Gibson finely tweaks one of its coolest recent SG models. By Peter Hodgson
The Gibson SG has a special place in the hearts of many Aussies, thanks in no short part to its association with AC/DC shredder Angus Young. In many ways, the SG is the ultimate pub rock guitar: it’s lightweight enough that you can swing it around for hours, and it has a bright, punchy tone that cuts through even when you’re wedged into the corner and stuck with a dodgy PA. These same qualities also make the SG great for big-league stages as well, but that’s not all: a lot of us love the SG for how it rips with metal and stoner rock – there’s just something about their voicing that works for those genres. Tony Iommi is famously into 24-fret SGs, and the man invented metal, so there you go. The SG Special 2017 T is not a million miles removed from previous years’ SG Specials, but it does have enough of its own vibe to set it apart.
The SG Special 2017 T has a thin mahogany body and neck (a change from the recent
maple-necked version). The neck has an SG Slim Taper profile, which is different to the ‘60s Slim Taper neck shape found on Les Pauls, for instance. It has 24 frets on a rosewood fretboard, and the vintage-style keystone tuners give it a traditional look with modern performance. The nut is made of TekToid, a synthetic material that is self-lubricating and selected for great natural sustain. The fingerboard inlays are small blocks, giving this guitar a bit of a ‘70s vibe – especially in its Satin Vintage Sunburst finish. A Satin Cherry version is also available.
The pickups are a 490R in the neck position and a 490T at the bridge. The humbuckers feature Alnico II magnets, and are inspired by the original Patent Applied For (PAF) pickups of the ‘50s, but with modern improvements such as wax potting for microphonic feedback suppression. Interestingly, this year’s model does away with the coil splits of recent years’.
The SG Special 2017 T is a very direct, rich and bold-sounding guitar. This makes it great for stoner rock and metal, but it’s also articulate enough for psych-rock and jam-band styles, classic rock, blues, indie and alternative. It’s great for lowered tunings – try dropping it to C# for some Iommi-style darkness while those higher frets let you maintain your range – and it handles clean tones beautifully, which is great news for players who employ a lot of fingerpicking, hybrid picking or jangly chordal approaches. It’s a very playable guitar, too: you can really zip around on the neck.
If there’s one area to criticise this guitar in, it’s the thinness of the satin finish. For many players (including me), that’s a good thing: it allows the wood to really breathe, which seems to make it sound more ‘woody’ when compared to a guitar with a thick poly finish. But there are reports online of players easily dinging the finish. I guess you should just prepare yourself for the fact that this guitar is going to develop a lot of individual character, and it’s not going to look factory-fresh after a couple of years. If you’re from the ‘guitars are made to be played, not displayed’ school, then have at it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is one of the more flexible SGs out there, both in terms of sonics and playability. You won’t realise how much you’ve missed having those extra two frets on a standard SG until you start to explore what you can do with them, and you’ll quickly realise that Iommi was right all those years ago when he started commissioning 24-fret guitars based on the SG.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Gibson USA pickups
• 24 frets
• Mahogany body and neck
• Satin Vintage Sunburst and Cherry options
• Included gig bag
• Great upper fret access
• Clear and articulate tones
• Looks cool
• Overly ‘woody’ finish choices
• Some players might prefer hotter pickups
Australian Musical Imports (AMI)
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