Reverse Engineering – 2008 Reverse Explorer Reviewed

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by jeffwith1f, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. jeffwith1f

    jeffwith1f Member

    Messages:
    3,814
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    [​IMG]

    What we have here is yet another oddity out of Gibson’s Guitar of the Month program. Billed as the “Reverse Explorer”, I think a more accurate description would be an “Upside-down Explorer”. The instrument contains a number of unique design elements so let’s take a closer look to see if they got it all backwards, or have Gibson created another guitar that is decades ahead of it’s time?

    Fit and Finish

    [​IMG]

    I was fortunate enough to have acquired instrument # 002. This is about as early in the release of 1000 instruments as it gets, although I’d love to hear from anyone that has instrument # 001. This instrument has a flawless glossy finish, perfectly shaped neck (a hybrid 50’s/60’s profile common to V and Explorers) and fret ends that feel smooth and well dressed. The Antique walnut brown stain screams class, and looks up market with the gold appointments and “powder” copper covers. The only quibble I had was that the bridge pickup came seated tilting too much towards the bottom of the instrument for me. The springs had compressed in a way to cause the tilt, however, a quick adjustment under the guard fixed the problem. It gave me an excuse to check out the routes and wiring, which were tidily done as well.

    [​IMG]

    I was most excited to see the reverse Moderne headstock in use here, as outside of the small run of Moderne Reissues done in the early 80’s this is the only other occasions that I can think of where Gibson has recalled the essence of this near mythical lost guitar design. The headstock also comes with a rare art-deco Gibson logo, supposedly a design that Ted McCarty was toying with back in the late 50’s.

    [​IMG]

    I find that it is reminiscent of the spaghetti style logo Fender had adopted around this era, which lend credence to this being the style of the times. The Gibson logo has changed over the years, but it is intriguing to see such a different take on it in use on a production instrument.

    [​IMG]

    As a huge fan of the original modernistic series instruments, to see a new plan-form that includes, yet skews, elements of both Explorers and Modernes was something that appealed to me when I first saw a picture of one from this years NAMM show. I remember thinking: “Wow, that’s ugly….can I order one?”

    It is certainly a polarizing design, not unlike its cousins, the Reverse V and before that, the Flying V, Explorer and Moderne, that seems to make people fall into “Love it”/”Hate it” factions. This would appear to be a mandatory trait inherent in its modernistic pedigree. Some people just won’t get it.

    [​IMG]

    Go ahead and play your Telecasters and Les Pauls, leave me to my fun.
    Hardware

    A set of gold hardware is joined by restrained use of Carbon Fibre touches in the pick guard, truss rod cover, and pair of inlays at 5th and 12th position. Close inspection of the inlays shows that there was some filler required in each of the 4 corners where the router created the space in inlay a patch of carbon fibre which appear to then have been sealed in by an epoxy resin style coating, which is then finished to be flush with the fret board. Outside of the corners, it looks quite good, and it feels solid and flat under finger. The use of carbon-fiber appointments does lend a rather modern touch to an otherwise retro design.

    [​IMG]

    The instrument comes with a Classic 57 for the neck, set in a pick up ring and a Classic 57 Plus in the bridge, which is, interestingly enough, not set in a ring, but in the lightning bolt shaped pick guard. It is odd to see the mix of ring/non-ring setup on a single guitar. I can’t think of another design that does this, but I guess this is just another in a long list of unique attributes on this instrument.

    [​IMG]

    Both pick ups come with covers that use “powdered” copper coving without exposing any coil screws. The colouring plays off the deep brown of the body, bridging the gap to the gleaming gold appointments, but I think perhaps standard gold covers would also have looked good here, possibly better.

    The provided case is a nice step up over the standard black reptile skinned cases with white interior that my recent Gibsons have been coming with. This case comes with a faux-leather exterior, which comes emblazoned with “Guitar of the Month 2008” on it as well as the Gibson Logo. The handle is quite different from the other recent cases, and is significantly more comfortable while carrying, and feels reassuringly solid. The case interior is still white, but feels more upmarket in texture over the standard cases, and comes with a white silky blanket also adorned with “Guitar of the Month 2008”, although, unlike my 90’s Gibson cases that came with cover blankets (which I always thought was a nice touch), this blanket is not attached to the case, it simply overlays the guitar, or can be folded up and stowed in the ample case pocket, should you choose.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, the instrument comes with Steinberger “gearless” tuners. These are quite interesting and function in a way that I was not expecting. Instead of normal tuning keys and pegs, the instrument has 6 large posts with a set of locking caps on top, and tuning adjustment knobs on the back of the headstock, reminiscent of a set of Banjo tuners. Twisting these causes an internal post to raise and lower. Strings pass straight through a hole that is exposed when the posts are fully extended out, and they are then locked in place by screwing down the cap on the top of the tuning post. From there, turning the knobs on the back lower the posts into the headstock, pulling the string tighter. In action they work much like a large set of micro tuners as you would find on a locking tremolo.. They reportedly have a 40:1 ratio, which makes tuning extremely accurate and easy to use. Restringing is also quite easy. Thread the string through, lock it in, and then adjust up to tension.

    [​IMG]

    While you do get increased accuracy in your tuning, the trade off is, much like micro tuners, they have a limited range that they are able to control the string. If your string slips, or slackens over time, there will come a point when you will not be able to tighten the string anymore, as the post will reach the end of its movement range. Once the string is stretched out like this, you need to replace it, there is no option to unbolt a locking nut and tighten the string further on a standard tuning capstan. I think these tuners will work extremely well for people that intend to keep the guitar in a single tuning, but if you plan on swapping tunings all the time, you may find that a set of conventional tuners suit your purposes better.

    Sounds

    [​IMG]

    The instrument balances extremely well on a strap, being given an even wider stance than a normal Explorer, as the neck end strap button is at the end of the horn, instead of on the back of the neck joint, while the lower end strap button is in the normal place for an explorer. I was worried that now that that swooping lower fin was turned upside down, that a strap may pull away from the button and allow for separation, but the reality is when worn at the appropriate playing angle (a pointy guitar should really be slung about as low as it can go, non?), it holds the strap nicely, and sits in place if you let go of the neck. You can sit with it on your lap if you are sitting on a stool, or narrow chair, but this is really an instrument that is quite difficult to sit with on a broad flat surface as the lower fin pushes the neck down.

    [​IMG]

    You should stand when you rock anyways. Let ‘er rip.

    The mahogany body and pickups on this particular instrument combine to make a particularly dark and moody sounding instrument in comparison to my other Gibson’s. The Classic 57 Plus is a new pickup model for me, but I wonder if part of this moodiness is being imparted by the covers and their unique composition. The tone is smooth like butter though. While I was trying it out I stood across the room from my amp, and I realized that the way I have it set up, I’ve probably been killing my bass player with high end, and this actually improves things nicely. The clean tones are rich and silky smooth with a decent amount of output without being overpowering. Obviously, winding the amp up with a decent amount of distortion also sounds great, producing full-bodied, creamy lead tones while also allowing me to slam out some great riffage.

    [​IMG]

    Bottom Line

    It is a hoot to play, being both comfortable and extremely well put together; it looks great as well, presuming your tastes allow for something distinctly non-conventional and a penchant for the unique. I now eagerly await a Reverse Moderne.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. WurstBurst

    WurstBurst Member

    Messages:
    724
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2007
    Location:
    CT, USA
    A+ review.

    Thanks for all your insights.

    Oh, yeah, cool looking guitar - congrats!

    :BEER
     
  3. baimun

    baimun Member

    Messages:
    1,270
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2007
    I have to say that upon seeing the various metal surfaces and such up close, I dig the guitar a lot more than the initial pics you posted of it. Very nice!
     
  4. Carbohydrates

    Carbohydrates Member

    Messages:
    2,213
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    I agree, it comes off much nicer in these photos.

    Also, I don't see a Corvus in your pile of Gibson oddities!
     
  5. ManliusGuitar

    ManliusGuitar Member

    Messages:
    969
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    After doing that headstock for the reverse Explorer, how long til they do the Moderne?
     
  6. Cymbaline

    Cymbaline Member

    Messages:
    3,990
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2006
    Location:
    Buda, TX
    I think that looks really cool. Much better than the Reverse Flying V that looks like a mouse pointer.
     
  7. Memorex

    Memorex Member

    Messages:
    610
    Joined:
    May 6, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago
    It's a cool looking guitar, but the headstock looks like a duck foot.
     
  8. jeffwith1f

    jeffwith1f Member

    Messages:
    3,814
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    a) The headstock looks like a Gumby head actually.
    b) I would actually really like a Corvus.
    c) My hopes remain high that we will see a Reverse Moderne in '09.
     
  9. archtopjazz

    archtopjazz Gold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    9,074
    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2004
    Location:
    Lancaster, CA
    Great review. Thanks for posting.
    Nice collection.
     
  10. Axeaholic

    Axeaholic Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,306
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2007
    Location:
    La Belle Province
    Ok ... I love Gibson, I love the guitars, the feel, the touch ...

    but to me this looks like something out of a He-man cartoon

    [​IMG]
     
  11. j2d2

    j2d2 Member

    Messages:
    1
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Love the guitars. Great review. It's also time to cut the grass. :dude
     
  12. WordMan

    WordMan Member

    Messages:
    1,710
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2004
    As always with your reviews - great job! Thanks for the time and detail.
     
  13. HurricaneJesus

    HurricaneJesus Member

    Messages:
    10,251
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2006
    Location:
    Springfield
    Nice collection! And does everyone who puts pictures up have some sort of wooden deck?
     
  14. Mattbedrock

    Mattbedrock Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,271
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    Location:
    Brevard County, FL
    Jeff -
    Thanks for the excellent review. I share your love for Gibson weirdness, and yes, I own a Corvus.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. HHB

    HHB Member

    Messages:
    6,643
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    East Flat Rock NC
    those tuners a cool as hell! wild guitar man
     
  16. jeffwith1f

    jeffwith1f Member

    Messages:
    3,814
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    man, I want that Corvus....
     
  17. jazzandmetal?

    jazzandmetal? Supporting Member

    Messages:
    8,666
    Joined:
    May 14, 2006
    Me too. Looks really cool. Congrats on the guitar. I wonder what whacky guitar Gibson will create for you next.:banana
     
  18. Joe324

    Joe324 Member

    Messages:
    843
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2007
    Location:
    England
    Sorry,but the look of your dog made me laugh out loud when I noticed Him/Her :)
     
  19. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,609
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2006
    Location:
    Decatur, GA
    Dude, that's one of the greatest Gibson collection pics I've ever seen. So many oddities, and the more common models are great examples of their type. What's the one on the the top row, far right?
    I saw Black Mountain recently and their singer/guitarist was absolutely laying the audience to waste on one just like that.
     
  20. mark norwine

    mark norwine Member

    Messages:
    16,200
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2005
    Location:
    NJ...GSP135
    Nice review & great pictures!

    but:

    Is it just me? Or is this kinda weird? Gibson makes a big deal about this being "guitar of the month", but doesn't state which month!!

    That's nutty!

    [​IMG]
     

Share This Page