Other Guitars

The virtues of Epiphone

1

I know Epiphone is largely seen as a cheap alternative to Gibson, their parent company, but they really seem to be stepping up to the plate when it comes to delivering overall quality, as well as 'bang for your buck'.

For one thing, I understand the angle of their Les Paul headstocks aren't as severe as Gibson models. Which may be why they don't have the reputation for breaking as much as Gibson Les Pauls.

Having bought a used Peerless era Casino a while back, I can say it's one of my favorite purchases. I followed that up with an es-175 premium, which sounds amazing and is incredibly playable. The stock USA-made vintage pickups sound beautiful.

Kudos to the players who go with Epiphone over Gibson for any signature models, like Joe Bonamassa. As a result, they're releasing some great guitars at reasonable prices.

As of this writing I'm awaiting the arrival of a used but minty Jack Casady signature bass. I was looking for a model other than the standard goldtop, hoping for an alpine white or ebony black, but stumbled onto a 20th anniversary limited edition model, flame maple in burgundy stain. Already rare.
Needless to say, I'm pretty stoked.

Flame on!

2

Epiphone makes some great "bang for the buck" gear. Hope this sounds as good as it looks!

3

I had an Epiphone Sheraton I got new in Christmas of 1989. No longer have it since I buy and sell a lot. It was a well made guitar but only the electronics were not good. $299 was the cost new. Wish I kept it. They make Epiphones with better electronics now and with a better variety of guitar now. Go for it.

4

I have the 20th Annie Jack bass, too.

It took a little time to get things adjusted and set-up the way I like.

Next string change I'll do a bit more refinement...

5

I had an Epiphone Sheraton I got new in Christmas of 1989. No longer have it since I buy and sell a lot. It was a well made guitar but only the electronics were not good. $299 was the cost new. Wish I kept it. They make Epiphones with better electronics now and with a better variety of guitar now. Go for it.

– ThePolecats

I appreciate Gibson letting Epiphone retain its own autonomy as a company and brand over the decades, even though it largely bears the brunt of producing affordable Gibson classics. SGs, Flying Vs, Les Pauls, Explorers, etc.

Clearly Epiphone has become a perennial favorite for their long-legendary Casino (fueled by The Beatles & Stones use, no less), but I love that they have other models proprietary to the brand, like the Sheraton and Riviera. I'd like to see more of that.

.. When I do finally pull the trigger on a Les Paul, it may well be a nice Epi make instead of a Gibson.

6

Every Epi I've ever played seemed like mighty fine machines. Very playable and interestingly close to it's original, of course thanks to Gibson. I've never owned one though.

7

Epiphone quality is generally good enough on their Gibson repros that it doesn't make sense for someone with a budget like mine to buy a Gibson. the Epis certainly aren't as nice as a good Gibson, but IMO they're 90% as functional. their Firebird, V, and Explorer have all been on my list for ages, and i would love to have a crack at one of their Elitist Emperors (as opposed to what, the People's Emperor?).

8

I like some far-eastern made Epi's, the Casino's are nice if you put normal P90's in them, those Casady basses (Les Paul Signature basses, really) are nice, and a lot of them are very affordable of course.

But I've never played an Epi Les Paul that even reminded me feel- or soundwise of a nice Gibson Les Paul, and I've never played an Epi acoustic I liked, period.

For hollow and semi-hollow guitars, even though they're generally a little more expensive, I much prefter the Gretsch and Guild Korean-made electrics, more character and better electronics in general.

Re: headstock angle - Gibson flattened headstock angles on a lot of their guitars in the 70's (because you get more necks out of a block of wood that way..), and everybody hated it, so they thankfully went back to original spec. There's a reason a headstock has a certain angle to it - string tension, and the results of that.

9

I've always wanted to (re) aquire an ES 335 which I had in the 70"s. Stolen a few years later. So about 6 years ago, I go to my friendly guitar store and the owner hands me a mint Epiphone Elitist Sheraton and as soon as he handed me the guitar it was a done deal. Great value. Be clear there is a difference from the current Epi's and the Elitist and you would have to judge it for yourself, but I would put it up aginst allot of newer Gibbys out there.

As macphisto says, I would love to get a crack at and Emperor. I will be taking a look at their bass guitars too.

10

I've had two Epiphone guitars, a Del Rey and a Sheraton II. Both were well made guitars until you got to the hardware and to some extent the electronics. I replaced a lot of the hardware on both and they became great guitars. I miss the Sheraton but replaced it with a Starfire V that I like a lot more.

11

Epiphone quality is generally good enough on their Gibson repros that it doesn't make sense for someone with a budget like mine to buy a Gibson. the Epis certainly aren't as nice as a good Gibson, but IMO they're 90% as functional. their Firebird, V, and Explorer have all been on my list for ages, and i would love to have a crack at one of their Elitist Emperors (as opposed to what, the People's Emperor?).

– macphisto

Mac, there are no Elitist Emperors. The closest thing in the Elitist line is the Elitist Broadway --- which is the best guitar I've ever owned, and which is as close to an L-5 CES as I'll ever need. There were also some Matsumoku-made Emperors in the late 80's which are very similar in spec (though without the heavily flamed maple of the Elitists), as well as an Emperor Thinline.

In the standard line, there is the Emperor Regent (17" x 3" body, 25.5" scale length, single floating mini-hum at the neck) and the Joe Pass Emperor II, which has a smaller body (16" x 2.75") and 24.75" scale length. I have one of each, and love 'em both.

I also have a Casady bass, and it is magnificently versatile. The low impedance pickup allows for a near-acoustic warm tone, as well as the powerful deep growl and rumble one would expect from a bass with Jack's name on it.

12

Epiphones ,especially the semi and jazz models ,of which i have experience with ,are great geets.

First good guitar i ever had was a 1986 Sheraton with the Epiphone By Gibson logo,just a lovely guitar,my dad bought it for me,and i wish i still had it,i've been keeping an eye out for it locally since my uncle or cousin sold it back in the late 90's!

My uncle currently has a Riviera Custom P93 wine red that he loves,and a blonde Broadway that he says is a tank!

There was my cousin's ES295 ,it had a very skinny neck but it was nice enough,hated the B70 though.

My other cousin had a lovey wine Riviera ,around the time when Oasis were big,was just like Noel's and Bonehead's,i think it was from the 80's.

I currently have a 58 V that i intended to replace the pickups ,pots,switches and the like ,but i haven't got around to it,cause i'm lazy.

13

I've seen independent videos, even blindfolded, comparing Gibson Les Pauls to Epiphones. You can hear the difference, even under those conditions. Though strikingly similar, the stock Gibsons do sound better.
I've not compared them both, personally, but I'm sure I'd be quite happy spending 6X less on an equally playable Epiphone. I'll also be less likely to blow a gasket if it accidentally gets dinged or scratched.

One model I think unique to Epiphone's Les Paul line is their plustop Pro/FX. Along with a push/pull split coil feature for both humbuckers, it comes with a Floyd Rose tremolo, something Gibson has shied away from offering on their Les Pauls. In addition to being more functional, I think a Floyd Rose looks more fitting on a Les Paul (as opposed a Bigsby).

14

Much respect for Epiphone, especially since the brand built its own Chinese factory - early 00s?

Fit, finish, and quality control have been excellent. I'm more into unique Epi-only models than the Gibson clones - Casino, Sheraton, Wildkat and the like. (Though the Les Paul Signature offset thinline from the 90s - same body as the Casady bass - is a fairly faithful reissue of the low-Z Gibson original of the 70s, much appreciated as Gibson will never bring back the original.)

And I'm attracted to the Pelham Blue P90 339, awfully enticing at Epi prices.

Gibson would be in much better shape if they let Epiphone's managers run the parent brand.

15

the thing about Les Pauls is largely true, other than the magnificent goldtop with 2xP90s. on the other hand, my Epi 1961 SG with the vibrola is more likeable than any modern SG i've ever seen.

16

I used to think of Epiphone as the Squier line of Gibson. Then I went shopping for a thinline double cut hollow body guitar. I was originally wanting a 5422 (and still do!) when I stumbled on a 50th Anniversary 2011 Casino on Craigslist. This model has Gibson P90s, full sized pots, the grey shielded wiring, Switchcraft switch and jack, Wilkinson tuners that look and function just like the vintage Kluson tuners and a Gibson shaped headstock which I prefer. The only mods I made were to put a Lollar P90 spacer under the bridge pickup, add a bone nut and I put some clear nail polish on the retaining wire of the bridge. I tried different bridges but the original bridge sounded the best to me so I took that small brush and slathered some clear goop on there. It's an amazing sounding and playing guitar.

17

I played one of the Florentine semi-hollow Les Pauls and it was sweet and 1/4 the price of the Gibson version.

18

A buddy gave me a blond maple Epi Sheraton and my brother gave me a gold top LP. The Sheraton has Bill Lawrence pickups and the neck is really nice. The gold top has the P-90’s but it’s mahogany and weighs a ton. My fav Epi is this LP with the amber Birdseye maple top. A big plus is the ‘71 signature humbuckers which I scored from a pawn shop back in 1980. It’s also made of alder so it’s really light. Not exactly like a Gibson LP but it has its own cool thing going on.

19

I have my pre-Gibson Epiphone that is pretty great.

I have played and desired my friend’s Kalamazoo Casino. Those guitars can be fantastic.

I wish Gibson would make some special runs of those 60’s models at the Gibson factory.

20

I like my Epi SG Maestro. It’s a bit heavy and I would prefer a Bigsby but it plays well and sounds good.

21

Epiphone can make a decent guitar, and they've made some that are less. It really depends on how much you want to spend. They have some higher-end (for Epiphone) Les Paul's, that are pretty nice, and some lower end (bolt on necks) that are not so nice. The hollow and simi-hollow electrics look pretty cool. I like the Casino, Sheraton and the Dots. The 335 and 339 knockoffs are pretty cool too, though obviously not as nice as the Gibsons.

I've done a real time, side by side comparison of Gibson vs Epiphone, Les Paul and SG's. My brother has one of the most expensive Epiphone LP's and an Epiphone SG. I have a 2019 Gibson Les Paul Classic and a 2018 SG Standard (that I resently picked up). The Gibsons won out in all areas, playability, tone, quality of hardware, fit and finish. It's pretty much what you would expect in a side by side comparison.

Are the Gibson worth the price difference? That's up to the individual, their level of playing, what they intend to do with the instrument, and of course their budget. I think that you will get a better instrument in a Gibson, especially if the Epiphone is a knockoff of a particular Gibson model. The Epiphone one offs, are in a category all their own, and the ones I've seen are solid well made instruments.

EDIT : I have a Japanese "Kalamazoo" Epiphone acoustic, model PR - 715ACS. I bought it new in 1984, and it opened up perfectly, into a stellar instrument. It just kept getting better and better. It has mahogany back and sides, and a spruce top. I resently had an LR Baggs Anthem True Mic pick up system installed in it, with remarkable results!

23

I remember when Epiphone was better than Gibson. Even after Gibson bought them, they were still a fancier Gibson. In the late-60's, American production of Epiphone ceased, and the Epiphone name was asigned to Gibson's Japanese Kalamazoo line.

24

Some of the 80s Japanese (Matsumoku) Epiphone semis are fantastic guitars. And the reason they didn't break necks like Gibson did was less to do with the break angle and more to do with the fact that many Epis use maple for the necks - and in the case of the 80s Epis it's a 3-pice laminate maple neck. Hard to break!

Late 70s Gibson often had 3-piece maple necks - I don't know how many of them broke. But to this day many Epis use maple necks - it does make them stronger but it also changes the sound too - less midrangey and a bit brighter/harder sounding. For a lot of players this probably isn't a bad thing but I still prefer the sound of a mahogany neck on a Gibson style guitar like a 335 or Les Paul.

25

I’m currently trying to resist the Epi LP “old Glory” sig model (single P-90 in bridge position). I’ve been telling myself that for the $700 asking price... it must just be a cheap guitar. But now after reading all this... I can feel the wallet loosening up!


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