The Gibson SG Standard may be an American guitar, but there’s something very Aussie about it, and you know why. Here’s the latest version. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Things looked a bit hairy for a minute there, as far as Gibson’s availability in Australia went. But now, under the much-welcomed custodianship of Australis Music (and under new management on the North American side of things), Gibson is back and better than ever.
In the last issue of Australian Guitar, we looked at the flagship Gibson Les Paul Standard. This time, we’re going to look at a model that is near and dear to many Australians’ hearts – the SG Standard. 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 is a little dude from Scotland wearing a schoolboy uniform (you know who we’re talking about).
Something about the SG’s sharp horns and thin body just feels right in an Australian pub rock environment – and if this 2019 model gives us any indication, that won’t be changing any time soon.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
The SG Standard has the larger, more Angus‑associated pickguard – which was reintroduced for this model a couple of years ago – as opposed to the smaller pickguard you’ll find on the 2019 EG Standard ’61 model. It extends up above the pickups like a late ‘60s SG, and it gives the guitar a really serious, aggressive look thanks to the addition of a few more points to complement those sharp horns.
The body is made of mahogany. It’s a very light body at that, which makes it great for chucking around onstage. The neck is one-piece mahogany with a one-piece rosewood fretboard and 22 frets with a Slim Taper profile. This version has Grover Rotomatic tuners with Kidney buttons (an earlier incarnation had green keys), an aluminium Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece, black Top Hat control knobs with silver reflector tops, and a black five-ply pickguard.
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 moderate take on a hot vintage-voiced bridge pickup, along with a more vintage-spec’d neck pickup. Controls on deck include the standard two volumes, two tones and pickup selector array.
The guitar comes in Gibson’s soft-shell case with an accessory kit. A hard case would be nice at this price, but the instrument does feel pretty well protected in this particular soft case.
So, how does it sound? Well, it’s an SG, so let’s be real here: it sounds 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 a guitar more suited to hard and heavy rock, blues, alternative and grunge in some ways – although it’ll still do classic rock without a hitch.
The sound is detailed and punchy, with great sustain and lots of rich upper-mid overtones. Switch to the neck pickup, and you’ll find 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.
The SG has lots of character for clean tones as well, so if you’re in a band with a lot of light shade in your tone, you’ll find that this guitar can cover a surprisingly wide range of bases for something so seemingly simple. And therein lies the reason so many Australian guitarists keep coming back to the SG: it’s a truly versatile guitar, no matter what flavour of rock you want to shred out on it with.
THE BOTTOM LINE
But what are the downsides? Well, to be completely honest, there really are none. Maybe you prefer the other pickguard style, or maybe you wish a different model of pickup was used. But for me, this model – moreso 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 that I’m looking in a guitar of its caliber.
Spec for spec, there isn’t all that much of a difference between this guitar and other recent‑year SG Standards. But with Gibson USA’s renewed commitment to quality control, plus a streamlined product catalog that ensures laser‑precision focus on a smaller number of models – compared to the previous splatter-shot approach to releasing a jillion different guitars a year – this is probably the best year in recent memory to get a new Gibson SG.
Sporting a versatile range of quality tones, a build that feels solid, yet surprisingly light, and some brilliant finish options, the 2019 Gibson SG Standard is a top-range guitar for a mid-range price.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Mahogany body
• Rosewood fingerboard
• Hot-vintage voiced humbuckers
• Aluminium bridge and tailpiece
• Solid soft case
• Cool bigger pickguard look
• Comfortable neck
• Versatile tones
• Doesn’t come with a hard case
Australis Music Group
Ph: (02) 9698 4444