Submitted February 5, 2017 by Clifton Gardner in Hueytown, AL
"Incredible value for a US-made SG"
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I spent quite a few years trading various inexpensive guitars back and forth, trying to decide what I liked best in terms of feel, sound, and overall enjoyment. I've had a couple of Teles, a few Epiphone Les Pauls, several Ibanez guitars, and a few other oddities. I bought a white Epiphone G400 Pro on a whim one day from a local guitar shop and knew I had found a perfect match (the G400 Pro is absolutely an excellent instrument in it's own right; still have it, still play it). So when the right time came, I purchased this "entry-level" Gibson SG from zZounds, wanting something very affordable but something a little different from both the G400 as well as the endless numbers of "Faded" series of SGs floating around.
I purchased this guitar in vintage sunburst, which was a real risk, since I love sunbursts but can be very picky about them (I don't like them too yellow or red). This is a gorgeous shade of brown/orange that looks very natural and allows the grain of the 3-piece mahogany body positively glow. I also appreciate the block inlays and the chrome-covered mini-humbuckers, which make this look like a significantly more-expensive guitar. Trust me - it's a real looker. As a fan of satin nitrocellulose finishes, I can honestly say that this speaks to me more than the high-gloss Standard range.
I didn't know what to expect when I first picked this guitar up. I'd heard the horror stories of Gibson's plummeting quality, and can safely report that, at least in my case, they were highly exaggerated. The neck is straight, with immaculate fretwork, and the electronics were all hand-soldered, initialed, and dated. The attention to detail is obvious - it practically plays itself after some minor setup adjustments. I love the not-quite thin, not-quite beefy rounded neck profile and think that the 70's style volute behind the headstock (which is far past the nut and does not interfere with fretting) is a nice touch, both structurally as well as visually. Overall, the build quality is excellent.
In terms of sound, this Gibson is a bit unusual. Gibson claims these are 495R & 495T pickups, which would make them essentially modern Firebird pickups instead of traditional mini-humbuckers. These are, according to the website, wrapped to a DC resistance of over 17k at the neck and a positively volcanic 26k at the bridge with - confusingly - 42 gauge wire and dual Alnico II bar magnets. The result is a unique, almost compressed-P90 sound, with a lot of mid- and top-end bite, but with a softer, fluffier low-end. Clean, this results in a rather squashed but otherwise plain tone, good for country (it nears telecaster levels of twang at the bridge), but not much else. The more gain you pile on, however, the raunchier and more excited these pickups get. Through a Fulltone OCD pushing the front-end of the High-Gain channel of a this-gen Peavey Bandit 112, the pickups really liven up and deliver everything from roaring rhythms to searing leads and everything in between. Don't let them fool you - these will eagerly dish out the most raging of metal tones. They tend to be somewhat shrill with all knobs at ten, so taming the top-end with the tone knobs is a must, especially at the bridge. However, unlike many Gibsons that get flubby and muddy below 8 on the tone knobs, I find a wide range of usable tones on both pickups, from 2 to 10 on both the bridge and the neck. If medium-to-high gain is your forte, these are phenomenal pickups - but if you want detailed and crystalline cleans, these may not completely satisfy.
Overall, after over a month of playing, I still come home from work, pick it up, and think "I can't believe this is my guitar." It's a step up in terms of quality and aesthetics from my Epiphone SG, although that one actually does the classic PAF sound better and has richer, clearer cleans. This is a different beast with its own unique sound, but it's got some serious mojo and is just a lovely instrument to hold and to play. This one will stay with me for years to come.
Hobbyist, Recording Artist, Worship Leader
Christian praise and worship, rock, metal, blues, folk
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