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This guitar takes me back to my errant youth. Me, aged just 17 and riding a motorbike, drinking in the local "bikers pub", and mixing with various long haired and leather clad musicians. This was my first introduction to a rather unique man called Myk Taylor and my first introduction to the Gibson explorer. Initially I did not like it at all ( the guitar not Myk ) as it seemed to personify spotty wannabe metal bands.
But Myk was a true musician and had a way of playing that made his guitars sound like they were both weeping and jubilant. When he picked up an guitar the room would go silent and people were genuinely awed. Myk and I went on to become best friends and we shared some mad music filled adventures. Time passed as our lives separated somewhat, he joined a rather famous band called Angelwitch and I got a job and became more restricted in my lifestyle. We stayed friends though, right up to the week he died from stem cell transplant complications due to Leukemia.
The Explorer and the Charvel were Myk's pride and joy. I had never yearned to own either like he had until I found a very tatty one on Ebay that nobody seemed to have noticed. As luck would have it they continued not to notice it and I managed to win the auction for a song. The guitar took some work but it was a 1970's natural wood one and now looks amazing.
The Explorer is a funny looking guitar admittedly but it pioneered the shape of metal guitars from it's creation in the 1950's. There have been several types and reinventions but none so lovely ( in my opinion ) as the rich reddish colour natural wood one with the white scratch plate. The guitar is angular, weighs a ton and has an unusual pointy headstock (see later Charvel / Jackson models that also have these)
When this guitar was first made it was revolutionary. Nobody had seen anything quite like it. Initially only 100 of these were made which now go for a small mortgage. They were reintroduced in the 70's and you can still get them although they are not nearly as beautiful in looks these days without the natural wood.
This guitar is a powerhouse and the epitome of loud. The shape and looks give a good indicator of the sound that you will get from it- subtle it is not. The mahogany body gives it a retro feel and the humbuckers give it a distinctive and edgy Gibson sound. Although typically drooled over by metal-heads, this can also be played with great sensitivity due to the quality that is inherent in all Gibson guitars. The small details matter to Gibson, from the machine heads, the binding, the position of the control knobs and of course the playability due to the low and smooth action; Gibson guitars just exude quality.
I have never met a bad Gibson guitar.
The Explorer is as iconic as one of Gibson's other trademark instruments, the Les Paul. The two guitars are both crafted beautifully and look very different but if you have played a Les Paul then you will notice some similarities. For starters the tones on the Explorer are rich, full and recognisable like the Les Paul. There is a slightly higher output more suited to metal due to the 2 ceramic humbuckers (500T and 496R).
The neck profile is also very similar in shape and design and both have the same playability and smooth progression that you would expect in a guitar like this. The Explorer has a Tune-o-matic bridge like the Les Paul- easy to adjust intonation with a screwdriver.
Like most electric guitars this has an adjustable truss rod and the Explorer comes with a Truss rod key.
This guitar is at its best when played loud with a bit of reverb. It fills the room and makes your teeth shake when you turn it up to 11 ( see spinal tap if you don't know what I am talking about ). The play is easy and fast, chord changes and riffs are fluid and the quality of tone is punchy and voluptuous. There is something about the sound of a Gibson electric that makes me feel emotional, especially when I hear it played well. The guitar can really sing and cry and express a range of sounds that sound almost human. This one is no exception. If you have a chance to have a go on one, especially one of the older models, then do. The older ones seem to carry a part of the original owner in them, from all of the times it has been picked up and lovingly played and admired. That makes a guitar have soul I think. And the Explorer has plenty.
* Iconic and much copied shape
* Gibson 496R and 500T ceramic humbuckers
* Angled headstock
* Low action Explorer neck profile
* Adjustable truss rod
* Mahogany body
* Rosewood fretboard
* 1 volume knob, 2 tone knobs ( retro dial style ) and three-way switch
* 22-Fret North American Rosewood Fingerboard
* Nickel and Silver Alloy Fret Wire
* Mother of pearl dot Inlays
* Set-Neck Construction
* Clear Nitrocellulose Finish
* Typical Gibson build quality
The Gibson Explorer was first seen back in late 50's. It was part of a futuristic range of guitars designed by Gibson which also included the flying V.
When first released they weren't too popular and only a few were produced. This has lead to some very high prices in today's market for the originals.
It wasn't until the 70's that they became popular with the emergance of heavier styles of rock music. The large mahogany body, humbucking pickups and "stand-out" shape really suited the stadium rock bands of this era.
The Gison Explorer features a similar neck profile to the 50's Les Paul, rosewood fretboard (ebony on some special editions), 490 and 500T humbucking pickups, mahogany body, tune-o-matic bridge, volume and 2 tone controls with a 3-way pickup selector.
The tones are full with a similar feel to the Les Paul but with slightly higher output from the 500T humbucker.
The USA Explorers are built very well and will last a lifetime on the road.
The Explorer is a great rock guitar that has been copied by many manufacturers over the years.
If you are a guitar lover and you havnt played the Epiphone Explorer then youve missed out somewhere along the line. Epiphone produce some of the best guitars in the world. The Explorer has two large epiphone pick-ups and three tone nobs. The sound that can be made form the guitar is amazing. Combined with effects pedals or on its own it plays like a dream. Alot of people comment on its shape, well, me be the owner of one can tell you that you dont notics the difference, it has a long neck making it easier to reach the higher frets and when sitting down the shape does not alter the playing position unlike the BC Rich NJ Beast. The action on this guitar is very high near the struming point but very low near the fre board due to a special Epiphone raiser which sits just underneath the pick ups. All together a brilliant guitar worth trying out. I give it 9/10! HAz