The Les Paul is a legendary guitar with a long history. These days we are quite spoiled since we don’t just have one Les Paul, but we actually have multiple Les Pauls to choose from.
The Les Paul Classic and Les Paul Standard are two such options available to us. But what is the difference? Aren’t they just basically the same guitar with two different names?
Well, let us compare them to find out if the are one and the same, or two entirely different beasts.
Les Paul Classic vs Standard
Les Paul Standard
Les Paul Classic
Differences in Appearance
Both have the same Les Paul shape body with the same pickguard style. They also have the same controls, laid out in the same way. Even their fret inlays are the same.
They do have a few differences, however. Firstly, the Classic has zebra-style humbucker pickups, while the Standard has the more classic-looking covered pickups.
They also come in different color options. The only color found among both guitars is Heritage Cherry Sunburst.
Differences in Feel
This is where you will start to notice the differences between the two guitars.
Starting with the weight of the guitars, the Classic is slightly lighter than the Standard. This is thanks to the Classic’s 9-hole weight relief. This means that small holes have been made in the guitar to cut down on the weight a bit.
I prefer to have my guitars be as light as possible, so I do like the Classic a bit more than the Standard here. They are a bit more comfortable to play, especially when you are standing for an extended period of time.
There are people who say that weight relieved guitars also lose some of their tone, specifically in the lower register. I don’t really notice any difference, and I think any difference in tone has more to do with the pickups in the guitar.
The other difference between the two is with the neck. The neck on a Les Paul Classic is slightly thinner than a Standard’s.
But the difference is so small. I don’t feel like I am playing any faster or more comfortably on a Classic than a Standard. But maybe someone with smaller hands might notice a bigger difference.
Differences in Tone
Tone is where you can really tell the two guitars apart. While both the Classic and the Standard have that distinct Les Paul sound, they aren’t quite the same.
The Classic has a brighter sound, while the Standard is warmer and a bit fuller. I also feel like the Standard is a bit more aggressive and growly than the Classic.
I do like the sound of the Standard a bit more. I think it is a bit closer to the Les Paul sound I have in my head, and I also just prefer a warmer tone.
The Classic does offer some more versatility than the Standard, however. This is because the Classic comes with a coil-tap function.
Meaning you can use the push/pull function on the tone pot to split the humbuckers. This effectively turns the pickups into single coils.
Gibson vs Epiphone
Just like the Classic versus the Standard, a Gibson Les Paul and an Epiphone Les Paul appear very similar on the surface. But unlike a Classic and a Standard, their differences run much deeper.
First off, while Epiphone is owned by Gibson, they aren’t made in the USA. They are all built in China. They are also mass produced, which means a few things.
Since they are mass produced, they aren’t made by hand, with the same level of care and quality control as Gibson guitars. They are also made with lower quality pickups and other hardware.
And even though they can be made using the same wood, it is often lower quality. But they are almost always made with cheaper wood.
But in terms of differences between a Les Paul Classic and a Les Paul Standard, Gibson and Epiphone are very similar. You will find the same differences in tone and feel between an Epiphone Classic and Standard that you would a Gibson Classic and Standard.
This difference is especially noticeable with the Gibson versions. When you consider that the Classic and Standard are almost identical, at least in terms of the wood used and hardware in both, the huge price gap is a bit confusing.
Of course, the Classic’s 9-hole weight relief can be part of what makes it cheaper, but not by this much. The only other thing I can think of is in the way the guitars are built.
I suspect that the Standard is a bit more ‘hand-made’ than the Classic. Particularly with regards to the hardware. The Standard’s pickups are mentioned as being ‘hand-wired’, while the Classic’s aren’t.
So, you are basically paying extra for a bit more care being put into the Standard.
Which to Choose?
The easy answer is to go for a Gibson Classic or Standard. But I wouldn’t dismiss Epiphone guitars outright.
They are still very well-made guitars that can get you pretty close to the true Les Paul sound without the same price tag. They are perfect for that reason, and make particularly great beginner guitars as well.
As for choosing between a Classic and a Standard Les Paul, well that is going to be up to you. Like I mentioned, while I prefer the lighter weight of the Classic, I also prefer the warmer tone of the Standard.
I would personally rather compromise on my tone slightly for a more comfortable playing experience, but I know many guitarists won’t sacrifice tone for anything.
What do you think? Is the Les Paul Classic and Standard just the same guitar? Should we even bother comparing the two? Or are they two unique experiences and are both equally important?
I can see the value in having two similar, yet different Les Pauls, each appealing to a different type of guitarist.