Gibson has been a dominating brand in the guitar world for many years. But does name recognition alone justify Gibson being classified as a good brand? I did some research to find out. Is Gibson a good guitar brand?
Gibson is a good guitar brand with strong brand recognition from the guitar community. Gibson has been a top 3 brand among guitar players for many years because of the superior handmade quality of their guitars. They offer a unique tone with their humbucker pickups, offering a truly defining sound.
Continue reading to find out if Gibson is a good brand and if their guitars are the right fit for you.
Is Gibson a Good Guitar Brand?
Overall, Gibson is a good guitar brand in terms of the quality of the guitars they produce. Since creating their first electric guitar in 1936, they have been consistently raising the bar on guitar ingenuity and quality. There is a reason why Gibson is labeled as the rock brand. The SG and the Les Paul are staples for rock legends like Jimmy Page and Angus Young. The two poster childs of their respective guitars.
Let’s dive into different aspects of the Gibson Brand and their guitars.
Gibson Aspect #1: Tone
When I was asking around various guitar communities, one aspect of Gibson guitars kept being brought up. That aspect was the tone. Tone has long been the bread and butter for Gibson. This is due to the fact that the majority of their guitars are equipped with Humbucker pickups. Humbucker pickups use two wire coils to cancel out the noisy interference picked up by coil pickups. This gives the guitar a bold, warm and powerful sound that is not too bright. Gibson’s tend to have a “thicker” sound because of this. Furthermore, these pickups reduce the hum from the amp/guitar output. This allows you to play louder without an annoyingly increasing amount of hum.
Gibson helped define the sound of rock through these enhancements. In doing so, they created the tone of rock in their guitars which customers are seeking. Tone is a massive priority for guitar players and is often one of the main reasons for getting a Gibson.
Gibson Aspect #2: Guitar Construction / Quality
Part of the reason that Gibson guitars are so expensive is because of their quality. Gibson uses premium materials to make their guitars, thus increasing the price significantly. The result of this is unmatched longevity to the guitar. The premium materials they use stand the test of time.
All Gibson guitars are made in the USA! An accolade that not many guitar manufacturers can boast. The hallow-body and solid-body guitars are manufactured in Nashville while the acoustic guitars are manufactured in Montana.
In addition, Gibson guitars are all handmade. By this I mean all components are assembled by hand. They do use machinery to automate the process of cutting the wood before hand assembling the components into them.
That being said, there are a few bad apples in the Gibson lineup. After speaking with a Guitar Center employee, he informed me that “quality control at Gibson can be loose. I’ve seen top of the line Gibson’s come out of the box in unplayable condition. Often times a customer will come back with a Les Paul missing the headstock.” This is why it is important to go to a guitar store to truly test out the guitar you are going to purchase. Avoid buying online.
Gibson Aspect #3: Artist Roster
Gibson and Fender dominate the guitar space with their artist roster. The best guitar players in the world often play a Gibson and/or a Fender. The artists playing Gibson guitars have truly defined the brand as rock n’ rolls brand.
Their main artist / brand ambassador is Slash, a powerhouse guitarist in the modern century. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy page is famous for playing a double necked SG and even more famous for his Les Paul. The Who’s Pete Townsend is a Gibson head. B.B. King dominated the hallow body guitar space with Lucille. Current blues legend Joe Bonamassa has a massive Gibson collection. Albert King famously played the Flying V upside down with the high e string closest to the ceiling. The list of guitar legends goes on and on. If these guitar greats played Gibson’s, then the guitars themselves have to be good.
Gibson Aspect #4: Business Practices
Outside of the guitars themselves, let’s discuss the business. Gibson has been known to play hardball with dealers. Specifically small dealers. Gibson policy is constantly changing, but they currently require shops to purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of product at once. Otherwise, Gibson will not fulfill. Small guitar and music shops simply cannot abide by that requirement. Thus not carrying the Gibson brand. The reasoning they give for this is manufacturing constraints.
Because of the strong brand recognition that Gibson carries, customers are often dead set on purchasing a Gibson. This sale ends up going to big box retailers that can afford to carry Gibson products and not the small guitar shops. A great video by Casino Guitars (linked here) outlines their struggles with Gibson.
Another account remarked how a guitar store needs to be “permitted” to sell Gibson products which means paying tens of thousands of dollars to Gibson just for permission. This is a very money hungry move by Gibson and not one that aligns well with the guitar community.
Iconic Gibson Guitar Models
The below three Gibson models are guitars that shaped the brand to become what it is today. They are namesakes to the brand and are what truly defined Gibson as a good guitar brand.
Gibson Les Paul
- First released in 1952
- Solid mahogany body
- Gibson’s top selling model
- First released in 1961 after Les Paul model was discontinued for a brief period
- Solid mahogany body
- Insane neck dive
Gibson Flying V
- First released in 1958
- Double-cutaway mahogany solid-body
- Basically the Albert King pro model
Is a Gibson Guitar Worth it?
Gibson guitars are worth the expense if the consumer desires a quality guitar that will hold its value while delivering unmatched tone. If you are looking for a reliable and quality rock machine, check out one of the three guitars above and you will not be disappointed. If possible, avoid purchasing online and go to a store to try them out. Each Gibson guitar is handmade so some may have a different feel then others even if it is the same model.
As you can see below from Reverb.com, these secondhand guitars have held their value even after only a few years after purchase. It is expected that their value will increase over time as well. This is not to say that Gibson’s are worthy investments, it is more to show how depreciation is not a factor for the majority of Gibson guitars.
If you are a beginner guitarist, I suggest buying an Epiphone guitar. This way you can still get a similar looking guitar but at a cheaper price. Epiphone guitars, especially in recent years, have been performing amazingly. My first guitar was an Epiphone Les Paul and I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing the sound between that and my Gibson.
Brief History of the Gibson Brand
Gibson was founded in 1894 by Orville H. Gibson. Although, they did not create their first electric guitar until 1936. This guitar was called the ES-150. On this guitar was a hexagonal pickup with an F-hole archtop guitar frame. The ES-150 was a wild success. Jazz musician Charlie Christian remarked it as one of the best guitars ever made.
Fast forward to 1952 when Gibson signs guitarist and singer Les Paul. Now you may recognize that name. Les Paul helped introduce his signature model that would change the guitar world. He had a heavy hand designing the guitar and how it sounded. It was his idea to have a solid body electric guitar, which Gibson initially refused. After Fender released the solid body Telecaster, Gibson changed their mind.
Future models like the Gibson SG and the Flying V skyrocketed Gibson’s brand to new heights. Guitarists like Albert King and Jimi Hendrix loved the symmetrical design of the Flying V because it was easy for them to play as left handed guitarists.
Today Gibson is still going strong but history will only tell if they will be able to connect with the new generation of guitarists, a space Fender is increasingly dominating in. Time will tell.
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