Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
The market drives innovation, and competition ensures quality is had for the dollars spent. It's not every year venerable Gibson produces an entirely new model of guitar, but in 2017, we had one. Let us not be coy about this, the guitar was very similar to some of the most famous Paul Reed Smith models that it would appear to invite a lawsuit. Gibson, of course, has sued PRS in the past for their single-cut design.
Everyone copies Gibson and Fender. That's just how it goes. When Gibson introduces something radically departed from its norms, however, we're all going to be quite excited. And we were excited for the Gibson Custom Modern Double Cut.
But wait just a minute, is this not the same guitar as the Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Custom? The body is the same shape, but the appointments and other specifications are different. Which is the better guitar? A better question would be which one is the right one for you.
These Are Not Les Pauls
I recall seeing images of these new double cutaway guitars online, and everyone wondered just what they were. At the time, it wasn't known they'd be production guitars. Folks wondered if they were maybe just prototypes. The Matsumoto guitars only come in black, and we were seeing gold tops and all manner of newfangled finishes with these new instruments. However, ebony is also on the finish menu.
These are not Les Paul guitars. For one thing, the new doublecuts have 24 frets, two more than the 22 on every Les Paul I've ever seen, and two more than on the Matsumoto guitar. There have been double cutaway Les Paul models for years. It's true you don't see them too often, but they are out there. The bodies of these guitars are not that of LP doublecuts. These have asymmetrical horns, and the upper horn is much too long and pronounced for the LP.
Take a closer gander at the new doublecuts and the Tak Matsumoto, and you'll see those two instruments have different control schemes than each other, and neither is like that of a Les Paul or an SG. When you see the backside of the Custom Modern Doublecut, you will see the modernity of the instrument. One must forever be aware of Gibson prices.
You can never say Gibson isn't proud of its products. These guitars are priced well above Les Paul Standard prices. That the word custom is used in the product description or proper title of either of these instruments tells you much. Only the finest materials available are used for these.
The purpose of this page is to provide a look at these two similar guitars, and parse over the differences. The differences are not severe, but guitar players are often specification freaks. I know I am.
The All New Gibson Custom Modern Doublecut Guitar
You take a look at the back side of the Gibson Custom Modern Double Cut and you can see the neck joint is definitely not that of a Les Paul. The neck joint here is of a two fold purpose, and number one on the list of purpose is access to all 24 frets. You will certainly be able to access them with this neck joint, and should your fingers be sufficiently thin, you can fret away way up there.
The second purpose of this new neck joint is the long tenon, and what we are talking about is more of the actual neck is extending into the body of the guitar than usual. This is done so as to facilitate the production of sustain. The mass of these guitars is sufficiently less than that of a Les Paul, and so, in order to produce the legendary sustain Gibson's premier instruments are known for, something different had to be done.
Take a close look at that headstock. Look it over from the front and the back. That is an all new carve, and Gibson is calling it the 'apex' carve. Gibson's head-stock ills are well known of by the players, and this apex is supposed to provide a greater level of strength than the traditional carve.
There is a body contour on this guitar. The contour is done for comfort, and this is also something not normally done with Gibson. These guitars are very lightweight. In the neighborhood of seven pounds, you can stand and play one of these comfortably for a long while.
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The tops of the guitars are two pieces of maple. With the solid color finishes you're not going to be much concerned with the maple, but if you spend the 300 additional dollars for a burst finish, then you will surely appreciate the figuring or flame, or quilt, or whatever the type of figure it may be. All finish options are displayed in the image at the top of the page.
What will these guitars sound like? Dear readers, let's not kid ourselves. We've got a Gibson with a mahogany and maple body, a 24.75 inch scale length, rosewood fretboard, and Gibson '57 Classic pickups. It's going to sound very similar to every good Les Paul you've ever heard played. For four thousand dollars you'd think Gibson would have provided coil splits. Well, they did not.
Gibson Custom Modern Double Cut StandardFeatures:
- Body shape: Double cutaway
- Body type: Solid body
- Body material: Solid wood
- Top wood: 2-piece Maple
- Body wood: Mahogany
- Body finish: Gloss
- Orientation: Right handed
- Neck shape: Medium C
- Neck wood: Mahogany
- Joint: Set-in
- Scale length: 24.75 in.
- Truss rod: Standard
- Neck finish: Gloss
- Fretboard Material: Rosewood
- Radius: 12 in.
- Fret size: Medium jumbo
- Number of frets: 24
- Inlays: Trapezoid
- Nut width: 1.687 in. (42.8 mm)
- Neck: 57 Classic
- Bridge: 57 Classic Plus
- Series or parallel: Series
- Piezo: Yes
- Special electronics: 1 500K CTS Volume Pot, 1 500K CTS Tone Pot, Hand-Wired Harness, Switchcraft Toggle Switch
- Control layout: Master volume, tone
- Pickup switch: 3-way
- Bridge type: Fixed
- Bridge design: ABR-1
- Tailpiece: Stopbar
- Nickel Color Tuning machines: Grover kidney
- Special features: Limited edition Body and neck binding
- Case: Hardshell case
The Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Custom
Beginning his career as a session musician, Tak's exposure to a myriad of musical styles molded his own unique blend by incorporating elements of jazz, blues, classical, metal, rock and ska. Mr. Matsumoto is a guy who can play any kind of music, and has recorded "East meets West" fusion with the great Larry Carlton. He's a heck of a musician.
The Tak Matsumoto Doublecut was originally billed as a model of Les Paul. Again, the body is not the same figure as LP double-cut bodies have been. It's a bit disingenuous to refer to this guitar as a Les Paul model for that reason alone.
The neck of this guitar is Tak Matsumoto's favored neck profile. This is not a standard Gibson neck profile, so it is ever so important the shopper be certain about how their hand will fit this, or any guitar neck. For the fretboard here Gibson is using Richlite, which is an extremely dense and dark material. The future will be that of Richlite, and not so much ebony, my friends.
You see the Tak guitar has the Gibson Custom style inlay on the neck in that there is a big fat block inlay on the first fret. Tak prefered the block to the trapezoid, and students of Gibson will know the block inlays are the old school positioning markers. There is also the split diamond on the headstock. I bet Les Paul himself would approve of this guitar as one which fit his aesthetic of looking like a tuxedo.
This guitar will be just a bit heavier than the Gibson Modern Doublecut because it does not have the carved out contour on the back of the body. The difference is likely impreceptible in regards to the weight, but the comfort factor could make a difference for you.
The Tak Matsumoto is a twenty two fret guitar, and has the standard Les Paul style neck joint and heel. Reaching the twenty second fret may not be quite as easy to do as on the Modern Doublecut, but you have to ask yourself, how often do I fret a note on the twenty second fret anyway?
Gibson Custom Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Features:
- 2-piece plain maple top
- 1-piece mahognay back
- Multy-ply white/black binding on top
- 1-piece mahogany neck
- Tak Matsumoto neck profile
- Single-ply white neck binding
- Richlite fingerboard with 22 frets
- Pearl block inlay
- Fiber headstock veneer with split headstock inlay
- 24-3/4" scale length, 1-11/16" nut width
- Vintage style tuners
- ABR-1 bridge
- Stopbar tailpiece
- Burstbucker 3 with Alnico 5 magnet bridge pickup
- Burstbucker 2 with Alnico 3 magnet neck pickup
- Black tophat knobs
- Includes hardshell case
Burstbuckers Vs '57 Classics
Tak Matsumoto chose to have his custom shop namesake guitar outfitted with Burstbuckers. That's a decision he had to have made himself, and he's probably got such a fine set of ears he can tell a difference between the Burstbucker set and a set of '57 Classics. If so, then he is one of very few who can, but he's a master class musician, and one would expect such to pick up on the most subtle of subtleties in sound.
Burstbuckers and '57 Classics are both copies of the very same thing - the original PAF humbuckers designed by Seth Lover in 1957. The thing is, Seth Lover's original specifications were never followed precisely in production in those late 1950s years when the PAFs of legend were designed. Why? Gibson's manufacturing technology wasn't on a level to do that kind of precision, and so no two PAF pups from the era were ever alike, or at the designed specifications.
It's a whole new ballgame now. Now Gibson can make pickups right exactly at Seth Lover's design specs, and they do too, and the '57 Classics are those pickups. They meet Seth Lover's 1957 design specs in every way. So what is a Burstbucker?
Burstbucker pickups are built the way Gibson built PAFs in the late 1950s. The coils on the Burstbuckers are unevenly matched the way they were way back then. This was unintentional then, but it is intentional now. Some folks believe some tonal magics are found in the lack of precision, and Tak Matsumoto and others agree.
Additional Pros And Cons
The brand new apex head-stock is no minor thing. Persons who know Gibson guitars are all well aware of the busted head-stock problem one sometimes has to endure for owning a fine Gibson. It is nothing short of horrifying to have the head-stock snap off of a prized Gibson guitar.
Kudos to Gibson for taking steps to address the issue. Maybe the apex head-stock carve will become a more frequent design feature? If you've seen the photos, read the horror stories, and know about the issue, then the modern double cut guitar is probably preferable to the Tak version.
Bob Taylor of Taylor guitars has control over the supply of ebony these days. Gibson is saying in public places it may never produce another LP with an ebony fingerboard. Well, Richlite is possibly even a better material, and the Tak guitar has that Richlite board. Fingerboards make a difference. You can feel the difference with your finger-tips. I can for sure.
People also believe and insist the fingerboards influence tonality. Rosewood is also increasingly hard to come by. Most persons are perfectly happy with rosewood fingerboards. Shoppers probably don't decide for or against a buy for the fingerboard material alone, but guitarists are sometimes extremely picky. I find either material to be quite good.
Tak Matsumoto's guitar has two volume controls, and one master tone control. The newer Gibson has a master volume and a master tone. I suppose one could simulate a kill switch, somewhat, with the two volume controls by turning one all the way down and tthen toggling the pickup selector. Probably Mr. Matsumoto, and others, have entirely different reasoning for desiring the two volume and one tone control configuration. To me, neither configuration would ever be a deal maker or breaker.
The new neck joint providing additional access to the upper frets, and the addition of two frets on the fingerboard on the new modern double cut guitar will surely appeal to the shred style guitarist, and to others who simply want to play in registers previously unavailable. The Tak guitar has the traditional neck joint and heel, and the traditional number of frets. It's been said the Les Paul was God's gift to rock and roll music, well, I don't think you could go wrong with either of these fine instruments.
© 2017 Wesman Todd Shaw
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 10, 2017:
Smith guitar huh? Well, you know I'd love to see one. Balsam Range - I'll have to check that out over at the youtube. I hope folks in the Carolinas know how lucky they are to have a music culture. We just aren't so lucky where I live in Texas :/
Fiddleman on June 10, 2017:
As always a great review on guitars! Wesman you know more about guitars than Bubba Gump knows shrimp recipes. Gary just got his Smith acoustic after a 4 year wait. It has LR Baggs electronics with a KK module foot switch. We are going to have to learn how to use. Caleb is an excellent guitar builder and took Gary's guitar with him when Balsam Range did their concerts in Germany in May.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 09, 2017:
Ain't that the truth! A great day for me is getting to hang out in a Dallas, Texas Guitar Center for an hour. Maybe in the next life I'll be reincarnated as a GC franchise owner or something.
Hey Randy, I wish I was one of those guys who had a big shop where he made his own custom tube amps to sell. Have you seen some of the prices for those things? Oh wow. I'd have to think they're easier to manufacture than guitars, and wow....those asking prices!
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on June 09, 2017:
Send me one of each and I'll give you an honest review, Wesman!