Join us for our traditional look back at the news and features that floated your boat this year. This story first appeared in October.
Retailing at $1,499, a very attractive price for a Gibson USA instrument, the Les Paul Modern Lite is a bold refresh for a classic design. Not only does it debut a slimmer solid mahogany body, complete with belly cut for a more comfortable playing experience, we have bright solid-colour satin finish options and matching headstocks.
This is hardly the first time Gibson has offered a more accessible version of its most-celebrated model. They did so back in the ‘50s with the Les Paul Junior. The much-loved Les Paul Studio – which was many players an entry-level LP – did something similar decades on. Then there was the impressive Les Paul Tribute.
In some ways, the Modern Lite is reminiscent of the Studio, which uses Gibson’s Ultra-Modern weight relief to keep the weight off. Like the Studio, the Modern Lite’s body and neck are unbound, keeping the costs down.
They both have the same pickup pairing, with a Gibson 498T humbucker at the bridge, a 490R at the neck, and you’ll find the same aluminium Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge and matching stop-bar tailpiece in chrome. You’ll find other similarities, such as the SlimTaper necks, the 12” radius rosewood fingerboards, and the scale length as typical Gibson, listed at 24.75”. But these Modern Lite models are very different guitars.
There is no maple top. These new Modern Lites are all mahogany. They have been fitted with a set of Grover Mini-Rotomatic tuners. We have a lick of satin nitrocellulose rather than gloss, and our finish options comprise Inverness Green, Cardinal Red, Gold Mist, Rose Gold, and TV Wheat. All wear those matching headstock facings and black pickguards well.
Those rosewood ‘boards are inlayed with dots. And you’ve got black ‘top hat’ style controls for volume and tone. There are no push-pull voicings here. What you see is what you get.
In that sense the Modern Lite is just like your typical Les Paul. Each pickup is served by its own volume and tone pot, with a three-way selector switch mounted on the shoulder – and there’s another point of difference from the Modern Lite models and most other Les Pauls. There is no poker-chip washer underneath the switch.
The slim-profile body and belly cut are radical moves on the face of it but who doesn’t like the idea of a minimalistic Les Paul that has the weight of an SG? These look like they'll be easy on the lower back – and the budget.
That there is no heel sculpting like the Les Paul Modern is perhaps surprising but then there is a lot less wood to work with here, and a glued in neck on this thinner body leaves less to take away.