One of the charms of the Gibson Memphis line is the vast range of guitars that recall Gibson’s 1950s-era instruments, guitars in the spirit of the semi-hollowbody designs that drove the music of Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Alvin Lee, Larry Carlton, on up to 80s post-punk and goth bands, 90s grunge bands, 2000s alternative bands… the rich mids, tight lows and sweet treble of a Gibson semi-hollowbody are unmistakable. One theme of the Gibson Memphis 2016 New Model Year is the selection of models inspired by the original ES-335. There are various ES-335 and smaller-bodied ES-339 models which give you that classic singing tone and style. And the new models are more faithful to the traditional designs than ever before, with special attention paid to vintage-accurate fret size and shape, hot hide glue securing the Adirondack bracing, lightweight centerblock and vintage-style pots and hand-matched pickups. If you’re a 335 fan there are plenty of models to put on your daydream wishlist.

But there are also three models that feel like they come from the same 50s-inspired family as the ES-335 and ES-339, but are newer: the ES-Les Paul, ES-Les Paul Studio and ES-Les Paul Bass. Each of these instruments takes the classic Les Paul appointments and reinterprets them through Gibson Memphis build styles, giving you a truly unique instrument that borrows from two different parts of Gibson’s history.

Gibson Memphis 2016 Lineup

The 2016 ES-Les Paul is the closest in spirit to a ’50s Les Paul Standard. Its cosmetics are familiar, with the body and neck binding, the trapezoid fingerboard inlays and cream-colored plastics. The top, back and rims are each made of 3-ply maple/poplar/maple, and the top is braced with Adirondack spruce. To maintain vintage tone the ES-Les Paul uses a pair of MHS humbucking pickups with asymmetrical coils. In other words, the coils are different to each other rather than being mirror-image duplicates of each other. It’s how coils used to be in the ’50s when manufacturing tolerances weren’t quite as tight. But today each coil can be accurately replicated, so the neck pickup’s coils have 4900 turns and 5100 turns of enamel 42 gauge wire, respectively, while the bridge pickup has 5200 and 5400 turns. They’re slightly underwound, giving an airier, lighter, more natural tone that’s ideal for picking up all the nuances and details of the semi-hollow body, without encouraging unwanted feedback.

Gibson Memphis 2016 Lineup

If you’re after a semi-hollowbody Les Paul but want something just a hair more robust in tone, the 2016 ES-Les Paul Studio has three-ply maple top, back and rims, mahogany center block, spruce braces and mahogany rim liner. This model does not feature body binding, but the neck has rolled black binding which gives you a worn-in, comfortable feel around the edges of the neck. And the pickups are a ’57 Classic in the neck position and a Super ’57 Classic at the bridge. These models do have matched bobbins and are wax-potted to suppress feedback. They’re still voiced in the tradition of classic 50s PAF humbuckers but they’re a little smoother and fuller-voiced.

Gibson Memphis 2016 Lineup

As for the ES-Les Paul Bass, it’s a particularly playable instrument thanks to its lightweight body and shorter traditional scale length of 30.2”. Like the ES-Les Paul Studio it has rolled binding on the neck, but it shares the maple/poplar/maple ply and Adirondack spruce bracing of the ES-Les Paul, as well as the body and neck binding. The pickups are a set of newly-designed, custom-wound MHS Bass Humbucker models, with the neck pickup using an Alnico III magnet and a moderate wind that translates the fullness and depth of the strings and body without being too overpowering. And the bridge pickup uses an Alnico II magnet for clear, sweet highs, while a slightly hotter wind gives it the power to keep up with the neck pickup. Traditionally Les Paul-style controls let you select either pickup individually or both together, each with its own volume and tone controls.

This same attention to detail carries through to Core model improvements such as Titanium saddles in the ABR-1 bridges on all core models over the Studio, redesigned neck profile on our core ES-335s for more players comfort and stability, rolled neck binding for superior feel, more sustain with a more even tonal balance.