The unveiling of Gibson’s Les Paul Reference Monitor Series at last year’s 137th AES Convention allowed us a first look at the Les Paul guitar’s aesthetics overlaid on a studio monitor. Based on initial buzz, the LP Series was just a bit shocking to those averse to “style forward” pro audio products, though absolutely logical with a marketer’s eye. After all, studio dwellers often stare into speakers while working and listening intently; why shouldn’t our “instruments” resemble one of the most attractive ones we regularly hear, play, and/or record? But for our purposes, the real question is this: Has Gibson Brands’ Pro Audio division—a group including top studio monitor brand KRK Systems and portable PA purveyors Cerwin-Vega—built another accomplished reference monitor?
For this review, I received the middle-size model, the LP6 with 6in. woofer, for a month-long evaluation.
Other models include the LP4 and LP8 with 4in. and 8in. woofers, respectively.
Due to their striking appearance, let’s start with LP Series aesthetics. There’s nothing subtle about these monitors; odds are you will like the way they look, or you won’t. In a room of black and gray audio gear, they definitely “pop,” and I believe they would look ideal in a visually warm, wood-accented room—residential, studio, commercial/institutional, or somewhere in between. Residential decorators may prefer these speakers over the majority of powered speaker “black boxes” throughout the marketplace.
As you can see from the adjacent photo, the LP Series’ sunburst coloring and book-matched wood veneer really does resemble a Les Paul guitar; further, Les Paul’s signature is on the woofer and “Gibson” prominently glows a bright honey color set in chromed accenting. Dual F-hole style bass ports, tweeter waveguide surrounds and the LP6’s front fascia edge mimics the guitar’s creamy trim. As such, the LP Series earns the “unique” description, at least visually, and is available in three colors: cherry, cherry burst, and tobacco burst. Build quality is notably high, with thick and rigid cabinetry materials—mainly comprised of high-grade MDF.
To better understand its appeal, look no further than the Les Paul guitar’s aesthetic history. In 1958, the Les Paul Standard gained a sunburst finish which had been used over the years on its archtop and flattop guitar models, fitting in with Gibson’s targeting of an older (read: more sophisticated) and jazz-oriented audience. This approach didn’t immediately establish the Les Paul as the iconic rock instrument that it is recognized as today—that supposedly happened in 1964 when a young Keith Richards picked up a sunburst Les Paul Standard—but it did seem to solidify its unique appeal within the music instrument and pro audio production marketplace. A half-century later, an LP Series monitor can be chosen to install in a number of different settings and its aesthetic will speak volumes about its environment before it emits one single sound. But enough about the look: what will an LP Series investment provide its end user?
Each two-way LP Series active speaker features a 1in. carbon-coated titanium tweeter (sporting the “density of a diamond” for detailed transient response, offers Gibson marketing materials) and the woofer is made of a multi-layered, non-woven carbon material. The 18.5lb. LP6 offers a frequency range of 37Hz to 47kHz with a 2.7kHz crossover point and a 117dB maximum peak SPL.
Its newly designed proprietary amplifier provides 247W of biamped power; inputs include RCA, balanced TRS, and balanced XLR. Manual rear-panel controls include volume and dual stepped EQ adjustments: bass and treble, respectively, at -4, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, and +4 dB settings. An idle/standby setting kicks on after 30 minutes of downtime.
Whether listening for pleasure, production or both, the LP6 is detailed and accurate to my ears, full yet controlled, punchy on the bottom end, and exceptionally silky smooth up top. They are notably powerful for the size, too. To me, the LP6 really doesn’t sound like any KRK sibling that I’ve heard, and I’ve had the opportunity to use most Rokit, VXT, and Expose series models available today. Gibson states that the LP Series is a ground-up new design, and I believe it.
I envision the LP Series ultimately embraced within the most image-conscious recording/production rooms as well as sophisticated home entertainment environments. Regarding choices in studio monitors, for decades many end users behind the scenes have respectfully murmured, “But can’t we have something more exciting than Model T black?” and were only then served with an occasional white model. With the LP Series, Gibson has answered this request with rich wood tones and a 50-year-vetted sunburst color scheme. And while other studio manufacturers may initially scoff at the LP Series, I predict they will soon unveil their own unique aesthetics upon otherwise solid studio monitor workhorses, too.
At $799 each, the LP6 is priced alongside some stiff competition in a relatively packed marketplace, though I believe it would hold its own in side-by-side comparisons. The LP Series is a refreshing blast of color and style and, like the Les Paul guitar, it has the look, feel, and sound of a classic yet stylistically flexible instrument.
COMPANY: Gibson | www2.gibson.com/Products/Pro-Audio/2015.aspx
PRODUCT: Gibson Les Paul LP6 Reference Monitors
PROS: Detailed and accurate reference monitor performance; unique styling and look; from a trusted and proven studio monitor pedigree
CONS: Priced alongside many worthy competitors; “love it or hate it” aesthetics
APPLICATIONS: Studio, residential, or somewhere in between
PRICE: $799 each, list
CONFIGURATION: Two-way active monitor with 1in. carbon-coated titanium tweeter and 6in. non-woven carbon woofer
FREQUENCY RANGE (-10DB): 37Hz—47kHz
CROSSOVER FREQUENCY: 2.7kHz
MAXIMUM PEAK SPL (LIMITER ENGAGED): 117dB
AMPLIFICATION: 247W, Class D
Controls, rear panel: Volume and dual stepped EQ adjustments—bass and treble, respectively, at -4, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 and +4 dB settings
INPUTS: RCA, balanced TRS, and balanced XLR
DIMENSIONS: 14.02”x9.06”x11.81” (H x W x D)
WEIGHT: 18.5 lbs.
Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s reviews editor, AV/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist, and club-level sound reinforcement wrangler. [email protected]