In many ways, the Gibson SG is a staple of the Australian guitar scene, even if it’s made in America and its most famous Aussie exponent was a ring-in from Scotland. Something about the SG’s sharp horns and thin body just feels right in an Australian pub rock environment. So when we got the chance to check out the very first Gibson USA 2016 models to arrive in Australia (on the morning they arrived, before heading out to dealers that afternoon), the SG Standard immediately jumped out.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
The most surprising thing about the SG Standard is its price: with a retail of $2,599, you’ll likely be able to walk out of the store with one for a reasonable price indeed if you knowwhere to shop or how to haggle.
The first thing you’ll notice about the SG Standard T is that it has the larger pickguard shape compared to recent models. This one extends up above the pickguard, and is more like a late ‘60s SG. It’s a cool look, and something about it helps this guitar to feel really substantial in an indefinable way. The body is made of between one and three pieces of mahogany, and it’s a very light guitar, great for chucking around onstage. The neck is one-piece mahogany with a one-piece rosewood fretboard and 22 frets with a rounded SG profile, slightly slim but not Ibanez RG-style. This model has traditional Green Key tuners, a historically-accurate 1 11/16 inches nut width, TekToid nut, black Top Hat knobs with silver inserts, traditional trapezoid inlays and a high-gloss nitrocellulose finish. The bridge and tailpiece are the traditionalTune-o-Matic and Stop arrangement.
The pickups are Gibson’s 490R and 498T passive humbuckers, with 42 gauge copper wire and Alnico II magnets. the bridge pickup weighs in at 13.9Kohms with the neck reading 7.8Kohms, so we’re looking at a relatively take on a hot vintage-voiced bridge pickup, along with a more vintage-spec’d neck pickup. Controls are the standard two volumes, two tones, pickup selector array.
The guitar comes with a durable gig bag, truss rod wrench, 2.5mm adjustable wrench and polishing cloth. Sure, a hard case would be nice at this price, but the instrument does feel pretty well protected in this particular bag.
So how’s it sound? Incredible. Compared to a Les Paul, the SG is generally a little punchier and a little more complex in the upper mids, but not as deep in the low end. This makes them especially well suited to power chords or leads that need to jump out in the mix, or for stacking multiple takes of the same riff without the sound becoming cloudy. The choice of pickups here seems very carefully considered: the bridge pickup gives you a little more oomph and edge than if this was to have, say, ‘57 Classics, making it more of a hard rock/heavy blues-rock/alternative/grunge guitar in some ways, although it’ll still do classic rock too. The sound is detailed and punchy, with great sustain and lots of rich upper-mid overtones. Switch to the neck pickup and you’ve got a much rounder, juicier sounding pickup that really comes to life when you dig in hard with the pick, but also smoothes out and darkens up if you pick softer. It has lots of character for clean tones too, so if you’re in a band with a lot of light shade, you’ll find that this guitar can cover a surprisingly wide range of bases for something so seemingly simple.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Downsides? Well, none, really. Maybe you prefer the other pickguard style. Maybe you wish a different model of pickup was used. But for me, this model - more than any other SG I’ve played in recent memory - really captures what it is that makes the model so iconic. It has the sound, the look, the attitude and the playability. I have a feeling this will be one of the most popular of Gibson USA’s 2016 line.
• 1-to-3-piece mahogany body
• Mahogany neck
• Historic original 1 11/16” neck width
• Rosewood fretboard
• 490R & 498T humbuckers
WHAT WE RECKON
Cool bigger-pickguard look
Doesn’t come with hard case
(03) 8696 4600