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US standard vs custom shop\Historic for tone alone

golfnut

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Apr 18, 2016
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119
I was wondering how much of an advantage an R8\9 or even the holy grail murphy lab les pauls have over the regular US standards when it comes to tone alone. If you strip away all the other advantages like body woods. The custom shops, from what I understand are chosen for lightness. So their advantage over the standards is weight. As for affecting tone its subjective so its possible the wood in a standard could technically sound better to someone.
Then theres all the historical accuracy that you're paying for in a custom shop that has nothing to do with tone.
Then theres the pickups. Thats where the advantage in tone would primarily lie. Even that is subjective. Is it possible for someone to think that the standard pickups sound better than a particular custom shop guitar? For this conversation I'll just assume the custom shop\historic pickups sound better.
So if you strip away all that stuff that doesn't necessarily mean tone improvement, how much ground do you gain in a better sounding guitar? Or is it just understood that the sum of all the custom shop parts makes a better sounding guitar than the sum of all the US standard parts and by how much?
 

El Gringo

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Apr 8, 2015
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5,241
Best bet would be to try and compare the different models/offerings . That way you can decide for yourself , as only your ears can really tell versus what someone will write in an online post /forum . Best Wishes !
 

jb_abides

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Apr 6, 2005
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3,243
'Better' is totally subjective, as you say. Look at the high-gain crowd, they reject classic tones.

Perhaps it is more likely you get a more traditionally vitange-y sounding guitar with a reissue, not necessarily better or worse.

The difference you didn't mention is bridge and post arrangement, which conveys vibration through the body.

Hence people happy with the @MapleFlame modifications, people upgrading the stop tail, etc. Nut composition imparts a particular flavor, matched to a particular guitar.

But everything gets transferred into wood vibration and back into the string movement, and back into pickups. (Reading back, I say 'Thanks Captain Obvious' back at me...)

I don't know if the Custom Shop does this: maybe @matkoehler will describe: apart from weight, wood sorters might also tap and listen for resonance...? I've seen this done to sort wood for PRS Wood Library and Private Stock.

I think wood resonance, pickups and electronics, then the hardware's impact are the main contributors.

If you don't have an acoustically resonant guitar unplugged, the less likely it becomes palatable to the traditionalist's ear, I wager. High gain and heavy effects tend to throw that premise out the window.

And then, down to the particular guitar: does it sound and feel right to YOU.
 

golfnut

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Apr 18, 2016
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119
And then, down to the particular guitar: does it sound and feel right to YOU.
It doesn't take a lot to make me happy about the feel of a guitar. The neck has to be a certain thickness, I like chunkier necks as opposed to slim. I can be happy with anything from .850 to 1". That and be setup to my preference and I'm good to go. I have an MIM road worn TEle that I enjoy as much as my custom shop 52 tele. No mods done to the road worn and the only mod on the custom shop is Rutters saddles. The MIM took alot more work to get to be as playable as the custom shop. Had to really work the frets, replaced the nut. I thought about Rutters for the saddles but the stock ones are compensated and work fine. Sound wise the 2 teles are completely different but both satisfy me equally in tone. The only thing that makes me like the feel of the custom shop more is the neck is chunkier .950 at the first and 1.01" at the 12th. The road worn is about .850 at the first to about .920 at the 12th. If I put a clubbier neck on the road worn I'd probably be equally satisfied in that respect. But if I simply compare tone wise both are equal in different ways. The rest I'd gauge the custom shop about 2% better if I'm on stage playing and not thinking about technically where the custom shop is better. Yup the neck on the custom shop is quartersawn and the road worn is flatsawn. The custom shop is 6.9 pounds and the road worn is lighter at just over 5 pounds Technically better but it doesn't affect my playability or tone satisfaction in any way. My custom shop Tomatillo strat feels like its on another plane as it brings me ultimate joy. I don't own a lesser strat to compare it with, just that of all the strats I've owned this one is magical
I've owned one custom shop les paul in my life. A 2013 R7. Yes it was definitely lighter than my standard 50's at just slightly over 8 pounds. The neck for me was too big. I didn't think that was possible but it was over an inch all the way down. I liked it at first but found my self getting fatigued at certain positions. I wish I had it now to go head to head with my standard 50's with tone but then 2 different guitars, that likely wouldn't really tell me anything.
The standard 50 gives me the basics that I was looking for. Clubby neck but not too clubby, lower output pickups (don't like high gain) and relatively light at about 9.2 pounds. I'd be afraid to take my standard up against some R8's in the music store as I fear my head would tell me "yeah thats far better" and it would end up costing me a lot of money. And would my head be telling me that because the price says it should? The biggest advantage with a custom shop for me would be lighter body. If I found one at 8 pounds it would be worth it if I were wearing the Les Paul all night at a gig. I performed a gig with my standard last weekend and brought a couple of my lighter guitars as life lines. But it was only 2 45 minute sets and I got through it easily with the LP strapped on for all but one song that required the strat.
But most gigs are 2 hour non stop shows.
 

Big Al

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Apr 24, 2002
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14,336
The difference lies in the build and materials. There is a general sameness in tone and feel, in a very broad context. That is ALL Les Paul Standards tend to sound, generally , like a Les Paul. We all should recognize that voice with enough experience and listening. Non players who critically listen can often identify that voice when presented with clear example, not overly processed or buried in a mix.

Within that framework you will find a range of accents. The general Les Paul tone filtered by subtle changes, and not so subtle changes in build and materials as well as the effect of the wood itself. Woody, softer tone to bright, percussive accents and all points inbetween. That is why two otherwise identical guitars, same make, same weight and same hardware and setup cand sound different beyond the general Les Paul voice or tone.

Ok, with that understood, to answer this question that has been asked and answered so many times, NO. Other than a close general tone, I've found a clear difference in the accent between the two. The tenon as well as other build differences shape the replica Custom Shop to most often produce a distinct nuanced accent whithin its Les Paul voice. I very much like the new Standards, and Curt from the HOG, (gotta love Curt and Brucifer), found me some outstanding examples for some friends. I just finishe converting my buddy Randy's beautiful 50's Cherry Burst 8.8lb Standard to similar hardware specs to my '99 R9, Lipton, which Randy has a sweet spot for that guitar. Same pups, hardware and loom, different tone.

Much like the 70's when we changed all our new Standards hardware for real 50's we had cool sounding guitars but NOT vintage sounding. All the geometry and subtle build, THE ACTUAL CAFTING the build itself, not the superficial similarity, becuse it looks like it it must sound like it mentality of eyes over ears.

If you recognise the singular voice of 50's Les Pauls the Custom Shop gets you closest, whether stock or vibe only cosmetic aged upcharged, you get closest. New USA Standards look close and have wonderful neck profiles, but still sound like USA Standards have for the last couple decades.
 

torren61

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May 11, 2010
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225
In my OPINION (I cannot stress that word enough) the pickups in a guitar are the most prominent thing in an electric guitar for obtaining a particular "sound". All the talk about wood, shape, construction and everything else are nuances that may or may not be heard by the AVERAGE person. Don't like the tone from your pickups? Try adjusting them higher or lower. STILL don't like them? Try different resistance pickups than what's in there now. And now, we enter the debate octagon.
 

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
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About 15 years ago I'd say there was more likelyhood that I could feel a difference. Lately not so much. My favorite now is a Traditional model. I think the neck joints are so much better now that the difference in that Historic Tenon vs the standard guitar is not so so important.

That is almost all for the player to feel in the responsiveness and such. No one could hear the difference whether or not it was covered in processing.
 

Wilko

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Not my experience. I hear and feel it. I like the new Standard but there is more than superficial look alike separating them.
well of course, YOU could hear it! 🥸 I'd like to think I could hear it.
 

60thR0

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Nov 1, 2021
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In my OPINION (I cannot stress that word enough) the pickups in a guitar are the most prominent thing in an electric guitar for obtaining a particular "sound". All the talk about wood, shape, construction and everything else are nuances that may or may not be heard by the AVERAGE person. Don't like the tone from your pickups? Try adjusting them higher or lower. STILL don't like them? Try different resistance pickups than what's in there now. And now, we enter the debate octagon.
Totally agree, there isn’t enough emphasis on pickups, and I think custombuckers are a long way behind boutique offerings. The first $xxxx is for the audience, the next $xxxx is for the player right?
 

El Gringo

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Not my experience. I hear and feel it. I like the new Standard but there is more than superficial look alike separating them.
Same here as if you spend enough time playing them you can't help but hear and feel it. This is not rocket science . I also once upon a time thought it was all about the pickups , but it's a marriage between the wood and the pickups = the magic in the tone as in the sum of all parts . Having said parts I will not go down the rabbit hole of tailpieces and bridges as I think what Gibson uses works .
 

corpse

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AND-AND-AND- spendign a few minutes- prolly highly self-conscious minutes- and accurately evaluating a particular git- in a guitar store is a skill I have not yet acquired. They need to come home and need to swap spit with me for a bit. After I do all my tricks and adjust amps and remember "oh yeah when I play XYZ I do XYZ- I wonder if it will do that?" than I can make an accurate appraisal. For me, enjoying playing is a big part of the total guitar deal- how it sounds too- but if I am struggling- its a deal breaker.
I guess I can detect some of that in a store- something really obvious- and sometimes there are some really obvious things- shocking really.
I played a very handsome CS '59 in 2018- and the neck had such square shoulders it almost felt unfinished.
Nope- back to the rack. Burning question- how did that ever make it past QA?
 

golfnut

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Apr 18, 2016
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I played a very handsome CS '59 in 2018- and the neck had such square shoulders it almost felt unfinished.
Nope- back to the rack. Burning question- how did that ever make it past QA?
And some other player will like the square shoulders.
 

mdubya

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Mar 31, 2010
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I think if you built two guitars from the same pieces of wood; neck, body, top, fretboard; used the same finish and glue and components - while they would sound virtually the same with the same setup, as close as possible - I still think you could hear some subtle differences, never mind that they might have slightly different weights, have some very subtle differences in feel and playablility.

So, two different guitars with different parts and different builders in different shops/production lines... eh... :unsure:

What really matters is, does any specific guitar inspire you to pick it up and play it to your heart's content?

You think Page's #1 and Beano and the Koss busrt and The Beast all play and feel and sound the same?
 
Last edited:

torren61

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May 11, 2010
Messages
225
I think if you built two guitars from the same pieces of wood; neck, body, top, fretboard; used the same finish and glue and components - while they would sound virtually the same with the same setup, as close as possible - I still think you could hear some subtle differences, never mind that they might have slightly different weights, have some very subtle differences in feel and payablility.

So, two different guitars with different parts and different builders in different shops/production lines... eh... :unsure:

What really matters is, does any specific guitar inspire you to pick it up and play it to your heart's content?

You think Page's #1 and Beano and the Koss busrt and The Beast all play and feel and sound the same?
In my hands, yes. They'll all sound like crap, lol.
 

El Gringo

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AND-AND-AND- spendign a few minutes- prolly highly self-conscious minutes- and accurately evaluating a particular git- in a guitar store is a skill I have not yet acquired. They need to come home and need to swap spit with me for a bit. After I do all my tricks and adjust amps and remember "oh yeah when I play XYZ I do XYZ- I wonder if it will do that?" than I can make an accurate appraisal. For me, enjoying playing is a big part of the total guitar deal- how it sounds too- but if I am struggling- its a deal breaker.
I guess I can detect some of that in a store- something really obvious- and sometimes there are some really obvious things- shocking really.
I played a very handsome CS '59 in 2018- and the neck had such square shoulders it almost felt unfinished.
Nope- back to the rack. Burning question- how did that ever make it past QA?
Good golly we might be related , as I can't try them and form an opinion unless I am taking the time thru my rig .
 

golfnut

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Apr 18, 2016
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119
Good golly we might be related , as I can't try them and form an opinion unless I am taking the time thru my rig .
I guess I must not be that discerning. I can tell whether a guitar will work by how it feels in hand and basically through any amp. I bought a used custom shop strat that I tried through a small amp the guy had there. I knew within 30 minutes it was the best strat I ever played. And after having it this long it still is.
If I'm buying from Long and McQuades, like where I just bought my standard 50's a week ago I don't even need to plug in to an amp at the store as I have a 30 day window for returns. I ordered my custom shop 52 tele from Dave's guitars shop in the us and its a life keeper.
 

somebodyelseuk

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Jun 10, 2020
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I guess I must not be that discerning. I can tell whether a guitar will work by how it feels in hand and basically through any amp. I bought a used custom shop strat that I tried through a small amp the guy had there. I knew within 30 minutes it was the best strat I ever played. And after having it this long it still is.
If I'm buying from Long and McQuades, like where I just bought my standard 50's a week ago I don't even need to plug in to an amp at the store as I have a 30 day window for returns. I ordered my custom shop 52 tele from Dave's guitars shop in the us and its a life keeper.
I don't even need the amp.
 

brandtkronholm

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Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,379
I was wondering how much of an advantage an R8\9 or even the holy grail murphy lab les pauls have over the regular US standards when it comes to tone alone. If you strip away all the other advantages like body woods. The custom shops, from what I understand are chosen for lightness. So their advantage over the standards is weight. As for affecting tone its subjective so its possible the wood in a standard could technically sound better to someone.
Then theres all the historical accuracy that you're paying for in a custom shop that has nothing to do with tone.
Then theres the pickups. Thats where the advantage in tone would primarily lie. Even that is subjective. Is it possible for someone to think that the standard pickups sound better than a particular custom shop guitar? For this conversation I'll just assume the custom shop\historic pickups sound better.
So if you strip away all that stuff that doesn't necessarily mean tone improvement, how much ground do you gain in a better sounding guitar? Or is it just understood that the sum of all the custom shop parts makes a better sounding guitar than the sum of all the US standard parts and by how much?
Indeed, it might be tough to distinguish a CS R8\9 from a US Standard in a blind test, but this one simple test is not a proper comparison.
Like Big Al says, Les Pauls with humbuckers tend to sound like Les Pauls with humbuckers - no matter what variety.
However, it's not in the listening, it's in the playing and working with a CS R8\9s that reveal it to be the superior instrument.
The US Standard Les Paul is a great guitar but the CS R8\9 is really where it's at. They're worth the bigger price tag, especially if you can find one used!
 
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