Epiphone Les Paul vs Gibson Les Paul Guitar Review

Both Epiphone and Gibson make great versions of the Les Paul. Which guitar is best for your goals and budget?
Both Epiphone and Gibson make great versions of the Les Paul. Which guitar is best for your goals and budget?

Epiphone or Gibson: Which Les Paul is for You?

The Epiphone vs Gibson debate may be the hottest topic on guitar forums around the internet. Guitar players have a lot of questions: What’s the difference between an Epiphone and a Gibson? Is Epiphone as good as Gibson? Should I buy an Epiphone now or save for a Gibson?

If these issues are on your mind this review may be able to help clear things up.

But here's a little preface before we get into the meat of the matter: There is no universally correct answer to the Epiphone versus Gibson dilemma. On one extreme you have the Gibson purists who wouldn’t dream of soiling their hands with an Epiphone. They consider the Epiphone crowd unsophisticated and naïve.

Then there are the laid-back Epiphone folks, happy enough to play a decent guitar. To them, the Gibson people are all cork-sniffing elitists and they don’t get what the fuss is all about. For a guitarist in the middle, which is most of us, it can be a little maddening when you’re trying to get honest answers.

You can choose a side if you want to, but it’s probably better to keep an open mind. I’ve played guitar for a long time. I’ve owned both, and been very happy with both. In fact, many Les Paul lovers own a few of each. Epiphone and Gibson guitars are both great instruments and each has their strong points.

The bottom line is about the choice that is right for you. A new Gibson Les Paul will cost several thousand dollars, whereas an Epiphone Les Paul will be a fraction of that price.

It’s a big decision, so let’s get down to it!

Quality Comparison

You may already know this, but Epiphone is owned by . That means Epiphone is licensed to use the Les Paul name, and follow Gibson’s specs. That makes an Epiphone not just a Les Paul copy, but a real Les Paul. Does that mean an Epi is pretty much the same as the Gibson? Nope.

Gibson guitars are made in the USA and of much higher quality when it comes to materials and construction.

In contrast, Epiphone Les Pauls are built overseas. This accounts for some of the price difference between the two, but it goes a bit deeper than that.

Both guitars appear pretty identical at first glance. In fact, they look similar enough that unless someone is at a close enough range to see the name on the headstock, or they’re a guitar geek like some of us, they probably aren’t going to know the difference.

So that’s a good thing to get out of your head from the beginning: Except for a very small percentage of musicians and guitar nerds, most people aren’t going to know or care if your Les Paul is an Epiphone or a Gibson.

But there are a few aesthetic differences for those who look closely enough. The Epi headstock has a different shape, the body is not quite as thick, and, for guitars with a sunburst finish, the wood underneath isn’t as pretty as their Gibson brother’s.

Guitar Center Looks at the 2016 Gibson Les Paul Standard T

Gibson / Epiphone Construction Specs

Gibson and Epiphone both construct their guitars using a similar combination of tonewoods: a mahogany neck set in a mahogany body with a maple top. But they’re not quite the same. Gibson uses higher-quality woods, and their tops are solid maple where the Epiphone has a thinner top,and often incorporates a veneer.

The electronics and hardware in the Gibson are superior as well, and less likely to wear down over time. Gibson Les Paul Standards feature Gibson's powerful Burstbucker pickups. Historically, Epiphone pickups have been good, but do not match the depth and clarity of the Gibson’s.

However,the Epiphone PRO series features the new ProBucker pickups, and these do an impressive job of narrowing the gap between Gibson and Epiphone.

Epiphone has also done a great job of improving their switches, jacks and other hardware over the years. It seems Epiphones are more and more becoming a good alternative to the Gibson Les Paul.

The Gibson Les Paul is a bit heavier than the Epiphone, but all Les Pauls are weighty.

Gibson makes their fingerboards out of high-quality rosewood or ebony, and they are beginning to experiment with some other woods in order to ease the impact on the world’s rosewood resources.

Epiphone makes their fingerboards out of rosewood as well, but the pieces usually are not as pretty.

From this information it’s pretty clear that a Gibson Les Paul is superior to an Epiphone in construction and quality. But that doesn’t mean Epiphones are bad! Gibson guitars are among the best in the world, so Epiphone has a lot to live up to.

Guitar World Reviews the Epiphone Les Paul PlusTop PRO

The Les Paul Guitar Sound

The Gibson Les Paul sound is legendary, and some of the best guitarists in the world play Les Pauls. No doubt you can name a dozen guitarists that play a Les Paul whose tone you’d love to cop! From Zakk Wylde to Jimmy Page, the Les Paul has shaped some of most amazing sounds in the history of rock music.

I’m guessing you don’t need to be further convinced of how awesome a Gibson Les Paul sounds. If you didn’t already know this you probably wouldn’t be reading this article!

But the real question is: Does an Epiphone Les Paul sound just as good as a Gibson?

The answer: No! But, with a difference in price of a few thousand dollars, you have to ask yourself if the Gibson sound is worth that much more to you.Epiphones sound good, and they do indeed have that deep, rich Les Paul sound, but of course they are not on par with a Gibson.

The new ProBucker pickups have really improved the Epiphone Les Paul Standard. But, to me, the sound differences still come down to two basic factors:

  • Clarity: It may be the quality of the electronics, or the wood, or a combination of both, but Epis simply don’t have the same definition to their sound. Sometimes they can be a touch boomy in the low-end. This issue is much less pronounced in the higher registers.
  • Resonance: You want to feel it in your gut when you play a chord on a Les Paul. This is something that should even come through when the guitar is unplugged. With the Epi this isn’t quite there. Perhaps this is more a sign of the greatness of the Gibson rather than a shortcoming of the Epiphone.

Again, the Epi sounds great, but it’s just not a Gibson. The reasons for the differences are obvious. Body materials and construction, pickups, thickness of the wood in certain areas, all of these points make an Epiphone cheaper than a Gibson, and influence the tone.

Is it a $2000 difference? I say no, but that’s up to you!

Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO Electric Guitar
Epiphone Les Paul Custom PRO Electric Guitar

Defending Epiphone

There are definitely some reasons someone may prefer an Epiphone over a Gibson.

First of all, Epis are beautiful guitars. They look every bit a Les Paul, down to the shiny chrome hardware and vintage tuning pegs and pickguard. As stated earlier, don’t let the name on the headstock make up your mind here. What other people think does not matter.

Second, I’m a firm believer that your hands and style have a huge influence over your tone. Think Eddie Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen would sound bad playing an Epi? Of course not. So if you want to get down to it, a guitar is just a tool to express yourself with.

Why pay several grand when you can get an effective tool for a quarter the price?

Finally, every guitar has its own personality. Some Epis sing as sweet as any Gibson, and some Gibsons sound like the worst Epi. If you can find the right Epiphone it’s like striking gold.

Sure, you have a better chance of finding that gem in the Gibson lineup, but there’s that price thing again. Don’t count the Epi out until you’ve tried a bunch and you’re convinced you’ll never find one to meet your liking.

And Epiphone doesn't stop with the standard Les Paul model. They also feature higher-end guitars like the Les Paul Ultra III, an upgraded axe with a price tag still lower than a Gibson.

So, you’ve come this far, and I know why you’re really here.

2016 Gibson Les Paul Standard T
2016 Gibson Les Paul Standard T

Did You Know . . .

  • Les Paul, not the guitar but the guy whom the guitar is named after, is credited as the inventor of the solid body electric guitar. He built the first prototype he called “the Log” in the Epiphone factory in 1940.
  • Les Paul approached Gibson about marketing the solid body electric, but they rejected his ideas. Only when Fender starter to capitalize on the solid-body electric did Gibson bring Les Paul in and begin collaboration of the now-famous guitar that bears his name.
  • Epiphone has been around longer than Gibson. When Gibson was founded in 1903 Epiphone had already been making instruments for almost 20 years and made a name for itself.
  • The two manufacturers were major competitors throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s, but when Epiphone fell on hard times in 1957 Gibson bought them up.
  • Orville Gibson, one of the founders of Gibson, started out making mandolins. Today, vintage Gibson mandolins and banjos can go for tens of thousands of dollars on the open market.

Which Les Paul Should You Get?

I hope you haven’t read this far looking for a clear-cut answer! The decision is yours alone, and only you can weigh the facts and make the choice. But if you’re looking for opinions, here are a few:

You should buy an Epiphone Les Paul if:

  • You’re a hobbyist guitarist who plays for your own enjoyment.
  • You’ve always wanted a Gibson Les Paul but can’t justify the price.
  • You’re a part-time pro and you don’t want your good Gibson to get stolen or damaged at a gig.
  • You intend to whip out the soldering iron and make some modifications.
  • You are a young guitarist just getting started in a band or as a serious musician.
  • You love Les Pauls but think its silly to spend two grand on a guitar.

You should buy a Gibson Les Paul if:

  • You’ve played an Epiphone for a while and it’s time to move up.
  • You’re a professional musician.
  • You’ve always wanted a Gibson and finally have the cash.
  • You want your new guitar to stay in the family for generations and increase in value.
  • You’re such a tone freak that nothing else will do!

All of that said, ultimately it’s up to you! I hope this article has helped you make your choice. Whichever you decide on, a Les Paul is a great instrument that you’ll no doubt love. Epiphone or Gibson? Come back and let me know what you decided in the comments section!

Epiphone Les Paul vs Gibson Les Paul

Which guitar will you choose?

  • Epiphone, even though I could afford a Gibson.
  • Epiphone, because I can't afford a Gibson.
  • Gibson, because nothing else will do.
See results without voting

More by this Author

Comments 68 comments

Alex 2 years ago

I ended up buying a "95 Epiphone Les Paul classic, it's amazing, beautiful tone and sounds great at my local jam nights down at the pub!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Sounds awesome, Alex! Glad you're liking your guitar.

Dave 2 years ago

I have an Epi LP standard. Years (too many!) ago the pro band I was in used Gibsons and they were nothing but trouble. When I went looking for an LP recently I tried both Gibsons an Epis. The one I bought really stands out from the crowd in terms of tone and clarity. I must've tried a dozen guitars at the store that day! So you're absolutely right, they all differ and you have to try a few. Knocks mail order out the window. I love the whole experience of going out and buying! I have a great guitar that also gives me loads of confidence too.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Very cool, Dave! Glad you found an Epi LP you love!

Rdpurdom 2 years ago

I'm glad that someone that someone finally has the guts to stand up and make a real statement on this subject with clarity and conviction! Of course, I think it's all a bunch of hooey but again, that just my opinion. In order to find absolute validity in the above statements we have to suspend disbelief quite a bit. To being with, this guys saying that The Epi's electronic parts are inferior to Gibson's. This is simply not true. It may have been years ago but not today! Epip's pickups are some of the best in the entire industry. Different, maybe but surely NOT inferior! The body's and necks are milled to the exact same specs on an Epi and they are Gibson, with the slight exception of the "clipped ear's" on the Epi. The neck is fitted to the body with the exact same glue ( tite bond). If they didn't follow the exact same dimensions they wouldn't be a Les Paul! So really what this comes down to is two things. This guy is trying to tell us that he has such an exacting ear that he can tell the difference between the wood in one guitar over another, I don't doubt that Gibson may use a slightly higher grade wood but I would venture to say that it is "slight" and based solely on esthetic differences. They do NOT go through each plank and do a sound check on every stick! The grain "beauty" does Not affect the perceptible sound "quality" and I this case beauty is Mose assuredly a matter of personal taste!

So what do we have here? In my most humble opinion the REAL reason Gibson's cost upwards of TEN TIMES the cost of an Epiphone comes down to the cost of doing business between here in the United States or overseas. Sure, there is a difference between the craftsmanship of a Gibson and an Epiphone but don't fool yourself, the difference in minimal, almost microscopic ( generally speaking).

The real challenge would be a true double blind test! It comes down to a matter of TASTE, so take your skills and your love of the instrument and play! Create music that you love first of all, all the rest is BULL SHIT!

Rdpurdom 2 years ago

I would like to "revise and extend" my comments, if I may. I've re-read this article and I really think that maybe I was a bit personal in my comments. I honestly think the article is pretty good. I do think this guy does know what he is talking about and his advice is valid. I'm just so sick of the elitist attitude that Gibson players have. I've owned several Gibby's in my life and I was no more trilled with them than I am with the Epi I own now. I figure, If Epiphones were good enough for The Beatles then surely they are good enough for me.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Hi Rdpurdom. I appreciate your revised and extended comment, but honestly I appreciate your first comment as well. I know not everyone will agree with me, and my opinions and advice are only based on my own 30 years with guitars. Everyone has a different perspective, and I didn't think you were too out of line. I actually thought you made some good points. I'll stand by my suggestion that I can indeed tell a big difference in sound and feel between Epi and Gibson. :-) However, I also agree that in some ways they are not better or worse, only different.

Rdpurdom 2 years ago

Class act, class act!

rsaragosa 2 years ago

I have always wanted a Les Paul and have had various copies over the years. I have never wanted to pay the money for a Gibson Les Paul so I started looking at guitars again and tried a bunch of Epiphones even a couple of Epiphone Les Paul Customs. The Epiphones were all very nice looking but on playing more than a half dozen I did not like a single one. In my hands these guitars just did not feel good at all. So I just tried a few Gibson Les Paul studios and felt like they were what I was looking for. So I just purchased a new Gibson Les Paul Studio today and I don't ever see myself parting with it.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Congrats on the new guitar, rsaragosa! I too am a big fan of the Studio. I've owned a couple of them, one black with chrome hardware and one white with gold hardware, and they were both awesome guitars. Nice choice!

The Public Image profile image

The Public Image 2 years ago from Middleton, MA

Great hub! I'm also on HP but I discovered your post via Google. I'm a Les Paul owner who recently converted from 17 years of Fender-ism when I acquired a used and abused Epi Standard Plus Top in the middle of last year.

My current quandary is whether to upgrade this poor beastie, which I believe has the potential to be a great guitar, or to cut my losses and upgrade to an actual Gibson.

I'm not sure I got an answer from your article, but then again, it's not really the subject you meant to address. Also, I sure found it informative! Nice work, sir.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks the Public Image. I've seen a few of your posts around here! Congrats on your Epi Les Paul. IMO, I don't think you can lose by upgrading the pickups, electronics, etc. Some guitarists upgrade their Epiphones and never think about Gibson ever again. Good luck!

Stewart 2 years ago

Hello all ! well that was a good read , and all the comment's also.

I have had five Gibson les paul's through the years my most resent was a gold top, i sold it because i chose to stop playing and thought it was a waste to have a Gibson and not play it, a few years later bordeem got the better of me so i went on the prowl for another guitar(much to the distaste of my wife hehe),anyway i decided on a Epi les paul black beauty custom, this guitar sounds even better than my Gibson gold top i had b4. It also has the split pick up thing where you can have single or double coil sound something you don't get with a Gibson LP, my Epi plays beautifully the action is slick the hardware is great right down to the Grover machine heads. All in all a fine guitar at a third of the price, cheers Stew.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks Stewart! Glad you landed a great guitar. I too have sold too many expensive guitars and other pieces of gear, only to regret it later. Good thing there are brands like Epiphone out there to help us pick up the pieces!

VintageC 2 years ago

Great read. Nicely done!! Love the Epi's, finish and tone are great, really like the Probuckers. The the Gibson's are amazing though. Got rid of some stuff to afford a Gibson Les Paul Classic. Finally found that perfect tone!! The PUPS don't have covers but I like the look of covers. If I cover them will it make them too muddy? 57 classic and 57 classic plus. Thanks.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks Vintage C! Congratulations on finding a great Les Paul! I don't think covers will muddy up the pickups, but it might mellow them out a little. Personally, I usually like the chrome covers on Les Paul stock pickups, but in this case I think I'd leave them off. That guitar looks really cool with the two-tone '57 classics.

VintageC 2 years ago

Yeah I think your right the two tone does look nice. There's a lot of flak about the 2014 models without the "nibs" and with the 120th inlay but I don't even care, this guitar plays and sounds awesome! The db boost works great too, using it a lot. Thanks for your feedback.

Rob shores 2 years ago

I own both a gibson les Paul studio and two epiphone les pauls one is a classic and has been my number one guitar for ten years the other is a coustom shop std in tv silver I've had about a year and the the gibson as I own both I can say the quality on the gibson is top notch but my epi classic still has the better tone

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

That's interesting, Rob. You never know when you'll find an Epi that will beat out a Gibson! Thanks for sharing.

Ernest 2 years ago

I currently own 2 epi LPs and an EpI SG Bully all three sound amazing! I believe that I may never feel the need to own a gibson..

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

That's awesome, Ernest! It's so great to read so much positive feedback for Epiphone in these comments!

sd 2 years ago

I began thinking this way, but took the deep and risky plunge and bought a chinese les paul copy - these factories work with epiphone and gibson parts because they look almost exactly alike (even has the gibson logo underneath, painted over with black and the word Primer) except the obvious difference in woods and electronics, parts, etc. I upgraded the tuners to mighty mite, bought a used set of epiphone alnico classics from an ebay, got a fret polish done, setup and new strings, oh yeah, some new pots and the guitar was awesome. But when I played a note, it would die, way too soon. The wood was crap! Next, since I refuse to and will never pay ridiculous amounts for a Gibson unless it's a steal of a price - I will hunt down an Epiphone - I like the new plus top pro models, but will try to get a used one with better pickups installed or take a look at vintage, agile, tokai, burny, greco, etc. all good les paul copies with real mahogany/maple. Ebay is a great thing, but most cheap chinese with inferior woods and electronics/parts really suck.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Ouch, sd! Lesson learned the hard way, I suppose. I think you'll be happy with the Epi, and you probably won't have to upgrade as many parts as you think. Good luck!

Paul Gold 2 years ago

I have been a player for about forty years now. I have played mainly fender guitars and have used them live and in studios. I resisted the Gibson until I started playing more slide and now own an SG which is great. But, and this is the point, I now own and Epi tribute 1960 Les Paul. I fell totally in love with this axe and really use it almost exclusively now. I found another one on eBay and bought it for my brother who has several serious Lps and my god he has been playing this guitar since I have it to him. So what the issue here? Clearly Gibson has the name etc but when it comes down to it what is the real difference. My tribute has all the hardware and pickup spec as any les Paul you can mention. 57 humbuckers grover locking tuners etc.

this isn't the point. The Chinese have been making stringed instruments for 5,000 years. They know how to make a guitar. The issue is about feel touch. It's not about making the absurd comparison. All real players will tell you that when Derek Trucks plays his 61 reissue which he has had since he was 16 he plays it because it's part of him. It doesn't even have the original gibson spec. His tech told me that they change it all the time. So get a guitar and play!!!!!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Good advice, Paul! Thanks for your comment. I was fiddling with an Epi LP Custom at a guitar shop the other day and further convinced myself you don't need to drop big money to land a great guitar. I see why people love Gibson, and they are incredible guitars, but Epiphones are pretty amazing too. Hopefully this article helps people to make an informed decision, whichever they choose.

nspdx 2 years ago

Thank you for the article. This is one of the fairest comparisons I have seen of Epi vs Gibson Les Paul guitars.  Perhaps not the most thorough, but fair. I read your article for the same reason as most, I assume;   I am an (new) Epi Les Paul owner (standard plus-top Pro HB, FWIW) trying to make sense of the instrument that I've recently purchased, in a way justifying my purchase.   Of course the comments are mostly full of pro Epiphone sentiment, because Epi owners are the ones reading it mostly.  I imagine many Gibson owners (of the sort who look down their noses at Epi's) have little interest in the comparison.  Which, I suppose is as it should be. Folks posting inflammatory comments are largely just trolling.  


I really like my Plus-Plus-top Pro by the way, it looks terrific, plays well and sounds good.   I'm just getting into electric, and would feel ridiculous with a $3000 guitar, I would be ridiculous.   I chose the Epiphone knowing that it isn't a Gibson and not expecting it to be. I know that the beautiful flamed top is just an inconsequential veneer, the "mahogany" is Nato of uncertain quality, and that while a quality instrument, it is not the best of the best.   


The value of a Gibson is perhaps not exactly worth the extra price, at a certain price point, you encounter the law of diminishing returns: you have to spend a LOT more to get something that is measurably better, but the quality increase is not necessarily equivalent to the price increase.   I think this is probably true here. The Epi's ("Pros" anyway) are good guitars, good enough for most, practically speaking; however, if you have the money and value quality highly, a standard Gibson LP is probably a good investment.  


My acoustic is a Martin DX1, I bought it valuing tone over material or appearance (it's pretty much made of formica) since the guitar itself is really the sole determinate of tone with an acoustic.  With electric, there are so many potential variables after the signal leaves the guitar, I considered appearance more heavily in this decision.  I could have bought a Gibson Studio, but already have a guitar with a good name on the headstock stripped of all unnecessary appointment.


 I'm happy with the Epiphone, and would consider a Gibson in the future.  I am glad that there is enough interest in the comparison that there is quality content available to read about my instrument; however I hope folks can just appreciate what they have for what it is.  If you can afford to own a top of the line instrument, by all means, own one! If you can't, you're in luck! There are good quality instruments available that won't cost you a fortune! And you're absolutely right, in talented hands, excellent music can most certainly be made on an Epiphone or any number of moderately priced instruments.  Conversely, if you're not talented, a million dollar guitar won't make you sound any better...  

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

@nspdx: I think that's a good perspective on Epiphone. I can understand the need to justify your guitar to yourself, but it sounds like from your comment you already see all the reasons you really don't need to. I hope you enjoy your Epi and never look back!

dlake 2 years ago

I just picked up an Epi LP Plus Top. I started the project by asking the Guitar Center Guitars Manager to pull what he thought was the best Gibson LP off the wall to get a sense of the instrument and he selected a 2500 dollar model that did sound great. Then, because that's not in my budget (or part of my buying philosophy), we worked down through several variations until we got to the Epi I got for 400. Just to be sure I went all the way down but didn't like the sound of the lesser expensive guitars. I really like how the Epi plays and sounds and it's a nice alternative to my $99 Tele.

The manager asked about why I didn't go with an American LP and I said that my Tele was a win-win because if anyone didn't like the way it sounded I could reply that it was just a $99 Tele and if someone liked its sound I could say the same thing and that I was trying to accomplish the same goal with the LP (I can't imagine anyone not like the sound of the Epi though).

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

I understand what you mean there, dlake, re: why you didn't go with the Gibson. My mind works like that sometimes too!

Mark 2 years ago

Thanks for your reviews, they were very helpful for me to make a decision!

Finally got my Epi Les Paul Standard Plus Top Pro. It looks great in Honeyburst (or even better;-), sounds good. Well, the Probuckers are not as bright and warm as Gibson's Burstbuckers, at least in this model (though I tried only 60s Tribute in the shop), but buying the "made in Indonesia" Epiphone for about $450 (not a bad price in Poland) I was expecting Les Paul, not Gibson. Anyway, I'm sure it's perfect for a non-pro home player.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Sounds awesome, Mark! Congrats on your new guitar!

wah graphics 2 years ago

thank for the great article. this certainly cleared my mind to go for Epiphone custom pro. I will try several different ones thou before I purchase it. thanks again!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks wah graphics! Hope you find a great guitar. I think you'll love the Epiphone LP Custom!

nickd 2 years ago

Both are great guitars.but its all in the fingers.eddie van halens main guitar was one he put together for bout 200 dollars and it sounded great. Keep playing!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks nickd. Totally agree about EVH!

Joseph Machney profile image

Joseph Machney 2 years ago from Canada

Thanks for this hub Guitar Gopher, I've been wanting a les paul for awhile now and I tried an Epi at a music store last week and was really impressed by it. I tried an Gibson LPJ the same day and thought it had no life in it. I own an Epi Dot and it sounds amazing, so I'm really considering an Epi les paul instead of a $2000 plus Gibson les paul. Thanks for all the posts as well people, I appreciate all the perspectives. Rock on!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks for your feedback, Joseph, especially about the LPJ. I've been wondering how they are going to fair against the Epiphones over time. Good luck choosing your new guitar!

Flame Top 2 years ago

I've been reading your hub for a couple of months now and I have to say that in really impressed with your articles because it helps me out a lot. If I were to choose from the two brands, I would definitely choose Epiphone because it's good value for the money. I was also wondering if you could write an article about the now defunct brand, Orville by Gibson. I'm actually in search now for a good Orville guitar. It seems like a good brand and not known by a lot of people here so it's gonna stand out with the usual Gibson and Epiphone crowd here. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks Flame Top! I admit I don't know whole lot about Orville guitars by Gibson, other than that they were made in Japan. You might find one pop up on eBay if you keep an eye out. Good luck!

Nimish 2 years ago

Due to the high border taxes in my country, even an epi is expensive.Not huge expensive but expensive notheless.I bought a cheap chinese sx les paul knockoff which looks fabulous, doesn't sound too good, yet I love it anyway. Aim to own a Gretsch White falcon one day by saving money before I die. Damn that guitar is beautiful!!!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Totally agree re: White Falcon, Nimish. That's a good-looking instrument. Bummer about the import taxes on the Epis though.

Ted Parkinson profile image

Ted Parkinson 24 months ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Thanks for the great article. As you say, there is really a great range of guitars, both from Epiphone and Gibson. I bought an Epiphone Les Paul "Classic U.S. Goldtop" that has "Limited Edition Custom Shop" and "made in China" on its back. It has Seymour Duncan pickups and cost just over $800. I don't see it around anywhere, but it is similar to the "Slash" model. I played it for 15 minutes side by side with a $2000 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. They felt and looked almost identical. The Duncan's had a slightly warmer sound which I liked. So I bought the Epiphone and it's a fantastic guitar.

On the other hand, Epiphones start under $300 and most of those are not very good, except for beginning players. On the other hand, compared to when I started playing guitar 40 years ago, almost ALL guitars, not matter how cheap, are much better made. "Back in the day" the lower priced copies were not in tune about the 5th fret, whereas these days, even the cheap guitars are in tune and sound "ok".

To my mind, the biggest ripoff is the Les Pauls that are $5,000 and more! It is crazy reading the Gibson promo material as the marketing folks try to explain why a certain Guitar is worth $5,000 rather than $2,000 or even the (approx) $1200 that Gibson's start at.

One thing playing my Les Paul (in the store) made me realize was that my existing Fender Blues Junior amp was simply not cutting it. Very soon afterwards I traded it in on a VOX AC 15 and have not looked back. Both Les Paul's had beautiful tone that really sparkled when plugged into a VOX amp!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 24 months ago Author

Thanks to anonymous "S" for an insightful comment on Gibson vs Epiphone quality. I understand your concerns and have removed your original remarks.

@Ted: Sounds like you landed a great guitar, and got an amp upgrade as a bonus. I love these stories where people A/B Epiphone and Gibson guitars in the shop and leave with the Epi! Thanks for sharing!

Richie 23 months ago

First off what a really great piece, informative and with nice conclusions.

I wanted to contribute something because I find so many discussions of this nature end up degenerating in to name calling and petty insults which I'm getting a little tired of reading. Everyone should feel entitled to express an honest opinion without someone resorting to calling them names or insulting their intelligence. This is one of the few articles and discussions I've read that has largely avoided that, i wish there were more.

Anyway, down to my own views on the humble Epiphone Les Paul. First off I should point out that I only started playing a Les Paul earlier this year after being a Fender man my whole life. I just fancied a change was all, never having had a Les Paul I thought it was maybe time to try one. I should also point out that I had largely quit playing guitar for over ten years so I was coming back with virtually no knowledge of the current guitar market and what was happening in guitardom. I was in for many surprises.

The first major surprise when I started looking at guitars with a view to buying was the price of Gibson Les Pauls. I was expecting them to be expensive, they always had been ever since I started playing, but I was not expecting the price of many models. I am in the UK and a Les Paul Standard now retails here for £2500 GBP, the vintage reissue models for much more, anything in the region of £3550, 4500, 5500, I have even seen £9500. I'll be honest and say this took my breath away somewhat. Now I know some may say that the difference in the quality of the materials justifies the price of these instruments but this got me to thinking that if I'm paying £3500 GBP (for the US readers that's $5483) for a vintage reissue then surely it must already be made using the highest quality materials in stock, well I would have thought so. I don't understand where the difference lies between a vintage reissue costing say £3500 and one costing two or three thousand pounds more.

I detect a change in the guitar market. Whereas once the guitar playing community themselves would decide which instruments became collectors items by buying them up and thus increasing the price. The manufacturers themselves made their standard ranges and the players decided which became collectable. It seems to me that now the manufacturers are artificially attempting to create collectors instruments from the get-go. This explains why they need to give out all that literature and brochures and certificates with the instruments, they need to convince people that they are buying something extra special to justify the price.

The other major surprise that I encountered was the rise in the number and quality of the mid range instruments. If you can't afford a Gibson or are not keen to spend that sort of money there are many affordable guitars that are very nicely priced.

When many people do the Gibson v Epiphone debate many focus on the Epiphone Plus Top Pro as a comparison. I purchased one of these instruments earlier this year and I was pleasantly surprised how good it is. It's well made, well finished, and sounds beautiful. The Probucker pickups are excellent and I would not change them. If I'm being totally honest the sustain does fade a little sooner than a Gibson but all in all it does a really good job of justifying it's Les Paul name tag.

However, when many players talk of Epiphones not being as good as Gibson Les Pauls I believe that in many cases their comparison model is the above mentioned Plus Top. Whilst this is a fine instrument in my opinion I would have to concur that it probably doesn't strike the highs of the real thing, it's not far off but not quite there. But, I also have the Epiphone Les Paul Tribute and I would be as bold to suggest that this does reach the same heights as a Gibson. It has the weight and feel of the original. The build quality is superb, unlike the Plus Top it does have a thick maple cap and not just a veneer, as I understand it, it has a plain maple cap and a flame maple veneer over it. Well, I suppose it has to cut some corners somewhere. It looks and feels exactly as a Les Paul should do. In addition, it is fitted with Gibson USA vintage reissue pickups as standard.

I believe from looking round the internet that many people are under the illusion that the Tribute is the same guitar as the Plus Top side from the pickups and tuners, believe me it is nowhere near the same instrument. I think if many Gibson players tried the Epiphone Les Paul Tribute their opinion would change somewhat. Of course there will always be people that prefer to spend the extra to have the prestige of having the name and to know it is built in the USA. I think that's fine, each to their own choice. But for in my case I do truly believe that the Tribute is equal to the Gibson LP Traditional, it's a stunning guitar. More people should try it rather than basing their opinion of Epiphone on the Plus top alone.

Sorry for waffling on so much. It was just nice to finally come across a discussion which was balanced and reasonable. As I said earlier this is just my opinion so feel free to differ, there is room for all of us. I have very much enjoyed this site though and will be adding it to my favourites.

Thanks for reading, Rich.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 23 months ago Author

Very thoughtful, Rich. I truly appreciate your input. Thanks for taking the time to comment and add to the discussion!

Mark 22 months ago

The setup should not be discounted. Often times a new Epi is in need of some proper tweaking.

Rdpurdom 22 months ago

Hey guys, this dude indeed knows his stuff! I think he has given a lot of food for thought here. He's been as honest and forthright as anyone I've ever heard on the subject. I don't think it can rover emphasized, don't let the price and the name on the headstock enfluence your decision too much. Let your hands and your ears enfluence your choice. Remember, it's all about having fun playing! If you can't have fun unless the headstock says GIBSON then I suggest that you've got bigger issues going on than this article (alone) can possibly deal with.

Rock on!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 22 months ago Author

Thanks for the kind words, Rdpurdom!

Axis 21 months ago

Hi there.

Very interesting stuff here!

I've been playing Epiphones AND Gibsons for about 20 years. I started with Epiphone les pauls because of the cost obviously but I found they worked absolutely fine for both studio and touring work- this would have been around the late 90's. I also got the chance to tour with a 1979 Gibson deluxe and an 80's Gibson Les Paul Standard around the same time and found that although these were both great guitars, there really wasn't that much between them and the Epi's- maybe a little bit more responsive in the upper neck notes but pretty much done the same job.

When I turned 40 (gulp!) I decided to treat myself and finally buy a Gibson Les Paul- nothing too fancy, just 'off the peg' will do. This was around 4 years ago so what I ended up with was a Gibson Les Paul 2010 standard gold top that was chambered.

Now, I have to say that this guitar has been an absolute revelation!

The tone is just beautiful, the sustain sings and because of the chambers it has an authentic kind of 'woody' sound-very acoustically strong with a very slight 'twang'. On the downside it is slightly thinner sounding than what I was used to previously but the pluses more than compensate for this in my opinion.

Needless to say I have become a bit of a Gibson obsessive and have been doing a lot of research into these new guitars and their relation to the 'original' Gibsons of the 50's and also to their Epiphone counterparts.

My conclusion is that any beliefs that Epiphones are just as good as Gibsons hold water when comparing them to Gibsons made from the Norlin era (70's?) onwards- basically they are both solid,reliable,heavy guitars that give you that chunky, bluesy rock sound that we've all grown to love. But there is no comparison to the guitars Gibson have been making recently-possibly the last 15 years?

These 'new' Gibsons are not to everyone's taste and I still also still rate the Epiphones very highly- I even tried out a 1973 Gibson Les Paul deluxe in a shop the other day that was priced at £2500(!) and could really see no difference- so why not get a 2nd hand Epi for a fraction of the price!- Job done!

To my ears though the newer Gibsons (chambered, weight relieved or fully solid) are just in a different league. The only thing I don't like about them is the obsession with gimmicky details like auto-tune etc but in terms of the basic build and pick-ups the're a definite step forward ( or is that backward?).


Keep it rockin'!

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 21 months ago Author

Thanks Axis. There is certainly good reason players get hooked on Gibson. Thanks for adding your story to the mix!

Semiografo 21 months ago

One annoying thing about Les Paul reviews is that most of them only present the dirty, overdriven sound of a LP. Overdriven sounds maybe can show a longer sustain in a Gibson LP, but aside from that, you can't really distinguish a Gibson from an Epi. You are even more confused when it's an Epiphone with good alnico pickups.

I think what the best distinguish an Epi from a Gibson is the clean tone from a tube amplifier. Even in this case, pickups can make a big difference which don't mean one guitar is better than the other. 490R/490T pickups are high-gain ones, they have very pronounced mids, while more "classic" 57s are more on the bright side.

Newer Les Pauls have the coil-tapping feature, which make comparisons even harder. A 490R/490T Gibson/Epiphone can sound as if it had a couple of P90s. I think the best reason to buy a Gibson is reliability over time instead of sound/tone concerns.

A Gibson is supposedly made from cured woods which will be more stable over time once you keep it stored in the case or bag. An Epiphone, on the other hand, can show neck and hardware issues over time which will be a source of small headaches. Once you have a good offer of luthiers nearby your home, you'll be fine with Epis.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 21 months ago Author

Thanks to Andrew for pointing out this article was in need of a little attention!

Rockhopper 20 months ago

I played the Gibson LP Standard in my local guitar store and then the almost visually identical Epi version. The difference between the two was subtle but the Gibson just had the edge. Having said that the Gibson was £1300, the Epi £300..............for what I needed it for and the pleasure the Epi gave me.........I bought the Epi. One day I may splash out on the Gibson but for now Im happy with the Epiphone

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 20 months ago Author

@Rockhopper: I think you about summed it up. Sometimes the question isn't which guitar is best, but which guitar is best for you. Thanks for your comment!

Epiphone quality 18 months ago

It may be worth mentioning that the top of the pickup-selector switch broke off during the shooting of the Ephiphone video you've linked.

FWIW, I only noticed because the switch on my 75' Les Paul Deluxe broke in the same manner.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 18 months ago Author

I noticed that. The plastic top is present in wide shots and missing in closer shots. Sorry about your LP Deluxe!

AnonymousZ 16 months ago

Thanks for the article. I have just ordered an Aqua Epi LP 2014 traditional, keeping my fingers crossed. I've owned two actually Gibby LPs and disliked both of them. One was a bad sounding piece of wood; the other was was passable but had finish problems. Been an Ibanez guy for years, though my first "main" guitar was an LTD LP copy. Epis get points for Grover tuners and a better looking headstock if you ask me....

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 16 months ago Author

Good luck with your new LP, AnonymousZ! With the Aqua finish that's a great-looking guitar.

M42 15 months ago

Personally I would rather have a high end Epiphone Les Paul than a low end Gibson LP and put the savings in my pocket. Given the quality control problems of Gibson over the past couple of years I'm not sure the higher priced ones are worth it anymore.

Mike 15 months ago

Here's my take on the Comparison of the guitars. Last year I sold my Gibson 1976 Black beauty for a good price. I've been playing for over 50 years so that gives you some idea how old a guitar player can get. I played that Gibson over 25 years. At my age a 13 pound guitar gets to be a drag. I just picked up an Epiphone Ultra II and I'm so impressed with it my Fenders are gathering dust. This Epiphone is just so much guitar I've been able to get stereo sounds that blow me away. The fit and finish of this Epiphone is as good as I've seen at any price point. I also have an Epiphone Broadway and it too is a great guitar vs the L5 Gibson.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 15 months ago Author

Thanks for your input, Mike! When Epiphone can impress a veteran guitarist like yourself it shows they are really on the right track.

Michelleuk 5 months ago

After being an all out Telecaster player for 25 years I suddenly bought a second hand Epiphone Les paul plus top which was made in Korea in 1996.

I just happened to pick it up to kill time while waiting for the sales person and suddenly "I was in love"!

I had never been a Les Paul fan, but this guitar had ultra low action making it feel amazing and very easy to play.

It also had so much tone and sustain ( acoustically ) that i just had to plug it in.

It sounded amazing and played amazingly.

After a while I entered the "expensive room" and picked up and played a number of different Gibson Les Paul standards to compare, but they ALL felt terrible compared to the Epiphone.

The sounds were not any better either! And these were VERY VERY expensive Gibsons.

The second hand price on the Epi plus top was " Mickey mouse money" compared to the highly inflated price of these exclusive Gibson Les Pauls.

People will still buy these average guitars simply because it says "Gibson" on the head.

My Epi guitar may be one of those rare pots of gold that come along every now and again but I would certainly buy another Epi in the future as many of them are guitars of amazing quality and I dont care what is written on the head.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 5 months ago Author

Congrats on finding a gem, Michelleuk! I love to hear stories about how players found that "one" guitar. Great stuff!

Jeff 4 months ago

A little Trivia.... I read years ago that the first person to hear Les Paul's prototype solid body guitar was none other than W.C. Fields. Any truth to that rumor ? I too have a "Pot of Gold" Epi. However, I looked at about 30 guitars before choosing the one that I bought. I agree with M42. If I'm going to buy a Gibson, I'll spend a lot more than $2,000.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 4 months ago Author

Very interesting, Jeff. I have no idea if it's true or not, but certainly interesting.

Matias Chile 3 months ago

Hi i now people it's talking about les pauls but is about diferences between gibson and epiphone.... Well i bought my gibson explorer 06 brand new in 07 on an ebay auction and i'm in love with her, the action is awesome and the tone soo fat for metal is a dream but i only plug her for gigs and recording... four years ago i got epi explorer gothic china made for 250 the begining i just used her for rehersals then i put a 500t pickup the same on the gibson and now i can't really say wich one sounds better maybe you note the diference pluging them with exacts amps and i did it with peavey 6505+ and gibson wins but slighty it's got more sustain... The big diference is weigth distribution in the gibson is just perfect but in the epi the headstock allways is going down... In my experience the chinese does not have to envy too much from the real thing but clearly the gibson is better in every aspect but saying 8 v/s's really depends on your money and if you don't have it go for epiphone.. the quality control realy works there... Pickup replace and thats it tone diference is minimal

Graeme 2 months ago

Whilst this is a good and informative article I always love the it when there are comments about the wood used and whether there are veneers involved etc. Unless the reviewer or the people commenting have actually sawn up lots of Gibsons and Epiphones they really don't know what is under the nice glossy finish. You can see the grain on some guitars through the finish but that's it. You can look in the control cavity but that is usually painted and shielded anyway. The only other way is to visit the factories and see first hand what goes in there and even then they are only going to show you what they want you to see. In my opinion the big difference in price between an EPI and a Gibson is where they are made. It doesn't mean the quality suffers it is simple economics. Labour, factory rent, everything is much much cheaper in Asia. Even when it comes down to hardware and switches far east stuff isn't inferior anymore. They are the world centre for electrical and electronic components. At the end of the day how it sounds and feels comes down to your ears and your fingers and what amp you are going through plus pedals etc, and finally just how important is it to you to have Gibson on the headstock. If you've just shelled out £2,500 for a guitar you are hardly going to say it's got shortcomings even if it has. on the other hand if you find a budget guitar that works really well you will tell everyone what a great deal you got. I have a friend who played with a globally known progressive folk rock band for 25 years. He owns many vintage guitars but he takes great pleasure in making any guitar sound great. How? Ears, fingers, musicality.....oh and he can really play. He still jumps in with local bands now and again and it's really funny when folks come over during the break and see to their dismay that he's playing a budget EPI not a Gibson or his Fender Strat isn't a Fender at all.

Steve 2 months ago

I owed a Gibson LP Studio -- note the past tense. I recently purchased an Epiphone LP Custom Prophecy Plus with EMG pickups for about the same price. So much more guitar, great workmanship and quality and it sounds amazing. The "real" Gibson gave me nothing but trouble after two pro setups. I say just buy an Epi and save your cash!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article