It’s a little audacious to call a new model “Standard”—even if it is a longstanding part of Gibson nomenclature. Then again the brand-spankin’-new Modern Double Cut Standard is genuinely audacious if you consider Gibson’s focus on historic designs.
This guitar blends elements of recent and classic Gibson appointments into a streamlined instrument that’s ready for the stage or studio—with a big voice that has a little extra bite on the treble end, thanks to a ’57 Classic Plus pickup in the bridge slot and a 24-fret neck.
Ahead by a Neck
When the Modern Double Cut Standard was announced, Gibson spotters were quick to note design similarities with the Burstbucker-outfitted Tak Matsumoto Doublecut, which is also built by Gibson’s Nashville-based Custom Shop. Fair enough. But Tak’s only a household name in Asia, and his guitar was a Japan-only exclusive. The Double Cut Standard is a simpler machine, with just a pickup toggle, tone and volume pots, and pickups geared for classic tones—which it delivers. It’s also certifiably shred-ready, with 24 frets and a voice that that jumps with a push from amp or pedal overdrive.
Gibson’s recent work on increasing access to fretboards (by tapering necks where they join the bodies on several models, including the Les Paul Axcess and the Lee Roy Parnell Signature ’57 Les Paul) pays off on the Doublecut. It has a swept neck heel that seamlessly coutours into the body around the highest frets. The heel also extends into a neck tenon of the kind typically found on vintage Gibsons. Many set-neck guitar enthusiasts believe that a long neck tenon provides better tone and sustain. But there are plenty of other factors that go into building a great-sounding 6-string, so I’ll leave the arguments about that to the online forums.
One more thing: If you’ve been checking out new set-neck guitars lately, you may have noticed that the volute is coming back. Gibson started adding volutes in the late ’60s to strengthen headstocks. Gibson ended this practice in the early ’80s, but it’s back here in the form of a fin-like ultra-volute that runs the length of the headstock. Since my vintage ES-345 has suffered three heart-breaking cracks at the base of it’s headstock, this is a design element that I can get behind.
I took the Modern Double Cut Standard on a test-drive with a Carr Vincent and a 20-watt Orange Micro Terror with the gain jacked to full. I also played the Double Cut alongside a 2002 Flying V with Seymour Duncan Antiquities and a stock 1968 Les Paul Standard.
Up against tough tone competition the Double Cut hit high marks. It outshone my Flying V at every pickup setting (which kinda bummed me out and thrilled me simultaneously). The Double Cut was warmer and more harmonically alive across the board, delivering plenty of bite, but with greater clarity, presence, and sustain. It's heavier than the roughly 6-pound Flying V, which probably adds heft and sustain to the tone. But compared to the ’68 Paul, it also more than held its own. The Modern Double Cut Standard went toe-to-toe with my longtime No. 1, and in the neck and blended pickup settings the new kid sounded comparatively full, round, warm, and big. But when I flipped both guitars to the bridge setting, the vintage Les Paul sounded relatively thin where the Double Cut stayed loud and fat, thanks to the extra windings on that ’57 Classic Plus. Grrrrr!…
The Modern Double Cut Standard is also super-playable. At first glance, I thought the guitar’s neck looked crazy-thin near the headstock. But that was an optical illusion, perhaps due to the giraffe-like appearance induced by the deep cutaway. I had no problem strumming cowboy chords and picking out leads on the smooth medium-jumbo frets. Bending and holding bent notes was a breeze, and finger-vibrato felt silky, easy, and fun. There’s a myth that guitars with 24 frets have trouble staying in open tunings—especially slack ones like open D and open C. When I dropped down to those tunings for slide and finger picking, the Standard’s Grover kidney tuners and ABR-1 bridge didn’t flinch.
The Double Cut’s design and performance leave little to complain about. The lack of independent tone and volume controls for both pickups is a curious design move given how effectively that design works elsewhere in the Gibson line. The small strap buttons give pause too and it might be nice to see the Gibson Custom Shop put strap-lock-ready buttons on their instruments. Custom Shop guitars are high-dollar investments and deserve this small, inexpensive appointment that some builders include routinely.
Whatever reservations some players may have about the Modern Double Cut’s design origins, it is a bad-ass guitar. It plays great and sounds great—and it should, at nearly four grand. Many players won’t need the extra frets, but they’re there for shredders or screamers who do. And while I’m used to Gibson four-knob control sets, I often found the simple electronics setup to be a virtue. Guitarists who dig instruments with classic tones and solid bones should play the Modern Double Cut Standard and be their own judge.
Watch the Review Demo: