The Gibson Les Paul Studio is probably one of my favourite guitars of all time. I thought I’d just put that out there before getting started with the review.
However, I’m not particularly biased by anything more than having owned one for the last decade! The guitar isn’t perfect, but there is a reason why this is the guitar you’ll see me playing in most of my videos.
In fact, I use it most of the time for teaching, playing gigs and filming videos. It’s just the most reliable guitar I own. Yes, there are things it could do better (and I’ll get on to those- of course I’ll give it a fair review, which means both good and bad!).
So, let me explain why I like it so much…
What is a Les Paul “Studio”
OK, first a little background information.
The Les Paul ‘studio’ was originally designed as a low price Les Paul. It has the traditional Les Paul sound and feel, but without some of the more cosmetic features of expensive models.
This means the Studio models don’t include things like:
- Body and Neck Binding
- Certain Headstock Inlays
- Also, they were originally made of cheaper wood (back in the 80’s)
Anyway, the general idea of the name ‘Studio’ is that this guitar would sound like a Les Paul in the studio. Of course, in the studio the sound matters much more than how the guitar looks!
So, this guitar is designed to have the feel and sound of a Les Paul Standard, or Custom…it just looks less flashy. Which means that it definitely isn’t an ‘entry level’ or ‘budget’ guitar- it’s a real Gibson Les Paul.
If a cheap Les Paul is what you’re after, there are guitars available that fit that description.
The Studio is just the least expensive type of Les Paul, and (if you’re like me) it’s the sound and feel that’s most important, anyway.
The features listed here are for the 2016 model. The one that I own and play in the video is the 2005 model, which has a few minor differences. In fact, my guitar is a bit different to how I bought it…which I’ll explain in a bit.
- Maple top
- Mahogany back and neck
- Granadillo 22 fret fretboard
- Modern weight relief body
- Slim 60’s style neck profile
- 12″ fretboard radius
- 24.75″ scale length
- Gold “Gibson” Logo and Scripted “Les Paul Model” Silkscreen on headstock
- Black and White Antique Bell Truss rod cover with “Studio” Engraved
- Tonepros Vntage Style chrome plated tuners (ratio 16:1)
- 490R (Alnico II) neck pickup
- 498T (Alnico V) brigde pickup
- 2 volume and 2 tone controls (one for each pickup)
Modifications I’ve made to Mine
So, the guitar that I demonstrate in the video is actually a little bit different to the specs described above. Firstly, my guitar has a thicker neck profile (which actually makes it more difficult to shred!). There are also some Les Paul Studios out there with a brass nut, which my guitar doesn’t have. Although my guitar has the same type of nut as the model described above.
Other than that, I’ve adjusted the action on my guitar to be just a bit lower (which helps when playing faster), and I wrap the strings around the bridge. This was something that I started doing because I heard that it improves string tension.
In fact, I have a Les Paul Junior that was made this way…but now I’m not 100% sure it makes a difference. I like it that way, anyway, now that I’m used to it.
What I Like
Well, this guitar was set up and playable as soon as I got it. I know I got mine a long time ago, but I’ll never forget demoing it in the shop, in a room full of amps!
It played well then, and it still plays well now!
The ‘robot’ tuners that you get on modern Studios are something that I don’t have much experience of. I have students who have used them, but if you can tune yourself (or carry a tuner on your pedalboard), I don’t see a whole lot of need for them, personally.
I suppose they are accurate and hold their tuning well, so if you had a set with many different alternate tunings, it might be something you would want.
However, the main reason to buy this guitar would be the tone. I mean, it’s a Les Paul, and it sounds just as good as…well…a Les Paul! Really, it’s only guitar aficionados who are going to notice that it’s a Studio and not a Standard you’re playing…
…and for recordings, nobody will ever know that your guitar doesn’t have fancy body bindings!
Also, I should mention the sustain. I mean, it’s a Les Paul, meaning that you could famously “have a bite” to eat and it’ll still be going.
Les Pauls are used in many genres of music, so you can’t really go wrong with this tone. The only times it might not be the best is for traditional Jazz, or hardcore shredding- i.e. the extremes where you want either a very warm mellow tone, or a super fast neck that plays like butter.
What I don’t Like
As I said, I don’t have much experience of the G-force tuning system (the robot tuners). However, I don’t see much point for them if you know what you’re doing and use only one or two tunings (standard and dropped-D?).
You also might find this guitar almost impossible to shred on. I can shred on it (as I demonstrate in the video) but it’s not like I just picked it up after a lifetime of playing Ibanez!
I mean, I practise on my Les Paul Studio almost every day (on the other days I use other guitars). That’s how I know it is possible to shred on it…if you’re used to the thickness of the neck. If, however, you want to be the next John Petrucci, there are definitely better guitars for that!
It’s also pretty difficult to reach the higher (pitched) frets, as it would be on an acoustic (although you have good access up to the 15th or 17th fret). So, again, if you want to be the next Steve Vai, you’re probably going to need a different guitar!
Also, the switch on mine keeps coming loose. I say ‘keeps’ but that means I’ve had to tighten it about 2 or 3 times over the last decade…
I’m not even sure that’s a problem on all Les Pauls, or all Studios!
Les Paul Studio: the Verdict
As I said at the start of this review, I have owned this guitar for years and still love it. It still plays as well as it did, despite slight damage and wear, and it holds it’s tune really well.
Overall, the Les Paul Studio is still my ‘go to’ guitar due to it’s reliability, and great tone. There are other guitars out there with more modern features, or more frets, or that are easy to play…but I’m always drawn back to the Les Paul.