I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
The Gibson Les Paul LPJ
The Gibson Les Paul LPJ hit the guitar world in 2013. I wrote down my thoughts on this amazing new instrument back then, but Gibson went and made a few changes for 2014, improving on a guitar that had already started to gain almost mythical status.
Since, Gibson has moved the Les Paul LPJ as well as its sibling, the SGJ, out of their lineup. For now you can still grab one in used condition, or even new if you are lucky, but as the LPJ saw only two production years it seems destined to go the way of the dodo. (That means extinct.)
Of course only Gibson knows the reasoning behind this, but from the perspective of the budget-minded guitarist it is kind of depressing. The LPJ was a great guitar. I don't believe I heard or read many negative words about it, and the ones I encountered personally were fine instruments.
What follows is my Gibson Les Paul LPJ review, which attempts to cover both the 2013 and 2014 versions of this guitar and point out the differences and similarities of each. I still think they are outstanding instruments that offer tremendous value, and if you have the opportunity to land one in good condition you should seriously consider it.
The Amazing Les Paul
I’ve always been a fan of the Gibson Les Paul. It’s about as good as it gets when it comes to American-made electric guitars. But with the well-deserved popularity of this incredible instrument comes a not-so-welcome price tag. The Gibson Les Paul, unfortunately, simply costs more than many musicians can afford.
So if you really want a Les Paul, and you don’t want to shell out big bucks, historically you’ve had a handful of choices. You can get an Epiphone. Epiphone Les Pauls are nice guitars, licensed by Gibson, and certainly among the best in their price range.
You can grab a Gibson Les Paul Studio. These are great guitars, close to the Les Paul Standard in sound and looks, but they still cost well over a grand.
I guess you can go with a Les Paul Jr. but these aren’t really made to scratch the same itch as a Standard Les Paul.
So, aside from going the copy route, which is not likely to be very satisfying, what else can you do if you want to add a Les Paul to your arsenal?
Not much, until 2013 anyway, when Gibson released the Les Paul LPJ.
Gibson Les Paul LPJ Electronics and Hardware
Let’s start with the construction. The 2014 Gibson Les Paul LPJ has a mahogany body with a carved maple top, and a rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays.
The pickups are a Gibson 1961 Zebra Coils, which give the guitar a cool look. These pickups are different form the those that came on the 2013 LPJ, which were a Gibson a 490R and 498T set.
It’s got vintage-style tuners, and a Tune-o-matic bridge and Stopbar tailpiece.
So far that sounds an awful lot like the Les Paul model we all know and love. But from here things go off the rails a bit.
The neck is maple, not the typical mahogany. This ought to give the LPJ a slightly lighter, snappier sound. Many players may not even notice, but to Les Paul connoisseurs the sound difference will no doubt be evident.
The Zebra pickups are perhaps an aesthetic improvement over those on the 2013 model, which looked like active EMGs or similar, but were not. If you more of a Les Paul purist this may be a good thing.
There's no pickguard, which may drop production costs slightly, but we have to think it was omitted more for aesthetic reasons. The looks works fine with the black speed knobs in place of the traditional Les Paul "top hat" knobs.
Gibson LPJ Finishes
The finish may be where the LPJ loses some Les Paul lovers. The Gibson Les Paul is supposed to be a pretty guitar, and while the LPJ isn’t ugly by any stretch, it does have a rougher look about it that you’d expect.
If you like a rugged-looking instrument this might be very appealing to you, but bright and shiny the Les Paul LPJ aint.
The 2013 finishes included chocolate, cherry, hand-rubbed transparent white (my favorite, personally) and hand-rubbed vintage burst. There was also a gold-top version available for a few more dollars.
For 2014 the finishes are Cherry, Chocolate, Rubbed Vintage Shade, Vintage Sunburst Permimeter and Fireburst. In my opinion, the Vintage Sunburst is the best-looking of the lot, but I'm a bit disappointed that they dropped the white for 2014.
As for the sound, from what I’ve heard so far the LPJ comes through with flying colors. Again, Les Paul purists may not be feeling it, but for the average player looking for that legendary Les Paul tone it’s hard to beat the LPJ. Especially for the price!
The Demise of the LPJ
The Gibson Les Paul has been the tool of choice for some of the best guitarists in history, not to mention legions of semi-pro and hobby players. But it's unlikely Gibson produced the LPJ to satisfy true Les Paul fans, though many will no doubt appreciate it.
This guitar was intended to fill a niche, but in some ways it appeared to be a niche that really wasn't there. Epiphone has the Les Paul market covered up to around $600. The Les Paul Studio takes over around $1200, so it appears the LPJ was intended for players who don't want to spring for the cost of a Studio, but want something better than an Epiphone.
This is a narrow gap, it seems, and in some ways it appeared Gibson was competing with themselves. Is this what led them to decide the remove the LPJ from their lineup?
I may be getting more cynical as I get older, but one of the first things that came to mind when I learned about the LPJ is how long it might be around. The reviews on this guitar were spectacular, and people appeared to love it, but it seemed too good to be true.
Apparently my concerns were not without merit. The LPJ is now discontinued.
The Gibson Les Paul LPM
If you are beside yourself with grief over the loss of the LPJ from the Gibson lineup there is one guitar that might cheer you up: The Gibson LPM. This is not the same guitar as the LPJ, and it's more expensive, but it is similar in many ways.
And, it fills that same niche of the affordable, American-made Les Paul. If you are having trouble finding a decent used LPJ, or if you just plain don't trust used gear, this may be the guitar for you.
The 2015 LPM and 2014 LPJ share many similarities. Both feature the tonewood profile of a mahogany body with a maple top and a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. They both have cool open-coil 61 Zebra Alnico V pickups.
Cosmetically, while the LPJ and LPM both share the spartan look of an unbound body, black speed knobs and missing pickguard, the LPM comes with a much nicer finish. These are high-gloss lacquers, compared to the matte-satin on the LPJ. Very classy, especially the sunburst model.
There are other ways the LPM outshines the old LPJ. The LPM features Gibson's Zero Fret adjustable brass nut, a big step up from the synthetic nut on the LPJ. It includes the Gibson G Force tuning system, mounted directly on the back of the headstock. It comes with a nice hardshell case. Anyone who bought an LPJ (which came with a gig bag) with the intention of then grabbing a case later would have had to drop a hundred bucks for a decent, hard-shell case!
This is a very cool guitar, but the LPM sits in an odd niche, and in some ways I wonder, as I did with the LPJ, how long it will be around. In many ways it is like a much-improved version of the LPJ. In other ways, it is like a Les Paul Studio with a thicker maple neck, hotter pickups and somewhat lighter price tag.
We'll see in a year or two what becomes of the Gibson LPM, but for now it is a good way to grab a quality Les Paul on a budget.
Learn More About the 2015 Gibson LPM
Goodbye Gibson LPJ
No doubt sales of both Epiphone Les Pauls and the Gibson Les Paul Studio were impacted by the rise of the Gibson Les Paul LPJ. Maybe it wasn't in Gibson’s interest to keep this thing around, or maybe they simply decided it didn't make the cut as a quality Les Paul. Whatever the reason, no matter how much people liked it, the Gibson Les Paul LPJ is now gone with the wind.
And what will happen with the LPM? Like the LPJ, it is in direct competition with the Les Paul Studio. Will we see it around for a while, or will the LPM become extinct like the LPJ?
Fortunately, that’s a decision we don’t have to care about for now. The Gibson Les Paul LPM is here, and offers a great option for those who have always wanted a real Les Paul but balked at the price.
The LPJ is still floating around too. While it has been discontinued, you can still find one if you put in a little effort. It was a solid guitar for a great price, and it gained many fans in the two short years it was around.
I also suggest checkout out the 2016 Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded if you can get your hands on one.
Gibson Les Paul LPJ or LPM?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Stew Chaplin on November 13, 2018:
I love my 2014 lpj. I always wanted a les paul and bought this because of the price mainly. Was i suprised by the sound and feel. Cant get enough of this guitar its incredible. I tried my sons strat for about five minutes and had to go back to my lpj. Just love the tone and crunch i get from it. I went with a pickguard only because the satin finish scratches so easily.
Angel Sanz on April 17, 2017:
Amazing guitar . . The same way,changing gig bag for hard shell . . My 2013 rubbed vintage burst . . I love her dark finish and hate pickguards . . And sounds . . As a big Gibson! Very happy with . . . Upps I forgot to say that mine is lefthanded as me!!!
Michael James (author) on April 27, 2016:
I love that rubbed white finish, 10293. I wish Gibson would give the option on the Les Paul Studio Faded T this year.
10293guitars on April 26, 2016:
I have 3...2013 in Rubbed Transparent White, 2013 Rubbed Vintage Burst, and a 2014 in Fireburst...love 'em all
Michael James (author) on January 02, 2016:
That's awesome, Sambo. Thanks for updating your comments! Smart to upgade to a hard case too! I wish Gibson never discontinued the LPJ, but I guess they had their reasons.
Sambo on December 31, 2015:
First comment on my 2013 LPJ was two years ago & am now adding my comment on New Years Eve for 2016. I am still playing my 2013 model. For whatever reason although I have no pickguard, there are no scratches from playing. The only complaint I do have is I replaced the gig bag with a hard shell case right off the bat & the word Gibson on top of the neck is rubbed a little thin. Case's fault I guess, but this guitar has done it's share of traveling on rough roads to rough places this fine guitar has played at. There is still no need for a higher priced LP. This LPJ still rocks as good as it did the day I bought it at Guitar Center in Ft. Worth Texas. From the gigs I have played, this guitar has paid for itself many times over. Only 22 more years & my LPJ will be considered vintage & if I last that long, I will still be playing it.
Michael James (author) on August 20, 2015:
Very nice, Alain! It breaks my heart that they discontinued the LPJ.
Alain Gonzalez on August 19, 2015:
Wanting to fullfill my dream to get back at guitar playing after 30 years (raising a family is hard on the wallet) got an LPJ chocolate satin 2014 and playing it everyday since 10 months, seriously, great guitar!! Saving to get a costum 'all dressed guitar' in the next year or 2... this one is hot for the price!!
Chi Sun Pong from Frederick, Maryland on December 11, 2014:
I've had the 2013 gold top LPJ for a year now. It looks classy even without the clear coat of the expensive models. I installed Burstbuckers 1 and 2 in it. It's all the guitar I'll ever need.
Michael James (author) on April 11, 2014:
Thanks Sambo. Interesting that the Epis are actually heavier.
Sambo on April 10, 2014:
My 2013 LPJ weighs about 8 lbs 7 oz's,,or thereabouts. Epi 2000 standard & 2003 custom a little more,,probely beause of binding & other blings.
Michael James (author) on January 21, 2014:
Hi Jason. Neither the 2013 nor the 2014 are "chambered" per se, but they do feature weight-relief bodies. ( I know, semantics really.) According to Gibson's site the 2013 body is "strategically weight relieved" and the 2014 is "updated with traditional weight relief". This is a standard method where the plugs of mahogany are removed, but the word "updated" seems to suggest it is different from what they did in 2013. I too would be interested in hearing some numbers if anyone wants to post the weight/year of their LPJ.
Jason on January 20, 2014:
Anyone care to weigh their LPJ? There are no solid numbers on this thing anywhere online.... The 2013's are chambered like the 2014's, yes?
Michael James (author) on December 11, 2013:
Thanks, rocmobile! I have yet to hear anything bad about this guitar. Glad you are enjoying yours!
rocmobile on December 11, 2013:
purchaed one 2 weeks ago and to me it is just a happier guitar to play than my epi standard. I also like the look though the vintage burst finish on mine is a little darker than I'd like it to be - but it sounds fantastic - now if I could get the kids to stay away with the homewrok while I play it.
Michael James (author) on October 29, 2013:
Thanks for the insight, Sambo! I suspected anyone thinking about an Epiphone would be wise to consider dropping a little extra cash on the LPJ instead. Glad you found a great guitar!
Sambo on October 28, 2013:
I have played Epi LP's "mine" & Gibson LP's "belonged to others" & have finally got my own Gibson LP "LPJ". While I will keep my Epi's, I would trade both of them for a LPJ if I didn't have one now. The LPJ just says "play me". The LPJ just makes music sound on the rough, mean side. Comes out of the box ready to rumble. Gig bag is gone,,is in a hard shell case now. A guitar like this should never be in a gig bag. The guitar belongs on stage for sure & has been. RIP Epiphones.