Standard '50s vs R9 summary

PauloQS

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I find this question come up a lot and I thought it would be helpful share my thoughts as someone who owns both. Since, my R9 is a 60th Anniversary from 2019 and because the Standard '50s and the 60th Anniversary came out in the same year, I'm taking the 60th Anniversary R9 as benchmark reference. I'll divide this into two section. One section listing things that affect how the instrument feel and another section devoted to cosmetic and other aspect not directly related to feel. I'll try my best to avoid the controversy of what affects tone. Another important thing I want to mention is that this is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but please feel free to add to it. I think this can be a good resource for some people given how often this question pops up.

Things that affect how the guitar feels: Neck shape, fret shape, finish, bridge and binding.

  • My Standard ‘50s, Slash Standard and 60th Anniversary R9 have very similar depths at the 1st and 12th based on my caliper measurements. However, the R9 feels like has a bit less shoulders. Both are technically a C with reduced shoulders, but the R9 just feels to have a bit less shoulders.
  • I’ve also measured the frets on these guitars. Both Standard '50 and R9 had exact same width and height frets. However, the R9 has a bit more rounded profile frets, which gives it a more played in feel to the guitar. I don’t notice it so much going from the Standard ‘50s to the R9. However, going from the R9 to the Standard ‘50s is very noticeable, especially after longer periods of time.
  • As for the bridge I’m not referring to the studs, which are mounted differently (more on that later), but the actual bridge. The one on the R9 have rounded edges and the saddles are also rounded a bit. As a result it feels more comfortable to on your picking hand. I often forget this detail because I rounded the edge of the bass side of the bridge on my Standard ‘50s.
  • The finish on the R9 feels more played in. New it doesn’t smell as strong and feels considerably thinner without seeming weak. These newer VOS is very smooth, almost satin like, and not at all sticky.
  • Binding affects both cosmetics and how the guitar plays. Playing a 2016 R0, Standard ‘60s and a Classic back to back made it pretty evident to me. The thinner binding gives it a more refined and precise feel to the guitar. The binding on the R9 is thinner than what’s on the Standard ‘50s.

Now for the things that are not necessarily related to feel.

There are a few other things, some cosmetic and some non cosmetic. For instance long vs wide short neck tenon on the R9 and Standard ‘50s respectively. Paper in Oil bumblebee vs orange drop capacitors on the R9 and Standard '50s respectively. Glue. Finish (color), dyes and grain fillers. Different pickups.

  • More about on the appearance of the finish. Gibson USA finishes seem a bit two dimensional relative to Gibson Custom. Side dots (tortoise on R9). Among many other things. Gibson USA don’t seem to get the same orange hue and get some different yellow pastel colors. For instance in cherry sunbursts you get a salmon/peach hue and yellow in the center that can be very pastel. On the Slash November burst and Standard ‘60s you often get a yellowish brown/sand/khaki pastel in the center. On Gibson Custom these types finishes transition to a beautiful orange hue.
  • Glue used on the R9 is hide glue. Technically according to the guys who authenticate vintage bursts at Emerald City Guitars, the top on vintage bursts was cemented to the body using phenol formaldehyde resin, not hide glue like on the R9. I believe other parts, like neck and fretboard was glued with hide glue, but Im no expert in the subject. Standard '50s use modern glues.
  • Plastics are different. Vintage style pickup rings are taller so the pickups tend to be flush with the rings. Knobs also feel different and look. On the R9 it is more rounded edges and you can feel a small subtle depression in the middle of the knobs. Apparently Gibson Custom is using the same molecular level stuff they used on True Historic back in 2015. Also the pickguard slot screw is recessed lower the surface plain of the pickguard, which is a period correct feature. On the Standard '50 the Phillips screw is recessed to match the surface plain of the pickguard.
  • Thumb bleeders feel different. This is one instance where I think the Gibson USA is better, for it is a bit rounded so less of a risk to make justice to its name.
  • Tuners are different. The R9 have vintage single line one ring Kluson tuners that look sleeker than the Gibson branded one on the Standard '50s.
  • The nut is different. That's another one of those instances where Standard '50s is just a bit nicer. Standard '50s use Graphtech nuts while the R9 use nylon nuts.
  • Different inlay material. Aged cellulose nitrate on the R9 vs acrylic on the Standard '50s. Different silkscreen color (a bit less gold on the R9). Aging of the mother of pearl Gibson headstock logo on the R9 giving it a yellow hue to the logo. Aging of the binding on the R9. Aniline die and darker filer on the R9. The drawback of aniline die is that the head of the hand will heat up the dye and cause it to bleed over the binding the more you play it.
  • Bridge studs on the R9 is mounted directly onto the top of the guitar. The studs on the Gibson USA ABR-1 from 2019 on (that includes ES) is screwed to metal bushings that are inserted onto the to. The bridge itself are ABR-1 bridges on both, it is the posts that differ.
  • Body on the R9 is always one piece mahogany. Body on the Standards are either two piece or one piece bodies, depending on the luck of the draw. Furthermore, R9's bodies are selected to keep weight low, while the weight tolerance for the Standards are less strict.
I think both are fantastic instruments. Whether or not it is worth the varies from person to person. I think these are some of the best Gibson have ever put out.

Some of these differences were apparent to me the first time I played one. Others took me some time to rationalize. I love my Standard ‘50s. It’s a great guitar that I pick up frequently even when I own a R9. However, R9 feels like it was tailored to me. It feels so easy to play that it almost feels like cheating. Since the first time I played it last year, the guitar felt familiar it was as if it had been with me for at least a decade.
 

BDW60

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I agree that the in-hand playing feel is probably the most notable practical difference between historics and USA. It’s obvious, to me anyway. And weight. Too many USA guitars are heavier than I would ever consider owning.

The other things are down to preference, priorities, budget. There are lots of great LPs out there at every price point.
 

PauloQS

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I agree that the in-hand playing feel is probably the most notable practical difference between historics and USA. It’s obvious, to me anyway. And weight. Too many USA guitars are heavier than I would ever consider owning.

The other things are down to preference, priorities, budget. There are lots of great LPs out there at every price point.

Regarding weight, I’ve noticed that some of the Slash Standards are in the same ballpark as R9s. For instance, my Slash Standard is marginally lighter than my R9 and I’ve even encountered some that get almost into featherweight territory. I believe I saw a 8.1lbs once listed at Wildwoods.
 

JohnnyPhatsaqs

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Alright, so my 2019 50s Standard Tobacco is 8.4 pounds. What is the rough weight of an R9?
 

PauloQS

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Alright, so my 2019 50s Standard Tobacco is 8.4 pounds. What is the rough weight of an R9?

That’s less than my R9. I haven’t actually collected data on the weight of R9s. From what I’ve seen my guess would be an average around 8.7lbs, which is what my Slash Standard weighs. My Standard ‘50s is 9lbs exactly. My R9 is 8.75lbs. So yeah, 8.4 is light even for an R9. Not the lightest, though, for I’ve seen some R9 weighing less than 8lbs.
 

jbash

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Very good summary. There is something about the "aged" feel and look of the Historics that the USA Standards just cannot compare to. Same guitars in the grand scheme of things , but very different in hand.

For years I have longed for the one that got away (had to sell it) - a killer 2005 R8, that I've never felt any guitar I've handled since measured up even remotely. Not 3K PRS or Hamers, no other Gibson Les Paul USA models, not my 4K Dean Custom shop (all long gone). Fair or not comparisons, that R8 was my benchmark, and nothing lived up to the way that guitar played or it's fantastic tone....

Until recently. Online, I picked up a Slash 50s Standard based on weight and some pictures and prayed for "a good one". :bowdown It weighs in @ 8Lb 12 oz. Honeymoon is over and for the first time in 15 years I don't feel like I'm missing out from that R8. I lucked out and got one that just sounds enormous and powerful and sweet and plays fantastic, no matter what pickups I throw into it. No, It doesn't feel like a historic or ooze that 50s styling, but at the same time it has a certain intangible quality to it not evident in any of my Henry J guitars of the past 20 years except for the Historic line. It's a noticeable step up.

Has The New Gibson shrunk the gap between top dollar USAs and Historic/Custom Shop guitars? In Henry J days, there was a marked difference between the USA trad/standard lineup and the Historics. I have handled some good ones, real good ones, but never have I handled a previous USA Standard/Trad that compared to any off the shelf R7/R8/R9/R0. Anecdotal evidence is all I have, but I wonder...
 

jaycoyoyo

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I find this question come up a lot and I thought it would be helpful share my thoughts as someone who owns both. Since, my R9 is a 60th Anniversary from 2019 and because the Standard '50s and the 60th Anniversary came out in the same year, I'm taking the 60th Anniversary R9 as benchmark reference. I'll divide this into two section. One section listing things that affect how the instrument feel and another section devoted to cosmetic and other aspect not directly related to feel. I'll try my best to avoid the controversy of what affects tone. Another important thing I want to mention is that this is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but please feel free to add to it. I think this can be a good resource for some people given how often this question pops up.

Things that affect how the guitar feels: Neck shape, fret shape, finish, bridge and binding.

  • My Standard ‘50s, Slash Standard and 60th Anniversary R9 have very similar depths at the 1st and 12th based on my caliper measurements. However, the R9 feels like has a bit less shoulders. Both are technically a C with reduced shoulders, but the R9 just feels to have a bit less shoulders.
  • I’ve also measured the frets on these guitars. Both Standard '50 and R9 had exact same width and height frets. However, the R9 has a bit more rounded profile frets, which gives it a more played in feel to the guitar. I don’t notice it so much going from the Standard ‘50s to the R9. However, going from the R9 to the Standard ‘50s is very noticeable, especially after longer periods of time.
  • As for the bridge I’m not referring to the studs, which are mounted differently (more on that later), but the actual bridge. The one on the R9 have rounded edges and the saddles are also rounded a bit. As a result it feels more comfortable to on your picking hand. I often forget this detail because I rounded the edge of the bass side of the bridge on my Standard ‘50s.
  • The finish on the R9 feels more played in. New it doesn’t smell as strong and feels considerably thinner without seeming weak. These newer VOS is very smooth, almost satin like, and not at all sticky.
  • Binding affects both cosmetics and how the guitar plays. Playing a 2016 R0, Standard ‘60s and a Classic back to back made it pretty evident to me. The thinner binding gives it a more refined and precise feel to the guitar. The binding on the R9 is thinner than what’s on the Standard ‘50s.

Now for the things that are not necessarily related to feel.

There are a few other things, some cosmetic and some non cosmetic. For instance long vs wide short neck tenon on the R9 and Standard ‘50s respectively. Paper in Oil bumblebee vs orange drop capacitors on the R9 and Standard '50s respectively. Glue. Finish (color), dyes and grain fillers. Different pickups.

  • More about on the appearance of the finish. Gibson USA finishes seem a bit two dimensional relative to Gibson Custom. Side dots (tortoise on R9). Among many other things. Gibson USA don’t seem to get the same orange hue and get some different yellow pastel colors. For instance in cherry sunbursts you get a salmon/peach hue and yellow in the center that can be very pastel. On the Slash November burst and Standard ‘60s you often get a yellowish brown/sand/khaki pastel in the center. On Gibson Custom these types finishes transition to a beautiful orange hue.
  • Glue used on the R9 is hide glue. Technically according to the guys who authenticate vintage bursts at Emerald City Guitars, the top on vintage bursts was cemented to the body using phenol formaldehyde resin, not hide glue like on the R9. I believe other parts, like neck and fretboard was glued with hide glue, but Im no expert in the subject. Standard '50s use modern glues.
  • Plastics are different. Vintage style pickup rings are taller so the pickups tend to be flush with the rings. Knobs also feel different and look. On the R9 it is more rounded edges and you can feel a small subtle depression in the middle of the knobs. Apparently Gibson Custom is using the same molecular level stuff they used on True Historic back in 2015. Also the pickguard slot screw is recessed lower the surface plain of the pickguard, which is a period correct feature. On the Standard '50 the Phillips screw is recessed to match the surface plain of the pickguard.
  • Thumb bleeders feel different. This is one instance where I think the Gibson USA is better, for it is a bit rounded so less of a risk to make justice to its name.
  • Tuners are different. The R9 have vintage single line one ring Kluson tuners that look sleeker than the Gibson branded one on the Standard '50s.
  • The nut is different. That's another one of those instances where Standard '50s is just a bit nicer. Standard '50s use Graphtech nuts while the R9 use nylon nuts.
  • Different inlay material. Aged cellulose nitrate on the R9 vs acrylic on the Standard '50s. Different silkscreen color (a bit less gold on the R9). Aging of the mother of pearl Gibson headstock logo on the R9 giving it a yellow hue to the logo. Aging of the binding on the R9. Aniline die and darker filer on the R9. The drawback of aniline die is that the head of the hand will heat up the dye and cause it to bleed over the binding the more you play it.
  • Bridge studs on the R9 is mounted directly onto the top of the guitar. The studs on the Gibson USA ABR-1 from 2019 on (that includes ES) is screwed to metal bushings that are inserted onto the to. The bridge itself are ABR-1 bridges on both, it is the posts that differ.
  • Body on the R9 is always one piece mahogany. Body on the Standards are either two piece or one piece bodies, depending on the luck of the draw. Furthermore, R9's bodies are selected to keep weight low, while the weight tolerance for the Standards are less strict.
I think both are fantastic instruments. Whether or not it is worth the varies from person to person. I think these are some of the best Gibson have ever put out.

Some of these differences were apparent to me the first time I played one. Others took me some time to rationalize. I love my Standard ‘50s. It’s a great guitar that I pick up frequently even when I own a R9. However, R9 feels like it was tailored to me. It feels so easy to play that it almost feels like cheating. Since the first time I played it last year, the guitar felt familiar it was as if it had been with me for at least a decade.

Bumping this thread, as I am inching towards an R9 or R8 purchase, but am intrigued by the Standard 50s.

Are there any construction related differences that the R9 does right compared to the Standard? I've heard people talk about neck angle and headstock angle.

How do the pickups compare? I would be looking for a used R8/9, so I imagine the pickups vary by year (could be wrong), but I am looking for something that is lower output, bright, and airy. I realize that pickup height and pole piece screw tweaks can make a lot of difference too.

Any additional insight would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks
-Jay
 

uncle mud

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The Reissues will have a long neck tenon, one piece back, and usually higher quality wood . The R8's are generally less expensive than the R9's mainly because of the flamier top on the R9's. I personally look for historics that are pre 2012. That's when they went to the Custombucker p/u which I don't care for, although many people rave about them. Personally I prefer the R8. I've changed out three sets of custombuckers for SD Antiquities. Just my preference for blues and jazz.
 

mjross

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The new Standards are the real thing! I may have not said this just a few years ago but something has changed. I have some nice VOS, Historics, Replicas, whatever. The new Standards (for the money) compare nicely. This is the time to get yourself a very nice Les Paul for a reasonable price before someone gets a great idea and screws it up again. I paid A LOT MORE for some of my Les Pauls but my “50’s” Gold Top (less than 2K) has really become one of my favorites. Don’t have to touch a thing, good as-is! YMMV...
 

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