First Impressions: Gibson Les Paul ‘Cloud 9’ Chambered Reissue 1958

At the tail-end of April, I picked up a new (to me) Les Paul. It’s a little bit different to a regular R8 Historic Reissue … and it just might be my new #1 guitar.

Read on for my First Impressions.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Gibson Les Paul Chambered Reissue 1958 Historic Reissue. I bought it second-hand from World Guitars in Gloucestershire.

If you’re not familiar with Gibson’s range, this is a Les Paul built in 2012 by the Custom Shop. It aims to recreate the look and feel of a Les Paul from 1958. That generally means:

  • a fatter neck than a 1959 or 1960 re-issue
  • a less-figured maple top than a 1959 re-issue (1960 re-issues with plain tops are a thing)

This isn’t a regular R8 though: it’s chambered. There’s a centre block for the pickups, and the rest of the mahogany body is hollowed out into a single, continuous chamber. If you click through to, you’ll see a photo of what the chambering looks like.

The guitar was 100% stock when I bought it. It isn’t 100% stock now 🙂

What Is A ‘Cloud 9’ Les Paul?

As I understand it, a ‘Cloud 9’ Les Paul is one of the chambered reissues from the original run of guitars made in 2004-2006. The ‘Cloud Series’ moniker appeared in an advert that ran in Vintage Guitar Magazine in 2004. Wouldn’t that make this a ‘Cloud 8’?

My guitar is from 2012, so technically speaking it isn’t an official ‘Cloud 9’ guitar. I haven’t been able to find out anything about why these guitars were re-issued in 2012. I don’t know if they’re custom orders, or a limited run, or Gibson just fancied bringing them back one last time, or something else entirely 🤷‍♂️

Why Did You Buy It?

There’s a bit of a backstory to this purchase.

Back in 2019, David at Sigil Pickups wound me a very nice set of PAF-like pickups to his Snakebite specs. These pickups went into the Vintage Lemondrop that I had for my (now abandoned) #PlayAlternative series for a little while. Since then, I’ve been looking for a permanent home for these pickups.

The only reason they didn’t stay in the Vintage Lemondrop was that my taste in neck carves has changed completely over the years. I used to love thinner necks, as found on the Lemondrop and Gibson USA Les Paul Standard. I literally couldn’t play a guitar with a fatter neck back then. These days, though, I struggle with the thinner necks. Go figure!

While the Vintage Lemondrop could happily compete with a Custom Shop R8 (even with its stock pickups, never mind these wonderful Sigil Snakebites), it reached a point where the neck was just too thin for me. I needed something else.

In the video linked above, my friends at did a shootout of that very guitar against Adam’s R8 Les Paul. I got to play Adam’s R8 around that time (thank you Adam!), and it made a very strong impression on me. Not only did I love the look of a lemon burst Les Paul, I also enjoyed the fatter neck on that guitar.

So if you ever read this Adam – this is all inspired by you 🙂

But Why This Particular Guitar?

Regular readers will be aware that I like variety and to have options.

As a home player, I don’t see the point of owning two guitars that sound the same. One of those guitars is just going to sit there gathering dust. Better that someone else has it to enjoy it. That’s just my opinion.

When it comes to choosing Les Pauls, I’m a great believer that only the “bad” Les Pauls sound the same. The really good Les Pauls? They all have their own distinct voice and character. And those are the guitars that I love to play. This particular guitar certainly has its own distinct voice and character. More on that later in this article!

This guitar had the right look for me too: a lovely dirty lemon that still had a hint of the original burst about it. It’s not too pure lemon, and not too green. There’s a nice amount of figuring in the top without it looking like it’s trying to be a PRS. It doesn’t quite manage to look old, but it does manage to look interesting.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all: it’s not a regular R8. For better or worse, it’s something a bit different, and hopefully that means that it won’t sound identical to my R9.

How Does It Sound?

With The Original Pickups

In a word: mellow. There’s something very laid back about this guitar that really suits me when it’s paired with a tweed tone pedal or amp.

Once I got the guitar home and through my own rig, everything sounded eerily familiar. Took me a while to realise that the guitar’s tone was reminding me of Deadnote, my beloved PRS McCarty 594. The Les Paul though was bigger, fatter, heavier in tone.

The stock Burstbucker pickups really surprised me. I’ve had them before in other Gibsons, and they didn’t do it for me. Maybe the Custom Shop wind them different, I don’t know? They sounded great, and it wasn’t an easy decision to swap them out. I’m keeping them, in case I ever want to restore the guitar back to 100% stock for any reason.

With The Snakebites

For the first half hour or so, I really wasn’t sure that the pickup swap was the right choice. That mellow character seemed to have gone, and I was sorely missing the Burstbuckers!

And yet, it mostly seemed to be in my head. I did a before/after recording comparison, and while there was indeed less low-end from the Snakebite pickups, the recordings otherwise sounded pretty much the same. That surprised me.

The mellowness is still there: I just needed to tweak pickup heights and dial in the volume and (especially!) tone controls a little different, until I found what I was looking for. Is it really the same? Not in my head. Does it sound good? Very much so.

After a month of living with this pairing, I’m convinced: I’ve found the perfect home for my Snakebites.

Does It Sound Like An ES-335?

If you go and research chambered reissues, you’ll probably find forum posts with two contradicting positions regarding their tone:

  • Some people say that they sound more like an ES-335 than a Les Paul.
  • Some people say that they sound exactly like a solid-body Les Paul; if anything, more like a vintage Les Paul than a modern-day one.

I’ve no experience at all with hollow body guitars like an ES-335, so I can’t tell you whether or not the first statement is true.

Does It Sound More Vintage?

On the second statement … I found it interesting that it reminded me of my McCarty 594, and not another Les Paul. When it first launched, artists praised the McCarty 594 for sounding closer to a vintage instrument.

I have zero experience with vintage instruments, so 🤷‍♂️

How Does It Compare To An R9?

For many players, the Gibson Les Paul 1959 Historic Reissue (aka an R9) is the holy grail of modern Les Paul guitars. There’s just something about an R9 – the looks, the feel, the neck carve, the sound – that many Les Paul players aspire to. Once you’ve played a great R9, you can’t go back to other Les Pauls. Not happily, anyway.

In the room, the R9 sounds hotter and more aggressive than the CR8 does. Listening back to a recording of both guitars through my Fender Tweed Deluxe amp, though, and it’s much closer than I realised. The main difference is the way my Tweed Deluxe amp is going ‘splat’ (for lack of a better word) with the R9. There’s an interaction going on there that I don’t understand – and that I don’t hear with the CR8.

Switching over to a Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal through my usual Axe-FX preset, the R9 really shines. Here, the extra upper-mids of the R9 add a bite that’s just perfect. Hyperbolic, I know, but it really is a fantastic pairing. The CR8 sounds great too, but the voicing of the R9 just suits the Bluesbreaker that little bit better.

A Surprisingly Comfortable Guitar To Play

Being chambered, the CR8 is very light. Everything else feels surprisingly heavy by comparison. I find myself reaching for it just because of how easy it is to pick up. I sure wish that I’d had this to play the last time I was recovering from surgery.

It isn’t neck-heavy though; it never feels like it’s going to neck-dive on me while sat on my lap. Is there any risk of it neck-diving on a strap? I haven’t tried it, sorry.

The biggest surprise, though, has been the neck.

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever really get used to the fat neck. At best, I thought it would take a few months or so to be able to play the guitar relatively comfortably. Boy, was I wrong. I’ve taken to the neck instantly. So much so, I’ve been struggling to go back to guitars that I’ve owned and played for years.

I think that’s largely down to my Les Paul Special Custom. That thing’s neck carve can truly be called a baseball bat, and yet it’s one of the most comfortable necks I’ve ever played.

Does It Have A Name?

Yes. On the drive down to try it out in the shop, before I’d even bought it, I started calling it ‘G.P.’ Why? Because tweed tones are my guilty pleasure, and this Les Paul is just perfect for me.

Final Thoughts

I’ve had it for almost a month now, and the honeymoon period shows no sign of coming to an end. I’ve no doubt at all: for tweed tones, this is now my #1 guitar. It’s mellowness just goes perfectly with the laid-back feel that I want from my tweed amps and pedals.

It can’t do everything that a Les Paul can; not in my hands at any rate. I’m still going to prefer my R9 for anything involving Marshall-like rock tones.

But yeah, seeing as tweed tones are my goto sound … my new #1 guitar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.