Gibson AMI | (03) 8696 4600 | | RRP: $2899

It’s funny that for some of us the term ‘hot rod’ makes us think of gui­tars souped up with Floyd Rose tremo­los, hum­buck­ers where there should be sin­gle coils and rough paint jobs (or none at all). The Gib­son USA Les Paul Stu­dio Hot Rod re-claims the term ‘hot rod’ by draw­ing it back to its street-rod, car-inspired looks, while also con­tain­ing enough of the souped-up/stripped-down vibe that the term usu­ally con­jures when applied to guitars.


This gui­tar is rock­ing a Mahogany body with a Maple top for clas­sic Les Paul tone. The body is light­ened with Gibson’s ‘tra­di­tional’ pat­tern weight relief, to make it a lot eas­ier on your shoul­der. The neck is also made of Mahogany, with a com­pos­ite fin­ger­board car­ry­ing 22 frets in a slightly-curvy-but-mostly-flat 12” radius. There are no fret­board inlays, although of course there are side dots to help you find your way around.

The bridge is a Tune-O-Matic model made of Zamak work­ing in part­ner­ship with a Zamak Stop Bar. Both are chrome plated. The tuners are chrome Grover Kid­ney mod­els that look great with the over­all colour scheme. The nut is made of black Tek­toid and the slots — like the frets — are given a seeing-to by the PLEK system.

The pick­ups are a pair of Gib­son hum­buck­ers; a 496R in the neck posi­tion and a 500T in the bridge. Both have uncov­ered white bob­bins and are seated in black mount­ing rings. The elec­tron­ics are the stan­dard two vol­ume and two tone con­trols with a three-way pickup selec­tor. The vol­umes are both push-pull for coil split­ting. And the big nod to hot rod car cul­ture: the expertly applied blue and white pin­strip­ing applied to a glossy ebony fin­ish. It looks great from a dis­tance and even bet­ter close-up where it takes on an almost hyp­notic feel. The colour choice gives this axe a def­i­nite ‘light­ning in the night’ vibe. In terms of work­man­ship, the only flaw I can spot is that the pro­tec­tive tape on the bridge pickup appears to have been applied a lit­tle too soon after the pickup was wax-potted, at it appears that as the wax set­tled the tape pulled back a bit. It looks a lit­tle ugly but the pickup still appears to be well-protected.


Son­i­cally this is a very punchy Les Paul, even at high gain lev­els through a cranked Hughes & Ket­tner Grand­meis­ter 36. There’s just enough full­ness to the tone. Not too beefy, not too thin. That makes this a great all-rounder gui­tar that can hang with styles from blues to metal and beyond. The neck pickup has a nice direct attack and promi­nent upper midrange fre­quen­cies that make it great for speed-picking or bluesy Michael Schenker-style leads. The bridge pickup responds really nicely to palm-muting, and to changes in fretting-hand artic­u­la­tion. The bridge sin­gle coil mode sounds very rich and clear with a pro­nounced chunk-and-jangle kind of tex­ture, and once you dis­cover this sound you’ll find your­self return­ing to it a lot. The neck pickup sounds notice­ably darker in sin­gle coil mode, even com­pared to its own hum­bucker mode, which is some­what the reverse of what one might expect. It’s not quite as use­ful a tone by itself, but you can get some very nice sounds by bal­anc­ing the neck sin­gle coil mode’s vol­ume down below the bridge sin­gle coil mode.


This is a visu­ally dis­tinc­tive gui­tar that will appeal to play­ers in a lot of gen­res. Struc­turally it’s a very fine instru­ment, and son­i­cally it has every­thing you need from spanky cleans to in-your-face rhythms and scream­ing leads. The look might or might not be to your taste, but if you hap­pen to be a fence-sitter due to the looks, the tone will win you over.

Hits and Misses


Great punchy tones

Very use­able bridge sin­gle coil mode

Very playable neck


Neck sin­gle coil mode is a bit dark

The look might not be for everyone

Rough bridge pickup construction


Top: Maple
Back: Mahoghany
Plat­ing: Chrome
Tuners: Grover Kidney
Nut: Black TekToid