Although Gibson is renowned for its unparalleled tradition with regard to manufacturing guitars, the company has hardly rested on its laurels. In recent years, Gibson's research has resulted in improvements that enhance the tone, functionality, and playability of its instruments . Below are 10 examples of such innovations—many of which were developed with the modern player in mind.
Developed at the turn of the ‘90s, the PLEK process guarantees the absolute optimum neck action for every "PLEKed" guitar. This eliminates fret buzz, intonation issues, and decreased playability that can result from action that’s too high. The Gibson Custom Shop purchased its first two state-of-the-art fret-dressing PLEK machines back in 2006. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response, since 2014 the PLEK process has been applied to every instrument built by Gibson USA and the Custom Shop.
G FORCE™ Tuning
Perfecting the technology involved in automated tuning has been ongoing, but with the introduction of Gibson G FORCE™, Gibson truly nailed it. G FORCE™ not only optimizes pitch accuracy; it also allows for such possibilities as 36 custom preset tunings, tuning to instruments that are in tune with themselves (but not to concert pitch), adding pitch offsets to individual strings, and tuning with a capo. All are based on the same principle: G FORCE™ measures string pitch, then sends any needed signals to its servo motors so they can tune the strings to perfect pitch (or imperfect, "sweetened" pitches, if that’s what you want).
Cryogenically Treated Frets
Cryogenically treated metals become more durable and stronger, without being harder, and are much more resistant to abrasive wear. Tests performed by Gibson in 2014 determined that standard frets wear down four times as fast as cryogenically treated frets, when subjected to the same amount of playing time. Most remarkably, the improved resistance to wear does not translate into a harder fret, so the feel is exactly what you would expect—it’s just that the fret is stronger. Since 2014, this innovative feature has been retained on all Traditional and High Performance models.
Transient Suppression Circuitry
A switch-based option in the High-Performance Les Paul Studio and Les Paul Standard versions, Gibson’s unique transient suppression circuit reduces your guitar’s very highest initial peaks (called “transients,” which consists mostly of non-harmonic noise). This optimizes the instrument’s output for digital processors and computer audio interfaces, because you can feed in more level. The benefits are less noise, higher average signal level, more efficient signal processor operation, more consistent levels when switching between pickups, and better sustain. Perhaps best of all, it's a passive circuit that requires no battery and doesn't affect the guitar's tone—most players simply leave it on once they discover what transient suppression can do.
DIP Switches for Pickup Configuration
The 2014 and 2015 Les Paul Standards offered 13 unique pickup sounds—choices far beyond the usual bridge, neck, or both options—by combining push/pull knobs with the standard pickup selector switch. Beginning in 2016, the High Performance versions of the 2016 Les Paul Studio and Standard guitars offered even more versatility--thanks to a small, user-adjustable set of switches located inside the guitar control cavity. These let you “rewire” your guitar to give it a variety of sonic personalities, without voiding your warranty—or heating up a soldering iron.
Zero-Fret Adjustable Nut
First introduced in 2015, the Zero-Fret Adjustable Nut (Z-FAN for short) continues as a standard feature in Gibson’s High Performance line. Operating in a manner similar to bridge adjustments, you can adjust Z-FAN’s height and angle. For example, if you prefer a really light touch, set both the nut and bridge as low as possible. But if you’re a high fret “tapper” and power chord “basher,” then choose lower action on the higher frets by lowering the bridge, and higher action on the lower frets by raising the nut. You can also angle the nut—if, for instance, you prefer higher action on the lower strings, and lower action on the higher strings.
Fast Access Heel
Introduced for the Gibson USA High Performance line in 2016, the Fast Access Heel consists of a newly designed neck joint that offers ergonomic comfort and an unprecedented level of access to the upper frets. The improved design makes hitting the highest notes of the low E string a breeze, because players don’t have to work against a blocky neck/body joint. In addition, the Fast Access Heel permits more comfortable access to the higher frets of the lower strings. The result? The ability to play higher chord voicings with more notes than might typically be comfortable on a conventional neck joint.
For decades, fretboards have been made out of wood. Seventy years ago, however, a need arose for a wood replacement in aerospace and other industries where hardness, consistency, and smoothness had to be not just "good," but perfect. A new material, called Richlite, was developed as a solution. Fast forward to the mid ‘90s, and Gibson USA began researching ways a conventional fretboard might be improved. Following two decades of research and discussions with guitarists, Gibson determined that Richlite was not only the best alternative to woods such as ebony, but was in many ways superior--a conclusion with which many, if not most, professional luthiers agree.
Multi-Shield Noise Rejection
High gain amps. Electrical interference. Passive pickups. Fluorescent lights. A guitarist needs shields against all those noise-driven attackers. After extensive research, Gibson engineers came up with a number of innovations that increase shielding effectiveness dramatically, while also minimizing problems from static electricity buildup. One major improvement comes from the stainless steel-infused control pocket and pickup switch plates featured on nearly all Gibson USA guitars, beginning with the 2016 models.
Beginning in 2016, the neck featured on Gibson USA High Performance models has been designed for players looking for something with improved ergonomics for advanced styles. For players who have always wanted the classic looks and tone of a Les Paul, but are more familiar with wider necks and easier access to upper frets, a Soloist neck should be perfect. Incorporating the Fast Access Heel and the adjustable titanium zero-fret nut, the Soloist neck maintains the same string spacing as a typical Gibson neck, but is designed to be more comfortable for faster playing styles and more advanced techniques.
What the Heck is PLEK?
Five Myths Busted: Gibson G FORCE™
Tame Your Terrible Transients: Gibson’s Transient Suppression
Building a Better Fingerboard