The Gibson Les Paul Special and Les Paul Classic models are both very popular and the prices aren’t worlds apart, however they are very different guitars which will suit different players. In this article I’ll be directly comparing these two Les Paul models so you can decide which is the best for you.
The Quick Answer
The Gibson Les Paul Special has two P90 pickups and the Gibson Les Paul Classic has two humbucker pickups instead. The LP Special sounds brighter but also thinner than the Classic. The Special has a wrap-around bridge and Vintage ’50s neck whereas the Classic has a tune-o-matic bridge and SlimTaper neck.
Check out this table which highlights all the key differences between these two guitars.
|Feature||Gibson Les Paul Special||Gibson Les Paul Classic|
|Neck Shape||Vintage ‘50s||Slim Taper|
|Inlays||Acrylic Dot||Acrylic Trapezoid|
|Tuning Machines||Vintage Deluxe||Grover Rotomatics|
|Control Color||Black||Amber/ Gold|
|Average Price (USA)||$1700||$2300|
|Average Price (UK)||£1500||£1800|
|Color Options||TV Yellow|
Heritage Cherry Sunburst Honeyburst
Tone and Pickups
The Les Paul Special has two P90 pickups whereas the Les Paul Classic has two humbucker pickups. The P90 pickups in the Special make it sound brighter and crisper compared to the Classic which sounds fuller and warmer. The Classic does have a maple cap though that does add a bit of snap to the tone so the guitars don’t sound worlds apart.
The Les Paul Classic has a coil tap function on both humbuckers which can be activated by pulling up on the tone control. This allows you to achieve single-coil type tones which are more reminiscent of the Special and hence may the Classic arguably a bit more versatile.
With both guitars you’ll get a three-way pickup selector and individual tone and volume controls to give you plenty of ways to adjust your tone.
Check out these sounds demos for both LP models played through the same amps.
Gibson Les Paul Classic
Gibson Les Paul Special
Feel and Playability
Both these guitars feel pretty different from one another and that’s due to both the body and neck shapes. Let’s consider both of these components individually, starting with the neck.
The Gibson Les Paul Special has a chunky Vintage ’50s profile whereas the Les Paul Classic has a Slim Taper profile. Players with smaller hands are likely to find the Slim Taper neck on the Classic a bit more comfortable, whilst players with larger hands may prefer the Special’s thicker neck. I’d encourage you to try both in a store to get a good idea of which profile feels best to you.
The Gibson Les Paul Classic has a thicker body than the Special and hence weighs more. Les Paul Classic guitars typically weigh 9.5-10.0 lbs, whilst Special models usually weigh around 7.5-8.0 lbs. Hence, the Special will put less strain on the shoulder if you are playing stood up for longer periods of time.
The Les Paul Classic does have a 9-hole weight-relieved body making it lighter than other LP models such as the Standard, however it’s still a hefty guitar.
The Les Paul Classic has a tune-o-matic bridge whereas the Les Paul Special has the more old-school wrap-around tailpiece bridge design. Some players find that wrap-around bridges offer more sustain, however there are so many other differences between these two guitars that it’s not really worth considering.
However, there are some key differences you should know about between these bridges.
The tune-o-matic bridge makes it easier to adjust the intonation, although it is possible to get the perfect intonation with wrap-around bridge, the individual saddles on the T-O-M do make it easier. The wrap-around bridge makes it easier to change the strings though.
Make sure you check out my comparison between the tone-o-matic and wrap-around bridge designs to learn about their pros and cons.
As well as these guitars feeling and sounding different from one another, they also look pretty different too. Aside from the obvious difference in appearance caused by the pickups, there are some more subtle differences which are mostly cosmetic.
- The Classic has trapezoid inlays whereas the Special has dot inlays.
- The Classic has binding unlike the Special.
- The Classic has an angled cream pickguard whereas the Special has a flat black pickguard.
- The Classic has amber/ gold controls (depending on the body color) and the Special has black controls.
Here are some images to show the different designs (both link to Amazon).
You also get different color options with each guitar:
- Gibson Les Paul Classic: Translucent Cherry, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Honeyburst and Ebony.
- Gibson Les Paul Special: Vintage Cherry and TV Yellow.
Despite the Special and Classic being pretty different guitars, they share some key features which gives them their iconic Les Paul Status. They both have a mahogany body and neck with a rosewood fretboard. You’ll also find that they have the same scale length, fretboard radius, nut width, medium jumbo fret size and top hat controls. You can get left-handed versions of both guitars.
Here is a table which highlights all the key similarities between the Gibson LP Special and Classic.
|Fret Size||Medium Jumbo|
|Nut Material||Graph Tech|
|Control Style||Top Hats|
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