Review by John Abel aka Guitarweasel (Forum Administrator) Photographs by Tim Hines
Well fellow ETSGer’s we are proud to say that Gibson has acknowledged us as an authority on SG’s and has sent us “THE ROBOT SG” for review!
First off, I want to preface this by saying I have played the Fender VG Stratocaster, and the difference is night and day. The Fender is Virtual, the Gibson is mechanical. My point? With the Gibson, you can feel the difference in tunings, the slack of the strings and the over all feel, which is completely different, a plus for Gibson IMO. Enough about the Fender and on to the Robot SG.
I’ve had it for a few days now and I have to say, being very old school I really wanted to hate this guitar……..BUT……the more I’ve played and fiddled with it, the more impressed I’ve become.
Fit & Finish
The first thing I noticed when I opened the case was the lovely lacquer smell. I haven’t purchased a new guitar in a while and it was a nice surprise.
It was made on March 20th, 2008, Production Number: 39 out of what I believe were 4000.
List Price: $3599.00
Street Price: around $2299.00
I know Gibson is calling this a Limited model, but in all honesty I think it would benefit Gibson and us, the consumers, to keep this as a production standard, possibly even incorporating some other models as well, including some of the Guitar Of The Month models.
The finish is flawless. No over spray, the binding was set correctly and no sharp fret ends sticking out. Oh, BTW…. the finish color is NOT Purple, it is more of a dark Maroon, very handsome for this SG. Also the back control plate is transparent so you can see the innards, another cool touch.
Intonation was spot on out of the box. Action was a bit low for me, but there were no dead or buzzy spots. Pickup height was good. Everything worked as it should, so all I had to do was plug and play.
Gibson spec’s out the neck as a rounded 50s style neck, I found it to be more in between a 50s and a 60s, I’ve owned Les Pauls with the 50s style necks and believe me some of them are huge. This was almost just right for me. It also sports an Ebony fingerboard, another classy touch. I know this question will come up, NO, it’s not headstock heavy, in fact, it was pretty balanced, I think that is due to the lighter tuners and the electronics in the bout of the SG.
The one thing I didn’t like was the 490R/498T Pickup combination, I found it rather thin sounding and I think a set of 57 Classics would have been more appropriate in this particular guitar considering the price. A single sided pick guard would have looked better as well, but that’s my opinion.
Another cool feature were the addition of what looked like nylon inserts it the tailpiece, I am assuming they are there so the direct contact of the strings won’t short out the tuning system, but Gibson take note…… That would be a nice feature on all stops to help prevent string breakage! The side mounted Neutrik Jack was something I really liked and something that should be applied to all Gibsons. Not only does it hold your cable securely, but it prevents the broken bout syndrome I’ve seen on too many SGs, ES-335s etc….
I played the SG through several different amps, a 60s something Vox AC-30 a 1962 Blonde Fender Bassman, a 1974 Marshall Super Lead, a Marshall Bluesbreaker and a Splawn Quickrod. I also switched cabinets around using a 1973 Hiwatt and a Marshall 1960TV.
I’m pretty heavy handed when I play and normally I would use a set of .011s, but the .010s worked fine. I did a lot of bending and despite my efforts the SG managed to stay pretty much in tune. When I did have to fine tune, I just hit the Multi-Control Knob (MCK) and it was right back in tune. One thing I did learn rather quickly was do not stick your fingers around the tuners while they are in motion!! The have a lot of torque and will definitely give you an ouchie!
The cleans on this SG were quite good, running through the AC-30 I got all the sparkly jangle you would expect, running the AC-30 about mid gain I got a nice crunch sound.
The Bassman gave me more of an early Marshall feel, pretty crunchy, but it started to mud up a bit, and again, it is the reason I didn’t like these pickups.
The 74 Marshall kicked things out pretty well. Mine for some reason is pretty clean, so I did get a lot of articulation. This is where I started playing with the different tunings. The dropped D and double dropped D were pretty good, sound wise, and reminded me of the classic Led Zeppelin tunes.
On to the Splawn. If you don’t know what these are, just think of a heavily modded JCM 800 with tons of gain on tap. This is where the pickups bothered me, the articulation was gone, it was flabby, and not at all what I want to hear…..BUT…..like I said, IMO it was the pickups. In fact, that’s really the only complaint I have about this guitar.
• Body Style: SG • Body Species: Mahogany • Binding: None • Fingerboard Species: Ebony • Scale Length: 24 3/4" • Number of Frets: 22 • Width at 12th Fret: 2.260 • Inlays: White Acrylic Trapezoid • Fingerboard Binding: White • Neck Pickup: 490R • Bridge Pickup: 498T • Control Pocket Cover: Smoky transparent acrylic • Toggle Switch: White • Toggle Switch Washer: Black HS White • Other Electronics: Charger & Power Plug, Battery Pack • Neck Species: Mahogany • Peghead Pitch: 17 • Nut: Corian, Pre-radiused • Nut Width: 1.695 • Thickness at 1st Fret: 0.818 • Thickness at 12th Fret: 0.963 • Heel Length: 5/8 • Neck Joint Location: 19th Fret • Head Inlay: Holly • Head Binding: White, .075 • Truss Rod: Nickel plated truss rod nut • Truss Rod Cover: B/W Bell • Hardware Color: Chrome • Plating Finish: CHP • Tailpiece: Powertune Stop Bar • Bridge: Powertune • Knobs: Vol/Tone: Silver Insert, Master Control Knob: Silver • Tuners: Power heads w/brass sleeves • Strap Buttons: Butt/Heel • Jack: Neutrik on lower bout • Jack Plate: None • Pickguard: Carbon Fiber • Mahogany body • Chambering * • Nitrocellulose finish • Rounded 50s neck profile hand-shaped • 22 fret ebony fingerboard • 12 fret board radius • Hand-shaped medium-jumbo fret wire using nickel/silver alloy • Gibson 490R Alnico II (neck)/498T Alnico V (bridge) humbuckers • Four-conductor wiring • Wax potting • Pole pieces aligned for treble pickup • Tune Control Bridge/Tailpiece (modified Tune-O-Matic) • Neck CPU • Power head Locking Tuners • Multi-Control Knob (MCK) with LED display • Neutrik jack • Gibson hardshell case
*Seems to be a bit of controversy here, as I have seen chambered and non- chambered descriptions.
While the Robot SG can function as any other SG the thing that makes this one special is of course the automatic tuning. It still has 2 volume and two tone controls but upon closer inspection you will find that the bridge tone control has been replaced by the MCK (Master Control Knob). This push-pull knob with the silver top is used to select standard or open tunings including E, G, and DADGAD. Pull up on the knob to engage the tuning system, select your tuning and lightly strum the strings. It's just that simple to put this guitar in tune. The volume is muted during tuning operations. When the system is activated, the knob's LED display glows with Red letters. The control bridge monitors the pitch of the strings and tells the Powerhead tuning keys to make adjustments to the strings until the MCK blinks blue to indicate they are in tune.
The Robot SG will also let you set intonation possibly saving you from a visit to your local guitar store for a setup.
The included battery charger is connected to the guitar through the guitar's output jack using a standard guitar cord. It takes about 80 minutes to obtain a full charge that will last for about 250 tunings.
Robot Guitar self tuning system: • Create and store custom tunings • Set intonation • Automatic winding and unwinding for string changes • 2 rechargeable batteries charged through the guitar jack • About 250 tunings per charge
Tunings: • Regular • Open E • Open G • DADGAD • Hendrix tuning (1/2 step down) • Single and double dropped-D tunings • Custom tunings • Reference tuning to other instruments
So to summarize, Gibson has really come up with a class act here, the tuning system does exactly what it says with a very tactile feel unlike some of the other modeling/virtual guitar out there. We are very proud to have been selected to be one of the first forums to get the SG for review.