I am a complete sucker for gold top Les Pauls. The distinct shape and warm, inviting facade has endured through the decades and has become an icon amongst guitar players and aficionados alike, deeming it a complete classic. The first Les Paul in 1952 had a solid mahogany body, a gold-sprayed maple top, a cream bound rosewood fretboard with trapezoid inlays, and two “soapbar”, or P-90, pickups. This was the original. But it was not to be the last incarnation of the Les Paul guitar made famous by Gibson and copied by many companies worldwide; some good and some not so good.
These days, when most people think of a Les Paul they think of a big, heavy, solid guitar with two humbuckers. But the addition of the humbucker was only a later occurrence because, as I mentioned above, the original Les Paul was released with P-90 soapbar pickups. Humbuckers only started appearing after 1957, with the PAF (Patent Applied For) original Gibson humbucker, the main difference being that the P-90 was single coil and the PAF was dual-coil. However, this is the beauty of the pre-1957 Les Paul; it combines the thick sound of a heavy solid mahogany body with the bright and cutting tones of the single coil pickup. The result is a guitar that is thick and chunky with a bright chimey top end – a refreshing break from the often one-trick monotony of the humbucker-fitted Les Paul.
Copies of the Les Paul shape are not in short demand either but finding a good one that stands up to the original almost always turns out to be a futile endeavor. We have the saying “only a Gibson is good enough” for a reason.
That being said, there are always exceptions. Before me here today sits a beautiful, faithful reproduction of the ’55 gold top Les Paul, complete with P-90 pickups and a stop tail, Tune-o-matic-style bridge. The guitar is made by a company simply called “Vintage” and its title is the V100GT, which is just one of their many reproductions of guitars of the vintage persuasion. Truth be told, there isn’t a lot of information around on Vintage suffice to say that they are made in Vietnam. Whatever that says.
One thing that actually does say something however is that Scottish guitarist Midge Ure of Thin Lizzy, Misfits and Ultravox fame is an endorsee and in fact this very model I have here for review was used and signed by him at the Rewind Festival that took place in February this year, in Durban. It will also be given away in a, erm, give-away, so I probably shouldn’t be smashing it on any stages, huh?
Construction and Features
The Vintage V100GT is a beautiful copy of a 1955 Les Paul gold top. The paint doesn’t quite have the depth of a real ’55 and it has a slight metallic finish but the colour is close enough, especially for the price. The hardware is chrome and the pickup covers and mounted pick guard are cream, which adds to its vintage appeal.
When strapping the guitar on your person the familiar weighty pull makes you feel like you’re attached to something real and its robust construction comes through. It’s a well made guitar. The chrome binding on the neck also gives a sense that it is more expensive than it really is and I suppose that is the point.
Lastly, all other standard features you find on a guitar of this type are available, namely, a three-way toggle switch, two volume controls and two tone controls.
All hardware, including the pickups on the V100GT, is made by Wilkinson, a British guitar parts brand founded by Trev Wilkinson that has a good reputation for quality and workmanship. At this point, then, it might be worthwhile to go into a little bit of history of the P-90 pickup, since it is not so popular in today’s market and I like an underdog. The Gibson P-90 was invented in 1937 and was originally known by the name “Laid Back”. Other names included “Dog Ear” or “Soap Bar”, the latter being the most popular today. It uses two bar magnets under the coil and the coil is usually wound around a clear bobbin. Like poles of the magnets face each other and their repulsion is counteracted by the use of conductive screws.
The screws, in turn, become a single magnet pole and serve as pole pieces. The P-90 was chosen for its versatility because it had the clarity of a single coil combined with the full sound of a humbucker although, because of the nature of single coil pickups, noise is still a slight problem. Because of the specific thickness of the copper wire and the amount of bobbin turns in the coil it has a resonant peak, traditionally, of 4.7 kHz, compared to the 6 – 8.5 kHz of other Gibson humbuckers. This combines with the brighter single coil sound to give the pickup a very full yet precise tonal character that is suited to many styles.
In this review I used my trusty Laney GH100L head through a 1973 Marshall 4×12 loaded with Celestion Greenbacks.
After plugging in the V100GT and setting the gain to supply an edgy crunch the first thing that caught my ear was the fact that it made a bit of a noise. A healthy buzz had materialized but I did not let that get me down as it is expected with this kind of guitar. It’s just something single coil guitar owners deal with. What I will say is if you’re interested in using obscene amounts of gain, this guitar just might not be for you.
As I started to play, the next thing that got me was that the toggle switch was mounted the opposite way around. Now I don’t know if this was a request or customization by Midge Ure, but it struck me as odd. However once I got going I soon forgot about it because the sounds emerging before me were just beautiful. And I’m not saying that because this is a review. I really, really enjoyed the sound of this guitar.
Moving the toggle switch to the rhythm position is quite simply the fattest sound ever and with the new zingy strings that are currently on the guitar, it was just screaming at me to play blues. I obliged. Moving to the middle position, the gain dropped a bit, which is expected, but that put me in range of a creamy, round, pillow-laden edgy clean sound that sustained for days. The tops are chimey but there is not a hint of harshness.
Finally landing at the treble position I was presented with a bright and cutting tone that reminds me of a lot of nineties punk rock. This prompted me to turn up the gain, which I did without prejudice. Many people reach straight for a humbucker when going for rock tones and this guitar had me asking, “why?” The experience was harmonically rich and definitely of the even order, which only valves can do. The detail in the notes is there and the clarity of the P-90’s really shines through.
I am a big fan of the Vintage V100GT. It is definitely a great buy for anyone looking for a vintage looking guitar without the heavy price tag and I would highly recommend it. Vintage has done a great job with this guitar and I really mean that. No bull.
Suggested Retail Price:
R 4,995.00 incl. VAT
Tel. No: +27 10 5000 116