Whats New In Guitar Stores – Issue 3: Les Pauls, Epiphones, And Fenders

American Strat

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Doug, our “man on the street” travels to guitar stores all over and brings back the latest! 

I popped into Guitar Center in Medford, Oregon on New Year’s Eve to find out the answer to the never ending question, “What’s New?” Well, guys, I am here to prove what I always say about playing a whole bunch of guitars before you buy and make your own decision about any particular guitar.

I found the Gibson Les Paul that plays and feels the way I remember them playing – The LP Standard Vintage Pro. This has a ’50s neck profile that is absolutely fabulous to play. Lists for $2999. ($1999 in store) Everything else feels like a Louisville Slugger to me. Also, I compared the Epi 335 Pro to the real thing, the Gibson ES-335. They had several 335’s and l played them all. I liked the “Plain ’60s Block Inlay ‘Slim Neck’ in Antique Tea Finish”. It had the neck profile I like and lists for $3799 online, but $2999 in store. (More about that later.)

The Epi Pro for $449 (a $50 upgrade that gives you an early ’60s instrument) has the split coil wiring of the LP, block inlays and “Classic Pro” Humbuckers. The neck was almost a tie with the ‘slim neck’ ES 335 above and it had the best tone of all… and it was Cherry! I would buy this one in a heartbeat. zZounds lists this guitar at $399, the Dot price.

I played several Squire Strats that all played well, guys. As I suspected, the one I played in Alabama was a fluke. I played several of the “Pawnshop Prize” Strats that have humbuckers or other strange combinations of pickups or necks. Some were okay and some were not. A personal choice. Played several Squire Teles as well and they all played well. My favorite was the $179 Afinity Tele. I don’t care too much for the tone of the Thinline but it was a nice playing guitar.

I wanted to compare the Fenders made in Mexico to the American Standards and found that what I found in Coos Bay held true. The Standard Strats and Teles really play well. At $679, they are a truly good guitar for the money. The only recurring theme I noticed on the Strats was that none of the tremolos were functional. They were all pulled down tight to the guitar body. This must be part of the Fender factory setup, maybe so they don’t get damaged in shipment or at the dealer.

I have never played a PRS. I have lusted after them a time or two but have never played one. I played a PRS Santana model, list $786, and I was pretty impressed with the neck and the overall tone and feel. The fingerboard was a very tightly grained Rosewood that reminded me of Ebony and played really smoothly. I did not play one of their really expensive models but this one is really something for the money.

Okay, I promised more about the Gibson prices. Guitar Center wouldn’t talk to me about what they thought we might see at the NAMM show in January. The guitar manager kept saying he hadn’t seen the list of what they were expecting to be shipped in. I pestered him enough that he did tell me that they have been instructed to “dump Gibsons” by corporate. They are taking up to $1000 off LP’s and other $3000 plus Gibson guitars, in-store. I suspect that other stores (other than GC ) may be doing the same thing. Now is the time if you’re in the market but look for some announcement at NAMM from Gibson.

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Doug Knight

Our “Man on the Street” reporter, with his “What’s New in Music Stores?” series, resides in Coos Bay, OR. You can find him on Friday nights at The Small Events Center at OrCoast Music in Coos Bay.

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