The Gibson SG Special offers a stripped down and cheaper American made alternative to the Standard.
This places it firmly in the budget territory of a similar priced SG style guitar - the ESP Viper 1000 (Deluxe).
Two very popular guitars with some significant differences. Let's see how they compare...
|Model||SG Special||Viper 1000|
|Weight||6lb 10oz||9lb 3oz|
|Tuners||Traditional Green Key||LTD Locking|
|Neck||1pc Maple||3pc Mahogany|
|Inlays||Acrylic Small Block||Abalone Flags
|Hardware||Chrome Plated Zamak
|SG Special||Viper 1000|
In a nutshell, we're looking at a traditional vs modern SG spec, with the ESP featuring some major modifications that make it particularly suited to metal and modern rock.
The SG Special's brighter, snappier tone (see below) can be partly attributed to its maple neck. It also helps to make the Special less "neck heavy" than the Standard and more lightweight overall.
The Viper's mahogany neck helps to deliver a deeper, darker tone.
The (aesthetically) darker Ebony fingerboard on the Viper is purely cosmetic.
With a slightly narrower nut width, players with smaller hands may find the Viper more comfortable in the open position. It also has a flatter fingerboard radius, meaning lead playing, such as bends, will be easier on the fingers, especially higher up the neck.
The extra jumbo frets further aid bending and vibrato ease and the two additional frets (24 vs 22 on the Special) confirm the Viper as a more capable shredding axe.
Another nice feature on the 1000 is the locking tuners, which locks the string on to the tuning post, preventing it from going out of tune due to slippage. It also saves time when re-stringing, as there are no winds to worry about.
At the bridge, we have two similar Tune-o-Matic style bridges, although some may consider the Tonepros branded bridge on the Viper as a bonus.
The pickups could not be more different!
Metal players will love the active EMG's on the Viper, making the output far hotter than the more traditional 490's on the Special. However, you will have to change the battery every so often to power the active circuitry.
Tone-wise, the outcome is rather predictable. The Viper delivers a much beefier, more high-gain/distortion friendly tone, making it perfect for metal.
But the cleans also benefit from the Viper's spec - rich, vibrant and with plenty of bass attainable. Compare that to the brighter, mid-treble attack of the Special and you have a clear diametric difference in overall tone.▲ Compare Sound
The appeal of an American made Gibson shouldn't be understated, but beyond the clear stylistic differences to which these guitars are suited, you are getting more guitar for your money with the ESP Viper, and the ratings/reviews reflect that.
While the $100 difference is not insignificant, at this end of the price spectrum there is a clear justification for saving up that little bit longer if you want a more modern, metal-ready alternative to the SG with a few genuinely useful bonuses such as locking tuners and Tonepros bridge.