Epiphone Les Paul Studio Review
The Epiphone Les Paul Studio
The Gibson Les Paul Studio has become somewhat of a classic. Its Spartan looks and relatively budget-friendly cost make it a very popular guitar, and personally one of my all-time favorites. You get the sound and feel of a Les Paul, without the huge price tag. That’s a pretty good deal.
As you likely know, Epiphone is a company owned by Gibson and authorized to build budget versions of guitars like the Les Paul. That makes Epiphone Les Pauls a great way to land a real Les Paul without the fear of missing a car payment. So, it only makes sense that Epiphone would follow suit with their own version of the Studio.
That’s a good deal too. I’ve written a lot about the Gibson version of the Studio, and about many different versions of the Epi Les Paul. However, I always seem to get questions on the Epiphone Les Paul Studio. So, in this article we will take a look at this affordable guitar and help you figure out if it is a smart choice for you.
I’m not going to try to make a case for the the Epiphone Les Paul Studio versus the Gibson Les Paul Studio. That would be silly, though I think you'll see there are many similarities and comparable points. But I am going to try to illustrate where the Epi Studio stands in the Epiphone Les Paul lineup, so you can get a better idea of the value of this guitar.
A notch below the Studio we see the Epi LP 100. This is an affordable guitar for beginners, and it has many of the classic hallmarks of the Les Paul design.
A step above the Studio we see the Les Paul Standard. This is an intermediate-level guitar long viewed as a quality alternative to the real-deal Gibson version.
The LP Studio is truly stuck between two worlds. However, as I think you’ll agree, this is a guitar a little better fitted for intermediate players. Here’s a closer look.
Build, Tonewoods and Hardware
The classic Les Paul tonewood profile is a mahogany body and a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard. Gibson Les Pauls, including the Studio, also typically have a maple cap glued onto the mahogany body. You don’t see that in the Epiphone version, and even the maple tops on higher-end Epi Les Pauls are typically veneers.
But the build is on-par with what you’d expect from a Les Paul. The neck is set and glued, not like the bolt-on neck on the LP 100. Set necks offer greater sustain and slightly fuller, more resonant tone.
The hardware is also spot-on with the Les Paul design. A locking Tune-o-matic bridge with stop-bar tailpiece provides solid tuning stability.
The dot inlays instead of blocks on the fretboard set it apart a little, but otherwise the build is very similar to the Les Paul Standard. Of course there is no binding or other frills, but there is a good-looking pickguard.
All in all, Epiphone got the details right here, which of course matters for your sound. But it also means your Studio looks like a Les Paul should, not like some cheap copy.
In my opinion this guitar lives up to its name, and does right by its heritage when it comes to construction. It is very much analogous to the more expensive Gibson version, but way easier on your wallet.
Dawsons Looks at the Epiphone Les Paul Studio
Pickups and Electronics
Both the LP Studio and LP Standard feature Epiphone’s Alnico Classic Humbuckers, which are a big step up from the humbuckers on the LP-100. However, note that the Studio features an open-coil version where the Standard has chrome-covered pickups. Open-coil pickups tend to be a little hotter and brighter. It’s a subtle difference, but worth mentioning.
Personally, for the past decade and more I've had a bit of a love/hate thing going on with the Alnico Classics. They are very good pickups with a lot of warmth, and for the most part they do well with distortion. But they can lack a little clarity, depending on how you dial in your amp. Still, in this price range they are tough to beat, and you can always swap them out later if you decide you don't like them.
The electronics feature the basic three-way pickup selector switch and a volume and tone control for each pickup that’s common to most Les Pauls. Epiphone has taken some steps to greatly improve their electronics in recent years. It was once true that faulty jacks, switches and knobs were the bane of the Epiphone owner’s existence. Not so much anymore. Epiphone saw the problem and has taken steps to correct these issues.
Cosmetically, I like the black speed knobs instead of the gold top-hat knobs, and I like the black pickguard and circle around the 3-way switch instead of cream. Just my opinion, but I think they look better and keep with the Studio design.
Epiphone Goth Les Paul Studio
The Epiphone Les Paul Studio has seen a few different incarnations over the years, and the occasion “special edition” release. As of this writing, Epiphone’s website lists Ebony, Alpine White, Worn Brown and Worn Cherry as the available colors for the basic Studio.
The worn colors mean the wood is visible beneath the finish. Even though we’re looking at mahogany and not maple, I think they pull it off pretty well.
There is also a Goth version to consider. This is very similar to guitar to the basic Studio, with some cosmetic differences that make it a great-looking guitar for metal.
There’s the Pitch Black finish, black hardware, the Roman numeral XII as the 12th fret marker and a cool cross design on the headstock. Otherwise, it's still the great set-neck, mahogany-bodied guitar you see in the standard version.
Choosing the Goth version is more of an aesthetic decision. But it does look pretty cool, in my opinion. If you are an intermediate-level guitarist and you are in a metal band I think the Goth Studio is a smart choice.
The Goth Studio
Overall Rating and Value
The Studio version of the Gibson Les Paul is supposed to give us all the great things about the Les Paul Standard, but cuts a few corners to keep the price under control. It does that well, and so does its Epiphone cousin.
I think it is one of the best guitars in its price range, but what kind of player should be looking at the Studio? Why would veteran players choose the Epiphone Les Paul Studio vs the Les Paul Standard, and why would beginners choose it over the LP-100?
In my opinion:
- Serious beginners can look to the Studio as a quality guitar for a very affordable price. Of course it’s a bit more expensive that the typical beginner guitar, but if you know you are going to stick with guitar playing you might want to take the plunge. You also won’t need to upgrade your guitar nearly as soon.
- Those who did start out with beginner-quality guitars are going to eventually want to make the jump to something better. In this case, I think the LP Studio offers a good balance between quality and affordability. You can save a few bucks over the cost of a Standard and still land a great guitar.
- Veteran players might even be interested in the Studio, particularly those looking for a second guitar. You may want to mod it, experiment with different tunings or even bring it to gigs. For the money the Studio provides a great chassis for experimentation.
- Some players might even prefer the Studio just because of the way it looks, especially the Goth version. One of the main appeals of the Standard is that it’s so darn pretty. But beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and some players (like me) might appreciate the bare-bones look of the Studio.
Is the Epiphone Les Paul Studio the right guitar for you? Heck, I don’t know. But if any of this made sense you might want to check one out. Over the years I’ve found that the price tag alone doesn’t determine the value of a guitar. You might manage to grab the perfect guitar for you, and one that you stick with for years to come.