Hands-On Review:Gibson Les Paul Traditional and 2008 Les Paul Standard

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Revered features and bold new updates

By Dan Day
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer


On May 28, 1958, the first two Les Paul Standards were shipped from  the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Over the years, numerous  variations on that classic design have been issued. When I tell you that  Gibson USA is coming out with two new Les Pauls, I fully expect you to  ask, "Do we need more Les Pauls? Aren't there enough already?" These are  fair questions. Quite simply, having so many variations meets the needs  of a wide range of players.


With the new Les Paul Traditional and 2008 Les Paul Standard,  Gibson USA has proved they know how to make good guitars better, and  are dedicated to making the best Les Paul Standards ever made. The new  Traditional is for players who want a Les Paul as it was, yet can't  afford a Custom Shop Historic Reissue. The 2008 Les Paul Standard has  the Les Paul look and sound with some modern refinements. It's for  players who want up-to-date features and aren't concerned about  historically accurate components such as CTS pots and bumblebee  capacitors. Both types of guitarists want that warm, powerful, solidbody  sound produced by the pairing of a mahogany back and carved maple top;  the 22-fret mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard, Tune-O-Matic bridge  and stopbar tailpiece; and a pair of specially wound "Patent Applied  For"-style humbuckers with Alnico magnets. Both the Les Paul Traditional  and 2008 Les Paul Standard are available with gold top or ebony  finishes as well as sunburst finishes that highlight the figured maple  top.


Get Plek'd


There is one new cutting-edge technology that both guitars share:  their necks receive precision fret dressing and setup thanks to use of  Gibson's Plek machines. A German company developed the technology  choosing the name Plek, short for the Greek word for guitar pick—plektron.


As the guitar lies in a cradle, a computer-controlled robot arm moves  along the neck measuring each fret's height, the fingerboard radius,  even the bow in the neck. Using that data, the Plek machine adjusts the  truss rod, cuts the nut slots for optimal spacing and height for each  string, files each fret to a hundredth of a millimeter accuracy, and  then polishes the frets. In a fraction of the time it takes a skilled  technician, the Plek machine eliminates buzzing strings and dead spots,  producing a neck with superb action and playability.


Weight-relieved vs. chambered


An increasing number of Les Paul players just don't want to play all  evening with an 11-1/2-pound guitar strapped over their shoulder.  Reducing weight is a reaction to the wood supply—there is not enough  lightweight mahogany available. The Les Paul Traditional and the 2008 Les Paul Standard use different techniques to handle the hefty mahogany used for the  guitar's back. Gibson USA began using weight-relief holes in 1982 and  has made it part of the Traditional production process. Weight-relief  holes are drilled into the body, but aren't visible once the maple top  is placed over it. Players should not be concerned about how the  weight-relieved body will sound, as they will not likely hear a  difference, but they will notice the added comfort.


In contrast, a more involved weight-reduction process takes place  with the 2008 Standard. Strategically positioned chambers are carved out  of the mahogany back using a computer-controlled router. In addition to  a lighter instrument, players should find it acoustically louder with  more sustain and resonance.


Neck and neck


The Traditional retains the '50s rounded neck, while the 2008 Standard model unveils an asymmetrical neck—a feature that more and more  guitarists will be asking for once they hear about it and try it. As  pictured above, the asymmetrical neck's center line is moved .005"  toward the bass side. The back is tapered toward the high strings, more  closely matching the natural curve of your hand making it easier to  reach the fretboard. The neck is thicker toward the bass strings  resulting in the asymmetrical shape. The average player may not  immediately notice the increased comfort level, but a professional or  avid jam-hound will soon discover the comfort of playing with reduced  hand fatigue over an extended period of time. It's subtle, but it does  make a difference. Additionally, the 2008 Standard features the largest  neck joint ever used on Gibson guitars. The shape of the joint (see  detail pic below) allows the neck to literally lock into place in the  form-fitting body cavity, maximizing the wood-to-wood contact for  extended sustain.


Locked and loaded


The 2008 Standard is loaded with new features that share the keyword "locking." The  bridge on the 2008 Standard is the locking TonePros Nashville  Tune-O-Matic. TonePros have been used on some Custom Shop guitars as  well as the Gibson Les Paul GT, SG GT, and the Slash model, and now  it's being used on production guitars for the first time. You'll have to  look closely to see the bridge and stopbar tailpiece are tightly  clamped to the studs with small Allen screws. This solid connection  provides better transfer of string vibration with the body producing  more resonance and sustain. The bridge also holds the saddles securely  locked into place keeping the intonation constant after changing  strings.


Locking Grover tuners on the 2008 Standard replace the Traditional's  Kluson-style tuners. Locking tuners make it easy to change strings and  quickly bring them to pitch. Just loosen the knob, insert the string,  tighten the knob, tune to pitch, and trim excess string. No extra  windings around the post eliminate string stretching so you're ready to  play right away.


The 2008 Standard has a Neutrik locking cable jack that locks when  the cable is inserted and unlocks by pressing the safety release tab so  you don't tear the jack out from the body. No more looping your cord  around the strap, with it rubbing against your guitar's finish all night  long. Dunlop strap locks also protect the 2008 Standard from slipping.


Pickups and pots


The Traditional's  Classic '57 humbuckers use the original specs of the  "Patent-Applied-For" humbucker developed by Seth Lover. Featuring Alnico  II magnets and an equal number of string windings for both coils, they  produce a warm, balanced sound. The 2008 Standard is equipped with BurstBuckers with Alnico V magnets and slightly  mismatched windings for a harder edge and more modern, overdriven sound.


The 2008 Standard also features volume and tone pots manufactured by  Bourns—a California company that's been making pots for over 60 years.  Mounted on a printed circuit board in a cavity in the back, the  square-shaped pots are gold-plated to ensure the signal won't degrade.  Using a plug-in connection, the pots are easy to remove, giving the  player the option of changing the values when Gibson makes replacement  pots available in the near future. For example, if hotter pickups are  installed, the standard 300k pot could be replaced with a higher value  pot for a little extra brightness.









Features & Specs

Common Les Paul Traditional and Les Paul 2008 Standard:

  • Mahogany body with maple top
  • Mahogany neck
  • Set-in neck joint
  • Plek machine neck setup
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • 24-3/4" scale
  • 22 frets
  • 12" fretboard radius
  • 1.695" nut width
  • 2 volume and 2 tone controls
  • 3-way pickup selector
  • Lacquer finish
  • Black snakeskin hardshell case

Les Paul Traditional

  • Non-chambered, weight-relieved body
  • '50s rounded neck profile
  • Chrome Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge
  • '57 Classic Plus bridge humbucker
  • '57 Classic neck humbucker
  • TonePros Kluson-style tuners
  • Chrome hardware
  • Vintage speed knobs

Les Paul Traditional Plus

  • Same as Traditional with figured maple top

2008 Les Paul Standard

  • Chambered body
  • Asymmetrical neck profile
  • TonePros locking Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge
  • BurstBucker Pro with Alnico V bridge humbucker
  • BurstBucker Pro with Alnico V neck humbucker
  • Locking Grover tuners
  • TonePros locking tailpiece
  • Dunlop strap locks
  • Chrome hardware
  • Large neck joint

2008 Les Paul Standard Plus

  • Same as 2008 Standard with figured maple top