Meet the Les Paul Faded
by Craig Anderton
(Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what was going on “under the hood” with these guitars. This third article in the series goes into the very different world of the Les Paul Faded.)
“Faded” makes sense as a name when you look at the finish, but this is a very different guitar compared to the Traditional and Classic. It has a stripped-down, no-frills approach—think Clash, not Clapton—which becomes obvious as soon as you notice there’s no binding. It’s also a guitar that’s very stage-friendly, and has a look unlike any of the other 2017 guitars. Here are the details.
Ultra-modern weight relief. This provides the most weight relief of the various types Gibson uses; instead of the holes used in more traditional weight relief, ultra-modern features the wedge shape of modern weight relief but with slightly wider wedges. This not only reduces weight, but adds a resonant quality which some guitar players prefer.
The neck. The Faded neck is a SlimTaper profile, and is maple instead of the usual mahogany (the body remains the traditional mahogany with maple top). For maximum comfort, it has rolled and sealed fretboard edges. The easiest way to describe this is imagine a neck that you’ve played for the past five years, where your fingers did the final sanding…the rolled neck has been sanded in such a way that it feels like that out of the case. Granted all the Gibson necks for 2017 are rolled, but it's a pleasant surprise to find it on a guitar at this price point. Also note that the neck’s position markers are dots instead of trapezoidal inlays.
Vintage-type “Keystone” tuners. These tuners were inspired by Gibson’s very first tuners, so they provide a vintage look. However, the tuners aren’t copies; they use modern manufacturing techniques for better performance.
The electronics. The Faded has the usual two volume/two tone controls, which attach to a circuit board in the control pocket cavity—arguably the most reliable way to handle guitar electronics, if (like me) you see the Faded’s primary home as being the stage.
The look. The Faded has a unique, consistent look. In keeping with the black motif, there are no pickup covers and this reveals the black pickup bobbins underneath. The “Top Hat” knobs are black plastic, as are the pickguard, pickup rings, and even the headstock cover—which is all black, with no lettering.
The finish and top. The finish is pretty interesting; it’s not satiny, but it’s not matte, either. The new finish is what Gibson calls “faded gloss,” and it’s a buffed stain that removes some of the shine but retains most of the “feel” of a glossy finish. As a result, the neck feels a little more like a vintage neck than a new one. The top is a plain top that emphasizes the wood grain. Although the guitar has an overall dark look, the finish has enough “presence” to provide a visual contrast to the black plastics.
Pickups. A 490R for the neck and a 490T for the bridge provide what many consider the “classic” Gibson pickups. As there are no pickup covers there’s a little less attenuation; in terms of overall output, these are very much like the levels on the Classic—more output than the Traditional, but not as much as high-output pickups. As to the tone, the reason why they’re considered as having the essence of the Gibson sound is they’re inspired by Gibson’s original PAF pickups.
Bridge. The bridge is the “old standby” Tune-o-matic type with thumbwheels for height adjustment and a standard stop bar. They’re made of aluminum, with nickel plating for a vintage look and steel posts.
The Faded provides value—the finish isn’t high gloss, there’s no binding, and the inlays are simpler. However, although this isn’t intended to be a review I’d like to get a bit subjective. I really like this guitar’s no-nonsense look…think "stylish punk" (for that reason, I like the worn cherry color more than the worn brown). But also, the feel is surprisingly refined, which I think has a lot to do with the maple neck’s finish and rolled fretboard. I also appreciate that it’s a lot lighter than Les Pauls using more traditional weight relief. This is a guitar I’d gladly take on stage because I really like the playability, and the look makes a strong statement while being tasteful. I have no guitar in my collection like the Faded, and I’m seriously considering adding it…
Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars:
For more information on the Gibson Les Paul Faded please visit Gibson.com
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.