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Custom Shop VOS vs ML Ultra Light for a Beginner

hamhands

New member
Joined
Jun 18, 2024
Messages
3
Life is short. I'm turning 40 this year and have always wanted to learn to play the guitar. I took a few lessons in my early 20's but had my first child shortly after and never picked it back up.

Taking the plunge and will be buying a LP as my "lifer" but im torn on a Custom Shop VOS R9 or a Murphy Lab R9 in Ultra Light aging. I'm not the biggest fan of artificial aging as I want this thing to tell my story of knowing nothing and learning on a boyhood dream.

Would appreciate any advise as it seems most advise on the subject pertains to those that know how to play, etc. Being that I don't and want to use this to learn im an open book.

Thanks in advance.
 

goldtop0

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
8,980
Welcome to the forum.
You're learning guitar so either will do the trick, however you can save yourself some dollars buying the VOS R9.
You will need an amp also so get a 10 watter to start with.
All the best.
 

60thR0

Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2021
Messages
70
To identify a ‘lifer’ you are going to have to play many. And the one you like may be an R7, R8, R0, ML, VOS or even gloss, who knows. So the question is wrong. The question should be where should I go to play as many as possible :)

If you really want it to be a lifer I suggest once you have bought to stop looking at forums or online/shops etc….
 

jb_abides

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 6, 2005
Messages
5,702
It seems you have narrowed things down to a Reissue R9 and the main advice requested is VOS versus ML... They are the same guitar apart from the finish formulation and aging process.

Both VOS and ML are nitro-based. While still nitro and relatively thin, the formula was specifically changed from VOS to ML in a proprietary fashion to allow for Gibson Murphy Lab's / Tom Murphy's "new" process where the guitars are being thermally manipulated and selectively banged to age. Educated speculation is there is less plasticizer in ML than VOS, although the formula details have not been revealed to Gibson could be using different plasticizers and other adjuncts between the two formulas.

ML finish, even before the thermal manipulation, will therefore be [and remain] more brittle than VOS, thus prone to crazing or cracking under supervised ML procedures. Early on there was an issue with the ML formulation which Gibson has since rectified. However, ML finish will remain brittle and continue to age in an accelerated fashion with time and use.

Most ML owners love their guitars and experience no issues. Some ML owners still have observed flaking and excessive cracks on their post-fix guitars. These cases are not rampant, but have been reliably reported.

The caution here is that Gibson will NOT re-finish ML guitars if you are unsatisfied with an excessive flaking or cracking situation, you'd need to exchange for an unknown comparable guitar, sacrificing your known weight, appearance, feel, and tone for what they deem as comparable and suitable for replacement.

In the Vintage Original Sheen (VOS) the 'standard' Reissue finish, the nitro formula retains more plasticizers which will keep it more pliable over time, but will still age over a greater timespan. Also, VOS will have the other basic attributes of nitro.

VOS was once termed 'Vintage Original Specification' which included slightly aged parts and omitted the final gloss buffing step which left remnants of the buffing compound, colloquially known as VOS 'gunk', attached to the guitar. Also the guitar presented as somewhat duller or matte to give off a patina of a bygone era. VOS guitars can be cleaned or polished to remove the residual VOS gunk and buffed out to gloss level. The slightly aged parts will remain but can be somewhat cleaned as well.... [FWIW you can still find some new 'Gloss' Reissues but they've become more scarce, when once they were the norm.]

I use Naphtha and Virtuoso Cleaner (not Polish) to clean-up my VOS guitars which make them look like 'closet queens' before I dig in and proceed with my own aging regime.

-- Of course, VOS will be cheaper than ML because of lab labors cost money.

-- ML guitars are purported to have more resonance because of the cracks and nitro hardness lets the wood 'breathe' transmit more vibrations, but that's purely subjective and not tested.

-- People state that their enjoyment of ML guitars also comes from the feel of the aging process, to include a bit more rolled binding, and how the finish feels in hand.

-- Others state the aging doesn't look realistic, or they just don't like the concept of a relic. YMMV.


I am sure whatever you get, you'll enjoy.

The real advice apart from the learning/playing is to select the one where you like the neck profile, the weight, along with the tone, and then appearance. Try as many as you can in person and cycle through them if possible.

Welcome, and good luck.

Please let us know how you do!
 

LPR6

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
Messages
91
I had to own several Les Pauls over the years before I figured out what a good one (to me) was like. But, I have several recent custom shop versions and they seem to be very consistent and very good. Go with the VOS. They don’t have the gunk anymore and are actually pretty shiny. But, gloss is actually the cheapest.
 

hamhands

New member
Joined
Jun 18, 2024
Messages
3
First off I'd like to thank everyone for their responses. I went to the local guitar shop that I am familiar with and was able to hold quite a few LP's. Ultimately I felt that the R9 Custom Shop VOS was the winner in terms of how it felt to me. I went with an Iced Tea finish and will post pictures once I get it. The store owner is working with Gibson to find a special one for me. Excited to get it, learn with it, and develop my own wear on it so one day it will tell my story.

Thanks again!
 

bluesky636

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
715
First off I'd like to thank everyone for their responses. I went to the local guitar shop that I am familiar with and was able to hold quite a few LP's. Ultimately I felt that the R9 Custom Shop VOS was the winner in terms of how it felt to me. I went with an Iced Tea finish and will post pictures once I get it. The store owner is working with Gibson to find a special one for me. Excited to get it, learn with it, and develop my own wear on it so one day it will tell my story.

Thanks again!
So you did not buy the guitar you looked at in the shop and liked the feel of? Instead the dealer is trying to get a "special one" for you from Gibson? That could be a big mistake.
 

HanaBanana

New member
Joined
Apr 18, 2022
Messages
4
So you did not buy the guitar you looked at in the shop and liked the feel of? Instead the dealer is trying to get a "special one" for you from Gibson? That could be a big mistake.
This is important. Guitars, even if the exact same model, same year, same finish, WILL feel different. There is a chance you might like the idea or the look of this "special" one the dealer/Gibson will find for you, but you will not like how it feels in your hands...

Regardless, both VOS and ML would be amazing choices, but perhaps you might like the VOS more as it isn't aged per se, it just feels "older".

Even though you didn't ask for this opinion, I'd also suggest looking at Epiphones. Starting on top level custom shop Gibson can be an amazing feeling, but you could feel remorse later on if you don't stick to playing, which is something I've seen many people say, and even had friends buy "too good to be true" deals because beginners went with expensive guitars and gave up soon after.

You can't make a wrong choice anyway, as long as the guitar feels good in your hands! Also do keep in mind a lot of the tone comes from the amp too, so make sure to try a lot of them and find the one that speaks to you! :)
 

bluesky636

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
715
Buying a Custom Shop guitar, either a VOS, ML, or heaven forbid, a shiny and polished R9 all at a cost of several thousand dollars as a first guitar, is absolutely foolish unless you have more money than you know what to do with.

My first guitar, purchased in the late 60's when I was in my teens was a cheap electric. Don't even remember the name.


In college in the 70's when I was dating my future wife, I had a Harmony Sovereign Jumbo acoustic. Wish I still had it as they are worth a few bucks today.


When I graduated in 1976 my parents gave me a really nice Aria classical guitar. I became quite good on it.


I got married shortly after graduation. I had several different guitars, all inexpensive until the mid 80's when I quit playing.

I started playing again after about 20 years, buying a Mexican Fender Stratocaster. I collected several additional guitars over the years when finally I traded all that I had in 2016 for a like new 2014 Gibson Custom Shop R8. I also started building my own amps (I have a Batchelor's degree in electrical engineering).


I continued to collect various stringed instruments and building amps over the next several years, finally retiring in 2019 from a career as a contractor in satellite systems engineering for the NSA and CIA. Today at age 70, I have a modest collection of instruments, some of which I built, and amps, all of which I built.


At age 40, you may be able to afford your dream guitar now, but will you still love playing that guitar, or a different guitar by age 50, or 45, or even next year? Think long and hard about it before you take that (expenseive) plunge.
 

Hiwatts-n-Gibsons

Active member
Joined
May 10, 2024
Messages
176
Life is short. I'm turning 40 this year and have always wanted to learn to play the guitar. I took a few lessons in my early 20's but had my first child shortly after and never picked it back up.

Taking the plunge and will be buying a LP as my "lifer" but im torn on a Custom Shop VOS R9 or a Murphy Lab R9 in Ultra Light aging. I'm not the biggest fan of artificial aging as I want this thing to tell my story of knowing nothing and learning on a boyhood dream.

Would appreciate any advise as it seems most advise on the subject pertains to those that know how to play, etc. Being that I don't and want to use this to learn im an open book.

Thanks in advance.
My take is you don't need a VOS or Custom Shop guitar for it to be your lifetime #1. You can find plenty of such guitars amongst Gibson's normal range of USA models. I also recommend not getting caught up in it necessarily being a LP Standard or Custom.

My advice is take a friend who is a solid player whose playing and tones you admire with you, and go to a good store who is an authorized Gibson dealer with a solid collection of both new and used guitars. If you are considering the price of a VOS or Murphy, instead invest the extra coin in a trip to someplace with a large selection of Gibsons, and have your friend play as many guitars as he can in the day and you play with them too.

In the end pick the one that sounds the best to your ears and his, and feels the best in both your handsIt

It may turn out to be a LP Std, it may be a LP Custom, but it could also be a LP Special (P90 LP Specials have a way of low key sneaking up on me to become my #1's in an uncanny way, even over my '71 LP Standard and LP Custom 3xP90), or an LP Junior.

It could just as easily be a SG, a Firebird (my Firebird sounded absolutely gorgeous clean, nasty as hell with overdrive, distortion, and fuzz, and was tied with my Explorer for the most eminently playable Gibson I ever set my hands on, and it had absolutely insane sustain and rang like a bell thanks to the neck thru design),. It might also be a 335, a 330 (330's are the sleeper Gibson Semi-Hollow and sound insanely gorgeous clean and absolutely huge with overdorve or fuzz), or even an Explorer (my Explorer III with three P90's was a huge sounding beast of a guitar, and was tied with my Firebird in how insanely comfortable it felt to my hands when playing).

It's your first guitar, so don't expect to find your forever fiddle based on prestige or cork-sniffer status. Do it the old fashioned way, and put your hands on many, listen to many, and pick the one that calls to you in that process.

And please do yourself the biggest favor, don't get stuck on it being new and in immaculate visual condition. You might just pass up the one that was best for you.

Think of it this way. Most new guitars have been played by so many hands over their time on the wall that they are only new in name. My lifetime guitar before it was stolen was my '71 LP Standard that I bought in 1989 out of a plywood bin full of guitars with no case for $450. It was already road worn, scratched, scarred, and checked on the neck, with dings through the finish. It is to this day the best sounding and playing LP I ever owned and rivaled the above Firebird and Explorer in playability thanks to its Norlin neck carve.

That's my two cents, take it or leave it, but it's imo the best advice you could get as a beginner.
 
Last edited:

Hiwatts-n-Gibsons

Active member
Joined
May 10, 2024
Messages
176
He already bought the guitar guys. Now positive reinforcement. Enjoy your new ice tea R9. I just picked up a R4 custom VOS and love it. Welcome to the forum hamhands! You should learn alot about your guitar here.
Nice. Didn't see that.
 

Hiwatts-n-Gibsons

Active member
Joined
May 10, 2024
Messages
176
So you did not buy the guitar you looked at in the shop and liked the feel of? Instead the dealer is trying to get a "special one" for you from Gibson? That could be a big mistake.
Very wise words here. You should go with the one that you fell for, not another kinda like her.
 

bluesky636

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
715
He already bought the guitar guys. Now positive reinforcement. Enjoy your new ice tea R9. I just picked up a R4 custom VOS and love it. Welcome to the forum hamhands! You should learn alot about your guitar here.
No, he did not. Here is his last post:

"First off I'd like to thank everyone for their responses. I went to the local guitar shop that I am familiar with and was able to hold quite a few LP's. Ultimately I felt that the R9 Custom Shop VOS was the winner in terms of how it felt to me. I went with an Iced Tea finish and will post pictures once I get it. The store owner is working with Gibson to find a special one for me. Excited to get it, learn with it, and develop my own wear on it so one day it will tell my story."
 

Chronomariner

New member
Joined
Dec 20, 2023
Messages
28
A man wants what a man wants.
There is no point buying something else when you will just end up buying the thing you want anyway.

A guitar can sit there on display too if one ends up not using it.
 

Hiwatts-n-Gibsons

Active member
Joined
May 10, 2024
Messages
176
Life’s short, if you want a premium guitar go for it 👍
Not arguing that. Nobody hear is saying he should buy a budget axe. Just that he should buy a guitar he played prior to purchase, and not get too wrapped up in cork-sniffing.

I've owned a lot of LP's, including a Made to Measure LP Custom, a '71 LP Standard, and two USA Adam Jones LP Standards, and a LP Studio. My Firebird, Explorer, three SG's, and three P90 LP Specials were just as good as any of them outside of that '71 LP Standard. That guitar just had that special hard to define mojo that separates the Summit from the Summit Approach. It just resonated more, rang louder, and played better than any LP I ever laid hands on. I chalk it up to the old growth Mahogany neck, Maple Top, and Brazilian Rosewood board. I will say the Explorer and Firebird played slightly easier or more comfortably, increasingly so above the 12th fret.
 

bluesky636

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
715
A man wants what a man wants.
There is no point buying something else when you will just end up buying the thing you want anyway.

A guitar can sit there on display too if one ends up not using it.
Just stick it under the bed or in the closet and maybe 20 years from now some future Billy Gibbons will show up to buy it.
 
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