Sunday, April 29, 2012

1970s Aria Les Paul Guitar Copy


I have owned scads of Japanese Les Paul copies, and have had great luck with all of them. This very nice 1970s Aria is just as good as any of the copies I have played before.

Aria was ones of many Japanese companies that ripped off Gibson’s (and others’) designs in the 1970s and 1980s. These copies were very well made, and quite a bit cheaper than the originals, so there were a few lawsuits to get them to desist.

I bought this from a guy on Craigslist who lived in a travel trailer in a storage yard, amongst his collection of washing machines and cats. It was in unusually good condition, and was well worth the few hundred dollars I paid for it. These guitars usually have hard lives and are the subject of many needless modifications, and this one somehow escaped that fate.

I think it from the 1970s, but I cannot be sure. All of the dating conventions say that the first digit of the serial indicates the year it was made, but 90% of the Japanese guitars I see have serial numbers that start with “0” (as does this one), and I cannot believe that almost all of these instruments were made in 1980. I am going with mid to late 1970s because of the logo and the construction.

Although this is a copy, it has everything you would expect to find on a real Les Paul Standard, except for a set neck (this one is bolt-on). There is very little play wear, it appears to be unmodified and there are no signs of repairs.

The non-chambered body appears to be made of ash, with a bound maple top. It is finished in a gorgeous glossy iced tea burst.

As I said before, this one is equipped with a bolt-on neck, which appears to be made of three pieces of mahogany. It has a bound rosewood fretboard with mother-of-pearl trapezoidal inlays. As usual with these Japanese copies, the frets and nut are very well done. The neck is thick and nicely rounded, with a definite 1950s Les Paul feel. There is a simple Aria logo on the headstock, and it is loaded up with chrome sealed-back tuners that hold well.

The pickups are original to the guitar and have strong output with plenty of crunch. The rest of the electronics are nice and quiet, and the controls are set up with the expected 3-way pickup selector, two volume and two tone controls. By the way, this one uses pots that are attached to a printed circuit board, much like Tokai and Greco Les Pauls I have seen before. If it ever breaks I will replace it with caps and CTS pots so fast it will make your head spin.

This is a fabulous playing guitar with a low action and killer tone; it does everything a $2000+ Les Paul can do. I do not notice any degradation in tone or sustain from have a bolt-on neck or the ash body. Plus, as an added bonus, this Aria weighs in at around 8 pounds, 9 ounces which is very light for a non-chambered Les Paul.

If you ever see one of these in a pawn shop or on Craigslist, be sure to try it out. You will be surprised how much guitar you can get for the money.



  1. Nice guitar. Thanks for the info on these. I have 2. one is an ls 400 the other a 500.Both with set neck.they both have a long tenon neck. Does it really make a difference in sound? who knows. Love em. I have 4 higher end gibson les pauls,non-weight relieved, and these play very comparable to my gibsons. They do not have as high quality clear sound on the bottom end, or build quality as the real deal but are very decent guitars to play and gig with. Thanks, Bob.

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  3. Thanks for this article. With it I have learned to appreciate my guitar more. It is exactly the same as yours. My serial number is 711650, could it be from 1971?? I have never wanted to part with it, and I have taken it to repair by a luthier on a couple of occasions. The luthier always told me that it was a good guitar and that it was worth repairing. Thanks again.

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