Top 10 Best Gibson Guitars 2020: Unbiased Review

What Are the Best Gibson Guitars?

Gibson guitars are an iconic American guitar, beloved by millions. Gibson Guitar Corporation was founded in 1902 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and is now located in Nashville, Tennessee (and renamed Gibson Brands, Inc.).

Gibson guitars are premium, American-made guitars with a brand cachet unlike most others. You’ll see this premium quality reflected in their selling prices, too: the cheapest guitar on our list is just a penny under $600.

While the company is most widely known for their pioneering and iconic electric guitars, Gibson’s acoustic models are built with similarly high quality.

So what are the best Gibson guitars? In the realm of electric guitars, it depends very much on the tone, visual style and features that are important to you in the types of music you want to play.

We’ve compiled our list of the top 10 best Gibson guitars. We considered customer feedback and sales popularity, plus we chose guitars that reflected a mix of Gibson’s lines and price points.

Here are the guitars we’re reviewing today (in alphabetical order):

  • Gibson 2017 High Performance HP 635 W Square Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric ($1,599)
  • Gibson Custom ’60 Les Paul Figured Top BOTB Electric ($4,499)
  • Gibson Explorer B-2 2019 Electric ($1,189)
  • Gibson J-45 Studio Acoustic-Electric ($1,499)
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s Electric ($2,499)
  • Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute DC Electric ($599.99)
  • Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro II ’60s Neck Electric ($1,999)
  • Gibson Les Paul Tribute Electric ($1,199)
  • Gibson Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional Electric ($2,629)
  • Gibson SG Standard Electric ($1,499)

Are Gibsons a little too pricey for your budget? There are other brands to consider. Check out our post on the Best Acoustic Guitars of 2020.

Now on to our top pick and our detailed reviews!

Top All-Around Pick

Our top all-around pick among Gibson guitars is the Les Paul Tribute Electric. As you may have noticed from the list, various Les Paul models dominate the Gibson line. This family of guitars is unbelievably popular, practically drowning out all others. And it’s prolific: there are dozens of Les Paul models to choose from.

What makes the Les Paul Tribute our top pick? It has everything people love about Les Paul style guitars, and it hits the sweet middle range in Gibson’s line as far as price is concerned. For most people who have a decent budget and want that classic Gibson Les Paul look, the Les Paul Tribute is a great choice.


Top 10 Best List: Compared and Reviewed

If you want to get a little deeper into the differences between the various models, keep reading. Below, we’ll review the top 10 best from the most expensive to the most budget-friendly.

Gibsons not quite your style, or a little out of your price range? Check out our guide on the Best Guitar Brands.

Gibson Custom ’60 Les Paul Figured Top BOTB Electric ($4,499)

Gibson Custom’s guitars are in a class all their own. Gibson has painstakingly handcrafted replicas of some of their most famous mid century guitars, ones used by the famous artists of the day. A Gibson Custom is the closest you can get to playing those original instruments without winning a high-profile auction. As the word “custom” might imply, you’ll pay a premium for these models. (A dual-neck custom runs for nearly $15 grand!)

The Gibson Custom ’60 Les Paul Figured Top BOTB Electric recreates, and every last detail has been painstakingly considered. If you want to get as close as you can to a specific moment in history, consider this or another Gibson Custom.

Pros and Cons


  • Top of class
  • Handcrafted
  • Painstaking recreation of a specific 1960 Les Paul


  • Hefty price tag
  • Paying for history, not necessarily better sound

Gibson Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional Electric ($2,629)

One of the highest rated Gibsons at Guitar Center, the Gibson Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional Electric has a cool blue vintage look and dual BurstBucker pickups in a solid-body mahogany package. If you’re looking for a classic electric guitar of the highest quality, this is it.

At every turn, this Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional screams vintage, from its classic rounded neck to its solid (non relieved) body made of glorious mahogany and even the vintage-style Kluson tuners. This model comes with a special orange drop capacitor as well.

Pros and Cons


  • Great vintage look and sound
  • High-quality electronics


  • Still pretty expensive
  • Specific look might be out of place in some musical contexts (it’s very blue)

Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s Electric ($2,499)

Just about everything we said about the above model is accurate for this Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s Electric, Guitar Center’s top-selling electric guitar. It’s a solid-body electric with hand-wired controls and dual calibrated Alnico V BurstBucker 61 pickups. You’ll love the maple top on a solid mahogany body. This beautiful instrument reminds us of everything good about guitars from the 1960s.

Pros and Cons


  • Top-selling model
  • Hand-wired controls
  • Strong 1960s aesthetic


  • Similar sounds available at lower price points

Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro II ’60s Neck Electric ($1,999)

Another top-rated model is the Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro II ’60s Neck Electric. Don’t let the name fool you: this guitar actually emulates the 1980s and 1990s Les Paul models, but with a 1960s style neck.

This model has the classic Les Paul look, this time in beautiful merlot. It’s loaded with great tech, including push/push for coil splits and boost circuit, Grover locking tuners, and it’s Gibson’s first model to use the Plek setup system, resulting in unprecedented uniformity among instruments and greatly enhanced playability.

Pros and Cons


  • Made using the Plek setup system
  • 1980s and 1990s nostalgia
  • Same great Les Paul look


  • Chrome hardware won’t please everyone
  • New (and unproven) Super 57 bridge pickup is a possible drawback

Gibson 2017 High Performance HP 635 W Square Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric ($1,599)

While Gibson is most known for its iconic electric body styles, its acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars are serious contenders in their markets. The Gibson 2017 High Performance HP 635 W Square Shoulder Dreadnought Acoustic Electric is both a top rated and a top selling model, and it’s easy to understand why.

This handmade American guitar is built in Bozeman, Montana, using all North American tonewoods. The square shoulder body is a pleasure to hold, and the cutaway allows for easier access to the upper frets. As far as the electronics go, this model is equipped with an L.R. Baggs Element onboard pickup that matches the instrument’s tonal character quite nicely.

Pros and Cons


  • Handmade in Bozeman, Montana
  • L.R. Baggs Element onboard pickup
  • Great shape and feel
  • Top rated and top selling


  • Not as iconic as older Gibson acoustics
  • Not as storied or popular as the J-45


Gibson J-45 Studio Acoustic-Electric ($1,499)

The Gibson J-45 Studio Acoustic-Electric is another model that’s a top seller and top rated in the acoustic category. It differs from the previous entry in that it has rounded shoulders instead of square, and it lacks a cutaway.

The J-45 has been around a long time. It was first introduced in 1942, though the model has kept up with the times, featuring an Advanced Response neck, flatter fingerboard, TUSQ nut and saddle and Grover Rotomatic tuners.

Pros and Cons


  • Played by a wide range of pros, including James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and James Mercer (of The Shins)
  • Great response, especially for fingerpicking play styles
  • Very durable


  • Basic, straightforward guitar lacks bells and whistles
  • Doesn’t exactly look like a $1500 guitar

Gibson SG Standard Electric ($1,499)

The SG body style, with its two-horn design, has long been popular with rockers, and in this body style we love the Gibson SG Standard Electric. Full of the features that made the late-1960s SG models popular, the SG Standard is ready to rock. One notable design characteristic is the uniquely shaped full-face pickguard.

This solid-body mahogany guitar produces an iconic rock tone with an effective sustain. If you’re looking for a premium “rocker’s guitar,” this is it.

Pros and Cons


  • Ready to rock? Looks and sounds the part
  • Aggressive sound from dual Alnico II pickups
  • Appealing “two-horn” electric


  • Very specific aesthetic
  • Could look out of place in some contexts

Gibson Les Paul Tribute Electric ($1,199)

Our top overall pick, the Gibson Les Paul Tribute Electric offers you the desirable Les Paul look at a price point far lower than many Les Paul models. It features a rounded profile and a very modern weight-relieved mahogany body, making this model particularly easy to play.

The Tribute has plenty of power and sustain thanks to its Alnico II 490 humbuckers as well.

Pros and Cons


  • Solid overall choice in the Gibson line
  • Best midrange Les Paul
  • Weight-relieved mahogany is a pro for some players


  • Lacks some of the high-end polish of pricier Les Pauls
  • Weight-relieved mahogany is a con for others

Gibson Explorer B-2 2019 Electric ($1,189)

And now for something completely different: The Gibson Explorer B-2 2019 Electric is our choice in the Explorer family, a radical, angular departure from the smooth rounded curves found throughout the rest of Gibson’s catalog.

It’s almost hard to believe that the Explorer dates to 1958, with its sharp, angular body. This modern incarnation adds a black satin finish with solid mahogany body and a set-in mahogany neck.

Pros and Cons


  • SlimTaper profiles make playing a breeze
  • Dirty Fingers and humbucking pickups produce a gnarly, assertive tone
  • Iconic style


  • Design is off-putting for some players and in some genres
  • Same goes for that “gnarly, assertive tone”

Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute DC Electric ($599.99)

The closest thing Gibson has to a budget entry, the Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute DC Electric is an interesting entry. It’s the cheapest way to own a Les Paul, and it’s a solid guitar in its own right. Of course, it’s missing many of the features of the more expensive models, but it’s still an all-around solid instrument that’s worth your consideration.

Pros and Cons


  • Sub-$1000 entry into the Gibson Les Paul world
  • Still a solid instrument


  • Missing higher-end tech and polish
  • Less expensive models in other brands outpace tech and compete on tone


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Wondering which Gibson guitar is right for you? Check out our curated list, Top 10 Best Gibson Guitars.  


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