Gibson Les Paul Special vs Standard: In-Depth Comparison

If you’re looking for a Gibson Les Paul with P90 pickups, then the Special and ’50s Standard models will be right up your street. But is the Standard worth the extra money? In this article, I’ll compare the Gibson Les Paul Special and Standard models in-depth so you can decide which is the best electric guitar for you.

The Quick Answer

The Gibson Les Paul Special has two P90 pickups whereas the Les Paul Standard ’50s has either P90 or humbucker pickups and the Standard ’60s has humbuckers. The Standard ’60s has the thinnest neck compared to the Special and ’50s Standard. The Standard is roughly 2-3 lbs heavier than the Special.

FeatureGibson Les Paul SpecialGibson Les Paul Standard ‘50s/ ‘60s
Top WoodNoneAA Maple
Pickup ConfigurationP90-P90P90-P90/ HH
Neck ShapeVintage ‘50sVintage ‘50s/ Slim Taper
InlaysAcrylic DotAcrylic Trapezoid
BridgeWrap-aroundABR-1 Tune-O-Matic
Tuning MachinesVintage DeluxeVintage Deluxe/ Grover Rotomatic
PickguardBlack (Flat)Cream (Angled)
Control ColorBlackAmber or Gold
Average Price (USA)$1700$2700
Average Price (UK)£1500£2200
Color OptionsTV Yellow
Vintage Cherry
Heritage Cherry Sunburst
Tobacco Burst
Gold Top Iced Tea
Bourbon Burst
Differences between the Gibson Les Paul Special and Standard

There are two main versions of the LP Standard, the ’50s and ’60s. Check out my comparison of the ’50s and ’60s Gibson Les Paul Standard models to learn more about the differences between them.

Pickups and Tone

The Les Paul Special comes with two P90 pickups, whereas the Standard comes with either humbucker or P90 pickups depending on which version you’re looking at. Let’s discuss the P90 Les Paul ’50s Standard and the Special first as these are the most similar.

The ’50s Standard P90 model has a bit more top end clarity due to the maple cap compared to the Les Paul Special. The thicker body on the Standard also gives it slightly better sustain however, they tones of both guitars are very similar.

You can also get humbucker versions of both the ’50s and ’60s Standard which sound warmer and fuller and have a higher output compared to the ’50s Standard with P90s and the Les Paul Special. The ’60s Standard humbuckers have a higher output and sound a bit brighter than the ’50s Standard humbuckers.

Here are some YouTube videos so you can listen to the tones using the same amp.

Gibson Les Paul Special

Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s

Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s

Feel and Playability

The Gibson Les Paul Standard has a thicker body than the Les Paul Special so weighs considerably more.

  • Les Paul Standard models typically weigh 9.5-10.5 lbs
  • Les Paul Special models typically weigh 7.0-7.5 lbs

The LP Standard is a very heavy guitar which can be a bit tough on the shoulders when playing for longer periods of time. The Special weighs a pretty average amount compared to most other electric guitars so is a bit more comfortable.

In terms of neck profiles there are three models to consider when you take into account the ’50s and ’60s versions of the Standard series. Here are the specifications.

SpecificationSpecial/ ’50s Standard‘60s Standard
ProfileVintage ‘50sSlim Taper
Width at the 1st Fret0.84”0.82”
Width at the 12th Fret0.94”0.94”
Neck profile and dimensions of the Gibson Les Paul Special, ’50s Standard and ’60s Standard

As you can see, the ’60s Standard has the thinnest neck. In general, the 60s Standard neck will be more comfortable for players with smaller hands however neck shapes are very subjective and I’d advise you to try them all in a guitar store. Some guitarists who play mostly rhythm usually prefer a thicker neck as it can make chording more comfortable, but it is all personal preference.

Bridge Design

The Gibson Les Paul Standard models have a tune-o-matic bridge, whereas the Les Paul Special has a wrap-around tailpiece bridge. Tune-o-matic bridges make intonating the guitar easier however, wrap-around bridges make re-stringing the guitar more straight-forward.

There is a bit of a debate as to how much these designs affect sustain as well. Some players prefer the wrap-around bridge as it helps to increase sustain, however there are plenty of other features to compare with the Standard and Special which will have a bigger impact than the bridge design on the tone of the guitars.

Check out my comparison between the tune-o-matic and wrap-around bridge designs to learn all about their pros and cons.

Tune-O-Matic (left) and Wrap-Around (right) Bridges

Cosmetic Differences

Aside from the differences between these two models in terms of sound and feel, there are several differences which just affect how they look.

  • The Standard has a maple top which adds a unique flame effect. The Special has a flatter appearance as it doesn’t have this maple top.
  • The Special has dot inlays whereas the Standard has trapezoid inlays.
  • The Standard has neck and body binding unlike the Special.
  • The Special has a flat black pickguard and controls whereas thee Standard has an angled cream pickguard and amber/ gold controls depending on the color choice.

The color options are also different for each model.

  • Gibson Les Paul Special: TV Yellow and Vintage Cherry.
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s (Humbucker): Gold Top, Heritage Cherry Sunburst and Tobacco Burst.
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s (P90): Gold Top.
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s: Iced Tea, Bourbon Burst and Unburst.

Gibson Les Paul Special

Gibson Les Paul ’60s Standard

The Similarities

The LP Special and Standard both share several features including their body, neck and fretboard woods, scale length, fretboard radius, nut width, 22 medium jumbo frets, gloss finish and nickel hardware. There are also left-handed and right-handed versions available and both come with a hard shell case.

Here is a table highlighting the features that both models share.

Body WoodMahogany
Neck WoodMahogany
Fretboard WoodRosewood
Coil TapNo
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 between the Gibson Les Paul Special and Standard

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