Gibson L6S Reissue

The Gibson L6S was originally released in 1973, and whilst it’s fair to say it didn’t take the world by storm, it did pick up some notable fans including Carlos Santana.

Actually I was probably too unfair in my opening comment, Gibson did produce 12,000 of the original L6-S Custom, and over 5,000 copies of the variations including the Midnight Special, and Deluxe.

Now that the original gigging guitarists, with whom it found favor in the 70’s, are heading toward retirement, it seems like the timing of this reissued version could see some success for Gibson.

Based on the Gibson L5S solid body Jazz Guitar, the L6S features a body, neck, and fingerboard, all made from Maple.

It also has a slightly unusual, for Gibson at least, 6 position ‘Pointer’ pick-up selector:

  1. Both pickups in series
  2. Neck pickup only
  3. Both pickups in parallel
  4. Both pickups, parallel but out of phase, with the neck pickup’s bass response restricted thought a series capacitor.
  5. Bridge pickup on its own
  6. Both pickups in series but out of phase.

It was the first Gibson to have a 24 fret two-octave neck, however the reissue strangely comes with only 22 frets (I can’t see how the extra 2 frets would have broken the bank).

The neck pickup is a Coil-tapped 490R (Alnico II), and the bridge pickup is a Coil-tapped 498T (Alnico V).

The Gibson L6S comes in two colors: Silverburst and Antique Natural.

The MSRP is $2,599, but I’m betting it will be selling for under $2,000 at online retailers within a couple of months (probably less).

For more information see the detailed L6S product page at Gibson.

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13 thoughts on “Gibson L6S Reissue”

  1. Gibson L6
    Nancy Holyfield

    I don’t know anything about the new Gibson L6 because I haven’t played one. I have an old, all original, totally great sounding L6S from the early 70’s and I wouldn’t trade it for any other guitar in the world regardless of price. That said, the new ones might be nice but I don’t understand why anyone would pay such a high price for it. I read the suggested retail was something like $2499, and of course they will sell somewhat cheaper, but the point I am trying to make is why pay that price for a new one when you can still buy the vintage ones sometimes for less than $700. I would always prefer the vintage model anyway. But, I do love my old L6S.

  2. L6S-ish!
    Jeff Makor

    I loved my old ’76 L6S but had to trade in for some stupid reason now forgotten
    Seeing as Gibson have reintroduced the model, I’ve got all warm and fuzzy about getting another.
    But hold on, this is not another L6S.
    It is a modern deviant!
    Any comparisons between the two (side by side, cosmetically and sound wise)
    are fun to read but conceptually flawed.
    I want to buy a L6S but that requires taking to the wiring with my soldering iron, seeking out original Bill Lawrence pups (for the exact tone) and relocating the bridge it came with.
    The parts shelf at Gibson has been raided to provide the new ‘L6S’ and it’s all a little disappointing.
    I like the maple, body shape and that may serve to take me down a completely new route.
    I will consider contacting Larry Corsa and investigate a departure using his pups, faber hardware and go from there.
    It will sound infinitely better, sustain like a biyach, give any Gibson a run for it’s money and promote a sound to really piss off Les Paul historic collection owners!
    Keep music live and alive, folks.

  3. I have a 2011 Reissue (maple

    I have a 2011 Reissue (maple fingerbaord) and a 1977 tobacco sunburst/ebony fingerboard. They are both superb instruments. The neck shape is different on the reissue as it is not tapered. It is also a slightly fatter profile. Feels more like a Les Paul neck.

    The reissue can still be rewired to the original 1973 specifications with few parts needed. Mine is rewired to be the same as the originals, plus I have added a coil splitting push/pull, and replaced the ‘bass’ control with a Lawrence Q filter (LCR network). Pickups have been replaced with Lawrence L90s.

    It is a shame Gibson left out so many details, but the guitar itself is still very good. Playability is superb, although the frets were a bit flat for my liking. The 1977 L6-S has very low wide frets, kind of like a Les Paul Custom.

    Overall I’d say the reissue is a more versatile guitar in the way it’s been modifed. It does convincing Tele/Les Paul/jazz guitar sounds with ease. However the 1977 feels a little bit nicer to play, and is a more elegant instrument as far as I’m concerned. For jazz and blues these guitars are absolutely superb.

  4. my fantastic new Gibson L6S

    About thirty years ago, I knew only a few guitarists but two of them owned a Gibson L6-S Custom. One of them had an ebony fretboard, the other one had one of maple. They played great, sounded nice and were rather flexible. Sadly, no one wanted to trade one. So after waiting for so long, I was rather curious how the redesigned L6S would perform.
    To make it short: I checked out one in Antique Natural for about an hour yesterday, and immediately bought it. The new Gibson L6S model exceeded my expectations by far. It is of an overall good craftmanship, the make of the fretboard is excellent, and the factory settings of neck and bridge provide convenient playability. As the strap button was moved from the neck joint to the body side, there is no obstacle for the left hand thumb up to the 24th fret. Response to attack, sustain, and the tone development are amazing for an instrument of an age of only six months. Its good resonance behaviour translates to all the given humbucker and single coil settings without any dull notes or other shortcomings. I just can’t suppose how it could become any better with time. As with the vintage ones, the midrange control allows attenuation of the typical twang of electric guitar sounds, and changes the tone to a character typical for acoustic steel string guitars. It seems to match nearly any musical and playing styles.
    Moreover, the graining of the maple looks very appealing, and nicely complements the Antique Natural finish.
    I think my Gibson L6S may cast my other three prominent guitars out of many songs that seemed to belong them up to now, let alone new songs to come. This guitar just took me by storm.

  5. I own a 1980 Silverburst L6S and I just picked up a Silverburst L6S RI (reissue) in a trade a few days ago, so I guess that satisfies the previously established 100 mile rule ;). Having had some time to play the two side by side I can tell you that tonally speaking the L6S RI’s are more like a bright Les Paul Studio with a funky pick up selector than an actual L6S. Still, comparisons aside the L6S RI is an excellent, versatile instrument that offers up a lot of unusual, but usable tones. It hits hard enough for rock/even metal, plays smooth enough for jazz, has enough twang for country and gives enough quack for the blues. All in all this is a perfect guitar for someone who needs or wants a lot of tones in one guitar.

    1. Thanks for that - It's good

      Thanks for that – It’s good to hear from someone who has played both the original and the re-issue.

  6. 24 frets, not 22...

    The new re-issue Gibson L6S (no hyphen) appears to have 24 frets in all published pictures — COUNT ‘EM! I haven’t tried one but the body and neck (at least of the blonde version) looks like the original, except for the “block” Schaller bridge common in the early 70s on SGs and L6-S models. I own a hard-played black 1978 model with a very hard black ebony fretboard – sounds very different from my friend’s maple fretboard version. The neck shape and highly accessible upper fret range is one of the most important elements of this guitar, and the re-issue appears to have the same shape.

    It’s very reliable, not more fragile than any other Gibson and I wouldn’t want to swap the 6 position “chickenhead” switch and wiring for quids. A unique sound from a unique Gibson. The neck is ultra-fast, the body is chamfered like a Strat and more ergonomic than any other Gibson.

    Glad that they’re re-issueing it, but of course the company wouldn’t get away with the black ebony fretboard these days…
    I would go for the fully maple necked version, closer to a 70s original.


  7. RE-issue L6S

    Just a quick comment about the previous post – I think you may be referring to Razorlight not Silverlight.

    As a student in 1974 I dreamed of owning an L6S after playing one in a Lewisham (London, UK) music shop. In a rare moment of common sense I decided to eat for the rest of the year rather than being found starved and clutching a Gibson – clearly no committment! A few years back I managed to spot one in a Guitar Center website and talked the manager into shipping it to the UK.

    The original 6 way is easier to remember if you think of it as 3 sets of sounds with in and out of phase settings for each. By one account Bill Lawrence, the designer, wanted to label the 6 way as Tele, Strat, LP but wasn’t allowed due to risk of Fender litigation. If you get the chance try one – you’ll see there are clearly 3 guitars in that switch.

    A very versatile guitar to gig if it wasn’t quite so old and worn. That’s why I was amazed to see that Gibson had done a “re-issue”. Shame it’s not a faithful re-creation with the Bill Lawrence PUps and the original varitone. Unlike many of Gibson’s other varitone guitars it doesn’t suck the volume away as you change setting.

    Gibson – how about a more accurate replica of this versatile axe?

    [email protected]

  8. New Gibson L6S review

    I’m lucky enough to own a 1970s L6S. I picked it while working in France about 10 years ago. It certainly has been a bit of an overlooked Gibson model. Mine has the natural maple finish but a rosewood fingerboard, which suits me fine. I’ve seen more examples with a maple fingerboard than a rosewood fingerboard. The body is a lovely slab of maple.

    It’s interesting that Gibson have re-issued it. The reason may be because of problems around importing certified hardwoods, but solid Gibsons have become popular recently with a lots of younger players opting for SGs and L6Ss (Thinking of the guy in Silverlight).

    I think that differences in the headstock, bridge and pickups to the original version will make manufacture and inventory management easier for Gibson and maybe hold the price down. I would have expected the price to be around that of an SG or Les Paul Studio.

    Taking a reissue out to play live could be preferable to using what has become a vintage instrument.

  9. New Gibson L6S review

    Having been within 100 miles of one back in the mid-late 70’s, I recall the original as a GREAT guitar based on a memorable afternoon spent playing a good friend’s L6S (God rest his soul). Not sure if I can’t count or Gibson listed the specs wrong, but the recent picture looks to be displaying 24 frets. Other differences mentioned or not – the headstock shape, the pickups being totally different – no Bill Lawrence ceramics – and most glaring to me, completely different bridge – stand between the originals and this version – but I think it’s a reasonable effort at capturing the vibe if not the exact original.

    Re: ‘should have called it a different model/not called it a re-issue’ – although my experience was limited to the edition that later became known as the Custom, there were a number of different versions to the guitar back in the 70’s and this current configuration is surely at the very least as appealing as some of the later iterations, which looked less ‘L6S-ish’ than this model.

    I’ve seen nice versions of the L6S custom going for $1000 to 1200 used on e-bay that were always appearing when I couldn’t muster the $$ to snag one, and it’s not any more attainable at $1600-$1700 for a current one, but I suppose it’s reasonable all things considered. I’d sure like to have one.

  10. The New Gibson "L6S"
    The Telenator

    This is not the same guitar as the orginals from the mid-’70s. This is a cheapened copy with a couple of features missing. The original was indeed a 24-fret version. I had the all-maple natural finish one, and it was kind of a gas Gibson doing a maple fingerboard. The fret job was flawless, too, I remember that. Also, the original pickups were ceramic humbuckers of standard PAF size; however, the covers showed no pole pieces — they were solid covers. I don’t think there were any numbers by the 6-position switch, either. The only two finishes I recall were the all-natural and a 3-tone sunburst of which Santana played one with lots of Sri Chinmoy stickers on his. It was a great guitar though never very sought-after. Because of the 24 frets, the bridge was in a slightly different location. This is really a crappy job and should not be called either a reissue or by the same model number.

    1. New Gibson L6S Reissue
      Guitarman 1000

      I had one of the original L6S customs in the late 70’s and yes it was a great guitar although the pick up selector switch was a little baffling to start with as I wasnt really sure what was going on. Anyway at sometime in the 80’s I sold it as I needed the money for another project. Move on to 2011 and I am the now the owner of a new reissue L6S. It seems there is a lot of rubbish being written about this guitar at the moment, probably by people who havent been within a hundred miles of one. So lets begin – The quality of the timbers used is first class as is the nitro finish. The machine head shape is not as per original but more like a Les Paul which is a shame. The pick up selector acts totally different to the original and not as the spec in the above review would suggest. It uses the coil tapping facility of the new pick ups to give you 6 seperate and distinct sounds. These are different (simple coil tapping) to the original 70’s model but imo are just as good if not better than the original because you know exactly what you are supposed to be getting. On mine the six way switch is somewhat stiff and I would hope this will ease in time. The chrome hardware including the pick ups are not as per the original and I would have thought that Gibson could have done a better job of mimicking these but my guess is this model may have been hurried into production somewhat due to the issues Gibson are having with their use of exotic timbers and the Federal Government. The use of maple not being an issue. Still this does not detract from the fact that this is a great sounding guitar and it adds a whole new set of sounds to my arsenal. No it isnt an exact replica of the original but dont be put off by reviewers who are only interested in putting this guitar down because of that fact. Its a great guitar and looks really cool. Give it a try

      1. I have an old l6 in great

        I have an old l6 in great shape. I love it. I hope the reissue does it justice. Just having that heavy maple in it, gives it avery good chiming quality, lots of sustain. Miraculously I found a six position switch on ebay last year; my l6 was without one since the previous owner got creative before I bought it in 1980. I never realized what I was missing all these years. I got the original electronic schematic from Gibson ‘s data bank(amazing). And I actually was able to do it correctly, (no minor feat for the electronically challenged). Here’s the deal: It gave you the pick-ups single or both in series and in parallel. What that means is that you end up with a naturally produced phase shifter. It is pretty cool seeing how it employs a natural out of phase attribute of pick up voicing. But it didn’t isolate the humbuckers as single coil, so it was a different set up, it says so in the original gibson schematic. And there is also the 24 fret uniqueness. Either way it sure is a beautiful guitar.

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