Gibson SG Special Gothic II review

The SG series may be old, but the SG Special Gothic II shows the youngsters a thing or two...

  • £799
The Gibson SG Special Gothic II

MusicRadar Verdict

While the SG is getting on a bit, The SG Special Gothic II proves that the series can still cut it in the world of metal, and hold it's own against guitar from dedicated hard-rock brands such as BC Rich and Dean. It also looks fantastic.


  • +

    The amazing looks, the EMG pickups and the killer playability.


  • -


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.

We all know that the SG is a vintage classic - one of the greatest guitars of all time - but can this old timer really hold its own against the might of modern rock and metal guitars? Merchant City Music, the Glasgow-based music store, seem to think so. They have got their hands on a consignment of a limited run Gibson SG model with some modern features, and it certainly looks the part...

Design and construction

Underneath the modern satin black 'Gothic' paint is a classic Gibson SG. Some things just have to be right to keep us happy. We wanted to see a mahogany body and neck glued together with a slim, comfortable neck profile. We would probably have thrown a fit if we didn't see a pair of humbuckers and a tune-o-matic bridge. But this SG meets all our expectations. The fingerboard is well finished and fitted with 22 fat frets, but there are no fret markers. Moving on though, this guitar is light in weight and hangs on a strap beautifully.

The biggest departure from the classic SG set-up (aside from the finish) are the pickups. This guitar is loaded with a pair of active EMG humbuckers: an 81 at the bridge and an 85 model in the neck position. That's the same setup used by Jeff Hanneman of Slayer and Travis Miguel of Atreyu on their ESP guitars. Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde won't make eardrums bleed with any other pickups, so we're talking about some serious power here. It's also worth noting that the EMG81 is also a bridge position favourite of Hetfield and Hammett.

Since it was launched back in the day, guitarists have found to their horror that the SG has a split personality. If it hits the deck, it will break. Treat it with respect, however, and it'll last longer than you will.

In use

We've played more SGs than we've had hot dinners, and aside from some whammy bar-equipped versions made in the 1980s, we've never met a Gibson SG we didn't like. Continuing in this fine tradition, we're happy to report that this guitar is great. The playability - the low action, the easy string tension - makes out on this guitar a real treat. The lack of fret markers led to some early embarrassing mistakes, but we soon got used to finding our way around the gorgeous fingerboard.

The EMG pickups give this SG a modern voice. It can play nice when it wants to, especially on a clean setting with a touch of chorus or delay. It's when you turn up the overdrive that the magic starts to happen. The power of the EMG pickups combined with the awesome sustain provided by the mahogany body will is enormous. We especially enjoyed the tight bottom end when playing riffs on the low E and A strings.


MusicRadar is the number one website for music-makers of all kinds, be they guitarists, drummers, keyboard players, DJs or producers...

GEAR: We help musicians find the best gear with top-ranking gear round-ups and high-quality, authoritative reviews by a wide team of highly experienced experts. TIPS: We also provide tuition, from bite-sized tips to advanced work-outs and guidance from recognised musicians and stars. STARS: We talk to musicians and stars about their creative processes, and the nuts and bolts of their gear and technique. We give fans an insight into the craft of music-making that no other music website can.