GIBSON LES PAUL JR. SPECIAL WITH P-100 PICKUPS
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Gibson originally introduced the Les Paul Junior with one P-90 pickup in 1954 as an entry level student guitar. The original Les Paul Junior was a very high quality guitar, sold at a remarkably affordable price of $49.50. Because of its great sound, excellent construction, high quality, and very reasonable price, the Les Paul Junior very quickly became a very popular guitar. In an effort to follow up on the success of the Les Paul Junior, the following year, Gibson introduced the Les Paul Special with two P-90 pickups in 1955. The Les Paul Special was in most respects a Les Paul Junior with two P-90 pickups. Gibson hoped that this guitar would appeal to young musicians who were a bit more than at the beginner level, but who also could not afford a Les Paul Goldtop or a Les Paul Custom. But enough of the history lesson. Recently, Gibson introduced a hybrid of these two guitars, but with some modern innovations added into the mix. The guitar that I will be discussing in this review is the Les Paul Jr. Special with P-100 pickups.
Although the Les Paul Jr. Special may at first glance appear to be similar to a Les Paul Special with P-90 pickups, there is actually a great deal of different between the two in sound, and therefore they are actually very different guitars. The Gibson Les Paul Jr. Special, is not a Custom Shop Reissue guitar, and therefore it is not a faithful reproduction of either a Les Paul Junior or a Les Paul Special from the 1950s. However, it is a great sounding guitar in its own right, and there are actually characteristics about this guitar that some players would actually prefer over either an original Les Paul Junior or an original Les Paul Special, such as a Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece, as compared to the Wraparound Bridge/Tailpiece found on the originals or on a Custom Shop Reissue of the originals. This guitar is available in Natural, Ebony, and Cinnamon finishes. I prefer the Natural finish, as the grain on the Mahogany body is quite beautiful.
The body of the Les Paul Jr. Special is made of a solid slab of flat Mahogany, unlike a higher end or more expensive Les Paul, such as a Les Paul Standard, which has a carved Maple top. The neck is also made of solid Mahogany, and it has 22-frets, and a Rosewood fingerboard. The inlays on the neck are Pearloid Dot Inlays. There is no binding to be found on this guitar, as it is a very simple straight forward design, with no additional frills. The tuning pegs are Green Key, and I found that they did a very good job of holding this guitar in tune quite well. The Les Paul Jr. Special also has a Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece. All of the hardware on the guitar is finished in a rust resistant Chrome.
As to the playability, the neck on the Gibson Les Paul Jr. Special is a 1960s Slim Taper style, which is very sleek and fast, and has a very modern feel. Of course the guitars that this model is based on, namely the Les Paul Special and the Les Paul Junior originally both had thicker, slower, rounded 1950s style necks, which were commonly referred to as baseball bat necks. The neck on the Les Paul Jr. Special is slim, flatter, and very fast. The fingerboard is a medium light Rosewood, and the guitar has 22 frets. The fretwork on the neck was quite good, and I did not notice any sharp edges or overhangs beyond the edge of the fingerboard. I also found bending notes to be an easy chore on this guitar. The contour of the body, as well as the generous single cutaway, permits easy reach to even the highest of the frets, and the construction of the guitar is such that one can even play chords very high up on the neck and close to the body with ease and comfort. This guitar is not a very flashy looking guitar, and is very basic, and there are no extra frills on this guitar, and it is not likely that people will be coming up to you after a gig and start complementing you on the appearance of your guitar. However, they may complement you on the tone of your guitar, as the Les Paul Jr. Special has two secret weapons, namely two P-100 stacked humbucking pickups, but Ill get to discussing those in a moment.
Like most two pickup versions of a Les Paul, the Les Paul Jr. Special guitar has two Volume and two Tone controls, one for each of its pickups, and a three way toggle switch or pickup selector. However, although the original 1954 version of the Les Paul Junior and the 1955 model the Les Paul Special Cutaway came equipped with two P-90 pickups, the Les Paul Jr. Special comes equipped with P-100 pickups.
Because P-100 pickups look identical to P-90 pickups, many people mistakenly think that they are also single coil pickups, and that they are something like high output P-90s. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to understand how this guitar sounds, it is important to have some understanding of exactly what a P-100 pickup is, and what it is not. The P-100 is often mistakenly thought to be a hotter or more powerful version of the classic single coil P-90 pickup. This is far from the truth. The P-100 is not a single coil pickup at all, in fact it is a stacked humbucker designed to look like a standard P-90. The P-100 pickup was designed to be the same size as a P-90, and to fit in the same cover as a P-90, but it is a humbucking pickup and not a single coil pickup like a P-90. The P-100 is often referred to as a Vintage Vertical pickup because it is capable of producing a very warm, vintage humbucking sound. A stacked humbucker does not sound exactly the same as conventional side by side humbucker, nor does it sound the same as a single coil pickup. The P-100 has slightly less high frequency response than a P-90, but much more so than a conventional side-by-side humbucker, without the midrange accentuation associated with humbucking pickups. However, because of its humbucking design, it also has a fatter, warmer, and richer sound than could ever be gotten from a P-90, and it is also a hotter pickup as well. The combination of these pickups along with the solid Mahogany body, produced a very dark, rich tone, with excellent sustain and resonance.
In short, I enjoyed playing this guitar. It is light in weight, feels very well balanced when it is strapped on, feels good and balanced when played in a seated position, and has a very sleek modern feel to the neck. Yes, there are other Gibson guitars that I like better, but they cost three times the amount as this one does. But this is still one very good mid-priced guitar. It is a fun guitar to play. The Les Paul Jr. Special with P-100 Pickups is a guitar that is solidly constructed, and very well made. Like most good Gibson guitars, it plays beautifully, has great tone, and has the classic sound of 1960s rock. It is versatile enough to get a jazz sound, a 60s rock or blues sound, and an early post Beatles British sound. Dont be turned off by the fact that it has stacked coil P-100 pickups, instead of side by side conventional humbuckers, or single coil P-90 pickups. Most people dont know how good these pickups actually really sound. However, if you give this guitar a try, I think you will be pleased with the sound just the way it is. It sounds very good to my ear, and it is very versatile guitar.
Another important point to keep in mind when considering whether to purchase this guitar is that not many Les Paul Jr. Special guitars equipped with P-100 pickups were made, and thus, this model may potentially someday be a model that is sought after by collectors. A final point to keep in mind is that this is a Gibson, and as such, it will hold its value over time in the aftermarket should you ever decide to sell this guitar and get a different one.
With that being said, I want to thank you most sincerely for taking the time to read my review, but now I must get back to my practicing.
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