After years of painstaking buying and trying, many tens of thousands of dollars spent, I've finally found the best Les Paul... and it's an R8!

paintguy

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Great read and accounting of your journey. Thanks for sharing.

I've had a similar experience over the last 40 years. Tons and tons of Les Pauls' to finally find my keeper that happens to not be the prettiest, flamiest, or most expensive one I had by any means. It too is a R8 from 2001. Magical to me.

Did I miss what year yours is?
 

4symbols

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Ever thought of putting this story into book form, it makes great reading. As for the Title the Elusive Custom Shop R8 Les Paul. The photo,s are Great, then again what do you expect from Gibson Custom Shop. Happy Playing...
 

sicko

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Ever thought of putting this story into book form, it makes great reading. As for the Title the Elusive Custom Shop R8 Les Paul. The photo,s are Great, then again what do you expect from Gibson Custom Shop. Happy Playing...
I really appreciate that, but my story, no, there's just not enough there to extrapolate into book form/length. I could go on for much longer and get into the strengths/weaknesses of each replica, discuss various things about the vintage pieces + conversions, historics, etc. Not to mention Fender's, amps, pedals, etc. But this is one persons subjective experience- not something to be taken as fact, because everyones experience will greatly differ- and because, again, wood is so freakin' random that every guitar is/can be vastly different, so my experiences will be meaningless in aiding the journeys of others. I'm flattered that you think this would make for good reading, and genuinely appreciate all those who read my rambling op. That said, I have had an idea for a book dedicated to Bursts for a few years now. There have been several, but I would like to take it even further. I am willing to travel all over if people would be willing/interest in letting my photograph/document their bursts. It was quite a big/complex idea and I already had some collectors on board, but I didn't end up following through with it due to, you know, life getting in the way. But maybe once this is all over I could finally begin. If anyone would be able to assist in connecting me with some Burst owners for this project, it'd be greatly appreciated. You might find it strange that I'd want to do an entire book dedicated to this after my journey- well, it's because I do still appreciate their history and beauty... I think that, aesthetically speaking, nothing modern (save for some of TM's work) has ever come close, and it's due to various reasons, but that's a whole other discussion. Thanks again!
 

sicko

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Hate to throw a wrench in the gears.... huge Gibs fan but my perfect LP turned out to be a PRS MCarty 594... highly recommend trying one. Doesn’t have that vintage LP mojo but plays like nothing else I’ve experienced (and I was not a PRS fan prior).
My relationship with PRS is kinda' wonky... I owned what many would be consider to be a pinnacle PRS; a Super Eagle II. But in the 2+ years I owned it, it never inspired me. It was never the first or even second or third or fourth, etc. guitar I reached for. And I realize the Super Eagle isn't the 594... but I have played so many PRS'- various 594's included- and never was impressed. I can't recall ever playing a lively or resonant one. But I am 100% open to the brand and always put my hands on them when they're around, in hopes that I'll find one I love. I wanted the Private Stock 594 GOTM for a few years now and might still get one at some point, but definitely need to try before buying- and with those that's a hell of a slim profile given how few were made. But again, I am 100% open to the brand. I think their fit and finish- at least on the higher end ones I've had first hand experience with- is at the very pinnacle of guitar finishing. Their figured woods are hands down the best on the planet as well. I don't know why all the ones I've played have been dead (poly?), but I hope to find a good one someday. The Modern Eagle was the first "boutique" guitar I fell in love with in the mid-2000's. I'd love to own a nice 594, Santana II, and hollow someday. I love their vibrant finishes and quilts. Cheers!
Pic of my old Super Eagle (yes, lotta buttons! the preamp feature was cool):

 

charlie chitlins

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I'm reminded of the Harley guys.
Who builds the best motorcycles in the world?
HarleyfuckinDavidson!!!
Then why do you want all that aftermarket shit screwed to your bike?
Gibson builds some amazing guitars.
Buy the one you like and play the damn thing.
 

oldflame

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Couldn't agree more. The world of wood and wire is stooped in myth and nonsense. Use your ears, and a very nice looking R8 too.
 

OBX351

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It's very cool to find "the one"! I lucked out and found it 12 or 13 years ago. It's my '01 R8. It along with my '52 are my two favorite guitars. Congrats!!

52 and maestro small.jpg

58 RI closeup small.jpg
 

Merkin

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It's very cool to find "the one"! I lucked out and found it 12 or 13 years ago.
Yes, I found my 'lifer' twenty years ago - but it hasn't stopped me trying everything else I can get my hands on too, since then.



I'm the same with guitars.




(For any divorce lawers reading, that was a joke, honest.)
 

1969 weatherman

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great read , I'm sure this upset a lot of people oh well, a lot truth to statements
I don't really think so . although I liked his lengthy post and read every word it is still his truth . some people's truth is the other way around spending thousands of dollar worth of modern day guitars only to find out that the old ones (or a particular old one) have that something he's been looking for all his life.
 
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pmonk

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Just proves that guitars are like books: never judge it by its cover.
 

sicko

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I don't really think so . although I liked his lengthy post and read every word it is still his truth . some people's truth is the other way around spending thousands of dollar worth of modern day guitars only to find out that the old ones (or a particular old one) have that something he's been looking for all his life.
It's my truth indeed, and people shouldn't take what I've written as gospel. Who am I anyways? Just a random guy on the internet with his own tastes. But who is anyone to dictate what's good and what isn't? It'll always be subjective. My intention with my post was merely to share my experience; my findings. I don't dispute that there are good- even great- vintage guitars out there, I know that there are, I'm just yet to find them myself in the countless instruments I've owned to this point. Maybe the frequency with which great vintage guitars pop up is more seldom... they were pretty notoriously inconsistent back then... or maybe I've just had awful luck. I'm sure many people would have been satisfied with some of the guitars I owned, but I wasn't- and certainly wasn't going to keep around some trophy pieces just as a flex- I actually make music with the stuff I own. Anyways. Mostly I wanted to show that vintage is not universally better as many tout it to be- often people with financial interests in it. Again, as stated in my op, a good guitar is a good guitar and will show itself at any price-point, and most people don't accept that due to their approaching it with silly biases such as "it must have hide glue", "it must have brazilian", etc. when the fact is that none of that stuff makes any perceivable difference whatsoever. But also, if you can't find a modern guitar that satisfies you, maybe the problem isn't in modern instruments...

As I replied to another poster further up this same page yesterday:

But this is one persons subjective experience- not something to be taken as fact, because everyones experience will greatly differ- and because, again, wood is so freakin' random that every guitar is/can be vastly different, so my experiences will be meaningless in aiding the journeys of others.
 

d1m1

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I had many great great LP Historics and have 2 amazing ones right now. But the best LP i ever had is a 1955 Conversion. A 1958 ES-335 is the second best guitar i evr had. Historics can be great but my experiance is, nothing beats old wood. In the end it´s propably just a matter of taste. Enjoy the R8, it looks beautiful :dude:

Cheers
 

RAG7890

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I had many great great LP Historics and have 2 amazing ones right now. But the best LP i ever had is a 1955 Conversion. A 1958 ES-335 is the second best guitar i evr had. Historics can be great but my experiance is, nothing beats old wood. In the end it´s propably just a matter of taste. Enjoy the R8, it looks beautiful :dude:

Cheers
........................my Wife said the same thing to me, nothing beats Old Wood.

:cheers2:
 

Pageburst

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I went through a similar journey. Sold all my historics back in 2011. Although they could roar, it was that in between state, the touch dynamics, the light and shade as Jimmy would say that I found elusive. It was a tone I had heard in my head and a great conversion I almost purchased. However, by the time I made my decision, the conversion was sold.

Anyway, I played Strats because they felt more nimble and less numb. Life seemed simpler. Then in 2014 I got the itch, picked up a CC15 and I was blown away. That articulation, that hollow transparent vocal howl, the shimmery beautiful clean tone that could almost chime like a Strat. it was a gateway drug, i ended up with my hands on several dozen Historics and kept the best ones. although for the most part they were all constantly excellent. Some required a bit more conjuring to make sing but they all sounded great acoustically, so I knew a great guitar was in there somewhere.

Congrats to the OP, and I concur with much of what you said. There was no monopoly on tone in wood from the 50s. A Burst is an iconic original. it’s value reflects its historical significance as a true “hammer of rhe Gods” in the golden age of rock n roll. So I can understand the swooning over an original. but tonally, the best of these recent Historics are as tonally indistinguishable from a Burst as any two Les Paul guitars could be.
 
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simon connor

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Hey Sicko, I think you should write that book, if for no other reason that you are a good writer. You express yourself clearly and explain yourself well. There are so many people who can barely string two sentences together in a coherent way (and I may be one of them.) Personally, I enjoyed reading your story, and since there are many of us in MLP that clearly flirt with obsessing about these instruments, I was grateful for the cautionary tale.
 

Fretts

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Well you got yourself a ringer, hallelujah!

I have had the exact same experience albeit in a different time frame. I started trying to find a real Keeper in 1967, not that I had any kind of budget in high school, but "vintage" was a term that applied only to wine; old guitars were just "used".
I had mixed results. In 1969 I got a LP special single-cut and that was a real beauty - I should have kept it. It did certain things in the key of "G" that were really special no pun intended. I let it go because I really wanted a prettier one with binding. Got a reissue 68 Custom that was an absolute boat anchor.

In those days, there was always somebody around who had a real 50's or 1960 Les Paul, and the scene was such that anybody would let you play their guitar, especially if you were a kindred soul who also had a fixation on old used Les Pauls. Result was that over many years, I have played many many older guitars that are now in the unobtanium atmosphere. Some were so good I couldn't stand it and a lot of them really were just old beat up used guitars that were never anything great in the first place.

Side story here: I used to see a lot of guitarist/producer Pete Anderson. He called me up a lot because we were both guitar crazy and he had somebody to talk to. One Saturday he calls me and says I really want you to check out this mint Tele I picked up in Vegas last weekend. It was a 56 I think and just squeaky clean, the only things missing were the tags, really shiny, dead mint. Time capsule. I played it a while and finally said, I hate to say it Pete, but I think it kind of sucks! Beautiful, but I don't want to play it any more. He said, I'm glad you said that, I thought it was just me! Glad you came over. It does suck, doesn't it? The dirty beat to shit ones with gouges in the fretboard and flat spots and grunge all over the pickups are going to be the good ones because somebody loved it and couldn't put it down. The beauty queen looked that way because it got put back in the case after a few minutes its whole life.

In 2015 the obsession for a great LP came back. About every 6 months I went to the Hollywood Guitar Center where they have the dream room of holy grail guitars and a whole wall of Custom Shop examples. Pretty good but not "that" good, especially for the $$$. I always left with my money and no guitar.

2019 I went to the NAMM show and the Gibson exhibit. They had been through a high profile bankruptcy episode and the guitar world didn't know if they would survive. They were certainly bringing their "A" game, because every guitar I tried from the Custom Shop section was a ringer. Seemed like a good year to snag a good one. Four months later, that run of guitars showed up in Hollywood and they were all pretty damn good. I tried 7 of them at two stores in one day. But one of them was The One, and I bought it on the spot and it's at home with me now.


LP Vignette (Custom).jpg
 

The Slayer

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I picked up guitar around age 15. First guitar was a Korean Strat. From the beginning, I really enjoyed gear, and any money I earned, or any birthday/holiday money I was gifted, would all go towards gear. I was completely, utterly, devastatingly obsessed with guitar and the associated gear. Fender's were always my thing, I guess because I started on one. But then about five years ago I became curious about the Gibson brand. I'd never particularly cared for set necks as I found that I couldn't quite beat them up as I could my bolt-on guitars. Too, the "muddy" sound wasn't to my liking. Save for one 1961 335 I got to play at the vintage room of GC Hollywood while on vacation there in 2007, I never met a Gibson I liked. But I actively tried to immerse myself in them, and got my first LP in the winter of 2015. It was an expensive first foray- a Collector's Choice Dutchburst-, which I quickly got rid of due to the thin neck profile that always had my hands cramping up. My main guitar was a Nocaster, so I was accustomed to "baseball bat" necks. The search continued...

Before long, I discovered this (and the other) site, and was a full-on raging Lesterholic. The LP began to consume me. But not just any LP- it was the Burst. Of course I knew I'd never own an original one, and so I embarked on the journey to get as close as I possibly could (within the realm of what was financially possible for me). Early on I adopted a bunch of snobby outlooks and biases thanks to countless threads on the subject, but in retrospect, it was all time and money wasted, because all the vintage-accurate parts in the world will never make your R8/R9/conversion/replica/etc. the real deal. I don't know the reasoning behind why the people who obsess over these things obsess over them, or why they're such pedants when it comes to the extreme Les Paul minutiae, but I know that when I was on that voyage, it was to get a guitar that could fool people. It wasn't because I had any ill intentions (as several shady dealers in this scene sadly do), it was just some kind of messed up feat I wanted to conquer after buying into the mystique of this whole scene. But thankfully that phase passed me a few years ago.

On my quest to find the ultimate LP, I owned replicas by every builder discussed on this site and elsewhere, several conversions, various clean original vintage Gibson's (not just LP's, but other models as well), etc. Literally everything imaginable short of a real Burst. Needless to say, it was an extremely costly few years chasing the dragon. I could have gotten a Porsche 964 C2 instead... oh well, there's still time.

One thing I learned on this journey is that a good guitar is a good guitar, and that can occur at any price-point. Wood is one of the most random/idiosyncratic materials there is, with any one log yielding several vastly different planks. Each one will have different resonance, different aesthetic, etc. Some will be dead, some will be lively, some will be in-between. All from the same tree.

I literally bought myself the ability to be objective when it comes to this subject. I had the highest hopes for each and every one of the guitars I bought, with the intention to find a "lifer"- one I'd keep for life- in each and every one. And while a few of them were good, and a couple even bordering on great, I sold them all in the end. Not because I couldn't afford them, that wasn't the issue, but because by and large, they just weren't great guitars- and especially not in the way that you expect them to be great if you're spending $30,000 on a single six string. The vintage ones especially... what a myth that was... People idolize vintage, acting as if it's the end-all answer, but the fact is that most of the folks talking up vintage have vested interests in it and will say anything to keep their instruments desirable and on an upward financial trajectory. Vintage guitars are wildly inconsistent, and when I see people who have examples of vintage guitars that I had, i.e. '54 LP, '59 345, etc. that they genuinely love, I get downright jealous, because I bought it with that same intention... to love and cherish it for life... though my path went a different way, and I got several dogs. Literally not a single one of the vintage instruments I owned was a great, or barely even good, guitar. A large part of the problem was that I was unable to try before buying- I can see you rolling your eyes... I do too now that I think back to it. Where I live, there's no scene like there is in Nashville, LA, NYC, London, etc. There is no vintage scene here. So I was at the mercy of shady dealers' descriptions. That's my bad, for sure. Thankfully, I was able to get out of all the old guitars without losing, and actually made a couple g's on each one. I'm super bitter over my experience with vintage, because it was so different to the dream everyone tries to sell you. But after a couple years away from it, I am open to trying it again at some point. This time around I will drive down to Nashville and try everything in sight.

It might not make sense to you... you might not even believe me... but I have played Epiphone LP's that played and sounded better than, wait for it, actual vintage Burst's I have played... Of the three or four Burst's I've played, not one stuck out as awe-inspiring. And it's the same with Fender guitars in my experience. The best Strat I ever played was my friends Made in Mexico Roadworn 60's Strat... at that same time I had an original '55 Strat that was worth around $32k... The '55 was actually one of the few good vintage guitars I had, but the Roadworn Mexican beat it out. Of course this is all highly subjective, but I truly believe if you took the money out of the equation and let people decide blind, that many of my findings would be validated. Heck, my main guitar which beat out all the vintage, conversion, and replica stuff is a 2006 Fender Custom Shop Nocaster reissue that I paid $2500 for years ago.

Don't buy into the lie... that Honduran, Madagascar, Eastern Maple, Brazilian, hide glue, NOS, etc. will yield a better guitar, because that is simply not the truth. If the foundation isn't solid, you can dress it up with everything you want, it'll always be a turd. That's the painful truth. That a $3,000 Les Paul can beat out a $13,000 replica, or a $30,000 conversion... or heck, even the real $300,000 thing... is not an easy pill to swallow, especially when you've invested so much time, money, energy, etc. into chasing that dragon. But it's the cold hard truth.

I could go on at length dissecting the strengths and weakness of all the replicas and conversions I had, but will leave that for another time. On that note, I will just briefly say that insofar as ageing/vintage-accuracy/authenticity, nobody comes even remotely close to the work of TM, and I cannot emphasize that highly enough. He is an absolute master and an artist of the highest order. Not all of the TM's I've seen have blown my socks off, but the very best ones I have seen are 100% indistinguishable from the real thing. Was my TM my favourite playing and sounding LP though? No- that honour went to the GY I had, which was by far the worst looking of all the replicas I owned. His finishing and ageing is, frankly, a joke. I know his name his highly regarded in replica circles, but once you handle a TM nothing else comes close. Aesthetic is not GY's strong suit, and I'm sorry if that upsets anyone. I've seen several of them and while they look lovely, they fall short when it comes to aesthetic authenticity. I know his measurements and all are bang-on (yes, I've seen the legendary thread many times), but they just look like second choice R9's to me. YMMV. Remember though, I said my GY was the best sounding and playing one I'd owned. His woods are A+, very resonant and lively, and his PAF's are the very best I've heard, with a beautiful clarity to them. His guitars are the epitome of the whole "a great LP sounds like a fat Tele" thing.
I won't go on discussing all the other replicas by all the other builders I've had, because I wanted to strictly discuss the two that were the very best. But if you'd like my thoughts on the other replicas, I'm happy to share... I have owned them all... JG, TM, TB, DJ, GM, etc.

I often think back to the TM and GY that I let go, because one looked A+, while the other played/sounded A+...but both lacked that something that kept each from being perfect. Had it been possible to combine the two guitars into one, and give the TM the sound and playability of the GY, then that'd have been absolute perfection. Of course I'm aware that true perfection doesn't exist, and this is all highly subjective, but I'm glad to report that I was finally able to, after all this time, money, dedication, find my ideal of perfection, and it showed up in the form of a lowly R8.

I had completely written of LP's and hadn't owned one in at least a couple years... the very site of them made me cringe... but when I was browsing my local classifieds one day in early January, this LP stood out to me. I loved the top, and the blokes photos just did a great job capturing a certain vibe which intrigued me. I had no intention of going down the rabbit hole again, but had worked out a price with him that was extremely attractive, which made it possible to get out, should I not like it, without any loss. The very next night I went to his rehearsal place, spent a few short minutes trying it out, and left a little stack of cash lighter, but with what is to this day the best Les Paul I have personally played/heard/owned. It was kind of a shitty realization knowing that I'd wasted all that time and money chasing something that I ultimately found in my own back yard and at a fraction of the cost of my previous instruments... but that was also a great feeling, because I was then officially done with LP's- I have absolutely no desire to chase after them anymore.

Is this R8 the most historically accurate iteration of a Burst? Absolutely not, but I'm also past that point of delusion where that type of thing matters to me. All I have ever wanted was a great playing and sounding Les Paul that also looked good. Sorry to say, but Brazilian, hide glue, correct M69 replicas, etc. don't make for a guitar that'll inspire better musical ideas than one without those things. In the end, it makes absolutely no difference if what you care about is making music. All you gotta' do is find a guitar that speaks to you. Ignore all the collector/purist bs when hunting for one, and just approach it honestly. I suspect most here won't admit it, but you absolutely do get caught up in the hype and spend many sleepless nights researching loads of trivial shit which won't make you a better player, songwriter, musician. None of that stuff matters in the slightest.

Man, that was a fuck-load of writing, I'm sure I was at times contradictory, long-winding, repetetive... but it felt good getting all that out. I'm thankful for this (and the other) site, because despite all the time and money and frustration it has cost me, it was an invaluable education that I wouldn't trade back.

Below I present to you some photos representing the culmination of half a decades worth of chasing after the ultimate Les Paul. I have found in this guitar everything I have ever wanted (in a Les Paul), and it has allowed me to finally move on. There are things I'd like to change aesthetically, such as having exposed double whites, but that's all trivial and can wait. The guitar weighs around 8.5lbs, is extremely resonant and loud acoustically, has a massive neck, great clear pickups, and most importantly, has inspired several new songs and musical ideas. In true gearhead fashion, I was researching PAF options before even hearing the thing, but after several months with it, I am not going to be changing the pickups as the stock ones are perfect. I can't believe I'm going to be keeping the stock pickups in an LP for once... have never had that happen, save for in the vintage ones. It feels good. The guitar drastically changes appearance depending on the light and angle, and even changes colours... goes from a dirty lemon, to iced tea (what it's officially listed as), to faded cherry. I've tried to show as much of the variation as possible in the below photos. I will record some clips soon and post them for you guys to hear. It plays and sounds every bit as good as the GY did, and, to me, looks as good as the TM did, save for, of course, the incredible ageing.

Hope you enjoyed my useless post.



















Great read agree 100%
 


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