Some guitars are identified so well with the players that played them that you can’t really picture them playing something else. Hendrix wouldn’t be Hendrix without a Stratocaster, and Jimmy Page in concert lives on in most people’s minds wearing a sunburst Les Paul slung way down low. So when you think of the Gibson SG, Angus Young from AC/DC may be the first that springs to mind.
And rightfully so – as guitars go, the Gibson SG is a mighty fine example of what makes a great instrument. There are many different SG models available, but right now, we’ll be looking exclusively at the SG Standard.
Just as with other iconic guitar designs, you certainly know an SG when you see it. The Standard has that distinctive ‘double horn’ shape, constructed from a solid piece of mahogany. It’s available in two different old-school nitrocellulose finish choices (Heritage Cherry and Ebony) that have been the classic choices for years. The neck is constructed from mahogany as well, with a rock-solid tenon neck joint (instead of a bolt-on design) that’s topped with a real rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets installed. The fingerboard is bound, which serves the dual purpose of eliminating any sharp edges while adding a classy touch. A Graph Tech nut helps to round out the entire package.
Electronics and hardware
There’s nothing decidedly fancy or ‘newfangled’ on the SG Standard as far as the hardware and electronics options are concerned. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing – many times working with a setup that is tried and right maybe your best option. You won’t find any sort of tremolo bridge here – the SG Standard has a stop bar design right off the shelf that includes the classic Tune-O-Matic bridge as well. Tuning machines are Grover Rotomatics, which is a sure sign that tuning up will be smooth and accurate. Two humbucking pickups – a Gibson 490R humbucker (neck position) and a 490T (bridge position) – are loaded onto the SG. They are controlled with the classic Gibson two volume/two-tone knob set up and a three-way pickup selector switch. Simple but effective!
No hard case
One thing we would have liked to see differently: while Gibson does provide a soft shell case, a hardshell one seems to make more sense to help protect an instrument that’s at this price point.
There’s no doubting the SG’s eye-catching appeal, but looks really don’t mean all that much unless the guitar performs where it really needs to – and here is where the SG Standard really shines. The body profile is thin enough to not be too heavy. The combination of the rounded neck profile, the medium jumbo frets, and the bound neck make for a playing experience that has to be experienced to be appreciated. And the tone? The Alnico II setups in the 490 humbuckers make it a piece of cake to get that classic rock tone all night long.
SG Standard Specifications
Overall, there really isn’t much at all that’s decidedly bad about the Gibson SG Standard. On the contrary, we have found it to be an electric guitar with that almost perfect balance of great looks, playability that takes minimal effort, and impressive tone. Is it the cheapest guitar on the market? No, it’s not – but sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra to get a professional class instrument that absolutely delivers the goods.
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