Joe Bonamassa is quite a guitar player. He literally grew up in a guitar shop and now he is jamming with all the legends on a regular basis. He now has a few signature Gibsons from Gibson and Epiphone. This is one of his Gibson signature guitars. This is the one I expect most Bonamassa fans to go for since it has the best combination of quality and value. This is essentially a Les Paul Studio with the Bonnamassa mods. On the base the guitar is pretty typical. The body is mahogany with a maple top. The neck is set in and made out of mahogany. It has a cool color layout that is based off a couple of old 50s LP's. It has a Goldtop with black sides and black. The pickguard and pickup surrounds are black. Up top it has standard Grover tuners. The bridge is a standard Tune-o-matic. The pickups are a set of Burstbuckers with a 2 in the neck and a 3 in the bridge. The controls are normal with a volume and tone for each pickup. Each pickups controls gets its own type of knobs which looks kind of weird when you notice it.
I found it strange that this guitar has less features than the Epiphone version. The Epiphone version came with locking tuners and straplocks from the factory I believe. This model is more like a normal studio model with the different color layout. The neck on this model is the fat 50s profile so it really fills your hand. The lack of locking tuners or bridge is pretty disappointing. Every new Epiphone comes with a locking bridge now so I do not know what the deal is with Gibson. There is no binding on this model since it is based on a studio so you may have to check for sharp fret ends. The fretboard on these models is supposed to be rosewood but if you get a later production run of it the guitar might have baked maple for its fretboard because of Gibsons current wood problems.
The Burstbuckers pickups in this guitar show the tone Gibson is going for with their newer guitars. The Clean tones from this guitar a big and rich like you expect from an LP. In the bridge position you get a little more edge in the clean tones from that pickup and the neck position clean tones are fatter and smoother but with a bit less definition. With a bit of gain the pickups are not the most brutal but they have more balls than most Gibson pickups. To me they sound like a modern interpretation of a hot rodded PAF pickup. The more traditional Burstbucker setup is with the 1 and 2 with the 1 in the neck and the 2 in the bridge. Burstbucker pickups get hotter as they go up in the series so this Bonamassa guitar has some of the hottest Gibson pickups they put in guitars nowadays.
I do not find this guitar as appealing as the Epiphone version. With the Epiphone version you were getting a very low priced guitar with great hardware and Gibson pickups. The Epiphone version even came with strap locks as well. This Gibson version doesnt come with straplocks and a Gibson having Gibson pickups is nothing special. It also costs twice as much as the Epiphone version which is silly when you compare the two. This guitar is more like a dressed up Studio than the Epiphone version. The Epiphone version you are getting a really good solid guitar for a great price that just doesnt say Gibson on the headstock. This guitar you are getting a dressed up Studio.
Traditional Weight Relief Mahogany Body with Maple Top
Mahogany Neck with Rounded, Traditional Profile
22 Fret, Rosewood Fingerboard with Acrylic Trapezoids Inlays
Grover 14:1 Kidney Button Tuners
Burstbucker 2 and Burstbucker 3 Alnico Humbuckers
Includes Gibson Hardshell Case
I was not going to pay the full price for one of these, but on sale around $1400ish I wanted to see how good these actually were. This appears to be a very high end goldtop les paul studio with a pickup switch. The Grover tuners are a welcome upgrade. Trapezoid inlays don't hurt. Some colors in the studio look bad without the binding. I think this one is actually okay without it. It's a cool looking guitar.
Of course it's heavy, but since these are weight relieved now and the studio weighs a pound or two less than the standard/custom models, it is about as light as you can find a les paul. It does seem like there is an attention to detail here that isn't apparent in most studio models or even the standard ones. I've owned a few studios over the years and the craftsmanship on this guitar is a step up I think. The playability is good. Setup out of the box was junk like most Gibson factory setups. The bridge needed major adjustment and I even had to mess with the truss a bit. No harm no foul. Plays well enough now. Fretwork is good. Electronics all seem stable. Grover tuners keep tune better than my other studio even without a nut filing. I'm impressed here. The neck feels identical to my les paul traditional.
The burstbuckers are great and I'm really glad they chose to put them in this guitar. These are one of the few Gibson pickup sets that I don't feel like I have to scrap when I buy a new les paul. They have a perfect balance between classic 50's PAF tones and the hotrodded overwound ones of the 70's. Probably the best pickup Gibson has made besides the 57 classics. I usually play this guitar through a Matchless Spitfire combo or a Suhr Badger 18. Seems to really like those amps. I imagine it would sound supreme through any cranked marshall style amp. Haven't gotten a chance to play it through my splawn stack yet.
I didn't really expect much from this guitar as I thought it was going to be an overpriced les paul studio for all purposes, but the extra attention to the little details on this artist model impressed me. The price is very fair considering this is basically an LP studio with all the issues (pickups/tuners/finish) worked out. I'm not a big goldtop guy but I like it on this guitar because it isn't so overstated with appointments. I say pick one of these up before they run out. I believe it's a limited run.