Five Les Pauls That Don’t Say “Gibson”

Five Les Pauls That Don’t Say “Gibson”

…And Won’t Require a Second Mortgage


Gibson’s recent announcement that it’s raising prices more or less across the board for 2015 has everyone in the guitar universe talking, as is to be expected.  According to a statement (now deleted from the original source) on a Gibson-oriented page that was reprinted at [] and elsewhere, Gibson is implementing several changes, in varying quantities, to several model lines. These include new wiring and jack designs, thicker rosewood fretboards, a new “Zero Fret” brass nut design, a new pickguard mounting design, factory PLEK setups (I have two guitars that have been PLEK’d with great results, so no foul there), factory installation of the G-Force robotic tuning system, and the discontinuation of some finish types, including satin finishes.  Some of these new features are no doubt controversial (sorry, but I’d rather turn the tuning keys myself).  But all of these new features are accompanied by a 29% price increase, no doubt increasing skepticism among some and making access to a 2015 Gibson difficult for many musicians.


But like other iconic guitar designs, there is no shortage of new and fresh interpretations of the legendary Gibson Les Paul for far less dough than a 2015 Gibson model will run you.  Here are some, listed in alphabetical order, that have caught the eyes of us here at not only for how well they transmit the elegant coolness of the Les Paul, but for the twists they bring to the design at a fraction of the cost. Hell, in some cases you can get two or three of the guitars on this list for less than a single 2015 Les Paul!

Cort CR230

Cort CR230


1) Cort CR230


You’ve already seen the Tone King pit Cort against Gibson [], so you know Cort can definitely hold it’s own against the “big boys” (when they’re not making guitars FOR the big boys!).  Well, Cort continues the tradition with the CR230, which debuted at NAMM 2014 back in March.  The CR230 is an LP-style guitar that brings a bit more sass and attitude to the platform with EMG humbuckers and a more aggressive cutaway than you’ll find on traditional-style models.


2) Ibanez AR  and ARZ series


Ibanez ARZ

Ibanez ARZ

The Ibanez AR and AR series of guitars harken back to the popular Artist models that first emerged in 1974.  The double-cut AR220 and AR325 models punch way above their weight in terms of of look and tone and definitely tap into the classic look and vibe of traditional LP without strictly copying the blueprint.  Ibanez also produces the ARZ series, which echoes the classic single-cut look and dual humbucker configuration of the Les Paul, but shakes things up by offering a longer scale, modern aesthetics and even seven-string models.






3) LTD EC series



“That ’70s-style Les Paul thing going on.”


Can’t sum it up any better than The Tone King already has.  The LTD EC-1000 definitely rocks a contemporary vibe, with a sharper cutaway shape and EMG pickups, but LTD clearly knows how to channel the great look and solid construction of old school Les Pauls.  In addition, players have the option of a maple fingerboard, which is something of a departure for many LP-style guitars.  LTD offers several different trim lines in this series, meaning guitarists of any means can easily find a model that suits their budget.


4) Michael Kelly Patriot Series


Michael Kelly Patriot Custom

Michael Kelly Patriot Custom has been spotlighting Michael Kelly guitars for quite a while now [], and with good reason.

The company continues to build a solid reputation among players everywhere, with an eye towards bringing tried-and-true designs into the 21st century without busting budgets.

TTK was bringing the good news about the Patriot series to the masses years ago [], so Michael Kelly was probably already on your radar screen, but their success at delivering the goods bears repeating.


PRS SE Mark Tremonti Custom

PRS SE Mark Tremonti Custom



5) PRS SE series



Some PRS guitars can certainly reach the same lofty prices as Gibsons, but the legendary Maryland-based company has done a remarkable job of offering a strong range of options for those whose wallets aren’t weighed down by fat rolls of dead presidents (and cabinet secretaries and inventors, if we’re getting technical).  Famously sued by Gibson for reasons that are still a head-scratcher, but essentially revolve around PRS giving Gibson a run for their money in the guitar market, production of the PRS Singlecut series of guitars were temporarily halted in the mid 2000s.  But PRS is back in the saddle and stealing a significant amount of thunder from the Les Paul guitar bloodline with ti’s SE and American-made S2 model lines.


So if you got that Gibson you always wanted into your collection before the Great Price Eruption of 2015, good on ya.  But as we can see, there’s no need to fret if you want to get an LP-style guitar into the stable; in fact, thos is just a small sampling of all the options out there. And we haven’t talked about the used market.  Are there any other great guitars that deliver on price, quality, and tone that we should know about?  Tell us in the comments!


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