Gibson Les Paul LPJ Review
The Gibson Les Paul LPJ
The Gibson Les Paul LPJ hit the guitar world in 2013 and resounded like trumpets from Heaven.
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. It resounded in my own brain that way, though. That I can say for sure. Never before was it possible land a real Gibson Les Paul, made in the USA and featuring all the best components Les Pauls are known for, at such a low price.
I wrote down my thoughts on this amazing new instrument back in 2013, but Gibson went and made a few changes for 2014, improving on a guitar that had already started to gain almost mythical status.
However, as I once again update this post in 2015, 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.
2014 Gibson Les Paul LPJ
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. Now, in 2015, the LPJ is discontinued.
The Gibson Les Paul LPM: The LPJ Lives!
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.
The Gibson Les Paul LPM is one of their most affordable Les Pauls. It's a big step up from the LPJ, and while it shares a few similarities there are also massive improvements for 2015.
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.