Gibson Korina Explorer 1983 Custom Shop (re-issue 1958) Reviews
I bought this guitar used in January 2003 via E-Bay. A start bid of 1,000 USD (OHSC & USA ground shipping included) was enough to win the auction. I had the guitar brought over by a relative from USA to Belgium (Europe). After I got it, it appeared to be exactly as described on e-Bay and the seller's pictures were as honest as can be (details of dings, wear and a repair).
My first electric Gibson was acquired new in 1993: an SG Standard. Now I was looking for a second guitar to tune down to a C-tuning for use on stage. The guitar needed to sound even better in the lows (read: have more body) than the SG. I had long been looking for a reasonably priced (around 1.000 EUROs) old guitar in Europe. "Old" (i.e. +20 years) and "reasonably priced" don't go well together, so I soon started looking on e-bay.com (US). For about half the Old Continents mean price, I got a considerably better choice there. I've always been fond of the distinct Explorer and Flying V sound (Kravitz, U2 …), albeit not with ceramic pickups. I played a non-custom shop early 80ies mahogany explorer and particularly liked it.
So I ran into this Gibson Korina Explorer Custom Shop from 1983. It is a Custom Shop edition re-issue of the original 1958 guitar, issued for the 25th birthday of the original. The only obvious difference are the tuners: mine has gold gibson deluxe ones instead of the big bone ones. The guitar once had a Floyd Rose-like vibrato and locking nut installed, which was later removed and restored to original by a professional luthier. What you can see of it now is a small piece of unlackered Korina wood under the bridge, set in the hole left by the vibrato, and the holes of the screws where the locking nut was mounted. It shows, but it isn't of that much importance to me and it's done very carefully.
This guitar sounds better than any Gibson I've heard. In addition, it plays like one can expect from a custom shop Gibson. This guitar gets the best out of me. It's very fast, accurate, bright and full in tone and has tons of sustain (Or what did you expect: it's made of a log of wood that is twice as big as a normal guitar body). Before you plug it in, you can hear clearly what exactly you are playing. You feel the body resonate against your chest (or belly?). Once plugged in, you can hear that it is equipped with original quality PAF's, and not with the usual standard ceramic pickups. This Explorer has character. You can play lovely jazzy tunes as well as heavy rock/nu-metal riffs (my style). What you shouldn't expect is a typical american metal sound (forget Metallica: it's not suited for that). I rather go for that British vintage sound and it is best suited for that (think U2, Kravitz). I can safely state that my SG Standard has more gain in it than the Explorer, although the latters output is far greater.
The one real disadvantage is that the guitar is very unpractical: the size and shape of the body are responsible for this. When you move around with the guitar around your neck, you appear to be hitting & knocking down everything in the neighbourhood. I know why Clapton cut his Explorer body short.
I have to admit that I like the looks of a Korina Flying V better. In addition, the natural colour of the Korina wood is also quite pale. But I don't care that much. Although I would like to have an aluminium or inox pickguard installed. Unfortunately, that doesn't fit well with the gold hardware… ;o)
Anyway, you love it or hate it I guess.
This is not an Epiphone remake, nor a Heritage Korina. But it is the real stuff. Before you judge, go and try one, you'll see. The Custom Shop models were made to the original 1958 specifications and that makes a world of difference. I played different ones, and lucky as I am, mine is best. The guitar is very light seen the massive body. Made of three pieces of Korina wood for the body & two for neck & headstock, rosewood neck, dot inlays. Vintage style potmeters & gold hardware. Mine is the custom shop edition and came with an original white pickguard. The previous owner clearly kept the original bridge & stop bar in the moisture, because it is oxidized and the gold is pealing off. I take better care of it.
The guitar was finished with the same type of lacquer as the 1958 predecessor, without paint that is. The lacquer is cracked as usual with vintage instruments, proving this is the real stuff. Personally, I don't like the cracks much, but old-type lacquer sounds better.
I had the guitar checked-up by my luthier after I got it. I felt that it sounded a bit thin, and I wasn't satisfied. When I checked the input cabling myself, it appeared so short that I cracked one of the solder joints…
At my luthier's the setup appeared fine (low action, no buzz, straight neck, no cracks). The pickups were original, as was all the cabling, selector-switch and potmeters. However, the input jack had once been replaced by a very poor quality one. So I had a good one put in. Now the guitar has a 50% higher output.
The guitar was clearly heavily used, and shows buckle wear through the finish on the top side.
The OHSC was in fairly ok state considered its age & intensive use, but certainly the locks had better times. It is very heavy too.
I love it. And so I got more than what I was looking for. A new Gibson here costs 2.5 times the price I paid for this almost vintage piece. I love how it plays, I love the tone & sound versatility: I am really very fond of it. I wanted a second guitar, but it became my principal guitar. When you have the chance, play one.
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