You are currently viewing 5 Best Gibson Electric Guitars (By Darren THE Gibson Fan)

Last Updated on March 2, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Author: DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 23 years. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist.

A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


displays Gibson les paul custom

Best Overall Gibson Electric Guitar – Gibson Les Paul Custom

Reviewer: DL Shepherd

Sound
Playability
Overall Quality
Value For Money

Summary

Pros:
-Gorgeous “tuxedo” looks are great onstage
-Tonewoods support a dense, thick tone
-Volume/Tone controls provide excellent sonic versatility
-Constructed to take serious gigging and heavy playing

Cons:
-Can be heavy when played standing up
-Priced high for most players

Who is this guitar for?
This guitar is certainly for the more seasoned players who will appreciate the playability that the Gibson Les Paul Custom has to offer. The best Gibson electric guitar out there.

4.9

How Gibson Les Paul Custom sounds:

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The Next Best:

Best for Blues – Gibson ES-335

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • Lightweight body is comfortable to play while standing or sitting
  • Volume/Tone controls add massive tonal versatility
  • The neck makes it easy to bend notes
  • Vintage styling is visually appealing

Cons:

  • Does not have the volume of larger-bodied guitars
  • Flat picked leads can sound forced and harsh

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for the player looking for a dense, creamy blues tone. It is also for the rock musician that dabbles with a bit of gain.

 

Best for Metal – Gibson Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • Ultra-slim neck is fast and easy to play
  • Aggressive styling is visually appealing
  • Seymour Duncan pickups provide incredible sustain
  • Very balanced for a Flying V body style

Cons:

  • Flying V body style is not for everyone
  • Pickups may be a bit too hot for some guitarists

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for anyone who is looking for a heavy metal tone similar to Megadeth’s Rust in Peace album. It is definitely a gain monster and should be treated as such.

Best for Single-Coil Fans – Gibson Les Paul Special

displays Gibson Les Paul Special

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros:

  • Simplistic styling is visually appealing
  • Two P90s equals double the tonal versatility
  • Uncapped body is lighter weight than other Les Paul models
  • Easy to play Slim Taper neck is very comfortable

Cons:

  • Doesn’t stay in tune as well as guitars with a 2-piece tailpiece

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for the player who appreciates the P90 pickups and their tonal spectrum. They are different from both regular single coils and humbuckers, so it is highly suggested you play one before diving in headfirst without hearing them.

Best Budget – Gibson Les Paul Tribute

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

This model is discontinued, we are updating this Gibson guide soon, meanwhile, check out this “cheap” Gibson guitar.

Pros:

  • Vintage styling is visually appealing
  • It looks like a much more expensive instrument
  • Versatile tone for many different genres
  • Lighter in weight than other mahogany-bodied Les Pauls

Cons:

  • Thin nitrocellulose lacquer feels “cheap”

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for anyone who is looking for an authentic Gibson electric guitar while on a budget.

Compare The Key Specs:

this graphic compares specifications of 5 Best Gibson Electric Guitars

About Gibson Electric Guitars

Now you’re playing with the big boys! That’s right – we’re finally doing a “best of” Gibson electric guitar article!

What does this mean? This means that I have had the pleasure of playing some really impressive guitars over the New Year holiday, and I’m not complaining a bit.

You see, Gibson electric guitars are by far some of the most popular designs in history. They have created iconic designs – such as the Les Paul, SG, Explorer, and Flying V – and they do so unapologetically. They’re Gibson, after all.

Check how Gibson ranked in our Best Electric Guitar Brands round-up!

I will preface this article by saying that I am a Gibson fanatic. I own several models and have played many more in my 24-year career in music. They are timeless in both looks and tone. Players like Slash, BB King, Gary Rossington, and Jimmy Page (to name a few) have trusted Gibson guitars to deliver their signature tone night after night, album after album.

Once you own a Gibson, you own a piece of music history. It is almost a rite of passage for many guitar players. Of course, I’m a bit biased.

Find out all about Gibson’s role in the history of electric guitars!

Without further delay, here are our top picks for Best Gibson Electric Guitars!

If you are not completely settled on a idea of buying a Gibson, check our other electric guitar brand guides:

5 Best Ibanez Electric Guitars


Our Reviews of The Top 5

Know what you can afford and then buy the best guitar you can afford.

I learned this rule of thumb from The Guitar Handbook written by Ralph Denyer.

What kind of sound are you after?

  • Thick and full? Get Humbuckers.
  • Bright and spanky? Get Single-coils.
  • Need ultimate versatility? Get a guitar with an HSH pickup configuration.

Know what you are after and you are on your way to choosing the right guitar for you!

Choose a guitar that enables you to play the music you love.

Best Overall – Gibson Les Paul Custom

displays Gibson les paul custom

Specs

Body StyleLes Paul
Top Material2-piece Plain Maple
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck Shape50s Rounded Medium C
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Ebony fingerboard. 12″ radius.
Nut materialCorian nut
Nut Width1.6875″ (42.86mm)
Pickups490R Bass Humbucker neck pickup
498T Treble Humbucker bridge pickup
Controls2 x master volume
2 x master tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeTune-O-Matic with Stopbar
TunersGrover Kidney

Oh, man. I see this guitar in my dreams! The Gibson Les Paul Custom might just be the most perfect guitar ever produced in terms of tone and styling. The gold hardware, thick fingerboard inlays, and sleek Les Paul styling just beckon you to play it.

It’s dressed to kill, but how does it sound?

It sounds like having pure pleasure in your ears. There, I said it the best way I could describe it.

This is all thanks to a thick slab of mahogany for the body topped off by a 2-piece maple top. This combination is heavy, dense, and dark while maintaining its balance. The ebony fingerboard is lined with low-profile frets to make this guitar a dream to play in every sense of the word.

The pickups are the tried-and-true combination of the Gibson 490R/498T pickups. To my ears, these are the best Gibson pickups on the market (my 1998 Les Paul has them).

They have plenty of output for high-gain applications (Zakk Wylde anyone?) but can also provide crystal-like clean tones as well. It is this versatility that has made the Les Paul so popular with professional players.

While you may have to sell your car and take out a second mortgage – trust me when I say that it is worth it. Actually, finance it and use it to build your credit (just pay the bill). Even if you do have to live in a box, you’ll at least have a Gibson Les Paul Custom to keep you company!

Another solid sound demo:

Pros:

  • Gorgeous “tuxedo” looks are great onstage
  • Tonewoods support a dense, thick tone
  • Volume/Tone controls provide excellent sonic versatility
  • Constructed to take serious gigging and heavy playing

Cons:

  • Can be heavy when played standing up
  • Priced high for most players
What others are saying:

“I have a small collection 10 high end Gibson, Fender etc. Never owned a REAL guitar until this one! Like a grand piano of guitars. Nothing else compares!”Larry, Sweetwater customer

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is certainly for the more seasoned players who will appreciate the playability that the Gibson Les Paul Custom has to offer.

Who is this guitar NOT for?

This guitar is not for someone who is on a budget or just starting out. Its price is simply not in the realm of most beginners.

What about the old debate of “Les Paul vs Telecaster“? Should they be considered together?

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Best for Blues – Gibson ES-335

Specs

Body StyleES-335
Top Wood3-ply Maple/Poplar/Maple
Body Wood3-ply Maple/Poplar/Maple
NeckMahogany
Neck ShapeRounded “C”
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Rosewood fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutGraph Tech
Nut Width1.695″ (43.05mm)
PickupsCalibrated T-type Rhythm Humbucker neck pickup
Calibrated T-type Lead Humbucker bridge pickup
Controls2 x master volume
2 x master tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeABR-1 Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Aluminum Stopbar Tailpiece
TunersVintage Deluxe with Keystone Buttons

The Gibson ES-335 is a semi-hollow body electric that has been around since 1958. Ever since, it has been the weapon of choice for electric bluesmen – most notably BB King.

This tone machine is constructed with a maple/poplar/maple top and back with a solid maple tone block in the center. The mahogany neck adds plenty of structural integrity and some darker tones to help out the brighter-sounding maple of the body.

The T-Type Gibson humbuckers help deliver a fat, dense sound that can go from plucky to creamy with the flip of a switch. It can even cross boundaries into rock and roll territory when it pushes the right amplifier.

The cleans are punchy, dark, and full of sustain. Throw in a bit of overdrive and bend those strings into next week – you’ll have plenty of tone for days!

If you’re looking for your next blues machine, then the Gibson ES-335 just might be your next guitar.

How this guitar sounds:

Pros:

  • Lightweight body is comfortable to play while standing or sitting
  • Volume/Tone controls add massive tonal versatility
  • The neck makes it easy to bend notes
  • Vintage styling is visually appealing

Cons:

  • Can sound a bit too thick for some blues styles
What others are saying:

“If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger, now is the time to act. Exceptional build quality and playability.” John, Sweetwater customer

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for the player looking for a dense, creamy blues tone. It is also for the rock musician that dabbles with a bit of gain.

Who is this guitar NOT for?

This guitar is not for fans of single-coil pickups (like the Fender Stratocaster). It doesn’t have the “spank” that a single coil provides. Instead, it is deeper, darker, and thicker.

Gibson ES-335 vs ES-339. What’s the difference? How to choose?

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Best for Metal – Gibson Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP

Specs

Body StyleFlying V
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck ShapeSlim Taper
Fretboard24 Medium Jumbo frets. Ebony fingerboard.
NutGraph Tech NuBone
Nut Width1.695″ (43.05mm)
PickupsDave Mustaine Seymour Duncan Thrash Factor Humbucker neck pickup
Dave Mustaine Seymour Duncan Thrash Factor Humbucker bridge pickup
Controls2 x master volume
1 x master tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length25.5″
BridgeNashville Tune-O-Matic
TunersGrover Mini Rotomatics with Kidney buttons

One thing is for sure: Megadeth’s founder and frontman, Dave Mustaine, knows metal! He’s been seen onstage with his signature Flying Vs for years, so it only seems right for him to have a Gibson signature model.

This isn’t your grandpa’s Flying V though. The Gibson Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP is a metal monster. The mahogany back and neck combined with an ebony fretboard help deliver some seriously thick dark tones.

The pickups are Dave’s own Seymour Duncan Thrash Factor pickups which combine the characteristics of the tonewoods to create a high-gain thrash machine that matches Dave Mustaine’s style perfectly.

As far as the neck, it is just like my first date: fast and easy. It plays effortlessly and allows you to do some really awesome fretboard acrobatics.

The Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners help keep everything in tune while you shred away. Throw in a classic Gibson Explorer-style headstock and custom double-shark tooth inlays and you’ve got a beautiful, brutal machine.

“Brute-iful”. That’s the best way to describe it.

If you’re looking for your next axe for heavy shredding, you can look no further than the Gibson Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP.

How this guitar sounds:

Pros:

Cons:

  • Flying V body style is not for everyone
  • Pickups may be a bit too hot for some guitarists
What others are saying:

“The quality is superb, the playability is impeccable, the sound is aggressive, and the look is absolutely monster!” – William, Sweetwater customer

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for anyone who is looking for a heavy metal tone similar to Megadeth’s Rust in Peace album. It is definitely a gain monster and should be treated as such.

Who is this guitar NOT for?

This guitar is not for fans of a big chunky neck. It is very low profile and unlike any Gibson neck I have ever played.

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Best for Single-Coil Fans – Gibson Les Paul Special

displays Gibson Les Paul Special

Specs

Body StyleLes Paul
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck Shape50s Vintage
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Rosewood fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutGraphTech
Nut Width1.695″ (43.05mm)
PickupsP-90 Single-coil neck pickup
P-90 Single-coil bridge pickup
Controls2 x master volume
2 x master tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeWraparound
TunersVintage Deluxe

Love them or hate them, P90 pickups have been around for a long time. They have a distinctive tone that is in between a standard single coil and a humbucker. They’re brighter and more defined than a humbucker, but definitely not twangy. For reference, check out Green Day circa the early 2000s. Billie Joe Armstrong is a huge P90 fan.

Since Gibson is mostly known for their humbuckers, we’ll give credit where credit is due and take a look at the Gibson Les Paul Special with P90s.

A word of caution: there are Gibson Les Paul Special models out there with humbuckers (I own one). So, be careful when looking at these.

The Gibson Les Paul Special is a more versatile instrument than the Gibson Les Paul Junior which is famous for coming equipped with a P90. Instead of one P90, the Gibson Les Paul Special is equipped with two.

The Les Paul Special is one of the more simplistic Les Paul models in terms of styling. Instead of an arch-top, Gibson decided just to keep the big slab of mahogany for the body and neck. They threw on a rosewood fretboard, a wrap-around tailpiece, and called it a day’s work.

The thing is: it works beautifully without all of the frills. It is much lighter than an arch-top Les Paul too!

Dial in your tone with 4-way controls just like any other Les Paul model. If you’re a fan of the P90s, then you simply can’t go wrong with the Gibson Les Paul Special.

How this guitar sounds:

Pros:

  • Simplistic styling is visually appealing
  • Two P90s equals double the tonal versatility
  • Uncapped body is lighter weight than other Les Paul models
  • Easy to play Slim Taper neck is very comfortable

Cons:

  • Doesn’t stay in tune as well as guitars with a 2-piece tailpiece
What others are saying:

“I just got this yesterday and I have to say for the money this may be the best guitar I have. The P90s and articulate and dynamic. They ring like a bell or can get gritty and grimy, but still clear.” – Nicholas, Sweetwater customer

Find more great guitars with P90s here.

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for the player who appreciates the P90 pickups and their tonal spectrum. They are different from both regular single coils and humbuckers, so it is highly suggested you play one before diving in headfirst without hearing them.

Who is this guitar NOT for?

This guitar is not for someone who is looking for a simple “single coil Gibson”. They are much more complex than a standard single coil. They are also not for the super-high-gain fanatics. They just don’t have the body that a humbucker provides under those conditions.

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Best Budget – Gibson Les Paul Tribute

Specs

Body StyleLes Paul
Top WoodMaple
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMaple
Neck ShapeRounded
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Rosewood fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutGraph Tech
Nut Width1.695″ (43.05mm)
Pickups490R Humbucker neck pickup
490T Humbucker bridge pickup
Controls2 x master volume
2 x master tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeNashville Tune-O-Matic with Stopbar
TunersVintage Deluxe

So, you’re looking for that authentic Gibson tone without going completely broke? Gibson has your answer with the Gibson Les Paul Tribute. You get a lot of axe for the price with the bonus of it being a real, American-made Gibson!

The Gibson Les Paul Tribute starts out just like its big brothers: a mahogany body with a maple top. It has a wonderful maple neck with a rosewood fretboard sporting iconic trapezoid inlays. It looks like a guitar that costs twice as much!

The pickups are 490R/490T humbuckers that provide plenty of vintage tones. They are voiced after late-1950s era Les Pauls, so you can rest assured you’ll be getting plenty of classic tone. They perform equally well at high volumes too so you can feel free to crank the gain knob on your amp if you so desire.

The nitrocellulose finish feels a bit cheap, but for the price, this can be overlooked.

If you’re looking for an affordable authentic Gibson, then the Gibson Les Paul Tribute might be for you.

How this guitar sounds:

Pros:

  • Vintage styling is visually appealing
  • It looks like a much more expensive instrument
  • Versatile tone for many different genres
  • Lighter in weight than other mahogany-bodied Les Pauls

Cons:

  • Thin nitrocellulose lacquer feels “cheap”
What others are saying:

“This guitar is pleasantly surprising in every way. Not only does it sound terrific and play like a dream, it is a beautiful instrument. Unlike previous Tribute models, the fit and finish on this guitar is superb. It felt like an old friend right out of the case.” – Blues357, Sweetwater customer

Find more budget friendly Gibsons here.

Discover why Gibson Guitars are so expensive here.

Who is this guitar for?

This guitar is for anyone who is looking for an authentic Gibson electric guitar while on a budget.

Who is this guitar NOT for?

This guitar is not for someone who is a fan of thick, shiny finishes that are prevalent on the more expensive models (we can’t have it all). This was the only letdown for me. It is thin and satin-like without a lot of shine to it.

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Verdict

The Gibson Les Paul Custom is the overall best Gibson guitar on our list. Its tonal capabilities coupled with its dress-to-kill looks make it an obvious choice – especially for a Gibson fanboy like myself.

If you’re into the blues, the Gibson ES-335 is hard to beat. It just feels right when you bend a note into oblivion on one of these sweet axes.

The Gibson Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP is the go-to Gibson for metalheads. Any guitar built for a metal master is bound to be good enough for us peons, right?

Those who are looking for a different sound that they can call their own should look no further than the Gibson Les Paul Special with P90s. They’re a totally different breed of pickup!


Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5

Is the Gibson SG that much better than the Epiphone SG? Answer the Gibson SG vs Epiphone SG debate in this post.


Buyer’s Guide – FAQ

Key Features of Gibson Electric Guitars

  • Made in the USA
  • Distinctive designs, such as the Les Paul, Explorer, Firebird, and Flying V
  • Built with the highest quality tonewoods with some newer models sporting synthetic materials, such as graphite tops.
  • Premium hardware and electronics 

Learn more about electric guitar anatomy here and electric guitar pickup types here.

How to Choose The Right Gibson Electric Guitar for You?

There’s a Gibson for everyone! It comes down to style and ergonomics. Many Gibsons employ two humbuckers as their main electronics, so you’ll be sure to get a thick, creamy sound from them all (P90’s are good too though) no matter what body shape you go for. 

Choose a guitar that fits your needs and your budget. Find one that inspires you to pick it up and play it. You also want to be comfortable. Some players find certain body shapes too awkward to play, so try before you buy (if you can). Especially SG’s are not necessarily for everyone.

What Gibson Electric Guitars Are Good For?

Gibson electric guitars are good for virtually all types of music. They have a thicker, creamier sound than many of their competitors, and they are well-suited for anything from the lightest jazz to the heaviest metal.

How much is a good Gibson electric guitar?

Gibson guitars are priced from $1,299.99 to $3,999.99 with custom shop models going much higher.

Are Gibson electric guitars better than Fender electric guitars?

Each company has carved its niche in the rock world with its respective guitars.  Some prefer the dense, creamy sound of a Gibson while others appreciate the brighter tone of the Fender electric guitar. The necks are vastly different as well so it all depends on your tastes.

Do Gibson electric guitars hold their value?

The short answer is yes. Many Gibson models are sought by collectors and may even increase in value.

Should You Buy Gibson or Epiphone Electric Guitar?

Gibson guitars are made in the USA. While there are some American-made Epiphone guitars, they are mostly made overseas. Gibson created many of the original designs that Epiphone now makes. Therefore, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want an original or a spinoff of the original?” 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Epiphone guitars. However, Gibsons are made with more attention to detail. They are of much higher quality altogether than most Epiphone models. If you want that quality, save your pennies and go for a Gibson. If you want to save some money but still get a classic guitar, go for an Epiphone. 

Famous Guitarists Playing Gibson Electric Guitars

  • Jimmy Page
  • Gary Rossington
  • Lzzy Halestorm
  • Slash
  • Zakk Wylde
  • Dave Mustaine
  • Tony Iommi
  • Gary Moore
  • Peter Green
  • BB King
  • Dickey Betts
  • Chuck Berry

Conclusion

The impact that Gibson has made on my musical career cannot be measured. While I’m not even close to being a famous guitar player, I have played my fair share of gigs and recorded my fair share of albums. Through 80% of it, Gibson was there. To me, there wasn’t any other guitar in the world.

I can safely say that I speak for many more guitarists out there when I say that Gibson guitars are worth every penny – and more. They were the guitars that I lusted for when I was a budding player because they seemed so perfectly unobtainable to me at that moment. Now that I’m a big-time, successful writer, I can afford them (not really, but it sounded good).

The point that I’m trying to make here is that Gibson electric guitars are timeless. They are more than “just a guitar” to some players. They are an inspiration. They are an aspiration. They are the pinnacle of quality and tone.

If you were to play the “desert island” game with me and made me pick one guitar, I would pick my Gibson Les Paul any day of the week – even without an amp.

Yeah. They’re that good.

Check our picks for best Gibson acoustic guitars here.

DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 25 years and teaching guitar since High-School. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist. A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia. Expertise: teaching guitars, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, guide pedals, flatpicking, bluegrass, metal, rock, and blues.
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mike

I really liked your picks overall Darren and Teemu, but I would have included Gibson SG Standard ’61. It’s the best Gibson electric go me!

Teemu Suomala

Thank you for revealing your opinion Mike! True, Gibson SG Standard ’61 is a really good Gibson electric guitar. It’s hard to go wrong with that. We just like the top 5 guitars featured here even more! Take care!