"This contemporary Les Paul may look basic, but it more than delivers on playability and sound": Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite review

A proper stripped-back LP with none of the Gibson charm taken away

  • £1229
  • $1499
Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

This contemporary Les Paul may look basic, but it more than delivers on playability and sound. If the thought of standing up with a full-fat Les Paul is enough to break you out in a cold sweat, then this lightweight and paired-back singlecut might just be the right model for you

Pros

  • +

    Very playable

  • +

    The 498T and 490R pickup set always delivers

  • +

    Great range of colours available

Cons

  • -

    The satin finish will wear easily

  • -

    We noticed a couple of finishing blemishes

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Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite: What is it?

In a world where the price of electric guitars keeps going up, Gibson has decided to take their beloved Les Paul model and give it a paired-back makeover – drastically reducing its weight and price tag. Replacing the Les Paul Tribute and Les Paul Special Tribute models as Gibson's most affordable offering, the new Les Paul Modern Lite ditches the fiery flame maple top, trade mark binding and mother-of-pearl Gibson logo in favour of a back-to-basics approach that sees its signature singlecut transformed into a lean, mean, riffing machine. 

With an all-new thinner and dramatically carved mahogany body and a rainbow of stunning satin finishes and matching headstocks, this Les Paul sets itself apart from the rest of the Gibson catalogue and is sure to appeal to not only those who want to stand out from the crowd but to players who find themselves put off by the weight of a Standard or Custom. 

The tonal heart of this new model is a familiar pickup pairing that Gibson fans will recognise. Loaded with the ever-popular 490R in the neck and the hotter 498T in the bridge, this Les Paul delivers those classic rock tones with ease, while the Indian rosewood-topped Slim Taper mahogany neck provides the perfect playing surface for all your favourite licks. 

This model comes with a rather substantial Gibson-branded soft shell case, which provides plenty of protection against knocks while you make your way to gigs or rehearsals. 

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite: Performance and verdict

Playability and design

Straight off the bat, the first thing you notice about this Les Paul after removing it from its lovely Gibson gigbag is just how lightweight it is – go figure the Modern Lite would live up to its name. Coming in at roughly 3kg/6lb, this guitar is even lighter than our very own SG Standard – and just as thin. 

Something about its featherweight design makes the Modern Lite incredibly satisfying to hold, and the subtle belly carve on the rear of the instrument is an excellent addition that we greatly appreciate. We can't help but wonder where this model was when we were playing 3-hour cover gigs every other weekend! 

Moving on to the neck and the comfort continues. Now, you'd be forgiven for thinking that as this is a contemporary take on a Les Paul, Gibson will have used the compound radius and carved heel joint found on this model's big brother, the Les Paul Modern Figured. Well, you'd unfortunately be mistaken. This model opts for the classic 12" radius and universally loved Slim Tapper neck profile – something we count as a positive. Don't get us wrong, we enjoyed the full-fat Les Paul Modern Figured, but there's something about the standard Gibson neck profiles that we prefer. 

The neck here is just the right balance of slim and rounded, and no matter where you are along its length, it feels equally comfortable. The 22 medium jumbo frets that paper the rather rich rosewood fingerboard were looking a little dull straight out of the box and perhaps could do with a little TLC – something we've noted on a few modern Gibson models. That said, a couple of minutes with your favourite fret polish of choice and we're sure they would be gleaming in no time. 

It has to be said that we enjoy the overall aesthetic of this guitar. Its shocking red finish lends a sort of punk rock attitude to the whole affair that we quite admire, and it feels nice, too! The satin nitrocellulose finish is very thin, so thin in fact that you can clearly see and feel the wood grain of the mahogany underneath. 

It won't take very long for your new guitar to start showing signs of a life well-loved, wearing its battle scars with pride as it goes from the rehearsal room to the stage and back again. 

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Tone

As we mentioned earlier, this new model comes with the Gibson 490R and 498T humbuckers installed – a pickup set I am personally very fond of. The tone is clear, assertive and addictive. 

This guitar is plenty versatile, too. Looking for a retro-voiced blues tone? Well, the Alnico 2-floured neck pickup has you covered. Smooth, rounded and with plenty of charm, this pickup really delivers. Switch to the Alnico 5-loaded bridge pickup and you are met with increased power and a fierce bark that makes short work of classic rock riffage. 

Of course, the middle position gives you the best of both worlds: a perfectly balanced tone that can handle just about anything you throw at it. 

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite

(Image credit: Future)

Final thoughts

Overall, we were really impressed with what's on offer from the new Les Paul Modern Lite. Yes, this guitar lacks the pizazz of its more expensive siblings, but it clearly doesn't care. This is a bare-bones Les Paul for players who want to keep things simple – and affordable, for that matter.

Okay, if we were being picky, we'd like to see the frets polished up better before it leaves the factory and we did spot a couple of finishing blemishes along the way, but those minor issues aside, the Les Paul Modern Lite exceeded our expectations on playability and tone. 

MusicRadar verdict: This contemporary Les Paul may look basic, but it more than delivers on playability and sound. If the thought of standing up with a full-fat Les Paul is enough to break you out in a cold sweat, then this lightweight and paired-back singlecut might just be the right model for you.

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite: The web says

"The lightweight Modern Lite’s more straightforward, rawer voice is classic all-mahogany Gibson that could easily do good service as an affordable spare or alternately tuned slide guitar."
Guitar World

"If you’re looking for a no-frills USA-made Les Paul experience, this guitar offers plenty of fun and a unique vibe – but it’s unlikely to convince Gibson sceptics."
Guitar

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite: Hands-on demos

Guitarist 

Peach Guitars

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite: Specifications

Gibson Les Paul Modern Lite

(Image credit: Future)
  • Origin: USA
  • Body: Mahogany with carved top
  • Neck: Mahogany, SlimTaper profile, glued-in
  • Scale Length: 624mm (24.6")
  • Nut: Graph Tech/43.2mm
  • Fingerboard: Indian rosewood, acrylic dot inlays, 305mm (12") radius
  • Frets: 22, medium jumbo
  • Hardware: Nashville tune-o-matic bridge, aluminium stopbar tailpiece, Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners w/ kidney buttons – chrome-plated
  • Electrics: Uncovered Gibson 490R (neck) and 498T (bridge) humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, volume and tone for each pickup
  • Weight: 3.03kg/6.67lb
  • Finishes: Cardinal Red (as reviewed), TV Wheat, Gold Mist, Inverness Green, Rose Gold– satin nitrocellulose with colour-matched headstocks
  • Contact: Gibson
Daryl Robertson
Senior Deals Writer

I'm a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. My gear reviews have also been published in prominent publications, including Total Guitar and Future Music magazines, as well as Guitar World.


I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, particularly guitars, pianos, and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation and selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems, and ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer who holds a first-class Bachelor's degree in Creative Sound Production from the University of Abertay and I have plenty of experience working in various venues around Scotland.