Gibson Les Paul Standard 2017 - T and HP
By Phil O'Keefe |
Gibson Les Paul Standard 2017 - T and HP
Two Standards - which one will come out on top?
by Phil O'Keefe
When I last looked at the Gibson Les Paul Standard it was the 2014 model and Gibson offered only one "version" of that guitar. Subsequently Gibson introduced a Les Paul Standard with several modern improvements. While these have been very popular with some musicians, others prefer a more traditional rendering of this iconic instrument. So for 2017, Gibson Guitars (which, like Harmony Central, is a Gibson Brand), is offering players a choice between the Les Paul Standard HP (High Performance) and Les Paul Standard T (Traditional). What's the difference, and which one is right for you? Let's take both of them for a spin and find out. (Note: For consistency, pictures that show the same areas of both guitars for comparison have the Standard T image first, followed by the Standard HP. )
What You Need To Know
- First, let's consider what both guitars have in common. The basic body shape is the same classic shape you've known for years, and when viewed at a distance it would be hard to tell them apart based on the basic design.
- Both guitars stick with the classic formula of a cream-bound, figured maple cap on top of a mahogany body, and feature the traditional 24 3/4" scale length. Both guitars are chambered using Gibson's ultra-modern weight relief that makes them considerably lighter than the Les Pauls of my youth - these guitars weigh in the 8.5 to 9 pound range.
- Both instruments have thicker bound rosewood fingerboards, with acrylic trapezoid inlays on the Standard T, and mother of pearl used for the inlays on the Standard HP.
- Both necks have black dot side position markers on the side binding.
- You'll find some notable differences at the headstock, with the Standard T featuring Grover locking kidney tuners with an 18:1 ratio, while the Standard HP comes equipped with Gibson's high-tech G-Force robotic tuners, which I found to be both faster and more reliable than their earlier Min-ETune robotic tuners that I reviewed previously.
- Each guitar has a different truss rod cover, with the usual black plastic Standard type on the Standard T and a brushed chrome Standard High-Performance cover on the Standard HP.
- Another difference you'll notice up near the headstock are the different nuts. The Standard T has a TekToid nut, while the HP comes with a titanium zero fret nut that can be easily adjusted for height. Slide guitar anyone? The adjustable nut, along with the G Force's ability to save and quickly switch to open tunings means the Standard 2017 HP can be converted over for slide use quite easily, so you don't necessarily need to dedicate a guitar to slide duties anymore.
- The width at the nut is slightly different too, with the Standard T measuring 1.695" wide at the nut and the HP being a bit wider at 1.745".
- The bound necks on both instruments are mahogany, and both have an asymmetrical SlimTaper profile and are similar in terms of thickness, measuring about .800" thick at the first fret and closer to .875" at the 12th fret.
- Both guitars have 22 frets and a 10"-16" compound fingerboard radius. This gets progressively flatter as you move further up the neck, giving you the best of both worlds - a slightly curvier radius closer to the nut for easier chording, and a flatter one up higher for easier string bends and soloing.
- The HP's slightly wider Soloist neck also has a fast-access heel that gives superb access to the upper frets. The T has a standard neck joint.
- Both guitars have their setups done using the Plek system, and their setups were both perfect right out of the boxes, with low action and spot-on intonation.
- The Standard T has a beautiful AAA flame maple top, with the review unit finished in a glossy, smoky Bourbon Burst finish that sort of reminds me of a glass of JD over ice. The HP has a even more stunning AAAA flamed maple top, with a Blueberry Burst finish that draws appreciative comments from virtually everyone who has seen it in person.
- Both models are offered in the same four high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finishes. In addition to the ones already mentioned, they're available in the classic Heritage Cherry Sunburst, as well as a similar but lighter Honey Burst that looks similar to a regular sunburst where the red has mellowed and faded a bit with age. All four colors look great, so I can see where it might be hard to make a choice.
- There are some differences, as well as a lot of similarities in the electronics packages of the two instruments. Both guitars have Gibson Rhythm Pro pickups in the neck position. These humbuckers have AlNiCo 5 magnets with 5,000 winds on the screw side coil and 5,200 winds on the slug side coil, with a DC resistance of 7640 Ohms.
- The bridge pickup is a Lead Pro in the Les Paul Standard 2017 T and a Lead Pro + in the Standard 2017 HP. The Lead Pro has AlNiCo 5 magnets with 5,300 wraps on the screw side coil and 5,500 winds on the slug side coil, and a DC resistance of 7980 Ohms, while the Lead Pro + in the Standard HP, which also uses AlNiCo 5 magnets, is a bit hotter still, with 5,500 wraps on the screw side coil and 5,750 wraps on the slug side coil, and a DC resistance of 8570 Ohms. Machine winding with 42 gauge enamel wire is used on all of the pickups.
- The knurled chrome control knobs on the Standard HP, along with the chrome tops on the pickup rings, help give it a more modern look than the Standard T, which comes equipped with four amber Top Hat knobs and standard cream plastic pickup rings.
- Like the Standard T, the Standard HP has two volume knobs and two tone controls - one for each pickup - and the three-way toggle pickup selector of a traditional Les Paul.
- Both guitars feature Push / Pull controls on all four knobs.
- For single coil tones, pulling the Neck and/or Bridge pickup Volume knob provides a coil split for their respective pickups.
- Pulling up the Neck Tone knob provides phase reversal, which produces a thinner tone when you use both pickups together.
- Pulling the Bridge Tone knob activates Pure Bypass, which sends the the Bridge pickup output directly to the output jack, bypassing all volume and tone controls.
- On top of this, inside the HP's control cavity are five DIP switches that give you even more options:
- DIP switch 1 selects between a Neck Tap (switch off) and Neck Split (switch on) when you pull the Neck Volume knob.
- DIP switch 2 does the same as DIP switch 1, except for the Bridge pickup and Bridge Volume knob.
- DIP switch 3 on offers a Neck Volume High Pass Filter / Treble Bleed, which helps keep the tone from getting darker when you roll off the Volume control. Flipping DIP switch 3 off bypasses this.
- DIP switch 4 does the same as DIP switch 3, except it applies to the Bridge pickup and Volume control.
- DIP switch 5 is a "Transient Control" switch. Designed for use with digital devices (e.g., digital processors, audio interfaces, etc., it reduces spikes or transients that some interfaces capture when you're recording direct through a high impedance input. This allows for more headroom, yet doesn't affect the tone; nor does it require batteries.
- The Les Paul Standard 2017 T has a standard chrome-plated, aluminum Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece, while the Les Paul Standard 2017 HP's Tune-O-Matic bridge is aluminum with titanium saddles. The thumbwheels are steel, and locking on the Standard 2017 HP.
- Both guitars come with a velvet accessory bag with warranty and other information, a polishing cloth, a nice Gibson-branded black leather strap, and a really cool compact Gibson Multi-Tool. The Standard HP adds a charger for the G-Force tuner battery to the accessories bag, as well as information about how to use the G-Force tuners.
- The cases for the two guitars are different too, with the Standard T coming equipped with the usual hardshell Les Paul case while the Standard HP is equipped with a premium aluminum Gibson case that looks remarkably like Spock's photon torpedo coffin in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Either case will do a good job of protecting your guitar, although the HP aluminum case looks more high-tech and is arguably cooler.
- While the Les Paul Standard 2017 T comes with a pickguard in the accessory pocket of the case that you can install if you want, I found that the pickguard was already installed on the Les Paul Standard 2017 HP. Considering the HP has a higher grade top (and leaving the pickguard off exposes more of it) I would have expected the opposite.
- While Gibson does give you a choice and supplies a pickguard for both models, if you're a fan of the old "poker chip" plastic ring under the pickup switch, you're out of luck - you won't find one on either guitar, or inside either guitar case. The reason Gibson stopped using them? They're no longer needed since they found a way to install the switch without risk of marring the guitar's top, even without using the protective ring. You can add one if you want so it's not a major omission, but leaving it off does expose more of the beautifully figured maple tops.
- You can't pick and choose which features you'd like to combine in order to make a truly custom instrument, but the two versions of the Standard that are available do provide more options than ever before, and chances are that one or the other of these fine guitars will meet your needs.
- While I really like the form fitting interior of it, the aluminum case that comes with the Standard 2017 HP is a bit heavier, and I suspect the outer aluminum will show dings and marks faster than the Standard style case if you travel with it a lot.
It's really cool that Gibson is offering players a choice - a more traditional Les Paul Standard, or one with modern high-performance enhancements. Not everyone is caught up in tradition, and not everyone wants to see changes made to an icon; this way, both can get what they want. And once you sit down and play one of these guitars, there's a good chance you're going to want one or the other - they are very impressive instruments.
It's easy to think of the HP as being the flashier, more modern guitar, and in some ways it definitely is - yet there are some modern refinements to the Les Paul Standard 2017 T as well (such as the push/pull switching pots, ultra-modern weight relief, and compound radius fingerboard) that make it sweeter than ever. The Standard 2017 HP also has a higher-grade top, although I think few people would find anything to fault about the appearance of the Standard 2017 T's nicely figured AAA maple top. The difference in tuners is where modernity really shows what's possible on the Standard HP, and I found I like the G-Force tuners even better than the previous Min-ETune units, which I like and use regularly on one of my own guitars.
So which guitar comes out on top? It's really hard to say, because both are winners. I have smaller hands so I went into this review thinking I'd probably prefer the slightly narrower neck of the Les Paul Standard 2017 T, but I found that in conjunction with the SlimTaper, asymmetrical profile, the slightly wider Soloist neck on the Standard 2017 HP worked better for me than I imagined it would. I also love the ease of access to the highest frets that it provides. While both guitars have beautiful finishes and lovely tops, the higher-grade one on the Standard 2017 HP looks a bit prettier, although the flame and figuring in the Standard T's top will earn it plenty of compliments too.
If you were to force me to pick one or the other, I think I'd opt for the Les Paul Standard 2017 HP. Sure, it costs a bit more, but I think it's worth it for what you're getting in terms of the fast and versatile high tech tuners, somewhat better-grade top, and improved access to the high frets. For me, either guitar would make a great lifetime musical partner that I'd be proud to own due to the great playability and legendary sound. So the question isn't really which one would I pick, but which one will you choose? And really, the only way to make that decision is to head down to a Gibson dealer and give both a try. I think you'll be glad you did. -HC-
Have questions or comments about this review? Want to talk about which guitar you prefer? Then check out this thread in the Electric Guitar forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Gibson Les Paul Standard 2017 T and Les Paul Standard 2017 HP (Les Paul Standard T $4,669.00 MSRP, $2,799.00 "street", Les Paul Standard HP $5.329.00 MSRP, $3,199.00 "street")
Gibson Les Paul Standard T product web page
Gibson Les Paul Standard HP product web page
You can purchase the Gibson Les Paul Standard in either form from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.