Gibson has announced the arrival of the Les Paul Modern Studio – a streamlined, yet sleek and contoured take on the firm’s classic simplified LP, the Les Paul Studio.
Traditionally, the role of the Gibson Les Paul Studio has been to offer a more affordable take on the Les Paul Standard that maintains the core qualities of the model, while stripping back on the cosmetic flourishes.
The new Les Paul Modern Studio performs a similar role, but is based on the firm’s forward-thinking Les Paul Modern build. As such, it has the refined features of that model where it counts – the way it feels and sounds – but is able to shave almost $1,000 off the price of the standard Les Paul Modern.
So what does that actually mean when it comes to the spec? Well, you get the same Ultra-Modern weight-relieved mahogany body and maple top, plus that Slim Taper neck with the Modern’s contoured heel – enabling significantly better upper-fret access.
Meanwhile, like the Modern LP, it has a compound radius neck with a bound ebony fretboard with the Slim Taper profile (though we’re waiting to confirm whether or not it carries across the asymmetrical profile). You might not see the binding, but it’s there, just in a subtle black.
It also carries across the wealth of switching options, with two push-pull volume pots for coil-tapping and two push-pull tone pots for phase and pure bypass switching, alongside the usual three-way toggle pickup selector.
The hardware selection is also ported over, with Grover Rotomatic tuners with keystone buttons, aluminum Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stop Bar tailpiece.
It’s an impressive spec, and all the more so given this one is set to retail for $1,999. Yes that comes in $300 over the existing Studio, but it still shaves a third off the Les Paul Modern’s $2,999. So why is there such a significant slice off the price?
Well, some of that will be down to the pickups. The Studio comes equipped with a set of 490R and 498T humbuckers – the same ‘Modern Classic’ found in the existing Studio, plus its other recent affordable US launch, the Modern Lite and its (highly rated but now discontinued) maple-necked Les Paul Tribute. That set retails for around $100 less than the Les Paul Modern’s Burstbucker Pros.
Then there’s acrylic inlays, instead of mother of pearl, and, most noticeable, a simpler, unbound finish – available in Wine Red or Smokehouse Satin, or Worn White – though it is still a nitrocellulose lacquer. (There’s also a Gibson-exclusive Manhattan Midnight Blue option listed on the site.) And it’s all topped off with a plain black scratchplate and a soft shell case, as opposed to a pricier hard case.
Even with those caveats, assuming it plays as well as the Modern (and there’s no reason it shouldn’t), the Modern Studio looks like a comparatively smart purchase.
Swapping pickups is an easy option down the line (though the equipped options will serve you fine), but all the switching and comfort features of the Modern are already included here and for a significantly lower price point. Which means it really comes down to a question of aesthetics.
Looks do count (and for more than we sometimes care to admit), but we don’t doubt that for a significant segment of players the Modern Studio will offer more than enough spec to sway them over.
As mentioned, the Modern Studio is the second sub-$2K USA Les Paul we’ve seen hit the market in recent months, with the more slimmed-down, utilitarian Modern Lite arriving at a price point of $1,499 back in November.
You might, therefore, be forgiven for thinking Gibson is pivoting slightly towards more affordable models as the cost of living issues continue to reverberate throughout the guitar industry.
However, it’s more likely the latest step in an ongoing strategy to hit a really wide range of price points – with the likes of Epiphone’s top-end Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop line and the new Moderns filling the chasm that once existed between Gibson Brands USA and Epiphone builds.
Likewise, you can see the same thinking playing out at the other end of the USA series, with the astronomically priced Custom Shop Murphy Lab Les Pauls with Brazilian Rosewood sitting (very) pretty at $20K.
That all said, we also note the Gibson site is now also listing the Les Paul Modern as discontinued. Whether or not we’ll get a replacement option, or if Gibson will leave players to pick between the Modern Studio and Modern Figured ($3,499), remains to be seen.
For more information on the Modern Studio, head to Gibson.