Guitar Gear Review: The Les Paul Traditional Plus – A New Standard Becomes an Instant Classic

The Les Paul has to be the most iconic guitars in the history of eclectic instruments. This sonic monster first hit the streets in 1952 with the release of the Goldtop. In almost 50 years of production the guitar has seen many configurations, still for the most part the guitar remains the same.

The Look: The Les Paul Traditional is a nod to the classic trappings we have grown to love on our Les Pauls. Let’s start with the obvious. The Traditional series has some of the most beautiful finishes ever seen on a Les Paul. The burst finishes give off a vintage faded aura sprayed over a highly figured Grade-AA maple top. Desert Burst, Light Burst and Iced Tea join traditional finishes like Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Ebony and Goldtop. The guitar is finished off with a vintage style cream binding.

The Feel: The Traditional has a weight relived body but don’t expect this guitar to be feather weight. It is still a Les Paul. The classic ergonomic design of The Les Paul makes it super comfortable to play sitting or standing. The neck is based on the design of the sought after 1959 models making this axe that much closer to Jimmy Page’s famed #1 Les Paul. Stepping away from the classic superfluities the frets are finished using Gibson’s new plek’d system.

Each Traditional is set up using the German-made, computer-controlled Plek machine which carefully measures each fret, along with the fingerboard height under each string, and then automatically dresses each fret, virtually eliminating string buzz and greatly improving the overall playability of the guitar.

This pioneering process does in minutes what it takes a luthier several hours—sometimes even days—to accomplish. Every fret is accurately aligned, and the guitar is properly intonated, leaving the instrument “Plek’d” and amazingly playable.

The Sound: A 57 Classic and 57 Classic Plus pickup come in the Traditional Plus. Both pickups use Alnico II bar magnets. The 57 Classic is wound to the milder side of the PAF spectrum. The neck pickup is perfect for jazz, blues or whatever floats your boat. The 57 Classic Plus in the bridge is over wound for pure punch. 57 Classic Plus has enough “meat” to take you as hard and heavy as you want to go. Both pickups are wax potted to diminish microphony and feedback allowing you to push your tone to the limits.

I played everything from Black Label Society to Jazz Standards with the Les Paul Traditional Plus. Every time it delivered the desired tone perfectly, clearly and accurately. When dialing in Eric Clapton’s classic woman tone (both pickups on, the bridge pickup tone on full and the neck tone turned to zero) I feel as if I am playing his famed Beano. The Iced Tea Finish actually reminds me a lot of Clapton’s Beano or Jimmy Page’s #1 Les Paul.

Over-all Impression: The guitar is an instant classic. One comment on the product page for this axe calls the Les Paul Traditional Plus the Holy Grail of guitars. I am going to have to agree. If you have the deep pockets necessary to buy a ’58 – ’60 Les Paul, god bless and good luck. For the rest of us this is your dream guitar. It feels as good as it looks, it sounds as good as it feels.

The case is a quality piece of luggage. I was also blown away by the hand-check inspection form left in the case. Everything from the action and electronics to the case it’s self got a final quality check.

Seeing the Les Paul Traditional Plus is now part of my gigging rig it gets our TMR Editor’s Choice Award.