Blanched Beauty – 2017’s Gibson Les Paul Faded
Ever since the Les Paul launched as a Goldtop, the Gibson guitar’s finish has been an integral part of its appeal. The phenomenon continues in 2017.
At the top-end of the year’s Les Paul range, you’ll find lustrous, high-gloss flamed ‘bursts with AAAA grade maple tops, but that look maybe isn’t for everyone. Studio models offer a less flashy presence, but a spec gaining fans from all style spectrums is a Faded finish, encapsulated in 2017’s Gibson Les Paul Faded models.
The Les Paul Faded is a lot more than just a visual treatment, though. The Faded has its own spec, its own aesthetic, which captures both the past and present in a remarkably good-value package. Let’s look at some of the details...
The ultra-modern weight relief of the Faded is the most common of the various types Gibson uses. Instead of the holes used in more traditional weight relief, ultra-modern features the wedge shape of modern weight relief but with slightly wider wedges.
This not only reduces weight, but adds a resonance that many LP players prefer. But crucially, it does keep the Faded light and easy to play – makes sense, as to me the “vibe” of the Faded is very much that of a stage guitar.
The Faded neck is a Slim Taper profile. But it is also maple, instead of the usual mahogany (the body remains the traditional mahogany with maple top). The neck has rolled and sealed fretboard edges – think of a neck you’ve played for a good few years. Straight out the box, it will feel “played in” and familiar. True, all Gibson necks for 2017 are rolled, but at this price point this is a real bonus. The fingerboard is, of course, rosewood, but you get dot position markers instead of trapezoidal inlays.
Vintage-type “Keystone” tuners
Here’s a nice retro touch to suit the guitar’s overall looks. As a purely aesthetic choice, I personally prefer these vintage Gibson-style tuners to the style of the locking Grovers on even higher-end models. Rest assured, they may look old but are built to exacting modern standards.
Electronics and Pickups
The Faded keeps it simple – two volume/two tone controls, which attach to a circuit board in the control pocket cavity. So there’s no elaborate DIP switch or push/pull options, but – again – this suits the Faded’s vibe as being a beast ready for the stage.
Pickups-wise, the Faded is fitted with a 490R at the neck and a 490T at the bridge. Classic Gibson pickups! With no pickup covers there’s little attenuation (loss in signal) so, although the 490s aren’t specially-designed high-output pickups, they remain true to the tone of Gibson’s original PAF (Patent Applied For) humbuckers.
The Faded look and feel
What gives the Faded its name is, of course, its key characteristic. The top is plain maple, emphasizing the wood’s grain. You’ll quickly see that every one is unique. At the same time, there’s a consistency here – no pickup covers, black bobbin ‘buckers and surrounds, black “Top Hat” knobs, pickguard, and even the headstock cover is all black, with no lettering.
That Faded finish is definitely worth a look and feel – it’s not “satin”, but it’s not matte, either. Gibson’s “faded gloss” is a buffed stain that removes some of the shine but retains most of the “feel” of a glossy finish. Even the neck feels a little more like a vintage neck than a new one, and the body has that nicely emphasized grain. It’s contrasted nicely by the regular nickel-plated aluminum Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece.
The Les Paul Faded comes in Worn Brown and Worn Cherry. Both are pretty eye-catching, and the former in Worn Brown slightly reminds me of the walnut-bodied “The Paul” model of the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Anyone else? But for a stripped-back Les Paul, the Faded is another option to the Studio – but simpler still, and with dramatic savings. It looks great, sounds great, and is more than ready for some roughshod road action. If Johnny Thunders, Billie Joe Armstrong, or The Clash are your kinda guitar heroes, the Faded’s going to have instant appeal.
The Gibson Les Paul Faded even comes in HP spec – this time with different pickups (61R and 61Ts, covered), fast access heel, chrome fittings, titanium zero-fret adjustable nut, G Force tuning et al for a more modern look and soloing feel.
Faded they maybe, but I can’t see the great spec and value of these Les Pauls losing their luster any time soon!
More on the Gibson Les Paul Faded T.
More on the Gibson Les Paul Faded HP.
Also look out for the Gibson SG Faded.