Les Paul Special With P-100 Pickups Reviews

Les Paul Special With P-100 Pickups

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GIBSON LES PAUL SPECIAL WITH P-100 PICKUPS

May 30, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:This is a very good sounding guitar.

Cons:None.

The Bottom Line: This is a very good sounding guitar, and very few of these guitars were made with P-100 Pickups.


GIBSON LES PAUL SPECIAL WITH P-100 PICKUPS


Gibson originally introduced the Les Paul Special in 1955, as guitar priced between the low cost entry level Les Paul Junior, and the Les Paul model which eventually became known as the Les Paul Standard. Unfortunately, the Les Paul Special, along with the entire group of Les Paul guitars, was not a popular guitar with the public, and eventually the whole line Les Paul guitars was discontinued at the end of 1962. Of course, we all know that that did not last very long. Once people like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page began singing the praises of the discontinued Les Paul line of guitars in the mid-1960’s, a buying craze among musicians and collectors began to take place, and very soon thereafter everything with the Les Paul name on it became highly sought after. Gibson realized that they had a hit on their hands, and they eventually resurrected the whole line of Les Paul guitars, and added many different variations and incarnations to the original designs of these legendary guitars. But enough of the history lesson, the guitar that I will be discussing today in this review is the Gibson Les Paul Special with P-100 Pickups.


Wait a minute, I hear some of you reading this review saying, “I thought the Les Paul Special came with P-90’s,” and I also hear some of you saying, “I thought the Les Paul Special came with Humbucking pickups.” Well, you are all correct. Depending on the year you are talking about, you would be correct in saying the Les Paul Special comes equipped with P-90’s, P-100’s, or Humbucking pickups. The reason I am choosing to review the Les Paul Special with P-100’s is simple. That is the guitar that is being depicted in the picture that accompanies this review, and as such, to review a different incarnation of the Les Paul Special would be misleading.


Although the Les Paul Special may at first glance appear to be similar to the Custom Shop 1960 Les Paul Special Single Cutaway Reissue, they are actually very different guitars, with a very big difference in price between them. The Gibson Les Paul Special Single Cutaway is not a Custom Shop Reissue guitar, and therefore it is not a faithful reproduction of the original guitar that debuted in 1955. 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 the original, or the Custom Shop Reissue, such as a Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece, as compared to the Wraparound Bridge/Tailpiece found on the Custom Shop Reissue. This guitar is available in TV Yellow, Heritage Cherry, Tobacco Sunburst, Ebony, and Cinnamon.


The body of the Les Paul Special with P-100 Pickups 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. The only binding to be found on the guitar is on the neck, and it is a simple single-ply cream color. The tuning pegs are simple Button Tuners, but I found that they did a very good job of holding this guitar in tune quite well. Unlike the Custom Shop Reissue, which has a Wraparound Bridge/Tailpiece, the current incarnation of the Les Paul Special Single Cutaway 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, I love the neck on the Gibson Les Paul Special Single Cutaway. The neck is a 1960’s Slim Taper style, which is very sleek and fast. The fingerboard is a medium light Rosewood, and the guitar has 22 frets. 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. As stated earlier, the tuning pegs are also chrome with white button end pieces, which adds to the vintage appearance, but I should note that I have seen models of this guitar equipped with Green Key Tuners.


Like all two pickup versions of a Les Paul Special, this 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 1955 model the Les Paul Special Single Cutaway came equipped with two P-90 pickups, this version of the Les Paul Special comes equipped with P-100 pickups.


Does having P-100 pickups instead of P-90 pickups effect the sound of this guitar? You bet it does. The P-90 pickup is a single coil pickup that was introduced in 1946, and of course the P-90’s preceded the introduction of the humbucking pickups in 1957. As such, the P-90 pickups are capable of producing a very vintage sound.

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 a P-90’s on steroids. 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.


All early pickup designs were single coil designs, such as the P-90, which itself debuted in 1946. Single coil pickups have, you guessed it, a single coil of wire, and although they are specifically designed to pickup the sound of the strings on a guitar, they can act like an antenna, and may also pickup unwanted radiation or signals from the air, such as 60 cycle hum from electrical house wiring, electric appliances, and florescent lighting. Humbucking pickups on the other hand have two coils, and each coil has wiring that is wound with opposing electrical polarity. The polarity of the noise signal, or unwanted hum, that is picked up is thus negated or “bucked” because the signals are going in opposite directions, and the result is that they cancel each other out. Typically, humbucking pickups have two coils that are side by side. However, the P-100 is a “stacked” humbucker, and it has two reversed single coil pickups or wound bobbins of wire that are stacked one on top of the other, which serve to cancel out unwanted noise and hum. 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” hump 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.


How hot is the P-100? Well, for comparison purposes, a P-100 has more output than a Gibson Burstbucker Pro, a Burstbucker # 2, a 490R, and/or a 1957 PAF Classic Humbucking Pickup. On the other hand, a P-100 has less output than a Gibson Burstbucker # 3, 498T, 496R and/or a 500T Humbucking Pickup. The P-100 has the same output as a 1957 PAF Classic Plus and a P-94T Pickup.


In short, I really liked this guitar. The neck was fast, the body was light, and the pickups sounded great. I will admit that there are Gibson’s that I like better, such as a Custom Shop Reissue, but then again a Custom Shop guitar costs a significantly greater amount of money, and after all, in this world you usually get what you pay for. But this is still one great mid-priced guitar. It is a fun guitar to play. It is light enough to play for an all night gig, and it is well balanced, and not to neck heavy. The Les Paul Special Single Cutaway 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 1960’s rock. It is versatile enough to get a jazz sound, a 60’s rock sound, a blues sound, and an early post Beatles invasion British sound.


For those who want the sound of a guitar with single coil pickups, and who prefer the feel of a Gibson over a Fender, I would suggest getting a model of the Les Paul Special Single Cutaway that is equipped with P-90 pickups. For those of you who want the sound of a guitar with classic humbucking sound, there is also an incarnation of the Les Paul Special Single Cutaway that I have played that has 490R and 498T Humbucking pickups. However, if you give this guitar a try, I think you will be pleased with the sound just the way it is. It sounds great, and it is a very versatile guitar. Ultimately of course, the choice of guitars and pickup configurations comes down to individual taste, and the sound that you are looking for.


Another important point to keep in mind when considering whether to purchase this guitar is that not many Les Paul Special Single Cutaway 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 it’s 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.


Recommend this product? Yes

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