Gibson Electric Guitar is one of the most well-known and sought after brands of guitar on the market-- and for good reason. With the use of high-quality materials and a wealth of knowledge for shaping the tone of a guitar, they offer something for every kind of guitar player.
That said, this means there is a wealth of different options to choose from, and the various combinations of features can be difficult to distinguish. That is why we put together a list of the 9 best Gibson electric guitar reviews.
As the bulk of the guitar, the body is one of the more relevant parts of a guitar, but its effect remains a bit more generalized than anything else. The body of the guitar impacts the resonance of the sound based on the type of wood used and its construction.
By far, the most common type of material used for a Gibson guitar body is mahogany as this provides a strong, solid profile that allows the resonance to maintain a rich, warm tone with a little bit more articulation for the bass frequencies. Gibson, in particular, tends to use mahogany for the bulk of the guitar body, adding maple for the top wood to balance out the tone a bit.
Beyond the type of wood used, the specifics of the body’s construction also play an important role in shaping the tone of the sound. In this instance, you want as little open space in the guitar as possible to remove as much acoustic reverberation as possible.
After the body, the other major part of a guitar is the neck, though the various components often impact the guitar’s sound as much as the different parts. There are a couple of different qualities that determine how the neck affects the tone with both the wood and the fastening being the most important.
Like with the body, Gibson favors mahogany and maple woods for the neck but tend to lean a bit more towards maple than mahogany. This is because maple provides a bit more strength and durability than mahogany while offering plenty of sustain to the tone.
Outside of the type of wood used, the way that the neck is fastened to the body also impacts durability and tone. The lowest level of construction is the bolt-on method which is cheap and easy but does not provide the best durability or sustain.
After the bolt-on method, the set-in method is the next step up and is noted for both increasing the durability as well as adding more sustain and a warmer tone. The neck-through attachment is the highest level and is easily the most durable and provides additional sustain above the set-in attachment.
The fretboard sits on the front of the neck where the guitarists hold down the strings to play a given note. It carries the same need for a solid build and type of wood used as the body and neck for pretty much the same reasons.
That said, Gibson fretboards will use other types of wood outside of maple and mahogany with Ironwood being fairly common. Ironwood is much denser than mahogany and maple making it more durable and heavier, but it adds a touch of brightness to the tone.
Pickups are the components that register the vibration from the string and transmits it to the amp. With pickups, there are two main types used, the single-coil and humbucker, both providing slightly different tonal qualities.
Single-coils are the original type of pickup and offer an incredibly dynamic range for the guitar’s voice but can also impart a bit of noise or hum to the signal. Single-coil pickups do not handle distortion all that well which makes them good for music where the clarity of voice is important.
Humbuckers, on the other hand, remove additional noise, but they also provide a narrower tonal range. Humbuckers, because of their double-coil construction, handle distortion better than any other kind of pickup, making them great for heavier, grittier music.
There are also P90 pickups that split the difference between single-coils and humbuckers and work well for blues and lighter rock. Finally, mini-humbuckers use the double-coil design of a humbucker, but their smaller size produces a brighter tone than the standard humbucker.
The bridge is reasonably important, but most of the differences provide ease when stringing the guitar-- assuming it is a high-quality bridge. While different metals are used, there is not that much difference in the effect of materials, though some suggest that aluminium and other metals produce a better sustain.
However, bridge materials matter more for acoustic guitars than they do electric, so you should not get too wrapped up in it. One thing that can make a bit of a difference is the ability to slightly adjust the distance between the string and the nut.
This adjustment allows you to lengthen or shorten the distance a bit so that deeper strings can produce just a little bit more resonance. Gibson guitars tend to use their Tune-o-Matic bridges which allow you to adjust the distance between the bridge and nut for every string.
Best Gibson Electric Guitar. Buying Guide.
While not necessarily the most popular Gibson model, the non-reverse is slowly making a comeback as people look for uncommon or unique guitars. You might not find a non-reverse plastered across magazines, but some of the biggest musicians of the 60s and 70s used non-reverse Gibsons.
While the original non-reverse Gibsons did have a few issues, time heals all wounds, and Gibson made sure not to repeat the same mistakes that stunted the first few editions with their limited run, re-release.
One of the nicer qualities of the non-reverse Firebird is its build which produces a rich tone that provides plenty of sustain. A big part of this comes from the use of mahogany for the upper and general body as well as the neck with a rosewood fretboard being the only divergence in this regard.
The 57’ Classic Plus Alnico II humbuckers also offer a nice range of tones that can switch from smooth and creamy to rich and full, regardless of the overdrive. That said, these pickups are not noted for being able to push the tone as hard as some of the other pickups on our list.
One thing that kept the non-reverse Firebird from becoming a bigger hit in its day is its bulky size. On top of that, it is also one of the heavier guitars that we reviewed and it has a neck-heavy balance that not everyone will enjoy.
On the other hand, it is also one of the more affordable Gibson’s on our list too while still offering that great Gibson sound.
The Faded T offers a far more traditional setup than many of the other guitars on our list, so if you are looking for a more modern Gibson sound, this might be one of the better options on our list. Keep in mind, this also means that your guitar will sound similar to other people's, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Following the standard Gibson build, the body uses mahogany for the body with the top using maple for a well-rounded sound. On top of that, the 490R and 490T humbuckers provide that rich, warm tone most people favor.
That said, the 2017 Faded T is also known for finish issues, so this might be a guitar best reserved for experienced players who want to customize their guitar. On the plus side, this Gibson comes with a SlimTaper neck that allows for some of the easiest articulation on our list.
This is also the first guitar we reviewed with the full range of volume and tone controls for each of the pickups. The nickel TOM bridge and stop also provide a nice tone and sustain, though it is not my personal favorite.
If I had to choose a Gibson guitar without knowing who the player was, I might choose the SG Special. While some of the Gibson electric guitars we reviewed offer a range of standard features, this one splits the middle in more ways than most.
For instance, the SG Special sticks with mahogany throughout the body, rather than using multiple kinds of wood, which keeps the tones deeper and richer than most and provides some of the best sustain I heard. I also felt like the SG Special offered one of the widest ranges and dynamic sounds I came across too.
The Plek Pro frets fully live up to their reputation making articulation easy and consistent without any unwanted pitch-shifting. That said, the SG Special needs to be tuned more often than some of the other guitars on our list.
Still, this is one of the less expensive Gibsons and is a great beginner guitar and the thick rosewood fretboard combined with the Plek Pro processing and taper neck make a good all-around feel. The P-90 pickups do a great job of giving you enough crunch when you need it, though they do not reduce the noise as much as I would have liked.
Gibson electric guitars are not only known for being some of the best sounding instruments in their class, but they also span more fits than many other makers as well. This is one of the defining qualities of the Studio 50’s Tribute which may not suit all players but fills its niche perfectly.
If you want something with a bit more heft without being too bulky, the Studio 50’s Tribute is a great option. The classic 1 11/16” neck is a bit thicker than some of the other options on our list, but fits well in trained hands and is great for most genres-- outside of maybe prog depending on the size of your hands.
The 490R and 490T humbuckers do a solid job providing a fairly standard sound with the T seeming to jump out a bit more. Another great feature is the Plek processing so you do not have to worry about misplaced frets causing tuning issues.
To keep the price down, Gibson does not include all of the bells and whistles on the Studio 50’s Tribute that it does with some of their other models. This shows up both with the components as well as the appointments which are nice, but not special.
If I am being honest, this was easily my favorite of the group, though I tend to look for the nail that sticks out rather than the comfortable, familiar option. That said, I do not think that the 1959 Les Paul Standard VOS is the right option for everyone, especially within the Gibson lineup.
This comes down to the fact that the 1959 Les Paul Standard VOS provides a much brighter and cleaner tone than most of their other models. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but most people looking for a Gibson probably expect that deep, warm tone the company is known for.
Part of this comes from the use of Burstbucker pickups that makes the sound bite a bit more than you might expect. However, these pickups also offer a more controlled tone at both the bridge and the neck, so you do not have to worry about fiddling too much.
The standard Gibson body also offers a great sustain and the ABR-1 TOM bridge only adds to that effect. I also appreciate how the high-quality components ensure that I get the tone I expect every time I pick it up.
In terms of negatives, the only thing that comes to mind is the pretty hefty price. On top of that, you will want to keep its finish maintained as it is known to fade more over time than some of the others we saw.
While some of the Gibson electric guitars we reviewed offer a unique sound in different ways, the Custom Shop 1957 VOS might be the most unique on our list. For this reason, we recommend this model over the others, because you can always switch out the components which make it unique but may not be able to get ahold of them quite as easily for a more standard model.
Keeping all of this in mind, the Custom Shop 1957 VOS produces a sound like no other I heard thanks to a couple of features. For one, this is the only guitar on our list that uses hide glue, providing one of the strongest seals that increase the signal transfer better than most.
On top of that, the Custombucker pickups produce an aural quality that is difficult to replicate without serious fine-tuning. This guitar also comes with some of Gibson’s best components to maintain a true signal and tone throughout.
The body does not push the mold but still uses the reliable combination of mahogany and maple to get a good mix of rich tones and sustain. However, the inclusion of Brazilian rosewood for the fretboard offers an amazing aesthetic as well as awesome sonic qualities.
For a truly striking guitar, it is hard to pass up the Redwood Les Paul Standard, though it might be difficult to even get your hands on one. Regardless, the redwood top with the fine high-gloss finish makes the wood grain pop in a way few guitars do.
On top of that, the fretboard also uses ironwood which is incredibly strong and durable, if a bit on the heavier side. Still, the ironwood fretboard imparts a somewhat brighter tone than most people expect from a Gibson but not so much to stray away from the sustain they often demand.
However, that construction is then balanced out with '57 Classic & Plus pickups that make sure the tone does not get too bright. Of course, if you play heavier genres, you might want to skip these pickups as they do not punch the way others do.
The Grover licking kidney tuners and TOM titanium saddle bridge provide what I found to be the most consistent and maintained tuning out of any guitar we reviewed. It also does not hurt that the premium appointments only add to the body’s already gorgeous design.
Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar
The Epiphone Les Paul offers something a little bit different, but it does not stray too far off course from what you expect out of a Gibson. The asymmetrical SlimTaper neck may not feel natural at first, but it is designed to fit better than the symmetrical style, sitting more in the palm.
Of course, this Gibson stays in line with most of the company's other models in build, using mahogany and maple and giving a great sustain. The Burstbucker pickups use both the 1 and 2, so you have some options in terms of tonal shaping-- though they are not going to grind quite as much as some of the others we saw.
One thing that might not sit well with everyone is that the Epiphone Les Paul is one of the heavier models we reviewed. On top of that, it can take a little bit longer to get a handle on how to fine-tune it than most others we came across.
That said, part of this comes from the TunePros TOM bridge and the internal dip switches. However, it is hard to argue with the quality of the hand-wired electronics and high-end electric components used.
This is another model that works well for pretty much anyone thanks to several qualities designed to fit a wide range of styles and musicians. Of course, this also means that the SG Standard does not stand out as much as some of the other options we reviewed.
The body of the guitar is made out of mahogany without the common maple top, so expect a deeper tone with plenty of sustain. That said, the inclusion of standard 490R and 490T pickups further cements the common sound profile of the SG Standard.
This works well to provide a sound that most people are comfortable with, but it also tends to reduce the range a bit more than some of the other options we reviewed. Though, it is one of the more affordable models, albeit not one of the cheapest.
The premium appointments make the SG Standard a nice looking guitar without taking away from the standard design. Oddly, the Grover Rotomatic tuners and Nashville TOM bridge work well enough but do not help keep this guitar tuned.
When it comes right down to it, the best Gibson electric guitar for you will likely not be the best Gibson electric guitar for someone else. Even if the price does not matter, the comfort, style, and tone definitely do, and our list offers a wide range of options.
It is hard to pass up a Gibson SG Standard which day in and day out provides a great sound that works for a wide range of genres and which most people are already comfortable with. The only real issue is that it does not stay tuned quite as well as some of the other models we came across.
That said, you get high-quality components at a much cheaper cost with the SG standard, so those looking to save a few thousand might want to start there. As one of the lighter guitars on our list with premium Gibson appointments, it makes a solid gift for an intermediate player too.