As always with Gibson, choosing your new Les Paul is no simple “one or “the other” choice. There’s this one, that one, the other one, the flashy-looking one, the workhorse one, the super value ones, and the “touch of luxury” options...
And that’s even the case with just two models: 2017’s Les Paul Studio and Les Paul Standard. Let’s look at both of those... and only in their T guise. The HP spec – available for both, and featuring the chromed hardware, G Force tuning, Soloist necks et al – will have to wait.
Some differences between the Les Paul Studio T and Les Paul Standard T are visual, some are “feel”, others are tonal. At heart, though, they’re both great guitars. Here are the headline differences...
This is where you’ll see a definite difference.
* The Les Paul Studio (left) has a A Grade plain maple top, and no binding on the body or neck.
* The Les Paul Standard (right) has a AAA Grade flamed maple figured top and binding. It also has a bound neck.
Other than those differences, the body and necks of both use the classic Gibson recipe of mahogany tonewoods for the body and neck. Which is “better”? Only your tastes can decide that although, of course, you pay a premium for AAA Grade flame maple.
Other than the no binding/binding visuals, the Studio and Standard necks look the same with those classic Gibson trapezoidal inlays and rosewood fingerboards.
Pick each guitar up, though, and you will feel a difference.
* The Les Paul Studio has a conventional SlimTaper neck.
* The Les Paul Standard has an asymmetrical SlimTaper neck.
While both are what Gibson calls “modern” necks, the asymmetrical neck of the Standard has a slight bulge along the neck where your thumb rests, helping to reduce fatigue when playing long sessions. Again, it’s more expensive to manufacture.
Also, the Standard’s design uses a compound radius – the curve is a little flatter at the highest frets. The Studio uses the more traditional approach of a standard curve throughout the fingerboard’s length. If you immediately think the Studio and Standard feel different, this is likely why!
Both models are made with the classic Les Paul body design and construction that we've all come to know and love, although the Studio's body is a little thinner than that of the Standard. Both the Les Paul Studio and Les Paul Standard feature Ultra-Modern weight relief, the choice of many guitar players for extended playing time, and a touch of added resonance. Ultra-modern weight relief uses the same type of “wedge” cutout as modern weight relief, but extends the wedge’s width somewhat.
Pickups and Controls
There’s a significant difference here.
* The Les Paul Studio has Gibson 490R and 498T humbuckers.
* The Les Paul Standard has Burstbucker Pro Rhythm and Burstbucker Pro Lead humbuckers. These have alnico magnets and mismatched coils, much like Gibson’s hallowed PAF (Patent Applied For) ‘buckers of old. They offer a shade more output than the Studio’s, too, but it’s the Standard’s controls that offer a more significant difference.
While both have the traditional two volume/two tone configuration, and both volume controls are push-pull types that turn on Gibson’s Tuned Coil Tap circuit, the Standard has an additional push-pull switch for phase switching and other for pure bypass.
Let’s start with the Tuned Coil Tap circuit on both. It’s nothing like the old school coil taps that reduced volume and thinned the sound. Instead, the Tuned Coil Tap gives a single-coil tone, but with more character and less “brittleness” than standard single-coil pickups.
And the additional push-pull on the Standard? This is cool, people! The pure bypass feature sends your pickups directly to the output jack, bypassing the volume and tone controls. In practical terms, it’s also like having two presets on your guitar – pure bypass, and whatever volume and tone settings are in play when you’re not using pure bypass.
Tuners and Bridge
Both Studio and Standard have Grover kidney-style tuners, but the Standard’s are locking tuners for extra reliability. On both, the bridge and stopbar are aluminum Tune-o-matics with steel thumbwheels and chrome plating.
If you think of the Studio as the more “functional” Les Paul, you can see and feel that in the Studio’s speed knobs. The Standard adds a more sophisticated touch with amber top hats.
Colors and Plastics
* The Studio comes in three finishes: Wine Red, Ebony and Black Cherry Burst. The Wine Red has cream plastic pickup rings and pickguard, the Ebony and Black Cherry Burst’s are black.
* With that AAA Grade flamed maple top, the Standard offers some more luxurious colors: Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Honey Burst, Bourbon Burst, and Blueberry Burst. These are lighter colors, and the plastics are cream on all Standards.
Studio or Standard? The Choice Is Yours...
We’d all like to believe we’re not swayed by how guitars look, just how they sound and play... but that’s not quite true is it? And for many players – the additional pure bypass / switching options on the Standard aside – it could be aesthetics that swings the choice here.
Still, there’s no right or wrong. Personally, I love the no-frills blackness of the Les Paul Studio in Ebony... but I’m also wowed by the Standard in Bourbon Burst. What about you? Other players might put a lot more value on the extra tonal options of the Standards. Oh heck, you could buy one of each?
But at their core, these are both brilliantly spec’d Les Pauls for the modern player. Tone-wise, both Studio and Standard have the Tuned Coil Tap, a really special feature, and the Ultra-Modern weight relief of both makes long playing times a pleasure. Be gone, “Les Paul hunch”!
You get value with the Studio and luxury with the Standard, but they’re in the same league when it comes to tone and playability. And that’s the league you only reach with a genuine Gibson Les Paul.