In the 70s Norlin era for Gibson they had a ton of unique models come out. Most of these models are long forgotten and probably will never be reissued. The RD is one of the few models from those years to escape obscurity. The shape is kind of like a modern reverse Thunderbird. When the RD first came out it was way different than this model. It has a maple fretboard and a maple body with a 25.5 inch scale neck. It was designed to have a brighter sound. Some models were also packed with electronics for tone shaping. The construction is typical Gibson. The body and neck are mahogany. The neck is set in and has the fat 50s profile. The neck is 22 frets with a rosewood fretboard. On the Standard Gibson headstock you get 6 non locking tuners and the bridge is a standard non locking tune-o-matic. The pickups are a set of Burstbuckers and the controls are pretty simple. You get a volume for each pickup and a master tone with the pickup selector down right next to the other controls where it should be.
If this guitar was neck through it would be perfect. With the 50s neck profile the neck is already big and in the current Gibson design the neck joint starts at the 15th fret so beyond that the neck is even bigger. The upper frets are almost impossible to reach. If this guitar was neck though it wouldnt have as much of a heel to get in the way. The guitar is also very heavy. It has a large and thick body so it has tons of mass to it. I love the control layout. So many 3 knobbed Gibsons put the pickup selector out by itself instead of by the rest of the knobs. This design is clean and compact and everything is easily reached. I wish Gibson would start putting locking tuners and bridges on more of their guitars. Every Epiphone nowadays comes with a locking tune-o-matic so there is really no excuse for Gibson not having them. They supposedly increase sustain but really they make string changes much easier.
Burstbuckers are not my favorite Gibson pickups but they sound decent in this guitar. They are pretty hot. They were breaking up my clean tone when I was playing. There is plenty of mass on the body so the guitar has good natural tone. With a dirty setting the pickups are bright and gritty. This gives good clarity but sometimes can sound harsh. The neck pickup is slightly smoother but not as smooth as I would like. Some people prefer a super clear neck pickup. The bridge pickup is nice and punchy for riffs. With the neck and heel being the way they are I could not really get into lead playing with this guitar. If you are just looking to crank out heavy riffs this guitar could be a good choice due to its mass.
The RD is a cool design and Im glad Gibson did not forget it. Even though this model is pretty different than the original RD this new model will appeal more to the Gibson player. The original models with their maple bodies and necks didnt really carry the Gibson tone. The complicated electronics in the original models also caused problems and added unneeded complexity. The guitar is a throwback to the 70s when guitar makers were willing to do something different and werent just endlessly reissuing the same guitars year after year. If you are looking for a Gibson that is something way different the RD is a good choice.