitar knowing that it feels good, then that can’t be a bad thing. I’ll try to hold off judgement on this until I play one, because the track record for factory adjustments isn’t good.

blog_P1040558-300x221Although I’ve never been too happy with factory PLEK fret jobs, I’m looking forward to seeing what this new program holds for consumers. Again, taking a guitar off the guitar shop wall and knowing it’s going to have perfectly leveled frets is a boon; just this week, one of my tasks is to level and crown the frets of a brand new Gibson, which is disappointing to the owner. I’m also interested by the idea of lower fretwire, because I’m one of those guys that can’t stand jumbo frets, personally.

“All models now have Pearloid Inlays and the fingerboard is a thicker one piece rosewood which is sanded and buffed with a new oil treatment for smoother and easier playability.”

Nothing too crazy there. The new oil treatment could be cool, especially when most rosewood necks coming from Gibson right now are incredibly dried-out. I wonder just how much thicker these fretboards will be, but I wonder if they mention it only because of the minor controversy surrounding Gibson using laminated fretboards on models back in 2012. Many players were less than happy about the change (to put it mildly) but in response to questions about the laminates Juszkiewicz said “It actually doesn’t change the sound at all,” and “…actually improves the sound.” He also claimed it will “last longer,” but I guess we’ll see. Don’t be surprised if I politely disagree.

UPDATE: Holy shit, I didn’t even think about this until I scrolled through the conversation going on over at Offset Guitar Forum tonight. Again, the phrase “all models” is used here, which causes alarm when we remember that all models don’t have rosewood fretboards… Does this mean that even Les Paul Customs (which had ebony boards until the Government seizure/Henry and Fox and Friends jamboree of 2012 when Gibson switched to the option of baked maple or Richlite, a synthetic material) will now have rosewood instead? Because I hate to tell you Gibson, but we used to buy LPCs because they have ebony fretboards. Oh man, say it ain’t so.

“To take it a step further Gibson USA has increased playing comfort by widened the neck and fingerboard by .050 per side.”

Again, not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know that many people are complaining that Gibson’s necks are too thin these days, but I’ll reserve judgement until I have one in my hand –– it’s really not a huge difference. This seems to be a reaction to player feedback on Gibson’s use of binding nibs on the fret ends of most bound models, which never bothered me personally but I’ve heard more than a few players complain that their strings are getting caught between the fret and binding as of late.

“Sparing no expense, Gibson USA even changed the internal wires from 28 awg to 26 awg, along with a new and improved jack design and together they give you an improved uninterrupted signal.”

Whoa. Slow down there, Gibson. Don’t go spending all of that precious money on such thick wire! Also, I wasn’t aware that my signal was being interrupted, but there you go. #newjack2015

“For 2015 Gibson will be producing gloss lacquer finishes and no more Satin or Vintage Gloss finishes. On top of all the upgrades Gibson USA did not stop there. They are now introducing a removable Les Paul pick guard with NO SCREWS NEEDED.”

This is possibly the most distressing passage from the now-removed Amazon page. With the doing-away of satin finishes, this could mean the end of sub-$1000 Gibson guitars, which I thought were best sellers for the company. Having quality, affordable guitars in the line should be important to both Gibson and consumers, so I’m hoping they’ll be introducing some models that retain the low price tag and quality of the Faded series.

Additionally, the language isn’t specific as to what type of finish the “gloss lacquer” might be, just that it’s lacquer. Hopefully this is just Gibson saying the company will still use nitrocellulose instead of switching to something else like acrylic.

Gibson have been shipping guitars for ages without installed pickguards, so this could be cool or not. How does it work? I don’t know, but we’ll all be keeping our eyes peeled on that one.

“In honor of Les Paul’s 100th birthday all LP and SG guitars will carry the 100 logo on the headstock and a Les Paul Hologram on the back of the headstock for authenticity and tribute to the man himself.”

It’s a well-known fact that Les Paul LOVED holograms, so I think we can all safely assume that this is what he wanted. I remember reading an interview where he voiced his distaste for the SG when it came out in ’61, which had a lot to do with the body shape and how they moved the neck pickup away from the neck, but Les also revealed that the main reason he wanted his name off of the guitar was due to the lack of holograms.

“Back in the ’50s I said to Ted [McCarty, Gibson CEO 1948-66] ‘Hey, I like what you got going here. It sounds good, plays alright. But the thing is there aren’t enough goddamned holograms on the thing.’ And Ted scratched his head, because we really didn’t have the technology back then, and we didn’t come back to the idea until they made the laser back in, was it ’60? When they slapped my name on the SG without asking, and I said, ‘Hey, whaddabout them holograms!’ but it was too late. So I had them take my name off.” (Gibson Les Paul Book, Bacon, pg 148*)

I’m sure that, were Les alive today, he would be overjoyed. I’m joking, of course. LES PAUL HATED HOLOGRAMS. He called them “3D-for-Devil pictures.”**

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Aside from the new logo looking a bit strange (see the Zero Fret Nut pic above) it is Les Paul’s handwriting and that’s a nice thing to have. This could also be one of the only truly collectable aspects of the guitar, so perhaps this change will work in its favor. Not mentioned in the above copy is that the Gibson Logo is swirly.

“To wrap everything up, each 2015 Gibson USA guitar ships in a Gibson Hard Shell case.”

Okay, this is great. No longer will customers have to argue with store staff about how their guitar actually, definitely does come with a case when they want to charge an extra $100 or give them a gig bag.

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All in all, this list of changes is pretty hard to stomach, especially when the one thing left out is just how much the price of guitars will increase. Now, prices do go up over time when manufacturing costs rise, but our friends at Reverb.com note that while a 2014 Les Paul Standard with flame top “…comes in at $2999, the 2015 equivalent will start at $3879, marking a roughly 29% increase.” That’s a HUGE MAP increase. How will it play out? We won’t know until they’re available.

Let me be clear: I love Gibson guitars, but this is crazy. Perhaps consumer feedback on this list of changes could do some good, but I believe they’ll end up doing far more harm than good. It’s never good to add features your customers don’t want when they’ve been asking for simple, well-built instruments for some time.

Like I said before, I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

…or this could all be a ploy to cause us to rush out and snatch up 2014 models. And then I think that perhaps this could all be just a 2015 model year only affair, meaning that things go back to the way they were in ’14. Who knows? Hopefully we’ll get that info soon.

*Not a real quote. I made that up.
**Also, totally not real.

UPDATE 9/24/14: I visited Guitar Center Seattle with a friend of mine tonight, and the store had just received the first shipment of 2015 Gibson guitars. Suffice it to say, all of the above is absolutely true, including the G-Force tuners on every guitar, the Zero Fret nut, and wider necks. I’ll be posting an in-hand review shortly. Until then, look on Gibson’s works, ye mighty, and despair!

 

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59 thoughts on “A Note on Gibson’s Recent Price Increase and Spec Changes

  1. Bill Turner says:

    If it AIN’T broke…then DON’T try to fix it!

  2. Well, putting the Mine Tune aside, I think it could all be a good thing. Although I love the Gibson Traditional’s I think it’s also time Gibson modernised and moved on a bit. lets face it, Who would be massively excited about receiving an iphone 3 this year for Christmas? lol. Music has moved on a lot and so I think Gibson needs to also. Just my thoughts. Lets not try keep them back in the 50’s!!!

    • Well hey, I’m all for improving instruments and figuring out how to make technology work for the guitar world. But the tech and music worlds are not totally analogous when it comes to prouct cycles. Whereas none of us might want to get an iPhone 3 for Christmas this year, there’s nothing ‘outdated’ or ‘incompatible’ about an older guitar, whether it’s from the 1950s, 1990s, or 2000s. And, given how most guitar heroes no longer say what guitar they play without giving the year, it’s safe to say there’s been a marked shift toward older instruments and equipment, which is viewed as ‘better’ or possessing qualities not found in newer instruments. (however true or untrue that might be!)

      But I hear what you’re saying, and I agree to some extent. Of course, allow Gibson to do what they want with their product lines, but the issue isn’t simply that they’re modernizing –– it’s that they’re forcing a huge number of changes on the entire line. That’s what concerns me.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Ogden Carthy says:

    Never has so much been said about so little.

    Who would ever have imagined that a one paragraph press release could give you cause to nit pick every word ad nauseum and publish way too many paragraphs of negativity. If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all. Your words are a reflection on you, not on Gibson. Let Gibson do their thing, you do yours, and let the market sort it out. And, just hope no one pounces on your words (…or your prices!) they way you pounce on others’.

    We will all reap the just rewards of our words and actions.

    All the best.

    • “Never has so much been said about so little.”

      Thanks for proving your own point. 😉

      “Who would ever have imagined that a one paragraph press release could give you cause to nit pick every word ad nauseum and publish way too many paragraphs of negativity.”

      I’m sorry that posting an article on my own website offends you so. I’ll check with you before I make that mistake again. But I agree, I can be verbose.

      I’m going to assume that you may not have read the opening paragraphs of this article, which lay out my reasons for writing it in the first place –– not from a place of negativity, but of sincere concern for a brand I care about. And I do care what happens to Gibson, especially when sweeping changes are made to all instruments, not just on a few models.

      “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”

      Thanks for proving your point again. Wait a sec, I thought this was America! Aren’t I allowed to have an opinion? But again, I think you read the article with a fundamental misunderstanding of the tone. To be sure, you should be reading this reply in a playful-yet-sarcastic voice.

      “Your words are a reflection on you, not on Gibson.”

      I think it’s hilarious that you’ve taken me so seriously; negativity wasn’t the intent, and your indignation is utterly misplaced. Your clue should have been the descriptive opening paragraphs, and maybe the made-up Les Paul quotes. I’m a guy writing a blog, and Gibson are a huge, multi-million dollar corporation, so I think they might be able to survive what you clearly perceive as an unfair jab. Believe you me, they can handle my tiny thoughts.

      “Let Gibson do their thing, you do yours, and let the market sort it out.”

      I think we’ll all find that I have no say in what Gibson does. I’m sure the gods of commerce will indeed do as they please, praise be to them.

      “And, just hope no one pounces on your words (…or your prices!) they way you pounce on others’.”

      I can’t figure out what kind of threat this is; YOU just did pounce on my words, so the point seems moot. And I wasn’t pouncing, I was responding. (there is a difference)

      As for pouncing on our prices, at the rate things sell around here I’d say we’re being pounced on regularly. KEEP IT COMING!

      “We will all reap the just rewards of our words and actions.”

      If that’s your concern then I can’t believe you actually took the time to write this comment.

      All the best” indeed.

  4. Frank says:

    I agree with with the concerns regarding Gibson changes. I do like inovation but much is marketing or management. Those are not the masters of inovation I would look to. In the rush to modernize/inovate I have seen my share of bonehead ideas. Maybe 2015 will be the culminazation of this, or maybe not.

    G-Force is not for me at least on any main guitar.
    Headstock logo? Not for me at all.
    Plek? If it works I like.
    Hex brige I think I like.
    Wider fretboard, Have to see. No current complaint on mine but wider could be good.
    I hava always hated zero frets for looks and all other reasons. This not so ugly but is it really broke. Plexiglass guitars have not really taken off. I like traditional matarials or at least good fakes.
    Most other changes I guess I never realized how much my 2013/2014 Les Pauls sucked. But thanks for the info Gibson. Going to go out and get my Pauls rewired w/26 AWG.

    I am a Gibson consumer and will not buy 2015. I have bought 4 Les Pauls new. G-Force and Logo are the two biggest polarizing changes. Don’t know yet about zero fret or wider fretboard. My point is I am actually someone who buys their products and I don’t like. Anyone say what they want but that alone not good. Ask the marketing department. You see if 4 out of 5 drummers like the changes it doesn’t mean sh’t but me I am the target.

    • Chad Burrington says:

      I just spent considerable time browsing, playing and comparing the new line today. Wow. GForce tuners may well bring delight to some. As an add-on option fine. I’d love to see a good sized poll of opinions…. sent to Gibson. It’s a pretty safe bet in my view that this will be the only year of no choice. Good idea/marketing? Only if the point is to get me scrambling for pre 2015.
      I completely agree with MJA on all points & concerns. I wouldn’t have been so delicate or diplomatic.

  5. RJames says:

    Great writeup. I had the same reaction as you did on all points when I read about and saw the new lineup of Gibsons. I’m very glad I bought my 2013 model Les Paul before they made all of the changes and raised the a prices ridiculous amount.

  6. Ken Savoury says:

    That new nut is a great idea, better than having to replace them, which was always the norm.
    The tuners suck though! Prices are insane, they were insane before, what’s going to happen next year? I’ll just play my Telecaster and forget about it.

  7. Mike in Massachusetts says:

    I love the line in the release that starts with “Sparing no expense”. Gibson makes it sound like they’re biting the bullet and taking a loss to throw that feature in as a favor to their customers. A 29% increase? That’s insulting. I’ll bet that a lot more Epiphones are going to be sold in the coming years but, of course, you know that Epiphones will probably also be seeing a double digit increase in prices too. I bought my ’69 Les Paul Custom for $325 back in 1970. Still got it. The sucker is still amazing.

  8. Marquee Mark says:

    …and then when we’ve all had enough of this they will change it back and charge us for the pleasure.

  9. Patrick says:

    Interesting reading. It does appear that Gibson wants to price drop some models out of the market, I noticed the $699- price for the 2013 tribute future les paul, and ‘pounced’ on it based upon the reviews. The robotic tuning I can do without, but while I will have to adjust to the un-traditional tuning gears, I truly like the sleekness they bring to the headstock. If the string is locked tight and securely re-tuning is one less detail to fuss over, the lighter body is appreciated too. Would I assume I am getting a similar sound and build quality as a more traditional / expensive Gibson; of course not, but being an OK player I would not pretend that a better guitar makes me a better player, likely just more paranoid of theft while playing live.
    So I do hope they keep a range of affordable guitars under $1K, even if some are somewhat messy retro / future hybrids that purists may scoff at.

    • Bob Rodachy says:

      I’m seriously considering a 2013 future tribute and would like to hear any options about this instrument. There are still some gold tops available for $699. I’m intrigued by the assymetrical neck feature and the Steinberger tuners and would appreciate any and all comments.

  10. Beau Jeste says:

    That will mean a corresponding increase for Epi’s too!!!
    They’ll be hiked to fill the gap that Studio’s once had.
    Truly shocking piece of news and a hugely cynical contempt for their customers.
    Shame on you Gibbo.

  11. John B says:

    Mine won’t stay in tune because the string doesn’t return to its proper position on the nut when releasing a bend. I feel like I just wasted 1800 bucks! If I leave it stock, then it’s unusable. or I could work on it in my shop, but then it won’t be original anymore. I think Gibson should have gotten some feed back from actual guitar players. I am disappointed.

    • Actually, that simply sounds like the nut isn’t properly cut. Simple fix, but a very common problem with almost every new Gibson I’ve ever worked on. The nuts leave much to be desired. And in this case, originality isn’t even an issue.

    • Bill says:

      Had same issue tonight at rehearsal…thought it might be the change in temp but it was coming out of tune all night. Am nervous about first stage use coming up this Friday. Will def bring a backup. Gotta say though, I love the gforce. I can go from open A for jungle love to open E for Rocky Mountain way in seconds and the guys get a kick out of it as well.

      • John says:

        I ended up trading my 2015 in for a 2014. No GeForce, no brass nut. Sounds the same, neck is familiar with my other 6 LP classics dating back to ’94. I liked the tuner, I think they dropped the ball on the nut. It wouldn’t have been that hard to correct at the factory.

  12. John B says:

    I’m buying a set of gauged files today for $85 plus shipping so I can make the strings stay in place.

  13. Stevie says:

    Great write up and thank you for the info. I’m a new guitar player and was looking hard at Les Pauls. I am turned off by the auto tuners, brass nut. As many have stated, why force feed the tuners to us??? Looks like a Firebird may be calling. I can have the nut changed out.

    And BTW, you’re not verbose.

    • Hey, thanks so much! Glad I’m not going too overboard with my word count. And I’m really glad that even as a new player, you seem to have done your research. As always, I recommend picking up a ’90s Gibson, which seems to have been the company’s most recent era of high-quality stuff. Great guitars, and prices haven’t risen for them, so you can find plenty of great deals. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. paul unter says:

    Just got a 2015 SG for xmas present. Came with auto tuner, will be returning tomorrow when store opens. Who wants something you have to charge on a guitar, been self tuning for 30 years, should have been an option. Hope Gibson is listening.

    • Raymond says:

      In case you didn’t know this which you obviously don’t the auto tuners can be turned off and yes you can self tune. Just something I saw on a you tube video.

  15. John says:

    I really enjoyed this write up and agree with all that was said, but I can take it a bit further. When I first saw this line up, my first thought was thank God I bought 2013 and 2014 LP’s. Bought my first new Standard in 1976 for $500. I was completely shocked at the fact that Henry in what I can only think was a fit of insanity is G forcing the robo tuners down our throats…Innovation? Fine, make a model for that. The whole line? Crazy…Not only that but the G force is made in Germany and covers up the back of the headstock where it says/said…Made in the USA…NOT cool. Also not crazy about the 100 sig or the nut which looks as if it’s made from cheap pot metal.
    So I decided to go play one and see if they played any better then they looked. Well for me that has always loved the LP for both the 50’s and 60’s neck, I just didn’t dig the the 2015. To me it feels just like an Ibanez, and if I wanted that feel I’d save a ton of cash and buy an Ibanez…The G force…wow, all I can say is no thanks. For one it didn’t tune properly and the other one they had in the store was on the techs bench because it wasn’t working…hmmm The lower frets I can live with but not my favorite either. The removable pick guard I think is a pretty cool idea, but, seems a bit cheesy and being made of plastic snapping in and out, I wonder if it’s only a matter of time before it gets worn and starts falling out on its own.
    Anyhow just my thoughts and experience with the 2015. Will I be buying one? Hell no. I can only hope this will be a ONE year only deal and Gibson will go back to making guitars that got them to where they are today. I am certainly not the only one who feels this way, as if you check the Gibson facebook page or Gibson forums you’ll find about 90% of people are thinking the same. Thanks for the write up Michael! Oh and btw to the person comparing this to a phone? Uh no, while you may not want an older smart phone, that doesn’t work in the world of guitars as I’d love to have a 1959 Les Paul!

    • You and I would get along really well, I think. You know, more often than any other, I recommend 1990s Gibson guitars to my customers over anything made since 2003. They’re solidly built, sound great, and I would contend that the ’90s were a return to form for Gibson. Many of my favorite LPs have been from 1992-1999, and since prices haven’t rebounded on them, you can get a Standard in the $1300-1500 range. They’re the best, honestly.

      I agree with all of the points you bring up here!

      • Andrew Bryan says:

        Hi Michael, I have a 2001 Standard in Trans Amber (very pretty). I have been over and over it and can’t find anything wrong. I can say the same for my 2014 Epiphone Plus Top Pro. It amazes me how many people complain about the Gibson quality which I have not found a problem.

        I like the wider neck of the 2015 and the lower frets. I also like the split coils etc as I have got used to these on the Epi – lots of tones. I also have a 1980’s Strat Plus with a metal roller nut and that works fine although you can’t raise and lower it (I don’t think).

        I bought my 2001 Standard for £1300 new and am not sure how much I would get for it if I sold it or part exchanged it. However, I’m finding it hard to see how the 2015 can be that much better that it sells at £2447 in the UK.

        Would people hang on to the 2001 if they were in my position? Polite advice only please!

      • Don’t know what you mean by “Polite advice only” but I would hang on to your 2001. The 1990s-2002/3 is one of Gibson’s best eras in terms of quality control and build, and I always recommend people looking for a good Gibson guitar pick up one from those years. Your 2001 won’t have appreciated in value yet, with many ’90s Gibsons still being rather affordable. A Standard often will only fetch $1300 USD or so, but I’m sure that as the guitar market becomes more aware of this, prices will rise.

        When we say that Gibson quality isn’t as good as it used to be, of course it doesn’t apply to every single guitar ever made. It’s a general statement that seems to be proven as luthiers, techs and touring musicians keep playing larger numbers of new models than most guitar buyers. As a group, we see so, so many of them that we inevitably start tracking which years we’re having to repair the most, and there is certainly a downgrade in what we can expect from the company as the years go on. So, while your two instruments are great (although Epiphone is Gibson-owned, those guitars are never part of discussions on Gibson quality because they’re very different and made in separate parts of the world) that’s a very small percentage of Gibson’s output.

      • Andrew Bryan says:

        Hi Michael,

        It wasn’t you but I’m afraid a lot of posters tend to get very personal and rude which seems a shame when it is such a benign thing as playing guitar! It doesn’t take long before a string starts including inappropriate language and I thought others might join in! Thanks.

      • Ken says:

        How is playing guitar benign?

      • Because it’s literally the silliest thing a person could argue about.

      • Andrew Bryan says:

        What I mean is that it should be an art form and non violent. I realise that some genres are aggressive but not necessarily in a threatening way. Just rocking music. It should not be a subject that invokes bad language and unpleasant remarks. Even if people are unhappy about, for example, Gibson policy or comments that disagree with posts they have made there is no need to descend into personal insults. I see this all the time on guitar sites and it seems a shame. You very kindly responded to me with you advice and point of view and I appreciated it. Sometimes other viewers join in and rant! That’s all I meant. I hope I did not offend you. Best wishes.

      • Couldn’t agree more! There’s just no reason to argue about guitar gear or playing styles or any of that. When people start getting heated about who the best guitar player in the world might be, I check out. Who has the time! Cheers to you, Andrew!

      • Andrew Bryan says:

        Relieved we are on the same page! Look forward to more of your reviews. Very best wishes!

      • Ken says:

        Guard it with your life! You would regret it if you ever let it go!

      • John says:

        Michael, it’s been 8 months since my original post and has been quite a ride for Gibson (and me, jonesing for a new one, and not being able to stomach a ’15). I have to agree that we would indeed get along really well. Great minds think alike? lol. It looks like after all the hoopla about the 2015 line up, the majority of customers have won. Now while being just rumors at this time, it has been “hinted” to me from my guy at Gibson that they are true and they are going back to building Les Pauls’ that, atleast I, grew up loving and buying. I have been told that Gibson has not seen such horrible sales since the “almost bankrupt” days. So we will all know soon, and also, I can only hope that Gibson will figure out if they keep the prices reasonable they will sell a whole lot more guitars. And that would actually equate to more profits for them. I have been looking at some mid 90’s Les Pauls as you suggested, and will see where the used market goes with the “return” of the Les Paul in 2016. I usually try to make it up to Seattle for the NHRA race, but wasn’t able to this year. I hope to go next year and if so I would definitely like to check out your shop. And while I know you love the beautiful noise a guitar makes, maybe I can convince you to go to the track and check out the noise two 10,000 horsepower cars make side by side! So cheers to all of you at Mike & Mikes, keep up the great work and I hope to be making a very positive and HAPPY post on your Facebook page in the near future!

    • Raymond says:

      Ditto on the 59 LP I own 3 Gibson at this time most recently I found a 1990 Studio Les Paul at Guitar center for $647.00 What a steal especially when it came with $150.00 Duncan pickups all gold hardware and Duncan tuners I replaced the worn out knobs pick guard and bought new gold pick guard edging polished out the dull finish and it now not only plays almost as nicely as my 2011 special order (all gold hardware) Gibson es 335 dot. I also own the 2014 Gibson LP Supreme in brown which is one of the first ones to sell out. That is one awesome guitar problem is I only play it in my music room and only in P J’s or soft robe as not to damage it in any way it’s too nice looking to ever see it damaged hence why I have other Gibson’s to play with and I am waiting for my 1st Epiphone the 93 Riviera custom, I should be getting that this Friday. Another guitar all might want to look into as it is totally awesome is a 2011 Music man L3 unfortunately they only made about 247 at a cost of about $3,500 back then, if you ever get a chance to play one you’d probably steal it if it’s not for sale. And for Michael being wordy, (Hey don’t bother with what little minded people think when most people agree with what your saying). What am I. hehehe. I bought the Music man so I wouldn’t continue to play and wear out my 1961 Teisco Del Rey after Guitar Center Vintage dept told me it was worth about $10,000 I gave it to my wife to play as she is very gentle at playing. I presently own over 13 guitars and still counting. Good luck and keep writing by the feedback your opinion obviously matters.

  16. Josh skorczewski says:

    In may i bought my first gibson les paul, a traditional plus 2013, and a month later sent it back to gibson due to a massive amount of manufacturer defects on the guitar, other than not being the quality it should have been it was a good guitar but they ended up sending a new one back in the end that was nothing like my 2013 traditional so for the last 5 months I’ve been enduring the ownership of a 2014 les Paul classic, it’s not been fun at all, happily it was broken in a car accident last week (not something I ever thought I would say about a guitar, especially a gibson les Paul) and I will be replacing it once the insurance pays off. I want to replace this with another les paul, but I want one that sounds good, looks good, plays nicely, stays in tune, doesn’t fall apart and doesn’t need a setup after every time the strings are changed, is there such a guitar anymore? I don’t want to risk buying a new one and going through the same pain.

    • Oh man, that’s a terrible story! I’m so sorry you’ve had no luck with your guitars, but hey, happy accidents happen, quite literally in your case! (Hope you’re alright)

      As I just said in another comment, I heartily recommend 1990s Gibsons over most other modern eras. Solid build quality, QC was very high, tones are brilliant, and I contend that the ’90s were Gibson’s best era since the ’70s. Plus, prices on ’90s Gibsons are still low so getting a Standard or a Custom for a great price is totally realistic. Good luck!

  17. Andrew says:

    Found the note very interesting bit it was written before you got your hands on one. Have you had the chance to do this yet and what do you think? Good to have such a thorough review but much more helpful if the model has been actually tested.

    • Hey, thanks Andrew! I totally hear what you’re saying, but my intention with this little article was merely to dissect what I was reading in this note, especially since so much of it was really curious in its content. I have actually played and worked on more than a few of these since they came out, and most of my suspicions proved to be correct. Because we’ve been so busy, it’s been difficult to get any content out there, but the review of the ’15 LPs is one of five articles I’m nearly finished with. I’ll post it soon, I promise!

  18. Andrew Bryan says:

    Thanks for your replies Michael and Ken. Your advice has been taken to heart!

  19. cburruto says:

    Hey, great article and commentary. And nice business at the end with a quote from Shelly’s “Ozymandias” Sweet reference. And absolutely spot on.

  20. Andrew Bryan says:

    Michael and Ken,

    Well I couldn’t resist it! BUT taking your advice I held on to my 2001 Standard and bought a 2015 in Tobacco Burst Candy.

    I’ve had it for three weeks although for one week it was going to and from the guitar shop. To get the bad news out of the way first I noticed that I couldn’t get a “clean” note on the 17th fret of the G string (yes, I play at the dusty end). I took the guitar back and it turned out to be a “deformed” string. I never even dreamed to look for this. Having had the string replaced I found buzzing on every string when played open. Fretted notes were fine. Back to the store. Five minutes inspection showed an adjustment was required on the nut. Problem solved. What annoyed me was that the set up should have been perfect on a guitar of this price. I paid £1999 ($2948) for it which is £500 less than advertised.

    Now for the rest of the instrument:

    The G Force Tuner is brilliant. Once the guitar settled down at home, one strum and it was in perfect tuning (checked against other tuners). Seconds to tune and all those alternative tunings with no fiddling. Now it doesn’t change from day to day so tuning isn’t always necessary. Very easy to recharge the battery. You can still tune manually, but, why would you? Brilliant for gigging guitarists with loads of noise in the venue and poor light to see tuners and not much time.

    The logo might not be to everyone’s liking but, quite honestly, it pales into insignificance after a day or two. In fact, I like it now.

    The hologram is a security benefit, is at the back of the headstock where you can’t see it and is an historical detail. I loved the old boy although I never saw him live.

    Neither the logo nor the hologram effect the playing of the instrument and so they are not even worth complaining about. Some people have their guitars relic’d and knocked about and that seems much worse to me. Traditionalists would still have the Model T Ford!

    The brass nut benefits those who wish to raise the action and play slide BUT it is another complication in the setting up of the guitar. No problem to me. Not the first metal nut, I have one on my Strat Plus, and the robot tuner works great with it. Now you have the nut, the neck and the bridge to get in balance but once the sweet spot has been found the guitar sounds very good.

    I like the wider neck and the lower frets. The action is so low it has taken me a while to get used to it. You can get rid of callouses this way. Bending is so easy that you can over do it to start with. I am learning a lighter touch.

    The pick ups are Burst Bucker Pros. Very different to the pick ups on my 2001 Standard which I think are 490/498’s. Not as powerful and brighter (on the 2015) according to my ear but I might change my mind on this later.

    The pull/push controls are interesting. Firstly, the controls are much larger and stand proud of the body. They are sooooooo much easier to manipulate than the ones on my 2001 and Epiphone Plus Top Pro which seem tiny and “slippery” now. A great improvement! The combination of a humbucker and a split coil can be really good. The out of phase control only helps when the guitar is played quite loudly. Otherwise it sounds reedy and weedy. At high volume it is superb. I am in two minds about the “straight through” control. It is very loud and shrill. Played in the midst of a gig with a loud drummer and bass player it would cut through like a knife through butter. Not very useful for the home player.

    The asymmetrical and wider neck is very comfortable and you get used to it very quickly. Feels very comfortable with the low action.

    The finish is mixed and you don’t always notice these things when you are thinking about so much in the shop. The Tobacco Sunburst Candy is beautiful! Depending on the ambient light it changes from very little flame to a gorgeous pattern. The metal flecks in the paint make for a superb “shine” and it really stands out from other guitars. The binding on my Epiphone which cost me £350 is perfect and you can’t feel it when you run a finger round the edge. You can feel the binding on the 2015 but then you can feel it on the 2001 too. You can’t notice it on the top but you can on the sides. Again, you can’t see it and it makes no difference to the playability but a £2000 guitar should be perfect and it makes a bit of a nonsense of the quality card they give you with the case candy (did they really sign this off?). The binding on the neck is “lumpy” but I’m told this is a feature of Gibsons (not on my 2001 which is like glass) and I imagine it will wear down over time. You don’t notice it unless you really look for it.

    SO, that’s me after three weeks. You know how you get to love a guitar after a while, sometimes the first day as with my Epiphone (the cheapest in my collection) well it is now starting to float my boat because of having to take it back twice put me off a bit. I’ll let you know how I get on, if you are interested!

    I bought a BMW car last year and they constantly asked me what I thought of the product, what I would do to improve it make you feel part of the family. They even comment on your comments!!! Having sent my warranty card back to Gibson, immediately, I have heard nothing from them or the shop. I have enough Gibsons now so I will never find out if their customer care improves!

    All the best,

    Andrew

  21. Joe says:

    I wanted a guitar with humbuckers and a shorter scale length for note bending. Looking at Epiphones and thinking about Seymour Duncan after market pickups I saw the 2014 SGJ from Gibson and got one.
    I’m still trying to get used to the sort of arch top qualities of the bridge design and neck angle. I think the curve at the bottom of the body makes me have to reach out farther than a Les Paul probably would. If you look the curve is at the bridge pickup on the SG and between the pickups on the Les Paul.
    I almost cut my finger on the edge of the nut and I feel the fret ends when I slide my hand down the neck, which hasn’t happened on my Fender or even on my Squier.
    The frets are higher than I like but that’s a Gibson spec I can adjust to. Feeling the frets and a sharp point on the nut are things that will increase the price of a setup or I can bite the bullet and do some filing myself.
    I think guitars should come from the factory ready to play.
    All that being said, I like the tones of the ’61 Zebra pickups and how easy it is to bend notes. I’m glad I got one before Gibson went price crazy.
    If Gibson keeps raising prices I might be able to get all my money back from my SGJ and look for something else with humbuckers.

  22. Austin says:

    I have a Gibson Les Paul Studio 1960’s Neck Vintage Sunburst that I bought from Guitar Center for $1399.99 and I curious how much its value has gone up if at all?

  23. […] Article on 2015 Gibsons A Note on Gibson’s Recent Price Increase and Spec Changes | Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar I got a kick out of this. document.write('x3Cscript type="text/javascript" […]

  24. Don says:

    I’ll take a wild guesstimate. For every serious pro and aficionado that buys a guitar there are 5000 average Joes and wannabes who are totally happy to have a brand new Gibson. Think a large company like Gibson test markets this stuff? Probably. They have to follow the money too. They have to get at least some people asking, why would I choose a new one over an old one?
    I’ve owed a 73′ Les Paul and now I have the 2015 Classic. I’m quite liking it, even though the tuner will surely get old and die. Never thought I’d like the Db boost switch, but it adds some really nice mojo without getting too hairy. All and all, I’m very happy.

  25. ucnick says:

    Got a Les Paul Less Plus P-90 for my birthday a few days ago. Some observations:

    I really like the neck, wide but thin, and with the low frets and action easy to zip around, haven’t had any binding issues with the nut when bending. I’ll keep the nut stock for now.

    The G-Force is a bit idiosyncratic, and it aliased on me when I replaced the strings (I like them a little heavier), it tuned the G an octave higher and would not tune it down to the proper octave, so I had to manually crank it down. The 40:1 tuners are more precise, but take forever to tune. The Gibson write-up says not to use string winders…. uh huh. Doesn’t seem to tune as perfectly as advertised. So, I use the G-Force to get it close, then use my pedal tuner to manually tweak it. It also hung on me and had to power-cycle it to redo whatever I was doing at the time, I think it was while I was calibrating for the new, heavier (10-46) set. Not a good feature. But, one band I play in plays in half-step down tuning, so it may come in handy. However, if it doesn’t prove useful, or if it becomes a real pain, I’ll yank the G-Force and put in a good set of Grover lockers. I’m most concerned about the locking caps. Lose one, and you can’t use all 6 strings. Why the heck couldn’t they do a topside locking tuner like PRS? Bad design.

    Putting the strings on is a pain in the arse. I do NOT like the new method. Plus, like I said, if you drop and lose a locking cap, you are screwed. I can see this happening at a gig, as Murphy ALWAYS operates. I wanted to buy some spares, the Gibson G-Force store has them but they are “temporarily unavailable”. Grrr. I always bring a spare axe or two to a gig, so if it pops one, I will not try to change it on stage, which is where I will definitely lose a cap.

    Stock string set (DeAddarios? They had colored ball ends) didn’t want to stay in tune. Worried me a bit. However, once I changed and stretched out the strings, and made sure the locking caps were nice and snug, the strings stayed pretty much in tune, and I LOVE to bend up a few semitones when I start ripping. So I think that with good strings that are well-stretched and with the caps snug it may eliminate the tuning stability issues that are commonly complained about. Time will tell.

    Haven’t played with the bridge yet, but looks pretty standard. Might see if I can replace it with Graph Tech String Saver TOM somewhere down the line…

    Overall, the tonality of the guitar with the stock P-90s is really nice, I like it. Nice balance and it cuts well. The pups have that good ol’ P-90 snarl, however, they also have the much-feared P-90 buzz, especially in close proximity to electrical radiated noise sources, and it gets a little annoying at higher gains, so I will be putting in a set of Kinman P-90 Hx pups. Need to have the cavities routed a few millimeters to accomplish this. Of course, this will void the warranty…. sigh…

    Didn’t see any obvious cosmetic issues, and I looked pretty closely. Must be a mid-week guitar. One for the Gipper. 🙂

    I am considering going for it and playing first major gig with it this coming weekend, it’s a toss up between it and my 2005 Les Paul Standard Goldtop. If I do go with the Less Plus, and anything interesting happens, I’ll post an addendum.

    • HAHA, “mid-week guitar”. Thank you for that. And yes, Murphy is always in play. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • Follow up to my previous comments.

        I had the Kinman P90 Hx pups installed, they look and sound fantastic, hum is nearly nonexistent. It needed some routing, expertly performed by Brian at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto CA. Interestingly, he said he had had several people bring their G-Force equipped guitars in for replacement with standard tuners as well, much as you folks reported.

        Changing the strings, like I said, is still a pain, but once you get the little nuts locked down (yes, I bought spares!) and stretch out the strings, it is rock-solid, matter of fact stability-wise it is one of the best of all my guitars, and I have both vintage and locking tuners in my harem. I like the guitar so much I installed a Roland GK-3 pickup on it to control my old GR-20 synth, so it for sure will get a lot more on-stage time.

        I was honestly somewhat dubious about G-Force at first, but I have played it for a few months now and several gigs and have become accustomed to using it, it’s a nice feature when you learn how to use it. Craig Anderton has the same opinion, btw, it’s great for calling up alternative tunings on stage. Typically, I don;t use it much on-stage except when I need a different tuning, so if I need tuning tweaks on-stage I use my floor tuner and turn the knobs manually. But with the stability it doesn’t need it very often.

        FWIW, the reaction to the gadgetry on the LPL+ P-90 kinda reminds me of a typical reaction to my Kemper… the tube snobs turn their noses up at it… until they hear it. Then they can’t believe it. I have been asked repeatedly if there are “any tubes in there?”. I do own several tube amps, but pretty much use the Kemper for gigging as it is so flexible, only time I trot out the ol’ boat anchors anymore is if I go to a jam or something… but I still love ’em! 🙂

      • I hear that. Kemper stuff is amazing, though. But there’s the difference: the Kemper profiling amp is a brilliantly-engineered piece of kit made with quality components. The failure rate of the Gibson G-Force tuners is outrageous, and if you ever become unlucky enough to have to replace them, there’s no upgrade out there for them. Just the same fragile pot-metal gears that make them a nightmare for use on the road.

        There are self-tuning systems out there that work better, too.

        EDIT: Those Kinman pickups are pretty cool, too. Don’t let the tone snobs get you down!

      • OK, thanks for the heads up, I reckon I’ll just have to see how it plays out (pun intended). I always bring a spare or two… been bit too may times!

        Thanks!

  26. William hannum says:

    Thank god I own a 2010 Les Paul traditional I had a new nut installed and a good set up and no problems awesome axe love it . the zero fret nut maybe the tuning system no thanx and I hate the change to the head stock

  27. […] A Note on Gibson’s Recent Price … – Earlier this week, Gibson released (or was it leaked?) statements concerning a price increase and changes to most of their models that left most of the … […]

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