Gibson Les Paul Reference Monitors – AXPONA 2015

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In full transparency, I am the proud owner of a Gibson Les Paul guitar and I am a big fan of the truly classic look they started years ago. The company’s first stab at the loudspeaker market was revealed at CES, so I was pretty excited to see the company also decided make the rounds within the hi-fi circuit at this year’s AXPONA show in Chicago.

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I came across a bit of bad press in response to the new powered speaker line from the guitar manufacturer after the CES debut which show room operator and marketing-guy Evan was already aware. The feedback that I read seemed a bit heavy on the “why Gibson?” question and a little light on actual sound impressions.

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Well I got a chance to listen to all three size options of the Les Paul Reference Monitors during my weekend stay at the Westin, and I was very glad that I gave them an opportunity to impress me. While the textured paint job of the monitor may play out a bit better on a musical instrument than a box, the sound from the bookshelf-sized loudspeaker was both expansive and detailed for the price. Even though the largest Reference 8 (~$2k) didn’t quite reach down to depths of a standalone subwoofer, the resolution and imaging was very acute and natural. Of course, this type of restricted low end extension is something that plagues all loudspeakers of this type, the bass from the 8 was very respectable on that relative scale.

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The two smaller versions available are the Les Paul 4 (~$1.2k/pair) and 6 (~$1.6k/pair). Each comes with a built in amplifier like the 8. The show room presented the entire pro-oriented rig via a TASCAM SD card player and an ARX hub which acted as both a pre amp and output switch between the varying model sizes which were each set at maximum volume to the internal amplification. Interestingly enough, the gradient face of each cabinet is made of maple like many of the company’s corresponding guitars. The sides are constructed of more hi-fi-audio-typical MDF materials.

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While the studio reference style of the Les Paul is somewhat rare for an typical high end audio show, the diversity (along with the overall sound of setup) was a most welcome edition to the 5th floor. The entire presentation was very well done for a first time exhibitor.