Epiphone G-400 PRO vs Gibson SG Standard Guitar Review
G-400 or SG?
The Gibson SG is one of the most iconic guitars in history. It’s a hard-rock tone machine, but easily at home in blues, jazz or country as well.
Musicians such as Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Angus Young of AC/DC put this guitar on the map, and for decades guitarists have flocked to the SG for its sound, looks and of course that awesome Gibson vibe. It is a true classic among classics in the guitar world, and if you play anything from hard rock to heavy metal the SG design might be exactly what you are looking for.
Unfortunately, while it is worth every dime, the SG comes with a price tag that’s a little too steep for some players. So, Epiphone gives us the G-400, their version of the Gibson SG. Epiphone is owned by Gibson, and makes some of the best budget alternatives to Gibson guitars.
This might make the comparison seem a little unfair from the beginning. Gibson is one of the finest guitar companies in the world, and Epiphone specializes in affordable guitars for beginners and intermediate players. It's a no-brainer, right?
Maybe not. I have long been of the opinion that you don't need to spend a bunch of cash to grab a great guitar, and I think Epiphone is one of those brands that proves my point. So, the question isn't so much which guitar is better, but which is better for your needs and budget.
I also think it’s important to avoid the notion that Epiphones are low-budget knock-offs. While the G-400 certainly will never be on-par with the SG, it is a quality instrument that just might be a better choice for some players, and one of the best electric guitars under $500. Are you one of those players? Well, read on and find out.
Birth of the SG
You might not know this, but the Gibson SG design first came about as a replacement for the Gibson Les Paul. In the late 1950s the Fender Stratocaster was giving Gibson heavy competition in the solid-body guitar market, so they set about redesigning a Les Paul with a lighter double-cutaway design that might be a little more appealing to then-modern players.
The Les Paul SG was born in 1961, but Les Paul himself was none too happy with this decision, and asked to have his name removed from the redesigned instrument. Gibson simplified the name to SG, for “Solid Guitar”. Needless to say, the Les Paul and SG both hung in the there and went on become two of the most beloved guitars in the world.
All of that information can bail you out if you find yourself on Jeopardy! but you might be wondering how it’s going to help you choose between Epiphone and Gibson. The point is the SG has a long lineage behind it, and in many ways the G-400 is a continuation of the magic Gibson created when it launched the original Les Paul SG.
The Epiphone G-400 isn’t a copy, and it isn’t a new idea. It is a classic, just like the Gibson SG itself.
Construction and Hardware
For the purpose of this article I’ll be comparing the Epiphone G-400 PRO and the Gibson SG Standard. There are different versions of each guitar, which we will get into below, but this ought to serve as a decent base for comparison.
At first look these two instruments appear nearly identical. One notable difference is the shape and size of the pickguard. Another is the shape of the headstock. Otherwise, unless somebody understands what to look for they probably won’t know or care if you are playing an Epiphone or a Gibson.
I think that’s an important point, because it’s all too easy to get hung up on the name on the headstock and not truly consider your needs and budget. Remember: A great guitar player can make a good guitar sound great!
Both guitars feature mahogany bodies with set mahogany necks. Gibson uses rosewood for the fingerboard, while Epiphone has switched to pau ferro. While the specs read like they are essentially the same basic guitar when it comes to tonewoods, this isn’t something you should take for granted.
While, admittedly, things get a little murky when trying to figure which woods guitars companies decide to use on which guitars, I think it is safe to assume the woods used in the Gibson version are of higher quality than the G-400 version.
Construction will certainly be, on average, higher-quality when it comes to Gibson instruments. They’re made in the USA to very high standards, and their guitars show it. It’s tough to compare the G-400 to a guitar three times its price, and made by one of the finest guitar companies in the world. Of course Gibson has the edge here.
Across the board, when it comes to appointments and hardware you’re going to see higher-quality components and craftsmanship on the Gibson. This doesn’t mean the Epiphone G-400 isn’t a quality instrument. What it does mean is you have to ask yourself if the difference in quality is worth the difference in price.
That is truly what this decision comes down to.
More on the Epiphone G-400 PRO
Pickups and Electronics
The Gibson SG Standard features a Gibson 490R/490T pickup set. I am a big fan of these pickups, and used them in my Les Pauls at one time. They are hot enough for metal and hard rock, but versatile enough for jazz and blues. I think they go well with an all-mahogany guitar, which makes a lot of sense. Not too much sizzle, and fairly articulate. All-mahogany guitars can get a little muddy and boomy with the wrong pickups, but I think these are a really good fit.
The Epiphone G-400 is equipped with Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers. These are good pickups, especially in this price range. They have a push-pull coil tap feature, which adds a little versatility.
While the Alnico Classics are fine, I’d really rather see Epiphone’s ProBucker pickups in this guitar, even if it meant a bump in price. I think that would be a big improvement to an already excellent guitar.
Both guitars have the basic controls you’d expect in an SG: Three-way pickup selector switch, and a volume and tone control for each pickup. As with hardware, you can expect Gibson electronics to be higher quality on average across the board. However, Epiphone has made many improvements in recent years, and the gap isn’t as wide as it once was.
Once again, of course Gibson has the advantage here. But you have to ask yourself if the difference in price is worth it. Pickups can be changed, and if you decided you weren’t happy with the stock Epi pickups you could swap them out for Gibsons or something else down the road. That’s one way to build an awesome custom guitar without spending custom guitar money.
Below is a table comparing the Gibson SG Standard and Epiphone G-400 specs. Remember that guitar companies change their instruments at times, so be sure to check out the respective company websites for the latest info on their guitars.
SG Standard vs G-400 Specs Comparison
Gibson SG Standard
22 Medium Jumbo
22 Medium Jumbo
Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO
2 Volume, 2 Tone, 3-way
2 Volume, 2 Tone, 3-way, push-pull coil tap
1960s SlimTaper D
Heritage Cherry, Ebony
Cherry, Ebony, Alpine White
Versions of the Gibson SG
Aside from the SG Standard, Gibson has a few comparable versions in their lineup:
- SG Tribute: You can save a few bucks if you don’t mind a few corners cut. Stocked with a 490R/490T pickups set.
- SG Special: Features Gibson’s single-coil P-90 pickups instead of humbuckers.
- SG Standard ‘61: Another affordable option that brings you back to the origins of the SG.
- SG Modern: This is a guitar featuring premium components that have been developed by Gibson over the past few years.
The SG Standard '61
Versions of the Epiphone G-400
Epiphone offers fewer versions of their SG, but there are a couple of other options besides the G-400 PRO, most notably:
- Tony Iommi SG Custom: Black Sabbath’s legendary guitarist’s signature model comes with Gibson USA pickups and other upgrades.
- Worn G-400: A faded finish saves you a few coins.
- G-310: This is an even more affordable version of the SG, and not a bad choice for beginners with a few extra bucks to spend.
- SG Special: Along with the LP Special II, I think this is one of the top guitars out there for beginners.
The Tony Iommi SG Custom
Choose Your SG!
As I’ve said throughout this article, in my opinion the decision comes down to how much you are willing to spend for an increase in quality. I think this is true in general whenever we are making an Epiphone vs Gibson comparison. Epiphone is a guitar company that is great at what it does, where Gibson is a great guitar company period.
As always, I invite you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. Here’s what I think:
It’s important to realize there is not nearly the same kind of massive price gap between the Gibson SG and Epiphone G-400 PRO as there is between the Gibson Les Paul and Epiphone Les Paul. In my opinion, the Gibson SG Standard is a pretty affordable guitar for what it brings to the table, and kind of a bargain. If it is at all reasonable, I think I’d much prefer to drop the extra cash on the Gibson. The SG is a legend, and well worth the asking price.
However, I know some players must stick to a certain budget, and I totally understand that. If your wallet dictates you must choose the G-400 PRO over the SG, I don’t think you should feel bad about it one bit. The G-400 PRO is among the best intermediate-level electric guitars out there, for an almost stupid-affordable price. You can mod it later on, but even left stock it is plenty good enough for bands, gigging and recording.
That’s my two cents. Of course the ultimate decision is up to you. So, which will you choose: the Epiphone G-400 PRO or Gibson SG Standard?
Your Opinion: Gibson SG Standard vs Epiphone G-400 PRO
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.