Gibson Les Paul Special vs Classic: Which is Best for You?

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.

FeatureGibson Les Paul SpecialGibson Les Paul Classic
Top WoodNoneMaple
Pickup ConfigurationP90-P90H-H
Coil TapNoYes
Neck ShapeVintage ‘50sSlim Taper
InlaysAcrylic DotAcrylic Trapezoid
BridgeWrap-aroundABR-1 Tune-O-Matic
Tuning MachinesVintage DeluxeGrover Rotomatics
Control ColorBlackAmber/ Gold
Average Price (USA)$1700$2300
Average Price (UK)£1500£1800
Color OptionsTV Yellow
Vintage Cherry
Translucent Cherry
Heritage Cherry Sunburst Honeyburst
Differences between the Gibson Les Paul Standard and Classic guitars

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.

Bridge Designs

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.

Cosmetic Differences

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).

Gibson Les Paul Special

Gibson Les Paul Classic

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.

The Similarities

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.

Body WoodMahogany
Neck WoodMahogany
Fretboard WoodRosewood
Scale Length24.75”
Fretboard Radius12”
Nut Width1.69”
Fret Number22
Fret SizeMedium Jumbo
Nut MaterialGraph Tech
Hardware FinishNickel
Pickup SelectorMounted
Control StyleTop Hats
String Gauge10
CaseHard Shell
Left-Handed AvailableYes
Similarities of the Gibson Les Paul Special and Classic Models

Here are some more articles you might find useful:


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts