Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO Guitar Review
Epiphone Les Paul Custom
The Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO electric guitar is an affordable instrument with a look and sound that might surprise you. This review details my most recent encounter with the Epi Les Paul Custom, an event that altered a few of my long-held opinions.
I've always known this Epiphone is a solid choice for intermediate guitarists, but as I found out it has a few tricks up its glossy sleeve.
The Gibson Les Paul Custom in Alpine White is my favorite guitar of all time. If some kind of anti-guitar dictator were to take over the world and decree that guitarists could only own one guitar for the rest of their lives, but it could be any guitar they wanted, this would be an easy choice for me.
Unfortunately, evil dictator or not, like many players there's no way I see a Gibson LP Custom fitting into my budget anytime soon. I have no doubt they are worth every penny of their asking price, and the ones I've played were amazing, but for now I am forced to admire from afar. This is a guitar that comes in at a street price of several thousand dollars.
Lucky for us there is Gibson's budget brand Epiphone, and their version of the Les Paul Custom. This baby comes in at a fraction of the cost of the Gibson LP Custom. It also comes along with the requisite questions and comparisons to its big brother Gibson. The intent of this article is to help clear up some of those questions.
You know Gibson makes great guitars, but how does this Epiphone stack up?
When it comes to Epiphone Les Pauls I've owned a few over the years, including some Customs. I like Epiphone guitars, and I've never been one to turn my nose up on them as an inferior brand. They are what they are: good guitars for reasonable prices. And for those of us who don't have the cash for a Gibson they are the next best thing.
Not so long ago, I wrote an in-depth post on the Epiphone vs Gibson Les Paul Standard. The same basic things hold true for Custom vs Custom, and both guitars share the same design standards of all Les Pauls:
- Mahogany Body
- Mahogany Set Neck
- Maple Top
- Rosewood Fingerboard (Richlite on 2014 Gibson LP Custom)
- Tune-o-Matic Bridge with Stopbar
- Dual Humbuckers
- Three-Way Pickup Selector Switch
So what's the difference? In a nutshell, an American-made Gibson will have better attention to detail and quality control, better woods and materials used, a more solid fit and finish. They are simply better-made, better-sounding guitars.
I've always thought one of the main deciding factors between the two guitars was the pickups. Gibson pickups like the 498T/490R set excel at clarity and warmth, where Epiphone's Alnico Classics never quite had the same character.
However, veteran players seem to have a lot of good things to say about Epiphone's ProBucker pickups lately. Epiphone has also made some serious improvement to their hardware and electronics over the past few years.
I've been impressed by what I've seen, and with all of this in mind I made my way to a well-known musical instrument chain store to check out the reinvigorated Epiphone Les Paul Custom.
Epiphone Les Paul Custom vs Gibson
In the guitar shop I found my target, but ended up staring up at a pair of guitars. The Epiphone Les Paul Custom was on the left, the Gibson Les Paul Custom on the right, and both in Ebony.
Honestly, from a distance of ten feet or so these two guitars were difficult to tell apart, and I've been playing guitar for quite a while. This is why I always tell people not to worry about the peer pressure of playing a certain guitar brand. Most people, especially those who don't know much about guitars, will not know or care what kind of guitar you are playing.
Of course there are differences if you care to get picky. Epiphone headstocks are shaped a bit differently. In the past I would have said Gibsons generally appear thicker, but I think that difference has narrowed a bit. Of course one major difference is the price!
The bottom line is, both of these guitars look amazing, and unless you want to get down to small details the Epi is plenty pretty enough.
Of course you know sound is another issue altogether, and I needed to get my mitts around this Epiphone and find out what the fuss was all about.
Before I get into that, check out how some veteran guitar players reacted to Epiphone's ProBucker Challenge:
Epiphone ProBucker Pickups: The ProBucker Challenge
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Sound and Play: My Impression
I plugged into a Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo and jammed away for a little while. I have to admit I am impressed with the Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO. As I said before I've always liked Epi Les Pauls, and the ones I've owned were good guitars, but this Epi felt like a Gibson. That's a big deal to me, because I've always been more comfortable with Gibson necks, where Epi necks felt a lot wimpier.
There's still a bit of a divide between Gibson pickups and Epiphone, but the new(ish) ProBuckers are a huge leap forward. Better clarity and richness than the old Alnico Classics, and the push-pull coil tap is a nice bonus. Very good!
It has always been my opinion that set-neck guitars can get a little muddy if they don't have decent pickups to pull out the subtle higher frequencies that can get crushed under all that mahogany.
I tested the Epiphone Les Paul Custom with heavy distortion, bluesy overdrive and clean settings. The bridge pickup had significantly improved bite compared to Epis I've played in the past. The neck pickup sounded round and full, like an LP neck pickup ought to.
It also sounded good with the volume knob backed off, which in itself says a lot about the quality of the ProBucker pickups and the electronics.
My overall impression of the Epi Les Paul Custom is very high. I can see playing this guitar onstage or in the studio. If you don't have the means to spring for the Gibson, this guitar is a serious contender.
Why Choose Epiphone?
It pained me to leave the Les Paul Custom behind, but I was sufficiently impressed and have since vowed that the Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO would be my next guitar.
It's also awesome that my wife was there, so she could see that by buying this guitar I am essentially saving us almost $3,500!
And she says I don't pay enough attention to the family budget!
And that's really the bottom line when it comes to Epiphone guitars. Is the Epiphone LP Custom up the same standard as the Gibson LP Custom? Of course not! But for about a quarter of the price it gets you the same awesome looks and a similar sound. And, you can still make your mortgage payment.
Many players insist Epiphones are much better values than Gibsons, and in many ways I can't disagree. With Epi you get a very good guitar for a very good price. With Gibson you get an excellent guitar, but you pay for it.
Some players don't feel the difference in price is worth it when you consider the quality of Epiphone instruments, and that makes a lot of sense.
In the end, you have to play what inspires you. If you love the look and sound of the Gibson Les Paul Custom but it simply doesn't make sense to part with the cash, the Epiphone version is an outstanding choice. The Epiphone Les Paul Custom PlusTop PRO sure impressed me, and it may be just what you need.
Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO Poll
Which finish do you like better on the Epiphone Les Paul Custom?
Read more about Epiphone and Gibson guitars and find the right one for you!
- Compare the specs, sound and value of the Epi Les Paul Standard against the Custom and Studio models. Which Epiphone Les Paul has what you need, for the right price?
- If you are considering the Epiphone Les Paul Custom, check out the Gibson LPJ too. This is the most affordable American-made Gibson Les Paul out there, and it is getting some incredible reviews.
- For many players, Epiphone is the top choice when they don't have the budget for a Gibson. But in this article you'll discover a few more options that just may be solid Les Paul alternatives.