Over the years, Gibson has shown that it's not afraid to push the guitar technology envelope, introducing robot tuning, electric/acoustic tone merging and a recorder in a cable. Even if die-hard purists are often quite vocal in their opposition to such measures. The latest innovation out of the gate is a Gibson Custom Lightly Figured Les Paul Standard with a built-in distortion circuit. A creation Gibson is calling the Burstdriver.
The Burstdriver isn't the first of its guitars to boast built-in signal processing, the limited Firebird X from 2010 offered players a variety of ways to tweak tone without needing to dance a merry jig on floor stomps. For the Burstdriver, Gibson has pulled back a little and just integrated an analog overdrive circuit into the guitar.
The circuit has been built into the backplate, with volume, tone and gain adjusted using a guitar pick or a small screwdriver to turn dials around back. That means it's not going be quite as easy as just tweaking parameter knobs on a floor stomp and, as the Burstdriver circuit runs on a 9 V battery, players also run the risk of enforced bypass if they forget to pack a spare in the gig bag.
The overdrive is activated by pushing down the "top hat" tone knob to the front, and then using that to dial in the desired effect. Gibson says that players are offered a varied palette of tones – "anything from a fat clean boost to a warm, thick overdrive all the way to a snarling distortion." When the knob is pulled up, the circuit enters true bypass mode.
Elsewhere, the Burstdriver rocks a mahogany body topped by maple that's home to a pair of Custombucker pickups, and a 24.75-inch scale mahogany neck sporting a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard with iconic trapezoid inlays in cellulose. The auto tuning mechanism seen on many a recent Gibson has gone, so you'll find only Kluson Deluxe tuners in 3 x 3 formation on the head.
The overdrive-packing Les Paul is being made available in three finishes, each limited to a run of just 50 units, for US$5,699 per guitar.
The Burstdriver was launched last week and is already fueling heated debate on gearhead forums, some welcoming it with gusto while others cry sacrilege. For those who would rather cherry pick their own overdrive tones, for the same kind of money it should be possible to snag a new stock Les Paul and have enough change for a boutique distortion pedal or three.