With its angular, asymmetrical body and pointed headstock, the legendary Gibson Explorer was light years ahead of its time when it was first introduced in 1958. In fact, the Explorer was such a radical departure that Gibson produced only about 100 of the famed instruments—many of which are now highly prized collectibles selling for upwards of half a million dollars. Today, the same far-out, futuristic Gibson Explorer—reintroduced in the mid-1970s—is one of the most coveted powerhouses of screaming rock and roll. A solid mahogany body captures every detail and sharp style of the classic Explorer. A 22-fret ebony (Classic White only) or rosewood fingerboard sits atop a solid, one-piece mahogany neck, which is a hybrid between the standard ’50s rounded contour and the ’60s slim-taper profile. The pickups are two of Gibson’s finest. The 496R is as hot and aggressive as any neck position pickup in Gibson’s lineup. It fits perfectly with Gibson’s sizzling 500T bridge pickup, providing increased definition and sustain with blistering, ear-splitting tone. The Explorer, which today remains true to the classic styling of the 1976 model, is available in Ebony, Classic White, and Natural.
The Gibson Logo
The most innovative and revolutionary stringed instruments of all time have bared the name Gibson—the Les Paul, the ES-335, the Explorer, the Flying V, the SG. The list goes on and on. There is no mistaking the classic, hand-cut mother of pearl logo, inlayed into a pressed fiber-head veneer that is then glued to the face of the mahogany headstock. A thin coat of lacquer finishes the process. It is the most recognizable logo in all of music, representing more than a century of originality and excellence. There is simply no equal.
The angled headstock is another example of Gibson’s industry-changing way of thinking. Every Gibson headstock is carved out of the same piece of mahogany as the neck then fitted with Gibson’s traditional wing blocks. It is not a “glued-on” headstock, and the process takes craftsmanship, time, and effort. But the rewards are worth the effort. The headstock is carefully angled at 17 degrees, which increases pressure on the strings and helps them stay in the nut slots. An increase in string pressure also means there is no loss of string vibration between the nut and the tuners, which equals better sustain.
Adjustable Truss Rod
The adjustable truss rod is a Gibson innovation that revolutionized the guitar. Before this ground-breaking discovery in the early 1920s, the truss rod was used only to strengthen and stabilize the neck. By making it adjustable, the truss rod now allows a guitar to be set up using a variety of string gauges, as well as string heights. This easily accommodates any style of playing, and allows a limitless range of set-up options. And by placing it at the base of the headstock, the adjustable nut is easily accessible, even while the strings are still on the guitar.
The Explorer Neck Profile
No guitar neck profiles are more distinguishable than the neck profiles employed on the Gibson models of today. The more traditional ’50s neck profile is the thicker, more rounded contour, emulating the neck shapes of Gibson’s iconic models of the late 1950s. The ’60s neck profile is considered the more modern, slim-tapered contour most commonly associated with the Gibson models of the early 1960s. The neck on Gibson’s Explorer has the best of both worlds—it is a hybrid between the ’50s rounded contour and the ’60s slim-taper profile. As with all Gibson necks, it is machined in Gibson’s rough mill using wood shapers to make the initial cuts. Once the fingerboard gets glued on, the rest—including the final sanding—is done by hand. That means there are no two necks with the exact same dimensions. So while it still has the basic characteristics of its respective profile, each neck will be slightly different, with a distinct but traditional feel.
22-FRET EBONY AND ROSEWOOD FINGERBOARDS
Ebony and rosewood have always graced the fingerboards of the world’s finest stringed instruments, including the Explorer. The fingerboards on these guitars are constructed from the highest grade ebony and rosewood on the planet. Both of these woods are personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before they enter the factories to be fitted onto the neck of the Explorer. The resilience of these dense and durable woods makes each fingerboard extremely balanced and stable, and gives each chord and note unparalleled clarity and bite. The 12-inch radius of the fingerboard provides smooth note bending capabilities and eliminates “dead” or “choked out” notes, common occurrences on fingerboards with lesser radiuses.
Nickel and Silver Alloy Fret Wire
The fret wire on most Gibson guitars is a combination nickel and silver alloy (approximately 80 percent nickel and 20 percent silver) specifically designed for long life and superior wear. Gibson’s traditional “medium/jumbo” fret wire is first shaped by hand, then cut to an exact 12-inch radius. After hand pressing it into the fingerboard, a machine press finishes the job to eliminate the gap between the bottom of the fret wire and the fingerboard.
The classic dot inlays is one of the most distinguishable features of many traditional Gibson models, including the ES-335 and the Les Paul Junior. A figured, swirl acrylic gives these inlays that classic “pearl” look. They are inserted into the fingerboard using a process that eliminates gaps and doesn’t require the use of fillers.
The necks on most Gibson guitars are distinguished by one of the more traditional features that have always set them apart—a glued neck joint. Gluing the neck to the body of the guitar ensures a “wood-to-wood” contact, no air space in the neck cavity, and maximum contact between the neck and body, allowing the neck and body to function as a single unit. The result? Better tone, better sustain, and no loose or misaligned necks.
Solid Mahogany Body
The most central feature of any Explorer is its mahogany body, which provides players a well-balanced, weight-reduced guitar alternative, with absolutely no compromises in tone, sustain, or performance. The Explorer’s body is a solid piece of mahogany in the classic style of the 1976 Explorer. The mahogany goes through the same rigorous selection process as all of Gibson’s woods, and is personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before it enters the factories. Inside the Gibson factories, humidity is maintained at 45 percent, and the temperature at 70 degrees. This ensures all woods are dried to a level of “equilibrium,” where the moisture content does not change during the manufacturing process. This guarantees tight-fitting joints and no expansion, and controls the shrinkage and warping of the woods, in addition to reducing the weight. It also improves the woods’ machinability and finishing properties. Consistent moisture content means that a Gibson guitar will respond evenly to temperature and humidity changes long after it leaves the factory.
Gibson’s 496R and 500T Pickups
No event is more responsible for dramatically influencing the evolution of popular music than Gibson’s introduction of the double-coil “humbucking” pickup in 1955. From the warm jazz tones of Charlie Christian, to the world-shaking rockabilly of Scotty Moore, and the cruching rock of Jimmy Page, countless players around the world explored the limitless possibilities of the tonal spectrum through Gibson pickups and guitars. As the musical landscape changed, so did the development of the humbucker pickup. Introduced in the early 1970s, Gibson’s 496R and 500T pickups filled the need for more powerful humbuckers and energized the emergence of hard rock and heavy metal. The 496R produces incredible sustain and cutting power with its ceramic magnet, adding more highs with increased definition and no muddiness at all. The 500T is one of Gibson’s most powerful pickups, containing a three ceramic magnet structure, which enables a no-holds-barred rock and roll crunch that never loses its rich combination of enhanced lows and crystal clear highs. This is one of Gibson’s most potent pickup combinations.
The Tune-o-matic bridge was the brainchild of legendary Gibson president Ted McCarty in 1954. At the time, it was a true revelation in intonation, and set a standard for simplicity and functionality that has never been bettered. This pioneering piece of hardware provides a firm seating for the strings, allowing the player to adjust and fine tune the intonation and string height in a matter of minutes. It also yields a great union between the strings and body, which results in excellent tone and sustain. It is combined with a separate “stopbar” tailpiece, essentially a modified version of the earlier wraparound bridge. To this day, the Tune-o-matic remains the industry standard. It is the epitome of form and function in electric guitar bridge design, and is one of the most revered and copied pieces of guitar hardware ever developed.
Applying a nitrocellulose finish to any Gibson guitar—including the Explorer and Explorer Pro—is one of the most labor-intensive elements of the guitar-making process. A properly applied nitro finish requires extensive man hours, several evenly applied coats, and an exorbitant amount of drying time. But this fact has never swayed Gibson into changing this time-tested method, employed ever since the first guitar was swathed with lacquer back in 1894. Why? For starters, a nitro finish dries to a much thinner coat than a polyurethane finish, which means there is less interference with the natural vibration of the instrument, allowing for a purer tone. A nitro finish is also a softer finish, which makes it easily repairable. You can touch up a scratch or ding on a nitro finish, but you can’t do the same on a poly finish. In addition, a nitro finish is very porous in nature, and actually gets thinner over time. It does not “seal” wood in an airtight shell—as a poly finish does—and allows the wood to breathe and age properly.