Sure, we’ve all seen numerous variations of the legendary Les Paul model electric guitar. Now here’s one variation that’s really unique – Gibson’s new Les Paul Acoustic. Designed for electric players by Gibson’s Custom Shop, the Les Paul Acoustic is shaped like a traditional single-cutaway Les Paul and constructed from the same basic woods.
Like many Les Pauls, the Acoustic model starts with a mahogany body with a figured maple top and mahogany neck. The sample we received was finished in a translucent black, but it’s also available in tangerine- burst and translucent blue. The neck has 22 frets, a rosewood fingerboard, pearloid trapezoid inlays and vintage-style Gibson Deluxe tuners.
What’s most unusual about the Les Paul Acoustic is the construction of the top (though the profile is pretty cool, too). The bridge is actually hand-carved into the maple top, and the saddle sits directly in the body. The six bridge pins are fitted into the body, just behind the bridge. This design results in optimum sustain, because the bridge is essentially a part of the top, and the strings go right through.
From the factory, the guitar is strung with bronze-wound acoustic strings, but still has the typical Les Paul feel (though the strings are heavier than most would use on a Les Paul). In terms of feel, the neck, frets, and body are just like playing an electric guitar.
The body is definitely lighter than a typical electric guitar. It has hollowed chambers that allow for a reverberant tone with more natural acoustic qualities, even when the guitar is unamplified – unlike the solidbody Gibson Chet Atkins SST, which does not project its sound acoustically.
The Acoustic model is fitted with the Gibson SST electronic system and L.R. Baggs piezo pickup, with rim-mount volume and tone controls. The tone dial has a center detent, which is the midpoint of the high and low mix. The battery compartment for the piezo system is located directly behind the bridge and houses a single 9-volt battery. All electronics (including the input jack) are in the same place as a typical Les Paul.
With a better idea of the feel, we set about appraising the guitar’s tone using three different amp rigs with all tone controls set flat and volume set for a clean tone. First, we tested the Les Paul Acoustic through a Gibson Super Goldtone GA-30RV combo amp (VG, February ’02), then through our 100-watt Marshall stack. Last, we tested the guitar using a Countryman direct box plugged into a small PA.
With all setups, we kept the system’s tone controls set flat and the volume adjusted for clean tones. To get the best sound, we found it best to keep the guitar’s volume rolled back a bit to soften the attack of the pick or finger on the strings. We also preferred having the guitar’s tone control adjusted for slightly boosted low-end. Tonal response varies depending on where one hits the strings. With a bit of noodlin’ around, it’s easy to find the best picking-hand positions for strumming, single notes, and fingerpicking. Intonation was good across the fingerboard, even when using open tunings.
As expected, we achieved the best range and fattest clean acoustic tones when using the direct box and PA. The Super Goldtone fared pretty well for an electric guitar amp, producing a workable tonal range, while the Marshall was the most limiting. But as long as it was set clean, the sound was good enough to use it at a gig if you only had one amp to play through.
For Les Paul enthusiasts who want an acoustic/electric, this is the ultimate axe.
Because the Les Paul Acoustic is a Custom Shop model, production is limited and it’s likely these guitars won’t hang on the rack long, despite the fact that they’re a bit pricey. And unless you’re playing with guys like Rick Nielsen and Joe Perry – who recently snatched up their own – if you’ve got a Les Paul Acoustic, you probably won’t ever show up to a jam session and find yourself armed with the same guitar as any of the other guys.
If you strive for something distinctive, check one out.
Gibson Les Paul Acoustic
Type Of Guitar: Piezo electric/acoustic.
Features: Mahogany body with figured maple top, mahogany neck, 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, pearloid trapezoid inlays, vintage-style Gibson Deluxe tuners, Gibson SST electronics system and L.R. Baggs piezo pickup, rim mount volume and tone controls.
Price: $5,680 (with hardcase)
Contact: Gibson, 657 Massman Drive, Nashville, TN 37210, (615) 871-9585, gibsoncustom.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.