Gordon-Smith GS2/60 2011

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The Gordon-Smith GS2/60 is similar to a Les Paul Junior. The GS is their entry level range, featuring slab bodies and simple finishes. The "2" indicates two humbuckers, while the "60" designation means that the body style is a single cutaway rather than the GS twin cutaway shape. There were also a number of options available when ordering, which I'll go through below. It cost about £800 in 2011 and it's been my main guitar ever since. I only play at home nowadays, so it's not even seen the inside of a rehearsal room, but I still play every day and this is the guitar I pick up most.


Why I bought it

I wanted a guitar with humbuckers, having spent the last decade playing various Fenders. Given my budget at the time, I was looking at the more expensive Epiphones and lower-end Gibsons. I decided on a Gordon-Smith because I'd owned a really nice one in the past, a GS1.5 (sold to make way for a Strat Plus); I'd played a few since then and they always struck me as very playable; and finally, I liked the fact that they are made in England and I could actually talk to John Smith about it before ordering (he was very nice).

The Gordon Smith Guitars company - now without the hyphen - was bought by Auden Guitars last year, but the GS range and the options you can select are largely unchanged. They have a reputation for variable quality, something I didn't know at the time and which I am sure Auden are doing their best to rectify.


Construction

  • The body and neck are made from Brazilian cedar. The alternatives at the time were spruce or poplar but given that I was going for an all-over paint finish, John Smith recommended the cedar.
  • The standard GS body is quite thin, so I upgraded to a thick body to give a bit more oomph to the tone. It's about 43mm / 1.75" thick. It's a pretty standard LP shape and dimensions.
  • The neck is glued in and the scale length is 24.625". The fretboard looks like rosewood or something similar, and is probably not a great piece - it's quite varied in colour and texture, with coarse grain in some places and closer grain in others. That said, this doesn't get in the way of playing at all.
  • The playing surface is 12" radius (roughly) with jumbo frets. Position dots are pearloid, well put in apart from the 17th fret marker which has a small chip alongside it.
  • The nut is brass, screwed in to the end of the fingerboard. This is a Gordon-Smith feature on many of their guitars.
  • The neck is pretty chunky - 44mm wide at the nut, a sort of D/U shape and quite a handful. Truss rod adjustment is via a wheel at the body end, covered by a small plate.
  • The body, back of the neck and headstock are finished in matt black. This was small extra cost over the standard natural finish. The finish is mostly consistently applied, although there are a couple of corners where it's obviously a touch too thin, in the cutaway and on the headstock. It's been worn to a nice smooth shine on the back of the neck over the years.
  • The finishing inside the pickup and control cavities is pretty rough, and the bridge pickup cavity in particular is not quite deep enough - the bridge pickup needs to go down more and this isn't possible because it is already hitting the bottom. Annoyingly, it's also not flat, so now that the pickup is down as far as it will go, it's not quite level.
  • Overall weight is about 7.9 lbs / 3.5 kg.


Hardware & Electrics

  • The bridge is a tune-o-matic type with a stopbar tailpiece, origin unknown but perfectly decent quality. This was an upgrade over the standard wrap-around bridge, because when I tried some GS guitars before buying, I found the bridge posts on the wrap-around bridge were too big and dug into my hand when I was palm-muting.
  • Tuners are unlabelled but I have been told they are Van Gent. They work fine.
  • The guitar has Schaller straplocks fitted. I always use these. I supplied them to GS and they were fitted at the factory instead of the standard strap buttons.
  • Pickups are Gordon-Smith's own humbuckers, medium output and covered with black plastic covers. Aesthetically I would have preferred metal covers but John's recommendation was that this would dull and diminish the output somewhat.
  • Both pickups are tappable via pull/push pots on the volumes. The tones have a "direct" notch at the top end of their travel - I believe this means they are effectively out of circuit at this point. There's a very slight audible click through the pickups when you do this. All controls are smooth - maybe a bit too easy to move and knock by mistake.
  • The pickup selector is down by the bridge. It's not a very positive switch and is too easy to knock into the middle position. Also, every now and then it needs a spray with switch cleaner or it glitches and there won't be sound via one or other of the pickups.

Sounds

Unplugged, it's a nicely resonant guitar. Clean it has a lovely snap, particularly on the neck pickup. There's a great clean rhythm sound with both pickups on and the neck tapped. There are of course crunchy sounds aplenty with light gain, and the expected big rock sounds on the bridge pickup with a decent amp. With the tones out of circuit (i.e. on 10), the guitar is quite bright, but this is easily tamed by judicious use of the tone controls and gives more options. Overall, it doesn't sound like the most refined LP style guitar I've ever played but it has an honest rock vibe about all its sounds.


Pros & cons

+ Solid & well constructed.
+ Great sounds and a good variety.
+ Very playable neck, if you like bigger necks.
- Pickup selector switch is easy to knock by accident, flicks too easily to centre and occasionally cuts out.
- Some minor finishing faults and rough edges.


Summary & Verdict

I haven't owned many guitars (about eleven, I think) but this is my favourite of all of them. It's a good, solid, no-nonsense rock guitar. It captures the sound of the humbucker roar I have in my head very well and is capable of a wide range of sounds (all but one of the solo of the month entries I have played have been on it). I often play quite hard and it is absolutely up to being thrashed. Gordon-Smith guitars are sometimes described as being workhorses and this is what I like about it.

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Comments

  • markvmarkv Frets: 263
    Reserved for media
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  • Cool review. When yours was built, they were about 15 minutes from where I live.

    I've played plenty of good ones over the years. I really like the lack of pretension with GS guitars.

    I hope Auden succeed with the brand.
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 21612
    I hope Auden succeed with the brand.
    Totally agree.

    The fact that GS managed to keep a UK manufacturing business viable and going for as long as they did, in a market that's driven either by headstock logo or Chinese pricing levels, is pretty amazing.  I guess the way they did it was by comprising on some of the materials and QC standards, but when you get a good 'un, you've got a good 'un!
    Having trouble posting images here?  This might help.
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  • horsehorse Frets: 1132
    I've enjoyed mine since the 90s - although recently treated to some oil city upgrades:


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  • markvmarkv Frets: 263
    edited February 2016
    Thanks @richardhomer - it was made in or around February 2011, which is when I ordered it with the options as described, but given the way GS operated I assume they had a stock of bodies and necks waiting for assembly. So possibly bits of it were made earlier. Either way, it would have been the original "factory" near you.

    @horse - the natural finish is the classic GS finish of course. Is yours the thicker bodied GS? I've been wondering about pickup upgrades (I think we had this conversation on another thread!) but tbh there's nothing actually wrong with the stock ones.
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  • horsehorse Frets: 1132
    No, mine is original thin body. Nowt wrong with the original pickups, but I had gas for a p90 solidbody and upgrading this gave it a new lease of life rather than buying another guitar. My usual boring story with this guitar is that when it was my main gigging guitar I never realised it had the coiltaps - only found out when reading an ebay listing in more recent years. Frets aren't big on mine
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  • minimoogminimoog Frets: 128
    I have a GS2 also and I'm surprised to read about a chunky handful of neck. Mine has the slimmest, easiest neck of any guitar I've ever played. 

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  • markvmarkv Frets: 263
    Nice photo @minimoog, that's a lovely colour.

    I haven't played enough Gordon Smiths to know, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was a lot of variation in neck sizes and shapes, given they're all hand made. And of course what feels "slim" to you may be "chunky" to me - I have quite small hands. But I had a US Tele and that definitely was slim by comparison with my GS - in fact, almost too slim. I prefer a bigger neck.
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  • horsehorse Frets: 1132
    The neck on mine is v thin, but suspect the spec has changed a bit over the years
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  • paulnb57paulnb57 Frets: 2256
    I had a single pickup, single cutaway model with a Flame (Veneer) Top, one of the few I wish I had kept...
    Stranger from another planet welcome to our hole - Just strap on your guitar and we'll play some rock 'n' roll

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  • xsheqxsheq Frets: 71
    edited March 2016
    I picked up a GS2 double cutaway in Chandler's recently. It was sat there looking a bit battered and well loved. I tried it out. Played it over and over and over. Called Gordon Smith with the serial number and they told me it was from 1987. All mahogany. Coil taps on the humbuckers. Terrific guitar. Bought it, but wanted something of a different sound so stuck a P90 in the neck - also has a Duncan Custom Custom in the bridge for added weight. 

    Can't seem to embed it from Instagram, so here it is with the P90s before I stuck the Custom in.
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  • TempestTempest Frets: 2
    I've got a 1992 Gypsy in a burgundy sun bust. Its a semi acoustic with two F holes. It was stored for some years by another player and when it was brought to me the binding on the neck had cracked a bit and the coating had come away a bit on the back. I built the binding up again using many coats of UPVC having discussed it with a local luthier. I'm just having it set up at present as I want it for a gig that is coming up. Its always been a lovely sounding guitar...
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  • normula1normula1 Frets: 499
    I always wanted a Gypsy. The only thing that put me off was the truss rod cover at the end of the neck which for some reason offends my eyes :)

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  • markvmarkv Frets: 263
    I was originally looking at getting a Gypsy (the normal model, not the semi-acoustic model), but because I wanted a matt finish and the tune-o-matic bridge, it was cheaper to get the GS2 with those updates and the thick body option. The standard features of the Gypsy were an fully adjustable all-in-one bridge, thick body and a gloss finish. Basically, the difference in price boiled down to the gloss finish. Otherwise the GS and the Gyspy were the same (as John Smith confirmed when I asked him).

    Doesn't remove that body end truss rod you find so offensive though @normula1 ... :-)

    @Tempest - you got pics?
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  • GuitarMonkeyGuitarMonkey Frets: 1876
    I hope Auden succeed with the brand.
    @richardhomer Go and check out the range in Forsyths. 

    The new Gordon Smiths are really well made and finished, much better than previously.
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 22787
    GuitarMonkey;998480" said:
    @richardhomer Go and check out the range in Forsyths. 

    The new Gordon Smiths are really well made and finished, much better than previously.
    I will - I didn't know they were stocking them.

    Thanks for letting me know.
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  • 10thumbs10thumbs Frets: 419

    Nice review Mark , thanks for that .

    As  ( we believe) the most recent owner of the "really nice" GS 1.5 @MarkV used to own , and mentions in his review , I can confirm that , after a pro setup by KGB in Birkenhead , including a fret reprofiling and a new and better bridge ,  it is currently receiving a lot of love , when my life improves I might even upgrade the pickups .

    I love the thin lightweight body , and it has the slimmest neck of any guitar I've ever played.

    I've always been a fan of Gordon Smiths , and used to drool over them through the window of a local music shop back in the mid eighties, its great to see that they are still going strong , maybe stronger than ever.



    BTW - I was actually put off them for a few years , after working in a job with a boss who was a total and utter bastard .....

    .... can you guess what his name was?

    I didn't need the constant reminder , luckily time heals. :D


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  • TempestTempest Frets: 2
    Got it back from the setup, here you go...


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  • markvmarkv Frets: 263
    @Tempest looks cool. How do you get on with the GSG bridge? I found it a bit awkward.
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