Pros: This is a fabulous sounding guitar.
GIBSON SG CARVED TOP AAA ELECTRIC GUITAR
Without question, one of my favorite guitar designs is the Gibson SG. I have several different models, and each one has its own special sound and feel to it. I have always been a big fan of the Gibson SG in all of its various incarnations, variations, and styles. Now Gibson has come out with another variation of the SG theme, and this one is going to be really hard for me to resist buying. The Gibson SG Carved Top AAA is certainly no exception to the rule, and it has a few very special features which may make it even more desirable to some players than some of the other members of the Gibson SG family. Read on and decide if you may feel that the Gibson SG Carved Top AAA Electric Guitar might be a guitar that you would be interested in adding to your collection, or possibly even making it your main instrument.
Like most Gibson SG Guitars, the Gibson SG Carved Top has a Mahogany body, and a Mahogany neck, and a Rosewood fretboard. This is a tried and true combination of tonewoods that has helped the Gibson SG to be one of the most popular electric guitars ever made. However, there are a few things which set the Gibson SG Carved Top guitar apart from some of the other Gibson SG's. One of the most important aspects of this SG that sets it apart from other Gibson SG's is that it has a AAA Maple Top. What is so special about this? For one thing, adding a AAA Maple Top makes this guitar astonishingly beautiful to look at. AAA Maple is clearly a very choice and prized wood that is noted not only for its beauty, but also for its wonderful tonal qualities. Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the addition of a AAA Maple Top also adds a distinctive tonal difference to this guitar which also sets it apart form other Gibson SG's. As many of you who are reading this review may already know, the Gibson Les Paul Standard has a Mahogany Body with a Maple Top, and it is the addition of the Maple Top which contributes to the Gibson Les Paul Standard having a tone that is so exciting, and which can be sharp and biting, as well as having a remarkable sustain. Well that same combination of a Mahogany body with a Maple top is what is found on the Gibson SG Carved Top. To me this is a very special set of ingredients that add up to making this a remarkable and very special SG. Unfortunately, this combination of special tone woods, in conjunction with some other special features that this guitar has, which I will get into later, also serves to increase the cost of this guitar, and as a result the Gibson SG Carved Top has a list price of $4442.00, which makes it significantly more expensive than most other Gibson SG models. However, the typical discounted sale price for this guitar is $2665.00 from most of the larger national musical instrument chain stores, and that softens the blow to the wallet, at least somewhat. Another feature that sets the Gibson SG Carved Top apart from other Gibson SG's is that production of this guitar is limited. That is a good indication that this guitar may very well be a collector's item some day.
A few other features which set the Gibson SG Carved Top apart from some of the other guitars in the SG family, is that the appearance of the carved top and contours of the body. When viewed from a distance, these features enhance the 3-D appearance of the Gibson SG Carved Top, and gives it the impression of being a thicker and heavier guitar than it actually is. The contours of the body also help to make it feel comfortable to play, either from a seated or standing position. Another very desirable feature of the SG Carved Top is that it comes with 24 frets, as compared to the 22 frets that come with almost every other SG available today. These couple of extra frets might not mean much to some rhythm guitar players, but to those of us who love to hit those searing high notes, a couple of extra frets is a big deal, and it is a very desirable feature.
Another feature that I like about the neck on the Gibson SG Carved Top is that it has a 1950's rounded neck profile. Most Gibson SG's have what is referred to as a slim 1960's profile neck. Although I like a guitar with a 1960's profile neck because it is very fast, I also very much like the 1950's rounded profile neck as well. Because it is thicker, the 1950's profile neck adds to the sustain of the guitar, and it also allows one to get more leverage for string bending. This is something that a potential buyer must try out for themselves, as a thinner more modern neck is favored by many players. Further, the neck on each Gibson Carved Top is slightly different from the next one, as there is some hand sanding of the neck that takes place during the manufacturing process. Thus, each Gibson Carved Top will be slightly different than the next. Personally, I like both the 1950's and 1960's styles of neck, and I have never found it to be a problem in going from a guitar with one style neck to another. However, I have definitely known some people who do not like the 1950's style neck at all, so it is important to play this guitar for yourself to see if it feels comfortable to you. You may find that if you happen to be lucky enough to play this guitar, that although the specs on the Gibson website indicate that the SG Carved Top has a 1950's rounded neck profile, I must confess that to me it seemed a lot less rounded to me, and my guess is that the one I played may have been had a little bit of extra sanding on the neck, and it was a little less rounded. Whatever the case, the neck felt great to me.
Another feature that I very much like about the Gibson SG Carved Top, which is a common feature on many good quality Gibson guitars, is that it has a Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish. Many other guitar companies prefer to use a Polyurethane finish because it is quicker to dry, and takes many less hours of labor to properly complete. However, a Polyurethane finish does not allow the guitar wood to "breath," as it is thick and relatively nonporous. A Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish is thin, and porous, and not only allows the wood to breath, it also interferes much less with the natural vibrations of the wood, and can thus also enhance the overall sustain and natural resonance and overtones of the guitar, and that permits a more natural sound to ring through. An additional bonus to having a guitar with a Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish is that it is significantly easier to repair any damages to the finish than would be the case with a guitar that has a Polyurethane finish. I know this from personal experience, having both built guitars from scratch as well as repairing second hand guitars that I purchased over the years.
To me, perhaps one of the most desirable features of the Gibson SG Carved Top, and the one that really sets it apart from most other Gibson SG's, it that this guitar comes equipped with a Gibson BurstBucker Pro Humbucking Pickup in the Neck Position, and Gibson BurstBucker Pro in the Bridge Position. It is very important to keep in mind that not all Gibson Humbucking Pickups are designed or made the same way or with the same materials, and thus they do not all sound alike. Some have a modern "hot" or high output sound, such as the 498T Humbucker found in the neck position of the SG Standard, and some have a more vintage sound such as the '57 Classic Humbucker found on some SG models, which have a bit less output, and some Gibson Humbucking Pickups are in between variations of the two. The BurstBucker Pro series of Humbucking Pickups have that special vintage Humbucking sound which has that something extra special, which happens to also include uneven windings of the bobbins on the pickup in addition to having hot Alnico 5 magnets. The BurstBucker Pro in the bridge position is a bit hotter than the BurstBucker Pro in the neck position. These pickups are similar in output to the BurstBucker Type 1 and BurstBucker Type 2 pickups that have Alnico II magnets, which can be found on some of the Gibson Custom Shop Guitars. BurstBucker Pro Humbuckers are the pickups that are now commonly found on the modern Gibson Les Paul Standard.
If you would like to read more about some of the special features of the BurstBucker Pro Alnico 5 Humbucking Neck Pickup, and the BurstBucker Pro Alnico 5 Humbucking Bridge Pickup, including the special and distinctive features that set them apart from the rest of the Gibson Humbucking Pickups, click on the links below:
GIBSON BURSTBUCKER PRO ALNICO 5 HUMBUCKING NECK PICKUP
GIBSON BURSTBUCKER PRO ALNICO 5 HUMBUCKING BRIDGE PICKUP
While we are on the subject of the pickups, I should also mention something about the rest of the hardware that can be found on this guitar. The tuning pegs are Grover Kidney Tuners, and they are Chrome platted, as is the rest of the hardware, such as the Tune-O-Matic Bridge, and Stopbar Tailpiece. The Gibson SG Carved Top does not have a pickguard. Although not having a pickguard allows for more of the beautiful finish to be visible, personally I have always clearly and definitely preferred a guitar with a pickguard. I am sure we all know of people who are a bit aggressive in their playing, especially when playing power chords, and needless to say, a guitar without a pickguard could easily be subject to scratching in such situations. Thus, in my opinion, I would have preferred that this guitar come with a pickguard. Could you imagine owning a beautiful guitar like this, and then permitting one of your friends to give it a test drive, and having them scratch the finish as they were trying to see how power chords ala Pete Townsend might sound on this guitar. In my humble, and perhaps neurotic opinion, this guitar needs a pickguard.
And now I would like to turn to the subject of the Volume and Tone Controls, as there are a few issues to discuss here, some good and some not so good. Firstly, there is only one Master Volume and one Master Tone control. Some players are not bothered by this, and actually think it is an advantage. Personally, I do not like this set up. I prefer to have the additional control of having one Volume and one Tone Control for each of the two pickups. This allows for an instantaneous changing of tones with the flipping of the 3-way toggle switch. On the other hand there are those who are not concerned by this, and actually prefer having one less Volume and Tone Control, as this makes for a lighter guitar. Personally, I would rather eat an extra bowl of Wheaties for breakfast and deal with the extra couple of ounces of body weight on the guitar. Another possible problem for some players, but which might be a potential bonus for some other players, has to do with the location of the Volume Control. The Master Volume Control on the Gibson SG Carved Top is closer to the Bridge Pickup than on a more conventional Gibson SG with two Volume Controls. The possible problems associated with this placement are that players who are a bit wild in their windmill chording could potentially slam their pick hand into the Volume Control because it is just below the Bridge Pickup. Personally, I did not experience this, but I could easily see that it could be a potential problem for some other players. A potential bonus of having the Volume Control in this location is that it provides easier access to the Volume Control for subtle or dramatic volume swells. While we are on the subject of the controls, I should also mention that the Volume and Tone Controls guitar are Black Speed Knobs, which make quick adjustments to the settings on the guitar a bit easier to accomplish.
Well how does the Gibson SG Carved Top Electric Guitar play, sound, and feel? This guitar plays like a dream. I loved the overall feel of the guitar. It felt substantial, and not flimsy. The combination of the Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece, in conjunction with the solidly set in neck and Mahogany body and Maple Top make for a guitar with a great sound and superior sustain. The BurstBucker Pro Pickups also add to the sustain, and with a bit of tweaking of the Volume and Tone Controls, you can get just the right amount of creamy sustain, or a really sharp biting sound. Simply put, the sound was a beautiful marriage of both vintage and modern features, and absolutely great. If you are a person who loves the sound of a modern Les Paul Standard, but just do not like dealing with a guitar that weighs as much as a Les Paul does, then this is the guitar for you. The Gibson SG Carved Top actually has much more in common in tone and sound with a modern Gibson Les Paul Standard with BurstBucker Pro Pickups than it has with a Gibson SG Standard with a 498T Humbucker in the bridge position and a 490R Humbucker in the Neck position.
Well I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my review, but now if you will please excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.