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Gibson Les Paul/ES-335 Custom VOS vs Murphy Lab

ADClope

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Dec 9, 2019
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I'm currently researching this topic and just have a few questions as I am not remotely close to a guitar store that has examples in stock that I can actually put my hands on.

I'm looking at either a Les Paul R8/9 or an ES-335. VOS vs ML Ultra Light Ageing.

My question I guess more is related to the finishing and selection process between these two.

I'm interested in comparing the VOS finish with the Ultra Light Aged Murphy Finish.

From what I've read, it seems that the harder ML finish is a better "feeling" finish to play on and some seem to believe it helps with resonance and tone as well. Others seem to believe that the overall better playing experience that some seem to have with the ML guitars is due to the ML hand selecting the guitars that they bring in, so basically picking the best of the customs and then applying their finish/aging/distress/etc...

So, I guess my questions are -

Is the different finish worth the price jump? Does it, in fact, feel noticeably better to play?

Any negatives to the ML finishes, other than personal aesthetic preference between aging vs NOS?

Does Murphy Lab hand select the best examples of the custom guitars to bring in?

I guess, if so, I feel for the ultra light aging, that the ML option might be the way to go.

What do you guys think?
 

jb_abides

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Apr 6, 2005
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5,377
Mat Koehler of Gibson has stated there is no preferential selection happening, the differences are in finishing i.e. all cosmetic.

FWIW: I don't own a ML. I've gone thru several at dealers but I am not hugely compelled. I am somewhat indifferent to aging other than under the bed classic.

While Gibson has fixed the early issue with the Murphy Lab finish, there are still some reports of, and continued concerns about, aggressive finish wear and flaking occurring. And, there's no long-term data out there, yet, beyond a handful of years.

Recall, Tom Murphy has stated (1) how they are made is that aging that stems from the new ML nitro finish formulation is more aggressive than VOS nitro, so they all need to undergo "controlled crazing" before they let them leave the factory; and (2) they will continue to age (at the same rate).

Add the aggressive nature of the finish, and the continuation, and project into the future. So, my druthers would be Ultra-Light would be the only way I'd ever go.

Worth it? That's all down to personal preference for a desired experience, and risk tolerance.

That said, folks who have them seem to love the feel!
 
Last edited:

LPR6

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Feb 5, 2019
Messages
62
The ultra light aging is not that visible. I recently bought a VOS R7 and an ultralight ML R8 from online dealers. You can feel the “checking“ on the back of the neck when playing the R8. I don’t feel much difference in playability between the two. The upcharge on the new ML is not worth it to me. Got my ‘24 R8 ML used for less than a new R8 which is why I bought it.

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Tim Plains

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Aug 1, 2013
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796
Others seem to believe that the overall better playing experience that some seem to have with the ML guitars is due to the ML hand selecting the guitars that they bring in, so basically picking the best of the customs and then applying their finish/aging/distress/etc...
Better playing experience? This is stupidity. It's an assembly line, they make thousands and thousands of guitars, and randomly pick some for Murphy's team to age. Some dealers select their woods but that's different and still nobody plays them before the finished product. Think about it, how can you play a guitar in the assembly process when electronics and strings are the final steps?
 

jb_abides

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Apr 6, 2005
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5,377
Think about it, how can you play a guitar in the assembly process when electronics and strings are the final steps?

Yes, even more... when they go to Murphy Lab or VOS/Gloss line, they are just burst-sprayed wood, the next step after just white wood, and have masking tape, etc. on them. There's no selection that can be made there, unless they do so by weight, and that's zero guarantee of any tonal outcome metric beyond lighter guitars are preferred to wear.
 

ADClope

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Dec 9, 2019
Messages
12
Thanks for the replies guys. Feeling more like just going with a reissue VOS than the ML line.

I don't really have an opinion on aging one way or another. If you like it, great. If you don't, great. If I had to choose, my preference would be to not have the guitar aged anything more than ultra light, if at all.

One of my fears is I don't want to wind up with a heavily aged les paul in a few years because the finish has all worn away.

As was pointed out, there really is no long term data to really see how these guitars will age. It's a lot to spend, in my opinion anyways, having that worry in the back of your mind.

My biggest thing was if there was a selection process, eg... nicer tops, lighter weight wood(s), etc...

But if there is no selection process occurring, and if the ML lacquer does not add to the overall experience then I do not really get the draw of the ML stuff, unless you are just simply into the aged look.

Thanks all!
 

CAGinLA

Active member
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Jan 4, 2016
Messages
489
Yes it feels better and yes it's worth the up-charge (though I wish it was cheaper).
 
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