You could easily dismiss the Gordon Smith GS-1 Les Paul Double Cut as a lesser, UK-made, Gibson. But do so at your own risk. This guitar really punches above its weight.
The GS1 – a sort of ‘Les Paul Jr meets Melody Maker’ – looks like it could have rolled off that Kalamazoo production line sometime during the 1960s. This is one of the older models, made back in the day, before new owners Auden took over the brand (and when there was still a hyphen between Gordon and Smith). This was during the era when the numerous idiosyncrasies of GS founder John Smith often rose to the surface. More modern models, under the new manufacturing team, seem to give the impression of a more mainstream build.
Yet whichever view you take, do not underestimate the potential of Gordon Smith, not least here in this built-for-stock Heritage guitar. The GS1 is priced at £849 new and this is not quite a Korean-made price, but great value for a British build of this quality. Indeed, value for money is a key reason why you might want to test the modern Gordon Smith recipe.
Design and Build
Built around the ‘correct’ Gibson scale of 625.5mm (which John Smith had measured and always used), this model has a double-cut Les Paul outline and is made in the thicker of two styles offered by GSG – the thin body version being just 36mm in depth. Here, the GS1 and the GS1000’s bodies are a shade over 44mm and are thick slabs of one-piece mahogany and Brazilian cedar respectively.
There are no comfort contours to the body and the GS1 ships with GS’s Fat mahogany neck. Again, like the body, one-piece stock (quarter sawn) appears to be used. There aren’t even any headstock widening wings.
This model uses a version of John Smith’s humbucking design. This guitar uses original-style black plastic casings – with all the internal gubbins encapsulated into the cover. Magnet swaps or the like? Forget it. But, while we’re on the subject, John Smith always used ceramic (Barium ferrite) magnets that are still part of the current design.
The controls also retain a twist or two from John Smith – the coil-split function is on the volume control (which voices the slug coil) not the more usual tone control, and the pickup circuit uses a pair of 0.022 microfarad tone capacitors and a pair of 0.002 microfarad ‘treble bleed’ caps that have been slightly tweaked compared to the pre-Auden wiring (certainly according to an original GSG wiring diagram we have).
Back then, as now, Gordon Smith does things slightly differently, but not without reason. “Our tone circuit is designed to give you a more usable tone roll-off. We want to try to make that humbucker as functional as it can be. A lot of players like the single pickup guitars, so we want that pickup to do as much as possible. We know we’ve got people out there in metal, rock, blues and country bands and they’re all doing it with those humbuckers.”
This particular guitar has had the original nut replaced with a brass one, only adding to the resonance and sustain of the guitar. It also looks super-cool!
Spec and Sound
Weight-wise this guitar feels business-like but is not overly heavy. There’s an impressive acoustic ring and resonance. However, with the heel-placed upper-strap button, it does tend to tip forward a little, in a similar way to a Gibson SG.
The GS1’s neck comes in at a depth of 21.5mm. Moving up to the 12th fret, we measured depth of 25mm respectively. String spacing, incidentally, is 35.5mm at the nut.
This guitar also comes with a custom Leo Quan Badass Bridge, worth around £100 by itself. This gives the instrument additional character and is a fantastic addition to the guitar.
On one hand, you might simply want to swap out the pickups of this guitar and fit a more conventional control circuit – we’re sure it would sound superb. But the combination of GSG’s humbuckers with that quaintly idiosyncratic tone circuit gets to the heart of Gordon Smith. It’s a unique voice that, in the right hands, has huge potential.
If we step back from the heritage of the UK’s longest-running production guitar company for a moment and just consider this simply as a guitar, one quality stands out proudly above all other virtues: excellent value for money.
Factor in the one-piece wood stock, smart build, good components and the unique and highly useable voicing and you have a proposition that’s hard to ignore.
The GS1 Heritage is a mean rock machine that will easily double as a quality spare or slide guitar with a resonance that’s rare to find at this price.
This particular instrument has some cosmetic marking to the body (to be expected of a guitar from this era). It is generally in fantastic condition for its age though.
This item is available from our store in Exeter or by post (at an additional cost of £40 due to the weight and insurance value).
Packed very carefully and sent via Parcelforce48 (short delays to be expected over the Christmas and New Year period) .
If you have any questions, please contact us before purchasing either by email or phone (both on our website).