Brothers in Arms - the Les Paul Studio and Standard
By Anderton |
Brothers in Arms - the Les Paul Studio and Standard
They seem similar, but just how similar are they?
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 fifth article in the series compares the Les Paul Studio and Les Paul Standard.)
The Les Paul Standard (top) and Les Paul Studio (bottom) have some similarities, especially when it comes to playability. The main differences are in the cosmetics and electronics; in some ways the Studio is a simpler version of the Standard. So, let’s compare the differences and find out what “extras” go into the Les Paul Standard.
The body. The visual difference starts with the body—the Standard (left) has a Grade AAA flamed maple figured top, binding, and a bound neck, while the Studio (right) has a Grade A plain maple top. Other than those differences, the body and neck use the classic recipe of mahogany tonewoods.
The neck. While they appear similar at first due to the trapezoidal inlays, look at the back of the neck; the Studio has a conventional SlimTaper neck compared to the Standard’s asymmetrical SlimTaper neck. While both are “modern” necks, the asymmetrical neck (which is quite a bit more difficult to manufacture) has a slight bulge where your thumb rests to reduce fatigue when playing long sessions. Both have rosewood fingerboards, but the Standard’s design uses a compound radius, which means the curve is a little flatter at the highest frets. The Studio uses the more traditional approach of a standard curve throughout the fingerboard’s length.
Weight relief. Speaking of modern, both guitars feature Ultra-Modern weight relief—the choice of many guitar players for extended playing, and a bit of added resonance. This uses the same type of “wedge” cutout as modern weight relief, but extends the wedge’s width somewhat.
Pickups and controls. The Standard’s Burstbucker Pro Rhythm and Burstbucker Pro Lead (left) have just a shade more output than the Studio’s 490R and 498T (right), but the controls offer a more significant difference. While both have the traditional two volume/two tone configuration, and both volume controls are push-pull types that turn on Gibson’s Tuned Coil Tap circuit, the Standard has an additional push-pull switch for phase switching and other for pure bypass.
The pure bypass feature sends your pickups directly to the output jack, bypassing the volume and tone controls. However, it also has a “hidden talent” because it’s like having two presets on your guitar—pure bypass, and whatever volume and tone settings are in play when you’re not using pure bypass.
If you’re not familiar with the Tuned Coil Tap circuit, it’s nothing like the old school coil taps that reduced volume and thinned the sound. Instead, the Tuned Coil Tap gives a single-coil tone, but with more character and less “brittleness” than standard single-coil pickups.
Tuners and bridge. Both guitars use Grover kidney-style tuners, but the Standard has locking tuners. Returning to what they do have in common, the bridge and stopbar are aluminum Tone-o-matic models with steel thumbwheels and chrome plating.
Knobs and plastics. It’s probably not surprising that the highly functional Studio has speed knobs, while the Standard goes for a more sophisticated vibe with amber top hats. As to the pickup rings and pickguards, the Standard’s colors are Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Honey Burst, Bourbon Burst, and Blueberry Burst (which would be my choice—just sayin’). Because these are all light colors, the plastics are cream colored. However the Studio is a different story. While it uses cream for the Wine Red model, the darker Ebony and Black Cherry Bursts have black pickup rings and pick guards.
My main guitar has been a 2014 Les Paul Standard, so I’m intimately familiar with what the Standard is all about. Although I’d like to think I’m not swayed by visuals and judge guitars solely on their playability, I have to admit that the figured top and binding really do appeal to me. That said, although I do prefer the Standard's asymmetrical neck and electronics, I feel the biggest difference between the guitars is indeed the visuals. Tone-wise, both have the Tuned Coil Tap, which I think is one of the more underappreciated features; and the Ultra-Modern weight relief is very much welcome once I get past about two hours of playing. You get value with the Studio and luxury with the Standard, but they’re in the same league when it comes to tone and playability. . - HC -
Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars:
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.