Gibson Les Paul Special vs Studio: What are the Differences?


The Gibson Les Paul Special and Studio are very similarly priced electric guitars, but they actually feel, look and sound quite different from one another. In this article I’ll take you through all the key differences between each Les Paul variant to help you decide which is the best guitar for you.

The Key Differences

The Gibson Les Paul Studio has humbucker pickups which sound fuller and warmer to the P90 pickups on the Les Paul Special. The LP Special has a wrap-around bridge whereas the Studio has a tune-o-matic bridge. The Special has a thicker Vintage ’50s neck compared to the Slim Taper neck on the Studio.

Here is a table highlighting the key differences between the Gibson Les Paul Special and Studio models.

FeatureGibson Les Paul SpecialGibson Les Paul Studio
Top WoodNoneMaple
Pickup ConfigurationP90-P90H-H
Neck ProfileVintage ’50sSlim Taper
Coil TapNoYes
Weight-ReliefNoneUltra-Modern
InlaysAcrylic DotAcrylic Trapezoid
Hardware FinishNickelChrome
BridgeWrap-aroundNashville Tune-O-Matic
Tuning MachinesVintage DeluxeKluson Style
Pickup SelectorMountedNot Mounted (3-Way)
Control StyleTop HatsSpeed Knobs
Pickguard PositionFlatAngled
CaseHard ShellSoft Shell
Average Price (USA)$1700$1600
Average Price (UK)£1500£1300
Color OptionsTV Yellow
Vintage Cherry
Wine Red
Tangerine Burst
Smokehouse Burst
Ebony
Differences between the Gibson Les Paul Studio and Special

Pickups and Tone

The Gibson Les Paul Special has two P90 pickups whereas the Les Paul Studio has two humbucker pickups. The P90 pickups in the special sound a bit brighter and thinner in comparison to the humbuckers in the Studio which sound fuller and warmer.

The Les Paul Studio also has a coil-tap function which allows you to achieve single-coil type tones from the humbuckers which sound more similar to the P90s in the Special model. This gives the Studio some added versatility.

Check out these YouTube sound demos to hear both guitars in action.

Gibson Les Paul Special

Gibson Les Paul Studio

Feel and Playability

The Gibson Les Paul Studio is slightly heavier compared to the Special. The Studio does have “ultra-modern” weight-relief making it lighter compared to most other Les Paul models, however it does still have the maple cap and thicker body which adds some weight compared to the Special which just has a mahogany body and no maple cap.

  • The Gibson Les Paul Studio typically weighs 8.0-8.5 lbs.
  • The Gibson Les Paul Special typically weights 7.0-7.5 lbs.

Hence, the Special is a bit kinder on the shoulders.

The Special has a chunkier “Vintage ’50s” neck compared to the Studio which has a Slim Taper neck. For players with smaller hands, the Studio is likely to feel a bit more comfortable. However, neck profiles are very subjective so I’d definitely recommend trying them in a guitar store to find out which feels the best to you.

Bridge Design

The Les Paul Special has a wrap-around bridge whereas the Les Paul Studio has a tune-o-matic bridge. The wrap-around bridge helps to increase sustain, however intonating the guitar is much easier when using a tune-o-matic bridge.

There is a bit of a debate as to which is the best Gibson bridge design, so I’d recommend checking out my article comparing the wrap-around and tune-o-matic bridges to learn all about their pros and cons.

Cosmetic Differences

As well as sounding and feeling quite different, these two guitars look pretty different as well. Aside from the obvious differences in appearance created by the pickup designs, there are also several other cosmetic differences worth noting.

  • The Les Paul Studio has trapezoid inlays whereas the Special has dot inlays.
  • The Studio has chrome-finished hardware and the Special has nickel-finished hardware.
  • The pickup selector on the Special is mounted, unlike on the Studio.
  • The Special has top-hat controls whereas the Studio has speed knobs.
  • The pickguard on the Special is flat, whereas on the Studio it is at an angle.

The color options for both guitars are also different:

  • Gibson Les Paul Studio: Wine Red, Tangerine Burst, Smokehouse Burst and Ebony.
  • Gibson Les Paul Special: TV Yellow and Vintage Cherry.

Here are some images of each guitar (both images link to Amazon).

Gibson Les Paul Special

Gibson Les Paul Studio

The Similarities

Despite the numerous differences between the Gibson Les Paul Special and Studio models, there are plenty of similarities which give them both the iconic LP status.

Both the Gibson Les Paul Special and Studio have a mahogany body and neck with a rosewood fretboard and gloss finish. They share the same 24.75″ scale length, 22 medium jumbo frets, 12″ fretboard radius and graph tech nut. Both guitars also have black pickguards and controls.

Here is a table outlining all the key similarities between both LP models.

FeatureSpecification
Body WoodMahogany
Neck WoodMahogany
Fretboard WoodRosewood
FinishGloss
Scale Length24.75”
Fretboard Radius12”
Nut Width1.69”
Fret Number22
Fret SizeMedium Jumbo
Nut MaterialGraph Tech
BindingNo
Controls2 x Vol, 2 x Tone
PickguardBlack
Control ColorBlack
String Gauge10
Left-Handed AvailableYes
Similarities between the Gibson Les Paul Studio and Special

Here are some more comparisons you might find useful:

Heather

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.

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