You’ve been playing that $50 beginner guitar for a year now, and you decide you owe yourself an upgrade. After all, you’ve been practicing hard, haven’t you?
Two weeks later, UPS drops off your new Les Paul guitar, and you tear open the package in excitement. You plug in your pristine specimen, excited to hear that famous room-shaking power for the first time.
But something just sounds off, and suddenly you get flashbacks of the sketchy website you bought the guitar from, and the way the owner told you he just needed to “get rid of it ASAP.” And that $400 price tag for a $2,000+ guitar? Yeah, now you realize it really was too good to be true.
But to make things even weirder, the guitar really looks just like a legitimate Les Paul, and the headstock is even proudly emblazoned with the word “Gibson.”
What’s going on here? You, my friend, were just duped into purchasing a Chibson Les Paul.
What is a Chibson?
A Chibson is a fake Gibson guitar, made to look and feel as much like a real Gibson as possible, only it’s constructed with cheaper parts (and subsequently of far worse quality). Usually produced in China or somewhere else in Asia, a Chibson is a true counterfeit Gibson, a ripoff that can even come with legal implications (more on that in a later section).
But hold on—what’s really so bad about Chibsons?
What’s So Bad About Chibsons?
If you read our last article about Les Paul copies and replicas, you might be a bit confused—and rightly so! After all, don’t some of the most famous guitarists in the world proudly sport Gibson Les Paul copies and replicas? What’s so egregiously shameful about selling a Chibson?
Here’s the difference: even though Les Paul copies (or other Gibson guitar copies) are intended to perform and feel exactly like their authentic Gibson counterparts, they don’t pretend to actually be Gibsons. The good ol’ Chibson folks cross the line by literally copying the Gibson logo and branding for the purpose of intentionally deceiving buyers.
What Guitars Does Chibson Copy?
The term “Chibson” refers to any fake Gibson guitar, though usually only electric guitars are copied, as they’re much easier to manufacture than acoustics. Depending on your Googling proficiency, you could pretty easily find a Chibson equivalent for just about any Gibson electric on the market.
Due to its notoriety, the Gibson Les Paul is the most copied model (by a long shot!) Still, it’s far from challenging to locate Chibson versions of the Gibson SG, ES-335, Flying V, or pretty much any other model somewhere on the worldwide web.
Is Chibson an Actual Brand?
Chibson is not a brand in the same sense that Gibson and Fender are brands. There’s no Chibson flagship store somewhere in Beijing, and no unified business process for producing and selling these guitars.
Instead, Chibson is just the name given to any ripoff Gibson made in the east, regardless of who makes it and what guitar it seeks to replicate. Usually these guitars are manufactured in China, but the selling process takes place largely online (which, conveniently enough for the sellers, makes it even easier for buyers to get tricked).
Buying a Chibson
If you’ve gotten this far, it should be clear to you that purchasing a Chibson (especially a Chibson Les Paul) is a highly questionable decision, for a variety of reasons. Still, maybe you’re looking to save as much money as possible at the expense of quality; maybe you’re just genuinely interested in the knockoff guitar scene; or maybe you’re an overly obsessive guitar collector (it’s okay to admit it if you are).
Regardless of your reasons, read on below to learn all the nitty gritty details about buying Chibson Les Pauls.
Is It Ever Smart to Buy a Chibson?
In short: no, it’s usually never smart to buy a Chibson. Unlike the huge amount of Les Paul copies and replicas available for sale, a Chibson Les Paul will never be of a quality that’s even remotely comparable to a true Gibson.
Copies & Replicas vs. Chibsons
For the most part, the more well-known Les Paul copies and replicas are produced by legitimate companies with proven track records. Though these copies and replicas will probably sound slightly worse (or at least just different) than a genuine Gibson, you can rest assured that they’ve been created by professionals, with high-quality materials, in quality-controlled environments.
No so with the infamous Chibson. It’s safe to say that if you saw the entire manufacturing process of a Chibson Les Paul, from beginning to end, you’d run as far away as possible. Most of these guitars are created in sketchy, unofficial warehouses, by workers who are far from professional craftsmen, using the cheapest materials available.
Problems with Chibsons
You should be under no illusions—if you purchase a Chibson Les Paul, expect problems with alignment and action, rough aesthetic detailing, dysfunctional or totally malfunctional pickups, poor wiring, and of course disappointing tone.
This is to say nothing of the fact that buying a Chibson is sometimes literally equivalent to just burning your money. If you purchase a new Chibson online, you’re going to be buying from a very sketchy website. In many cases, there’s no real binding legal authority in place to ensure you actually get what you’re paying for. So, don’t be too surprised if your newly purchased Chibson Les Paul simply never shows up.
Is It Legal To Buy a Chibson?
If for some reason you’re dead set on getting a Chibson Les Paul into your hands, pay special attention here.
It’s just a fact that purchasing counterfeit goods is illegal. If you knowingly import them into the United States, civil or criminal penalties may result. Of course, in terms of illegal imports, the government has much bigger fish to fry than catching and prosecuting every well-intentioned musician who accidentally (or even intentionally) ends up with a Chibson.
But should you risk it? Our advice would be probably not. You’d be better off buying a Chibson from a private seller already located in the US, though even this may come with legal implications if you use the guitar heavily for performing.
But don’t just take it from us; if you’re really thinking about buying a Chibson, do your own research and exercise caution.
Where Can I Buy a Chibson?
There are three main hubs where Chibson Les Pauls can be purchased: international websites, third-party e-commerce websites, and physical stores.
International websites like AliExpress are among the easiest places to buy a brand new Chibson Les Paul. The upside here is that on these types of websites, it’s less likely you’ll get tricked into thinking you’re buying a real Gibson (and therefore paying the full Gibson price). This is because the main selling point for goods on websites like AliExpress is the low price (and if you’re smart, you’ll realize this means you’re not getting an actual Gibson).
Chibson Les Pauls are shockingly easy to find on websites like these, but as we mentioned in the above section, this is where you can get into legal trouble; so tread carefully.
Third-Party E-Commerce Websites
Here is where you really need to exercise your powers of perception. Any time you’re purchasing a guitar (or anything, for that matter) from a third-party website, you should exercise a healthy level of skepticism. A cunning eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace seller could create a Chibson Les Paul listing that would deceive a beginner guitarist head over heels into thinking they’re buying a genuine Gibson.
By setting the price somewhere between the regular $150 for a Chibson Les Paul and ~$2,000 for a used Gibson, the seller can trick you into thinking you’re getting a generous deal on an authentic Gibson Les Paul.
Though this is somewhat less common, Chibson Les Pauls have been known to pop up in pawn shops and other used goods stores. Again, sometimes they’re sold at reasonable prices as the ripoffs they are, and sometimes they’re passed off as legitimate Gibsons, to the future chagrin of a naïve, wide-eyed buyer.
How to Spot a Chibson
If all this talk about deception and trickery has given you a paranoia complex and made you wonder whether you should ever risk purchasing a Les Paul in the first place, fear not. Below are some foolproof methods for recognizing Chibsons as the devious little imposters they are.
- If you’ve ever played a real Les Paul (or any other Gibson), you’ll most likely be able to detect a Chibson simply by its weight and overall feel. Gibson Les Pauls will feel well-balanced and comfortably heavy, while Chibsons can be off-balance and are sometimes lighter.
- A guitar’s truss rod cover is located on the headstock, right above the nut. Real Gibsons never have more than two screws securing this cover to the headstock, so anything with more than two screws is a Chibson.
- If the Gibson headstock logo looks a little weird or the fret markings aren’t flawlessly centered, you’re probably looking at a Chibson.
- If you have access to the guitar’s serial number, feel free to just give Gibson a call; they’ll be happy to verify it for you.
Finally, and most importantly, use common sense. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, an authentic Gibson Les Paul just isn’t going to be found on a website like AliExpress or at a random pawn shop. If you want to buy a used Les Paul, well-known music gear resale websites like Reverb.com and Sweetwater’s Gear Exchange are the way to go.
It should also go without saying that if the price seems too good to be true, it is. Unless it’s literally in pieces, you’re not going to get a genuine Gibson Les Paul Standard for under $800, ever.
Whenever possible, always try to see and hold a guitar in person before pulling the trigger on purchasing it.
Chibson Les Pauls: The Bottom Line
It’s the sad truth that wherever you find a truly exceptional product, you’ll find an accompanying dishonest counterfeit. The iconic Gibson Les Paul is a shining example of the former, and so it stands to reason that there’s such a decadent abundance of the latter.
Our advice? Use common sense, don’t get scammed, and work hard to save up that little bit of extra cash you need to purchase yourself a quality instrument.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Chibson Les Paul?
A Chibson Les Paul is a counterfeit Gibson Les Paul, usually manufactured in China or somewhere else in the east. These guitars are made with the cheapest materials available and are blatantly marketed as Gibsons in order to deceive buyers.
How can you tell a Gibson from a Chibson?
An authentic Gibson differs from a Chibson in a variety of ways, including weight and feel, number of truss rod cover screws, logo design, and fret markings. Additionally, Chibsons are commonly sold at very low prices on sketchy websites like AliExpress, third-party online marketplaces, or at pawn shops.
Is Chibson a real company?
Chibson is not a real company. The term “Chibson” simply refers to any poor-quality guitar that has been branded falsely as an authentic Gibson and has been manufactured with cheap materials somewhere in the east.
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