Gibson Explorer Electric Guitar Review
This article is my full hands-on review of the left-handed 2020 Gibson Explorer electric guitar. I borrowed this guitar from my local music shop for a video review, and I have to say I am impressed! I currently own a few Gibson guitars, including a Gibson Flying V and Gibson Les Paul Special in TV Yellow. If you are a right-handed player, the review will still be beneficial if you are deciding to buy one.
My first thought when I saw this guitar was just how massive the box was. The box was laughably huge! This ridiculously large box only means one thing – the guitar case is enormous. The Gibson Explorer hard case is the most massive electric guitar case I have ever seen. It is right up there with the size of the double-neck guitar hard cases. While the guitar itself isn’t huge, the case that it goes in is. The Gibson Explorer sits diagonally due to the shape and design of the instrument. This extra size means the guitar case is far larger than most in terms of both height and width.
Guitar case aside, the guitar itself is beautiful. Furthermore, it reminded me of guitarists such as The Edge from U2, Billy Gibbons, and James Hetfield from Metallica. I later found out that Eric Clapton did several blues tours with this instrument. The build quality, playability, and functionally were all perfect. Gibson has been making very consistent instruments in recent times, and their quality control now can not be faulted.
Pickups and Tone
The Gibson Explorer has two of the sweetest sounding humbuckers installed by default of all time. These Burtbucker pickups are my favorite humbuckers from Gibson. The Bridge pickup is a BurstBucker 3, and the neck pickup is a BurstBucker 2.
What makes these humbuckers great is they sound bright and clear without ever sounding muddy and dark. This tonal characteristic can be advantageous for playing clean as well as with a lot of overdrive or distortion. Burstbuckers don’t have quite the thickness to them that some modern humbucker have, and that is a good thing. To my ear, the BurstBucker pickups have the most even EQ of all the Gibson humbucker pickups.
I have these same pickups in my Gibson Flying V, and they drastically changed my opinion on how a humbucker should sound. These pickups are perfect for any style of music, from blues to heavy rock music.
Each of the three toggle switch pickup positions sounds great, both clean and dirty. The bridge pickup has a lot of Mojo, as does the neck pickup. Using both pickups together will give you a tone that is bright and snappy while having a bit of extra chunk to it.
Neck Size and Feel
The Gibson Explorer comes complete with a slim taper neck. If you love a thinner neck, you’ll be right at home. Fans of the ’50s neck could find this a bit too thin. I am a massive fan of the ’50s necks, but the neck profile is a point of difference and feels great in hand.
The sale length is 24.75″ / 628.65mm, which is very common for most Gibson and Epiphone guitars. I didn’t find I had to accommodate my playing whatsoever testing this guitar for review.
Additionally, Gibson fans will be right at home with the 12″ fingerboard radius. This fingerboard radius allows for low action if required as well as big and easy bending.
Guitar Shape and Size
This guitar is HUGE! The abstract shape and size of the Gibson Explorer will not be for everyone. Unlike a Gibson Flying V, the Explorer can be played seated without any issues. Given this unique shape and design, the guitar is very comfortable to play both standing an sitting.
One small thing I noticed is that there’s nowhere to rest your rhythm arm when playing seated. The upper guitar point makes your rhythm arm slide down the guitar towards the center. This shape is not a deal-breaker but worth pointing out for those who have never played one before.
Frets & Hardware
Gibson has loaded Medium Jumbo frets into their Gibson Explorer. Guitarists that are used to a Les Paul, SG, or Flying V will enjoy the familiarity of the Medium Jumbo frets. Unlike other brands, I love that Gibson install frets that are large enough to stand the test of time long term.
Another positive for the Gibson Explorer is its simplicity. We get two volume controls and one tone control. This setup is very reminiscent of the Gibson Flying V that came out the very same year. The single tone control is more than enough to get a wide range of tones without any hassles.
Like all Gibson left-handed guitars, this also has the “backward” volume and tone pots. Fender wires their guitars for a lefty, while Gibson wire all their guitars for a righty. If you have owned a left-handed Gibson before, it will be wired with the same orientation on the volume and tone potentiometers.
Check out the best prices using the links below.
Value for Money
I always mention that value for money is a highly subjective thing depending on your needs and what you are comfortable spending on anything. With that aside, I feel like the Gibson Explorer is a very good value considering you’re getting a great guitar. Unlike the Gibson Custom Shop guitars, this range of instruments is far more attainable for most people at zero sacrifices in tone.
Another huge positive for the Gibson Explorer is the hard case. Getting such a high quality (and massive) hard case is a big advantage.
As I previously mentioned, the included hard case is awesome. The only downside to the case is the sheer size of it, and it’s almost comically large. I am a big fan of the Gibson hard cases, and if you can fit it across the backseat of your car, you are in luck. This case and box were so big I had to put the back seat down and slide it in from the back of the car.
Included is a birth (factory) photo of the guitar at the Gibson factory, a strap, a setup tool, and some warranty information. Including a quality strap and setup tool is a great move, especially at this price point.
Who Should Buy the Gibson Explorer?
This Gibson Explorer is a very versatile guitar. While the shape may appeal to Metal players first and foremost, it can be the perfect guitar for blues, rock, and pop music as well. The pickups and simplicity will appeal to someone who doesn’t want to be another player using the same guitars as everyone else.
Who should avoid the Gibson Explorer?
You should avoid this guitar if you don’t want a case that is over 5-feet tall and 2-feet wide. This case is so big that it won’t even fit in my car correctly without putting the seats down. If that concerns you, then I can highly suggest giving this one a miss. If you own a larger car, it won’t be a problem.
Additionally, guitarists that can’t live without two controls should also give this a miss. I never use the tone controls on my guitars, so personally, it’s not a problem for me.
Concerns or Quality Control Issues
Over the last few years, Gibson has been hitting it out of the park when it comes to their quality control. So much so that I ended up buying two of their guitars last year. This Explorer played perfectly straight out of the box.
The tuners, pots, and attention to detail were all fantastic. It’s also great seeing Gibson back to producing quality guitars that people want instead of trying to add features no one wants like Robot tuners. Don’t worry; no Robot tuners are installed on any of their current releases – Thankfully!
Gibson is making great guitars again thankfully, and the Explorer is no exception. Historically, I have been critical of their quality control over the years. With this in mind, since 2018, Gibson has stepped it right up when it comes to quality control. The Gibson Explorer is full of really great tones that will appeal to players of all styles and musical interests. While this guitar is not as “conventional” as most Les Paul or SG’s in terms of the shape, that is what makes it great.
Comparable Left-Handed Guitars
- Gibson Flying V
- Epiphone Explorer
Best Deals Online
You can find the best deals on this guitar by using the affiliate links below.