So I've had some time to play the 2013 Les Paul and I think I can give a pretty fair review.
1) One piece board, hot-hide glue, truss-rod rubber --- I can't tell if a guitar has any of these things. I think it's great that Gibson is moving in the correct direction, but I've had killer Les Paul Historics from many years (duds too). My first LP CS was a 2003 BR board R8. It sounded ok. So there you go. Now, I only have one 2013 and have only played one. If they consistently ring out loud like mine and sound as awesome as the one I have, the difference may have to do in the small changes. The 2013 I have has nothing on Sandy (and that's got the 2012 specs). They sound a lot different, but both Les Pauls are awesome. The great thing is that Sandy has nothing on the regular production R9 that I'm sitting next to.
2) The finish work - Perfection! Gibson QC is knocking it out of the park. The 2013 is flawless in look and feel. The nitro isn't sticky. This is particularly the case on the neck.
3) Pickups/tone - The guitar is very well balanced. Smooth would be the word. The notes are thick, woody and full sounding. Absolutely no mud .... anywhere. The fuzzy little overtones you hear when playing leads in the bridge spot are beautiful. The guitar sustains forever. It cleans up very well too. The middle spot with the neck rolled off a bit is satin smooth yet articulate. Your notes do not get lost in chording. The neck spot is very warm. Big and bold! Great for the ABB stuff. The clarity is wonderful. The stock PUs are keepers! I believe that Gibson had been putting out some good Burstbuckers (hit and miss) but these Custom buckers are right on!
4) Neck - Great! A little more meat than Sandy but way less shoulder than the older R9s I had. It seems that there may be the softest V present. I guess that would be inevitable if the shoulders were reduced.
5) Colour - Perfect! The back colour is awesome. Deep, rich and grainy. The binding is very clean. Sandy had a bit of bleed but the 2013 isn't showing anything at this point. Not that I'd care. The top colour on mine is very well done. I think the biggest changes this year are actually seen in the goldtops (soon ....... soon).
6) Top Carve - See the pics.
Overall, the 2013 R9 is one of the best LPs to come my way. When I think of some of my favourites, I think Sandy, JPP 1, Pearly and the Bloomfield. I also remember a particular Murphy that I really liked. All these guitars were costly and limited. My 2013 R9 is just an R9. It is right up there with the best I've played (and better than some). That surprised me. It looks like it'll be a good year for Gibson lovers. It's awesome to think that you'll be able to grab a reissue off the shelf that needs nothing done.
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.