NAMM 2017: Get a US-made Gibson S series guitar for $399
There’s plenty of Gibson lovers out there, although their instruments are often prohibitively expensive for the average guitar-slinger. Now that’s all about to change. At NAMM 2017 the company launched the new Gibson S series, which let you get your hands on a US-made guitar for $399-$899. This is about half the cost you’d normally expect to pay for such an instrument. It has to be said that 2017 is an amazing time to be a guitarist.
The Gibson S series features five models: Les Paul Studio ($899), Les Paul Special ($699), SG ($599), Firebird Zero ($499) and M2 ($399).
Gibson S series to compete with Epiphone?
It’s an interesting move for Gibson to introduce this range that would seem to compete with their budget Epiphone subsidiary. Epiphones are built in China and are generally a little cheaper than the S series, although there is some cross-over in price range.
The main difference I notice is that Epiphones in many cases try to mimic the looks and features of more expensive instruments while the S series is really stripped back. Gibson has fitted all the new guitars with a dual humbucker, single tone and single volume pot set-up. There’s a simple pickguard and very little in the way of adornment or extras like the Bigsby vibrato bridges featured on some Epiphones. Personally I love this approach. When funds are limited I’d prefer own a guitar that has had attention paid to materials and workmanship rather than bells and whistles.
Without hearing it in person myself yet though, it’s a little too early to call it. One factor is that you’ll be paying a premium just to get that Gibson logo on the headstock. Some early vids of the guitars have surfaced but no professional play-throughs yet. Hopefully some footage will come out of NAMM.
S series rundown: From Les Paul Custom Studio to M2
So what are they made out of? All the guitars have slim taper necks, mini button tuners, Tektoid nut and a nitro finish. The Les Paul Custom Studio is the star of the show of course. It has a glued-in maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and swamp ash body with a nitro stain finish.
Most of the range has single colour finishes and contrasting pickguards but the Studios drop the pickguards to show off the gorgeous grain of the ash body. The Studio is also the only guitar with a body made with a separate top and back (both made ash); all the others are solid body builds. The Studio is powered by “modern and aggressive” Alnico 5 DS-A5 Rhythm and DS-A5+ Lead humbuckers. There’s seven finishes available.
The Gibson Les Paul Custom Special has a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and a solid mahogany body. There’s eight colourful finishes available with light gloss nitro finishes. It’s fitted with US-made rhythm DS-C slugs and Lead DS-C+ pick-ups for “tone with more bite”.
Reinventing a classic: The Gibson SG
The Gibson S series SG has a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and mahogany body. Like the LP Special, it features US-made Rhythm DS-C and Lead DS-C+ pick-ups. It has eight finishes available.
The Firebird Zero has a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and a non-reverse poplar body. Poplar has the advantage of being light although you can see the budget side of the series coming in with this tonewood choice. The Firebird is powered by a pair of US-made DS-C pick-ups. There’s no shortages of finishes, with 11 on offer.
The cheapest guitar in the S series is the Gibson M2, which has a Les Paul body shape. It features a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and poplar body. The design is rounded out by Gibson Pro-Buckers. There’s six finish options available.
NAMM guitar coverage continues
We’ve been busy covering the best developments from NAMM throughout the week. We interviewed NAMM performer and three-string shovel guitar virtuoso Justin Johnson here. Other news from the event includes new guitar lines from Fender, Squier and ESP.