When the Gibson Les Paul arrived in 1952, it was an innovative solid body guitar with incredible sustain and tone — so functional and satisfying that by 1958 it had become known as the Les Paul Standard . (Of course, that was also a way to distinguish it from the Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Junior and Les Paul Special — which had all arrived on the scene by then.)
Over the decades the Les Paul Standard has grown in status through its stunning musicality in the hands of outstanding players like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Peter Green, Billy Gibbons, Gary Moore and Slash, among many others. The guitar has also continued to evolve. The latest results of that evolution are the 2014 Les Paul Standard, the 2014 Les Paul Standard Plus and the 2014 Les Paul Standard Premium. Let’s take a closer look at those three new-generation Les Paul Standard models.
First, let’s check out their similarities. All three have Gibson’s modern weight relief body, which is an improvement over the chambered bodies of Les Paul Standards of yore, with small chambers cut at very specific points fanned out along the perimeter of the body. Then there’s the big tones, courtesy of Burstbucker Pro pickups replete with tuned coil taps, out-of-phase capability (shades of Peter Green!) and pure bypass. All three guitars feature a locking Tune-O-Matic bridge. For looks, these Standards sport gold tone and volume speed dials and cream-colored binding. And for both tone and looks they have the classic, dependable Les Paul Standard combination of maple tops over mahogany bodies. Finally, there’s the neck. As with other Les Paul Standard models from recent years, these three beauties have an asymmetrical slim-taper neck that feels great for most players — large- or small-handed — with undercut fret over binding and a compound radius fingerboard.
Now, here’s the main different about these fine machines: the wood tops, which is a matter of visual aesthetics and collectibility. That said, the 2014 Les Paul Standard is also the only new Standard model with Gibson’s stunning Min-ETune™ technology — a robot tuner that puts 18 tunings within any guitarist’s grasp in seconds — as “standard” equipment.
The 2014 Standard also comes with a AAA figured maple top, meaning there’s no flaming or quilting in the maple. However, there are six colorburst nitrocellulose finish options: Rootbeer Burst Perimeter, Brilliant Red, Heritage Cherry Sunburst Perimeter, Honeyburst, Ocean Water Perimeter and Tobacco Sunburst Perimeter.
The 2014 Les Paul Standard Plus comes with all of the above, except Min-ETune™, with the added good looks of a AAAA figured maple top and locking Keystone Grove tuning machines. And finally there’s the 2014 Les Paul Standard Premium, which kicks the Standard Plus’ comportments up another level by sporting a gorgeous AAA quilted maple top. Other accoutrements include a mother of peal headstock logo and the signature of the Gibson guitar builder who book-matched the quilted maple. In deference to the beauty of the natural character of the maple top, there are only four Standard Premium finishes available: Honey Burst Perimeter, Honey Cherry Sunburst Perimeter, Ocean Water Perimeter and Sunburst.
You might wonder why different maple tops matter. Besides gorgeous looks, flame-top and quilted-flame tops typically retain their value better than plainer wood tops in the collector’s market.