My Gibson VS Agile Review/Rant

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by james..., Dec 21, 2009.


  1. james...

    james... Member

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    I've been wanting to do one of these for a while.

    Here's what I did. I bought an Agile AL-2000 for $200. Then bought a Gibson Les Paul Classic for $1200. These guitars are VERY similar. Same woods, same options, same colors even. Pretty much the same guitar made by two different guys. I put the same pickups in both. Tom Anderson H1- and H3+.

    Let me also say that this isn't a "bad" Gibson. It's a good one. It's a 2003. Not a lemon either.

    I owned and played both these axes for a year. I still have the Gibson now. Commence comparison.

    I'll go over a few key points...

    Feel - How the guitar feels in your hands. Not playability, but just quality in general.
    Sound - You know what this is
    Playability - How easy is the guitar to play?
    Reliability - how reliable is it?
    Overall - Well duh.


    Feel - Agile actually feels pretty good. There are certain things about it that make it obvious you're playing a $200 guitar. These things are pretty much cosmetic. The finish feels like $200. This isn't a bad thing for the guitar itself. However when you pick up the Gibson, you realize there was just more care put into it. Finish feels more real. It feels like someone put more heart into it than the agile which frankly feels like more of an assembly line product. I'm not just talking about the finish. I mean the guitar as a whole. All the hardware feels slightly more "human".

    Sound - Honestly, it's probably about 80% of the Gibson's sound. Not quite as resonant. The Gibson just has that Les Paul tone in spades. The Agile has it, but it doesn't have it coped. There's more "juice" in the Gibson. Agile was a little darker with those pickups, which wasn't good.

    Playability - They're close. Gibson is slightly more playable. But at the end of the day, it's apples to oranges.

    Reliability - I'll be blunt, neither of these guitars ever crapped out on me... But if one did, I think it would be the Gibson. One thing though, the Gibson goes out of tune a lot and needs a nut slot cutting. The Agile doesn't really.

    Overall - Here's where my rant begins.

    This is a pretty extreme example of diminishing returns here. I am basically paying $1000 for a guitar that feels and looks a bit better and sounds slightly better. The main difference between these two is the feel. The Gibson just gives you an impression that it's build better. But a lot of people would say this doesn't matter at all if it doesn't affect the sound.

    So really we're talking about a meager difference in sound. It's definitely audible...but $1000 worth of audible?

    I kept the Gibson for that 20% of tone. Maybe I'm crazy.
     
  2. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

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  3. Rumblefish

    Rumblefish Silver Supporting Member

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    That 20% is probably lost on some ears and,for others,seems more like 80%.
    Ya get what you pay for.Usually.Been my exp for 40 yrs of playing
     
  4. Guitar Josh

    Guitar Josh Resident Curmudgeon Silver Supporting Member

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    It may be the "same wood" but it's not nearly the same quality of wood.

    I also take all of these comparisons with a grain of salt. I think alot of folks want to hear more out of the cheap one and hold the more expensive one to an unreasonable standard. They WANT the comparison to turn out closer than it really is.

    I've played a few Agiles. They are GREAT guitars...for the price. But truthfully they don't hold a candle to Gibsons, in any regard. But not everyone can afford a Gibson, or even wants to. So the Agile is a great market.
     
  5. furry

    furry Senior Member

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    with all due respect, I think you missed the most glaring point, which is not the 'feel' of the guitar itself, but rather how it makes YOU feel when you play it. This is the reason you kept the Gibson.

    the other obvious thing is that the Agile is a copy of a Gibson, and the Gibson IS a Gibson.

    ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby...
     
  6. trek johnson

    trek johnson Member

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    The cool thing about an agile is that you don't have to worry about theft or breakage so much. You're out $200.
     
  7. bisticles

    bisticles Member

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    I like to read your post as if the signature was part of the reply :)
     
  8. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Silver Supporting Member

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    I don't know, I think it really depends on exactly what you are looking for at the time and your comfort level in the amount you have wrapped up into the guitar as well. Personally, a $1200 Gibson LP sounds like you got a pretty good deal to start with; is the body/neck nitro? If so, that might account for the difference in feel.
    Maybe the Agile just needed different pickups and could have been tricked out to "feel" / look even better. But, it doesn't sound like the guitar was enough for you to want to put in the extra dime (or time).
    I've owned several Gibson's at this point and I'm really, really glad I tried them out. An R8 (my favorite by a mile), An R4 (very nice, the wraparound bridge didn't work well for my style), a 2009 Les Paul and a 2009 Gibson Traditional Pro. In EVERY CASE I felt like I had too much money wrapped up in the guitar (for my needs, current time available for playing, etc...). Surprisingly I think the 2009 LP (with all of the new updates) was probably the one I should have kept (dig that asym neck, super resonant with the chambering/long tenon).
    For a very long time I was a huge proponant of MIJ LP's but I had not actually owned any Gibson's. Now that I have owned a lot of each I think I'm still way more comfortable working with a high quality, older MIJ LP than a Gibby. The price range (~$650-900) is more in line with my comfort zone AND MOST of the MIJ LP's are close to or at the same level of feel, look, tone quality and playability as an LP Standard IMHO.
    I like to feel these MIJ LP's are a perfect balance betwee the low cost Agile and the high priced Gibby's without losing too much of a percentage of quality. A 20% difference is too much for me personally; I can deal with an R8 (~$2000 used) being the extra 5-10% over a great MIJ LP... YMMV.
     
  9. V-Type

    V-Type Member

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    I owned an Agile LP 2000 for awhile. It was an early p90 version with the old headstock and horn.
    It was a beautiful guitar but it felt nothing like the Gibson LP's I have owned.
    The neck shape was different,the neck finish feel was different,etc....
    And although the wood was of decent quality it looked a bit more "mixed" species than I have seen in most Gibsons.
    I like Agiles for what they are. Low buck alternatives too the Gibson Line.
    That being said I now am happier with my MIK Epi LP Custom with Duncan-Sh11/APII set as my low $$ Gibson alternative.
    Gibson says its a Real LP as well.
     
  10. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    Yes, agile's are good guitars for the money, but there is the sweet spot that a Gibson has that the agile doesn't, and that's what makes a difference.

    They may sound similar to an average ear, but there's nothing like a quality instrument that can hit the sweet spot when you play it.
     
  11. dspellman

    dspellman Senior Member

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    My comparison has been a bit different (a bit higher level?), but similar. It involved a custom shop Axcess custom and an Agile custom shop guitar. And it's ongoing. Both guitars arrived March 4th of this year. The Gibson over $4K, the Agile $1160 with case. The Agile's got a wide/thin neck with a 16" radius and neck-through construction with single piece mahogany back and a 3/4" figured maple top.The Axcess is standard with a maple top and a 12" radius f/b, standard Axcess neck, set neck construction with a long tenon. Both have Korean-made Floyds (that's where OEM OFRs are made these days). Both guitars PLEK'd, the Agile has superglued frets. The Agile is solid, the Axcess is chambered (stock Axcess are cheesed). The Agile has Alnico V pickups that feel and respond like '57's, the Axcess came with Burstbuckers. Both have scarfed neck heels:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I've got other Gibsons, including some older LPs. I've also got some more expensive guitars, half a dozen Carvins, a variax and some vintage things. I've been hammering on these things for a long time. FWIW, I've also got one of the $200 Agiles (AL-2000); I was curious and it was (relative to these two) pocket change. The one in the photo would more closely resemble the AL-3000, which is about double the price of the AL-2000 in the OP's review. Some big differences between the $200 version and the $400 one.

    Except for the weight and the construction, these are similar guitars designed for a similar mission.

    Quality of build: The Agile and the Gibson are pretty well matched; both are custom shop guitars, after all. The fretwork is better on the Agile, and the ebony fretboard is smoother. No noticeable glitches on either. The Gibson has an opaque black paint job, so it's impossible to know anything about the wood grain below. The Agile's is on display, what with a translucent finish all round.

    Setup from the factory: Neither had a stellar set up -- the Agile's action was a bit low, the Axcess too high. A setup with PLEK brought both in line. The Agile's frets were smooth and surprisingly very level. The Axcess was supposedly PLEK'd at the factory, but it needed a bit of work upon arrival.

    Playability is a subjective factor, of course, but I ordered a wide/thin neck with a 16" radius on the Agile for a reason (Gibson's custom Shop wanted an extra $1K for a "custom neck profile" and, as an aside, wanted $5760 total for that and a decent flamed top on this guitar). The Agile is a faster player, IMHO. Both have good access to the upper frets. I have very large hands and I hit the inside of the horn cutaway on most LPs (this one's no exception). The stubby horn on the Agile eliminates that hazard. Hmmm.

    Sound. Both very good. Differences in the pickups, of course, but I'd kick neither out of bed. I called in some guitar-playing friends to listen and play, and they were all pretty much of the accord that you could flip a coin between the two. We mostly felt that the sustain was better on the Agile, which is probably due to the solid body. It's worth noting that the pots and wiring on the $400 Agile is improved over the $200 Agile -- it's likely that the OP experienced some differences there, even though he purportedly used the same pickups on each guitar.

    The conclusions so far -- there's really not much to choose from between the two guitars. Bag the headstocks (most people didn't notice the difference in the cutaway shape unless it was pointed out to them) and the only real difference for most folks was the weight and the feel of the slimmer neck. Most felt that the weight suggested a more expensive guitar and most liked the slimmer neck's playability; both are highly subjective.

    In the last month, both guitars have come back from the tech and are now far more alike than when they were acquired. In both cases, all the electronics have been shaken out. Both have modded '57's in the bridge, both have the same neck pickup, both have Fernandes Sustainers, both have sweepable mid boosts, both have a different control configuration (Master Volume, Master Tone, mid-boost on a push-pull and Sustainer Intensity). The Agile has had a pot moved (required some more routing) and we're evaluating that before we decide whether it's a good idea to carve up the Gibson some more (looks like that will be a "yes." In the tone pot's place is a Buckethead killswitch. That's also being evaluated; dunno if that will stay.

    With both guitars now even closer in terms of pickups and electronics (identical, in fact), side-by-side comparisions are available. The differences? A bit more sustain on the Agile. Sonically, they're virtually identical. The tradeoff for the sustain is the weight of the Agile. The Axcess is lighter, a bit thinner and has a modest tummy cut. A generous tummy cut is definitely on the spec list for the next version.

    So the question is, does it make sense to hit Gibson up for the next run, given that Agile would provide a chambered guitar if asked and has already shown a production guitar with a better tummy cut? No. Honestly, the Gibson brings nothing to the party that I can't get from Agile, even if we don't consider price. When you bring price to the fore, it's a different story. You can have four of these Agiles for the price of a singular similar Gibson. And when you now factor in reliability (which, given the identical electronics, seems moot), you then have three backups for Agile as opposed to none for the gibson, should anything at all go wrong.

    At my level, and with just these two guitars as a comparison, the Agile's clearly won this round.
     
  12. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Silver Supporting Member

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    Wow... now THAT is interesting and seems like a pretty thorough, objective and revealing review (not about Gibson quality, but about what Agile is capable of). I'd like to hear more about the quality of the ~$400 Agile line, the 3000's?
     
  13. photoguy

    photoguy Member

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    Interesting thread. Some guys spend 6k+ for essentially what is a strat, chasing that extra 20%.
    Real or imagined?

    I've always found with most things I obsess about (cars, stereos, guitars) that after the initial shine has worn off, it becomes kind of 'normal' to me and I start chasing the prize yet again...
     
  14. mickslick

    mickslick Member

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    As others have stated, there is a world of difference between Agile 2000's and 3000's, the 3000's can still be had starting at $370, one piece mahogany neck, solid mahogany body, better appointments, electronics, pickups etc... any Agile comparison to a Gibson IMHO should start with the 3000's.
     
  15. guitarman3001

    guitarman3001 Member

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    You too, huh? I'm glad I'm not the only one. I'm always going through an "oohhhhh...shiny...must have...." phase with something or another. Usually cars, guitars, amps, stereos, home theater, etc..etc...
     
  16. sleek

    sleek Member

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    That's a stellar point...everybody doing these comparisons tend to go for the lowest Agile coupled with a near top of the line Gibby (USA Les Paul).

    I wonder how the bottom of the line Gibson (Melody Maker?) would fare against the bottom of the line Agile?

    ...or even a comparably priced Agile....hmmm...
     
  17. Presc

    Presc Member

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    I think this is very underrated. We try to boil things down to numbers. "This guitar sounds 20% better, but it costs 50% more!" The concept of quantitatively measuring guitar "performance" and trying to use it as a measure of value doesn't really make much sense.

    I actually have a set of clips I did, playing the same thing with the same settings. One clip is with my G&L Legacy which I paid $1100 for new. The other is my original Squier Strat, with new pickups and electronics, all in cost maybe $250.

    The G&L does NOT sound "4 times" better as its price might reflect. Or even "2 times" better. But it does sound and play better, it looks better, and there are all sorts of little aspects to the guitar which you might not notice in a soundclip but really add up to make it a superior playing experience. Plus, I like the brand and I am proud to play it.

    So all in, it's not just about the measurable factors. Sometimes it comes down to little things which can be well worth the price for our own enjoyment, for whatever reasons. :aok
     
  18. guitarman3001

    guitarman3001 Member

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    in sports terms that would be the intangibles. imo, they can be just as important as the measurable aspects.
     
  19. Windup 43

    Windup 43 Supporting Member

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    I own a Gibby Les Paul Standard and I owned an AL2000 at the same time. The Agile played well enough (although it felt kind of cheap as the OP described), but the body wood was dead- no resonance, no liveliness, etc. The pups were doing all the work on the Agile if you know what I mean- very thin and anemic compared to the Gibby which sounded huge in comparison. The Agile looked nice, but definitely not the real deal. Maybe there are some great Agiles out there, I dunno, but the one I had sure as hell wasn't one of them...
     
  20. Amp360

    Amp360 Senior Member

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    Where I really see a difference is when I go to record.

    The lower end stuff usually sounds cool when you're just playing it alone but if you're recording parts for a decent recording the lower end stuff doesn't fit in a max as well.

    This is the major reason I avoid the cheap stuff. Plus, if you buy used there are good deals on the cool stuff out there all the time.
     

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