“With warm mids, compressed and focussed lows and a militant top-end, this guitar makes short work of classic rock riffage”: Gibson Theodore Standard review

They say you should never judge a book by its cover and that's certainly true of Gibson's newest creation

  • £1999
  • $1999
Gibson Theodore Standard review
(Image: © Gibson)

MusicRadar Verdict

When Gibson introduced the Theodore, it caused quite a stir in the guitar community. Some players were immediately smitten with its tulip-like design, while others were left scratching their heads at its bold new style. At first, we weren't quite won over by the guitar's looks, but once we got our hands on it, everything changed. In person, the shape just made more sense, and to our delight, this guitar is not only incredibly playable but also delivers those classic Gibson tones that we all adore.

Pros

  • +

    Superb playability

  • +

    Classic Gibson tones

  • +

    Excellent finish

Cons

  • -

    The look is not for everyone

MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

What is it?

Gibson Theodore Standard review

(Image credit: Gibson)

When you think about it, guitarists are a rather hypocritical breed. We are obsessed with designs from the ‘50s and ‘60s, yet we long for innovation and something new. That said, when a company dares to stray from the well-trodden path of classic models and traditional designs, we hardly embrace them with open arms. 

Well, Gibson may have the answer. The Nashville guitar giant has just unveiled its highly anticipated new model, the Theodore Standard. This guitar paradoxically blends the old with the new, resulting in a truly unique instrument that is sure to ignite the excitement of fans of vintage guitars while also offering them something completely different. 

Delving into their rich archives, the team at Gibson unearthed a hidden treasure in the form of a sketch by former Gibson President and legendary figure in the world of electric guitars, Ted McCarty. This previously unseen drawing and notes outlined an idea for a new model, a piece of history that was sadly lost to time, until now. Dating back to 1957, this sketch was likely conceived around the same time as Gibson’s other iconic guitars, the Explorer, Flying V and the enigmatic Moderne. 

For whatever reason, the Theodore – now named after McCarty – never saw the light of day, but fast forward to 2022 and Gibson finally put the guitar into production, albeit as a very limited Custom Shop run. This version of the Theo featured an alder body with a walnut center, a dual set of P-90 pickups and the iconic “hockey stick” headstock borrowed from the Explorer. 

Stepping into 2024, the Theodore receives the Standard treatment with a few enhancements. It now boasts a mahogany body and neck and a set of 57 Classic and Classic Plus humbuckers. The iconic hockey stick headstock remains, but the neck is now bound like a Les Paul and features Trapezoid inlays instead of dots. 

The guitar is available in three distinct finishes: the appropriately retro Antique Natural, the SG-inspired Vintage Cherry, and the classic Ebony. 

Performance & verdict

Design & style

Gibson Theodore Standard review

(Image credit: Gibson)

Okay, let's start by addressing the elephant in the room. This guitar’s design has seriously divided the community. Some love its tulip-like design, while others think it looks like the SG’s ugly cousin. We’ll be honest, when we first saw images of the Theodore, we weren’t taken by its rather strange shape. However, seeing the guitar in person completely changed how we viewed the design. 

It’s only when you pick the guitar up out of its square Explorer-like case that you really get to appreciate the nuance of its bizarre shape. The reversed horns aren’t a million miles away from that of the SG and look pretty well-balanced when viewed from a multitude of angles. Then there’s the completely rounded left side, which is exquisitely finished and a stroke of genius in our eyes. This extreme contour makes the guitar insanely comfortable to sit down with, and its superior balance means it's equally as comfy when standing up. 

So, if you saw a photo of the Theo and didn’t quite like what you saw, we highly recommend seeking one out in the wild, you may be pleasantly surprised. 

Playability 

Gibson Theodore Standard review

(Image credit: Gibson)

Making our way to the neck and the praise for the Theodore Standard keeps coming. Featuring a mahogany Slim Taper neck with the typical 24.75” scale length, this guitar feels perfectly comfy and very familiar to Gibson fans. 

Our review model arrived with well-polished frets with zero sharp ends and was expertly set up straight out of the box. This guitar was intensely playable – and lightweight too! When compared to our beloved Gibson SG Standard, the Theodore Standard was considerably lighter and more resonant when played unplugged. 

We’re not sure if it was the lightness of the wood or the extra mass of the headstock, but this guitar felt alive and exciting before we even plugged it in. 

Tone

Gibson Theodore Standard review

(Image credit: Gibson)

Speaking of which, the Theodore Standard is loaded with a Classic 57 in the neck and a Classic 57 Plus in the bridge position. Tonally the Theo sounds exactly like you’d expect from a Gibson. With warm mids, compressed and focussed lows and a militant top-end, this guitar makes short work of classic rock riffage and face-melting solos. The sustain on single notes is commendable, too. 

If we were to compare the guitar tonally to another one of our Gibsons, it would be our Explorer. Now, while both the Theodore and the Explorer share very similar tonal characteristics, one is definitely a lot easier to manage for smaller players!  

Final Verdict

Gibson Theodore Standard review

(Image credit: Gibson)

Okay, we admit it, from photos alone, we didn’t have particularly high hopes for Gibson’s new Theodore Standard. However, we’re happy to admit that we were wrong – perhaps there’s a lesson here in not judging a book and all that... 

This guitar looks a lot better in person and the distinctive design actually has performance benefits that make this guitar a serious player and one we struggled to put down.  

Couple the effortless playability with classic Gibson tones and you end up with one of the best and most fun Gibson guitars we’ve played in a very long time.  

Hands-on demos

Gibson Gear Guide

Cream City Music

Specifications

Gibson Theodore Standard review

(Image credit: Gibson)
  • Body Style: Double Cut
  • Body Shape: Theodore
  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Body Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose 
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Profile: SlimTaper
  • Scale Length: 628.65 mm / 24.75 in
  • Fingerboard Material: Indian Rosewood
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Bridge: ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic
  • Pickups: 57 Classic Plus/57 Classic
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone; Hand-wired with Orange Drop Capacitors
  • Case: Hardshell Case
  • 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.