Gibson Les Paul Modern in Sparkling Burgundy

Gibson’s back to the basics approach…

Gibson have now streamlined its electric-guitar catalogue and Gibson have spilt the production line into three distinct ranges. 

The Original Collection and Custom Shop are the primary destinations for purists looking for vintage-style looks and specifications, while the Modern Collection is where you’ll find a mixture of the stripped down and souped up!

“Sitting pretty at the top of the heap in the Modern Collection is the Les Paul Modern”

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What’s the Modern got going on? 

 The modern features a ‘Ultra-Modern’ weight relief pattern, a slim-taper neck with an asymmetrical profile and contoured heel, a beautiful dark 10- to 16-inch compound radius ebony fingerboard with a tight white binding, locking Grover Rotomatics and an aluminium Nashville Tune-o-matic bridge that’s secured in threaded inserts rather than screwed straight into the body.

The binding is bright white and the hardware is a bright a mirror-like chrome, while the mildly futuristic clear top-hat knobs provide access to a quartet of push/pull potentiometers hard-wired to an internal PCB.

The Push Pulls – True bypass!

Pulling either of the Burstbucker Pros’ volume controls into the up position puts the corresponding pickup into single-coil mode. The neck pickup’s tone control is where you’ll also find phase switching, while the bridge pickup’s tone control activates a ‘pure bypass’ that routes straight to the bridge humbucker with the tone control removed from the circuit.

The Build – Original to the naked eye!

Modern this may be, but this Les Paul isn’t a radical a rewrite that it feels in any way alien.

Although its mahogany body does hold 13 chambers, this 3.9kg/8.8lb guitar is still reassuringly substantial, with a smooth and balanced unplugged voice with no shortage of sustain above the 12th fret.

The body thickness is 10mm shallower than usual behind the contoured heel, but it doesn’t seem to have a negative sonic impact.

The Neck – Easy reach!

The asymmetric neck carve is subtle but effective. The slightly more rounded bass side and skinnier treble-side taper combine with the compound-radius fingerboard to offer a smooth, comfortable ride, but it’s definitely not a modern shred profile – relatively small medium-jumbo frets serve to keep things firmly in the ‘classic’ ballpark and may alienate more technical players.

The Pickups – Burstbucker P90’s 

Beginning with the full-fat humbucker tones, we’re greeted with plenty of treble, clarity, dynamic range and articulation – gone are the days when a new Gibson neck pickup is likely to sport a woolly blanket. With a clean tone and spring reverb, it’s easy to get lost in a seriously expressive pool of tones that remind you there’s so much more to these guitars than hard rock. While original PAFs, Patent Number humbuckers and expensive PAF clones might get closer to the sonic high-water mark of the golden era, Gibson’s pickups have made significant strides in the right direction.

Gibson are keen to describe the LP Modern’s single-coil voices as having P-90 characteristics, so we pull up the volume pots to see how close they get. Unlike many coil-split circuits, there’s no significant drop in level when switching from full humbucking mode, so that’s a good start. The treble softens and you do hear some of the wiriness, chewy midrange and nasal single-note tones that characterise Gibson’s iconic single-coil. The LP Modern isn’t going to fool anyone in a blind comparison with an old P90 Goldtop or Special, but the single-coil voices here provide some interesting colours in their own right and respond particularly well to lots of gain!

The neck pickup’s phase switch, on the other hand, does result in a big drop in output – but it hollows things out nicely for percussive funk and scratchy ‘special effect’ lead tones. Flip to the pure bypass mode, however, and it’s the other end of the spectrum entirely. The additional kick and upper harmonic presence it brings to the bridge humbucker is tailor made for those big rock riffs and show-stopping solos… 

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