Two Juniors Born Two Years Apart (long post)

Dilver

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New Guitar Day! Since I love my 2018 Les Paul Junior LE so much, I decided to get another one…

I got a good deal on this 2020 Original Collection Les Paul Junior Ebony came to me from Reverb, originally from Sweetwater and while it had some surface scratches I was able to buff them out really well.

I rationalized getting this guitar because:
- it’s a different finish than the 2018
- I wanted to see if the neck profile would be different
- I’m planning on leaving the stock P90 and pots in this one (the 2018 has a Wolfetone Meaner 90 and a 250k tone pot w/a vintage bumblebee cap in it)

I thought I’d do a comparison for anyone interested. Long post, but lots of pics at the end:

first up: Finish
The 2018 is finished perfectly. No odd ripples, no “seams” where the fretboard meets the neck, not super thick.

The 2020 does show a couple of seams in small spots between the fretboard and neck, most notably around the first fret. I could fill it with some nitro and sand it even. Since I don’t feel it when I’m playing, not really a big deal for me - but it’s not perfect. And the finish does seem thicker than the 2018.

Something else I noticed is that the Ebony finish is more like a super dark grey than a true black. The finish on my CS336 is also called Ebony but it’s noticeably “blacker” than the Junior. Granted that’s a Custom Shop guitar, so not really a fair comparison.
Winner 2018

Fretboard
Right out of the case, I noticed that the fretboard on the 2020 is a nice dark reddish brown - the way Gibson rosewood fretboard used to be - and a black guitar needs a nice dark rosewood fretboard. This is a big deal for me since I’ve noticed many Gibson guitars (even Historics) with odd looking rosewood. I totally understand that rosewood comes in many different colors and it’s a natural product so there’s lots of inconsistencies, etc. But something has been up with Gibsons rosewood since the raid and I’ve long suspected they’ve been sourcing rosewood from other regions.

Take a look at the comparison photo on the 2018 below. The 2018 is a light brown, walnut color and the pores are finer (which isn’t a bad thing). It feels fine, but I grew up on Gibson, Martin and Fender and in my head, rosewood should look like rosewood.
Winner: 2020

Neck/Feel:
I know they’re all a little different, but these necks are almost identical. Not huge, not slim taper. I’d call them medium-large. I was expecting and maybe even hoping the 2020 would be thicker/bigger.

After adjusting the tailpiece height, I’ve pretty much gotten them to play the same - almost. A little easier to do big bends on the 2018 and the frets feel “taller”. But it could just be that I’m more used to that guitar.

Here’s the cool thing: I had to put t a Mojoaxe compensated tailpiece on the 2018 so the intonation would be better. On the 2020, I was able to adjust the stock tailpiece so that the intonation is perfect. I was amazed. I have a Mojoaxe on the way, but this doesn’t need it.

The nut on the 2020 is a little weird. It’s a bright white plastic and the nut slots are cut way deeper than I would have cut them. It seems okay for now but I’m wondering if the slight “stiffness” might be attributed to this nut. Looks like a little more time was put into the nut on the 2018 and the more natural color looks better.

Winner: Even though the 2020 intonates perfectly, I have to give it to the 2018. I’ll try to get the 2020 to play as well or better than the 2018 with more tweaking of the set up.

Sound:
Both guitars sound great. The 2018 with the Wolfetone Meaner 90 is awesome. Does that Stonesy, Black Crowes, Pete Townshend, Steve Hunter, Mike Ness and everything in-between-thing really well (everyone says “Leslie West” when you even mention a Junior, but I don’t like Mountain). Great rhythm tones, great nasally lead tones.

The 2020 with its stock everything is brighter, a little bitey-er, a little less nasal. That could be the pickup, the pot, or any combination of things. That said, I haven’t spent enough time adjusting my amp settings to the new guitar. Wolfetone uses an A2 magnet; Gibson uses an A5, which I think tend to be a bit more scooped sounding. But they’re really close… someone who doesn’t play guitar would never notice.

Winner: TBD

Case: Here’s a weird one… the case for the 2020 has bigger, square shaped latches that are positioned differently and it’s slightly bigger. The fit of the guitars inside the case is the same. Padding on the handle of the 2018 is a bit thicker. Since latches are usually the first thing to fail on a case, I’ll give this one to the 2020.

Winner: 2020


So there you have it. These Juniors aren’t perfect and sure Gibson could put in a little more effort in preventing some minor finish issues to overcome all the crap they get. But all in all, they’re fine guitars.

I’ll put the 2020 though it’s paces and tweak the set up here and there, but I’m hoping it will be as good or better than the 2018. And yes, for the price of two Original Collection Juniors, I could have gotten close to (not quite) the cost of a used Custom Shop Junior or TV model. But I wasn’t going to let go of the 2018 (maybe I just got a good one) so it really wasn’t an option. I also couldn’t rationalize spending North of $2600 for a Junior, given it’s simplicity and construction. This way I have two great sounding and playing Juniors that I can bang around without feeling so guilty if I put a gash it it from knocking into a cymbal or two.
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Imperial

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I too would like to get another Junior but it would mean that my current one would get played less. Nice black color! I got the 2020 sunburst but considered the ebony color as well. Mine has a similarly dark fretboard too, it’s quite nice.
 

musicmaniac

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Nice, but you lost me at "everyone says “Leslie West” when you even mention a Junior, but I don’t like Mountain" :hmm:
 

Dilver

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Exactly. Leslie "was" the Les Paul Junior. Getting woman tone out of a one bridge pickup guitar....killer.
I don’t disagree that he’s kind of the guy that put Juniors in the public eye. But there are/were lots of guitar players who play Juniors, from Keith to BJA. I just hate the cliche of anytime someone says “Junior” someone says “Leslie West!” Or “Mississippi Queen!” It’s like any time Supro is mentioned, someone feels the need to say “Jimmy Page!”
That’s all.
 

Imperial

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I don't think I've ever listened to a Mountain song, but have been at a Carcass gig with Bill Steer playing a vintage Junior. Neither band was an inspiration to buy a Junior of my own, those vintage sunburst single-cuts are just so cool. And thanks to the Original Collection, they're available to buy at a reasonable price.
 

Dilver

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I don't think I've ever listened to a Mountain song, but have been at a Carcass gig with Bill Steer playing a vintage Junior. Neither band was an inspiration to buy a Junior of my own, those vintage sunburst single-cuts are just so cool. And thanks to the Original Collection, they're available to buy at a reasonable price.
Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas, plays a vintage Junior as his main guitar and also has a signature model. He’s a good player and his band sounds a lot like Petty. I’d love a vintage Junior, but putting $7,000 into a guitar isn’t in the cards for me right now. Someday…
 

Dilver

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Update: while perfectly functional, I couldn’t take the way that nut looked, so I carved a new one from a bone blank. One of the things that’s so nice about bone is the way it polishes up.

I had originally planned on leaving the stock Gibson P90 in this one, but after A/Bing the sound of the 2018 and the 2020, I prefer the bite and clarity of the Wolfetone Meaner 90, so I put a Meaner in the 2020 as well. These two guitars still sound a little different, with the 2018 sounding airier and the 2020 being a bit more mid forward. And I preferred the sweep of a 250K tone pot, so I changed that while I was at it. Damn, I just can’t leave anything alone.
 

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lawrev

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I don't think I've ever listened to a Mountain song, but have been at a Carcass gig with Bill Steer playing a vintage Junior. Neither band was an inspiration to buy a Junior of my own, those vintage sunburst single-cuts are just so cool. And thanks to the Original Collection, they're available to buy at a reasonable price.

I purchased Leslie West's 2011 solo album and it is killer! Very happy with the purchase.
 

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