Play them. How do they sound and feel unplugged? How do speak to you plugged in? Every piece of wood is different. Yes, custom shop is more consistent and you are much less likely to get a dog when buying one whereas production you need to be more careful. But you can still get a gem in a production instrument. There are great Norlin era Gibsons out there too. You just gotta sift through more. Also, which vintage features are important to you and which aren't? Some matter to me, some don't. Gibson does put the best wood, workmanship, and parts into the Custom Shop instruments. But there is also a nebulous premium placed on vintage correctness. "Vintage Correct" in my view is a double edged sword. Many folks worship at that altar when in fact Gibson and other builders got plenty of things wrong back in the day (and much of what was right was a collection beautiful accidents). What bugs me about the "R's" is that I'm paying a premium for vintage correct features that I don't always like. Good wood, one-piece body, lighter weight mahogany, long tenon, better hardware, pickups and wiring, yeah I'm good with all of that. But why should I pay a premium for frets that are more vintage correct when I actually like my frets a bit bigger? Why should I pay a premium for vintage correct plastic when pickup ring heights and angles were kinda spotty back in the day? Why should I want a guitar with a boat of a neck just because "that's how they made then then", when I prefer more modest proportions? And I don't mind a pretty top, but I have no desire to drop and extra grand or two for flame way beyond what any actual '59 would have had. My R7 blew my R9 out of the water tone-wise. But it had a particularly huge neck, the pickup rings were badly proportioned, the frets were too small, etc. etc. The R9 had larger frets which I liked (vintage incorrect, but that was a good thing to me; they had bigger frets in '99). But the neck, despite being smaller, had huge shoulders and was very square. Some folks like shoulders; I don't. And it just didn't sound as nice as the R7, even unplugged. I wanted a LP-type guitar that I loved in every way, and I wasn't fanatical about the name on the headstock. I would have preferred a Gibson, but I didn't find one that really did it for me (well... I did but it was a very high dollar R9 that would have needed a refret which would have made it even higher dollar). Ultimately I sold both and started looking at more modern takes on the vintage formula and ended up very happy with an instrument from a smaller builder. (We *have* learned some things in the past sixty years LOL). But I digress. Buy the one that makes the most sense to you after playing them. That's a pretty hefty uncharge so the difference needs to matter to YOU, in a way that you'll appreciate on a daily basis playing it (not on a forum). Best of luck.