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Gibson VOS Guitars: Vintage Original Spec

Published: Monday 23 February 2009

Gibson has been in the business of making the best possible guitars it can make, reissue or otherwise, as long as the company has been in business. So just what is it that makes the Gibson VOS Vintage Original Spec 1957 Les Paul Goldtop and 1958 and ’59 Les Paul Standards from the Gibson Custom Shop the best production Les Paul reissues the company has ever made?

Vintage Original Spec Gibson

VOS stands for "Vintage Original Spec". The finishing process on VOS models has been customised to reflect the way Gibson finished Les Paul guitars back in the '50s. They receive a thinner nitro-cellulose lacquer finish which is applied, sanded, and buffed by hand; in other words, more care is put into the finishing process. This extra care is intended to make VOS guitars look like gently aged and well-cared-for vintage guitars. It also helps the guitars 'breathe' better and therefore to resonate and sustain more freely, making them much better instruments.

There are a lot of details, and they all add up to this: the most accurate reproductions of the original ’50s Les Paul specifications that it’s possible to build today and as any guitarist who’s a hound for superlative tone and unparalleled playability will tell you, the magic is in the details.

In addition to the specs that so many Gibson players demand—such as the one-piece mahogany neck with long tenon, Burstbucker PAF reproduction pickups, solid non-weight relieved mahogany backs, and accurate rounded ’50s neck profiles—other critical but lesser-seen details mount up thick and fast:

  • Vintage-style, vintage-profile fret wire
  • Historically accurate thin fingerboard binding that’s only .040-inch thick (which contributes greatly to the comfortable, vintage-feeling, 'rolled' fingerboard edges)
  • Historically accurate carved arch on the guitars’ maple tops
  • Correct height of the binding in the cutaway
  • Accurately sized back control pocket route
  • Historically accurate 1/2-inch wire channel from toggle switch to control pocket
  • 5/8-inch heel with accurate heel shape
  • Correct distance between pickups
  • Historically accurate bridge, tailpiece, and control holes
  • Correctly tapered headstock with tuner holes in a straight line (rather than following the headstock edge)
  • 3/8-inch back-edge radius

While plenty of these are primarily for historical accuracy and appearance—all determined by closer examination and measurement of vintage original ’50s Les Pauls—many of the fine details of the VOS models do indeed affect their tone and performance.

The guitars have also been given a lower neck pitch, so that the bridge is closer to the body, rather than up high like a ’70s guitar, which in turn improves the tone. Also changed is the actual location of the trussrod; some ’50s Les Pauls were x-rayed and it was noted where the trussrod was in relation to the top and the back of the neck, and the VOS trussrods have repositioned accurately according to replicate this.

The Gibson Vintage Original Spec Finishing Process:

Further details also impact sound and performance. The VOS Les Pauls receive a nitrocellulose lacquer finish like many other Gibson Custom Shop and Gibson USA guitars, but the process on the VOS models has been revised to reflect the way Gibson finished these guitars back in the '50s. They receive a thinner lacquer finish, which is applied, sanded, and buffed differently; in other words, more accurately. This not only gives the instruments a look more like a gently aged and well-cared-for vintage Les Paul, but helps the guitars 'breathe', and therefore to resonate more freely.

Add to all this the strict weight limits on and careful selection of mahogany and maple wood stocks, accurate hardware, wiring and electronics, and of course impeccable Gibson Custom Shop craftsmanship, and the result is a range of Les Pauls that feel, look, and sound as close as you can get to an original late 1950s Gibson Les Paul. For musician or collector, the VOS models are the best and most accurate Les Paul reissues Gibson has ever made.

Gibson VOS Vintage Original Spec guitars are now available from DV Guitars at Romford and Barnet or online, or via telephone mail-order. Gibson VOS

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