I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
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 making 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. There are both among the best guitar brands in the world. So how do you choose?
It’s a big decision, so let’s get down to it!
You may already know this, but Epiphone is owned by Gibson. That means Epiphone is licensed to use the Les Paul name, and follow Gibson’s specs. That makes an Epiphone not only the best Les Paul copy out there today but in many ways 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.
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.
The Epiphone Les Paul PlusTop PRO
If I were going to recommend one guitar for someone who wants a Les Paul but isn’t convinced they should spend too much money, it would be the Epi LP PlusTop PRO. There are many affordable Les Pauls out there, but this one, I think, is one of the best examples.
It’s a great way to get a real Les Paul without missing a mortgage payment. I’ve owned a few in the past, but the versions I’ve played recently are even better. I think the ProBucker pickups have really narrowed the gap between Epi and Gibson, and judging from the comments I get on this article and others it appears a lot of guitar players feel the same way.
This article covers the main differences between a Gibson and Epi LP, and those are apparent in the PlusTop PRO. It also has a coil-split function for the pickups which is pretty cool and comes in some really beautiful finishes.
I’ll extend my praise to the LP Custom PRO as well. It has the same ProBucker pickups, and in true LP Custom style comes in some classy finishes.
The basic Epiphone Les Paul Standard is a fine guitar too, but it does have the old Alnico Classic humbuckers. These aren’t bad, but I don’t think they are up to par the ProBuckers. Still, it’s one the best electric guitars under $500 you’re going to find.
The Les Paul Guitar Sound
The Gibson Les Paul sound is legendary, and some of the best guitarists in the world play them. 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, this guitar has shaped some of the 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 the price of a few thousand dollars, you have to ask yourself if the Gibson sound is worth that much more to you. Epiphones sound really, really 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, the 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!
Below: Guitar World Reviews the Epiphone Les Paul PlusTop PRO
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 ax with a price tag still lower than a Gibson.
On the other hand, they feature budget-level guitars like the Studio and LP-100. These instruments come in at prices almost any guitar player can afford, so if you really want a Les Paul Epi gives you a way to grab one.
Gibsons has a few relatively affordable options as well, such as their Faded Series instruments (see my 2016 LP Studio Faded below). They cut a few corner to make them more more wallet friendly, but they are still America-made Gibsons.
Les Paul Facts and FAQ
Here are a few more interesting facts you might ponder when considering how closely the Epiphone Les Paul is related to a Gibson.
Is an Epiphone a Gibson?
Gibson owns Epiphone. They are a different company, under the Gibson umbrella.
Who Invented the solid-body electric guitar?
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.
When was the first Les Paul guitar made?
The first Gibson Les Paul was eventually created in 1952. Earlier, Les Paul had approached Gibson about marketing the solid-body electric, but they rejected his ideas. Only when Fender started to capitalize on the solid-body electric did Gibson bring Paul in and begin collaboration on the now-famous guitar that bears his name.
When was Gibson founded?
Gibson was founded in 1903, but Epiphone has been around longer than Gibson. Epiphone had already been making instruments for almost 20 years and had made a name for itself.
When did Gibson buy Epiphone?
The two manufacturers were major competitors throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s, but when Epiphone fell on hard times in 1957 Gibson bought them up.
Who founded Gibson guitars?
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.
That's some interesting info, and we've come pretty far in this article, but I know why you're really here. Let's not delay the big question any longer.
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 three 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 possibly 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
Questions & Answers
Question: Are the pickups on an electric guitar the most important thing when it comes to sound?
Answer: If I were to put the parts of the guitar in order of importance when it comes to how much they each influence sound, I would put the pickups at the top of the list. The pickups, more than any other component of an electric guitar, have the power to shape the sound. They drastically influence the character of an instrument, and they are extremely important, along with the capacitors and the rest of the electronics inside an electric guitar.
But other things are important, too, such as the tonewoods chosen to build the instrument. When I say this, some guitar players immediately take it as some kind of challenge against pickups and electronics, but that’s not the point. Yes, pickups may matter more than anything, but other things matter, too. The wood. The nut. The bridge. The way the neck is attached. The body cavities inside the guitar. Even the paint.
An electric guitar isn’t some artless electrical thing thing like a toaster or microwave oven - it's a complex machine, and someone has put a great deal of thought into the design. Yes, the electronic technology is important, but so is the craftsmanship. Pickups may matter the most, but I think everything matters. To whittle the factors that influence the sound of an electric guitar down to the pickups alone is extremely over simplistic.
Robert D. Hardison on June 29, 2020:
An Epiphone Les Paul with genuine Gibson Pickups or a Gibson from China with Genuine Gibson Pickups with bone nuts and bridge sound exactly like a $3K Gibson made in the USA. I have had both. The solid wood has nothing at all to do with the sound as Les Paul himself told 2 different guitar magazines.
Stephen White (Not Steven White from below comments) on February 25, 2020:
I currently own nothing but Epiphones. I have a standard Les Paul, a standard Les Paul bass, an SG 400, and a custom pro Les Paul. I have nothing but praise for these guitars. I've had the Gibson's as well and they are great guitars, but either I've been extremely lucky in my picking of my Epiphones, or they are just as nice as their Gibson cousins. Back when I had several guitars, 9 to be precise, I offloaded my Gibson's because I knew that I could get a higher price than I could for my Epiphones. The fact that my Epiphones were as good as my Gibson's made that decision a very easy one to make. That's just my opinion, but I don't regret keeping my Epi's over my Gibson's.
Preston Flanders on January 17, 2020:
I've owned both Gibsons and Epiphones. Here's my 2 cents. Pre about 2016 or so Epi was crap. Terrible quality control, just pure junk. That is totally not the case anymore. They have VASTLY improved their quality control. To me, if you stick to the Epi Les Paul Plustop Pro and the Epi Les Paul Tribute Plus you are getting a darn good guitar for the $. I own a Tribute Plus and it has all Gibson electronics and 57 pickups for $849 new. Yes, please and thank you! I got mine used for about $600 and swapped out the plastic nut for bone and boom...I had a dang good guitar that I would put up against anything Gibson in the $1,800 range. Is Epi as good as Gibson USA. No, but if Gibby is a 10 in quality control and sound (being generous here), then Epi is probably an 8.5. I personally think Gibson WAYYYYY overcharges for what you get. They are basically hoping their name will be enough to get you to the pull the trigger. If you just have to have that Gibson name on your headstock, then get it...but you're paying through the nose for that name.
Tim Staffell on December 13, 2019:
Gibson guitars are made in the USA and of much higher quality when it comes to materials and construction. Not necessarily. Some Gibsons are appallingly constructed in comparison to the best Japanese Guitars
Michael James (author) on November 04, 2019:
Hi Keith - I like the Tributes just fine, at least the ones I've played. I only have a couple of issues. First, I don't know why Gibson can't use a mahogany neck on the Tributes. To me, an LP should have a mahogany neck. (If you are getting a 2018 I think they did have mahogany necks, but you might want to double check that.)
Second, they seem a little expensive for what they are. If you are getting a 2018 at a good price this might not matter to you either.
I think they're great guitars. Those are just my two small issues. As usual, what is important is that you love it. Good luck!
Keith Darling on November 02, 2019:
Quickly, I'm going to purch6a Gibson Les Paul Tribute around the 1st of the year.
Yesterday, while driving through a small town, I found a 2003 Epiphone Les Paul Standard. They were selling at 40% off. With a SKB, ATA FLIGHT APPROVED CASE, I spent $150!!!
Now, it's got its share of scratches and needs a few repairs, I pulled out the Pickups to find Epiphone 57 Classic N and B...Neck and Bridge....not to mention, it had Matte/Satin finish on the Neck!!! Plus a Slim Taper!!!
I weighed this Guitar because it sure was HEAVY....12lbs 11.8oz.
Plugged her in and OMG, WHAT A GUITAR.
I've played HISTORIC "AAA's" that where nowhere close to this Guitar!!
This Epi, I'll be keeping for a ling time.
On to the Tributes, I'd love to know you opinion on this Guitar.
They changed the Specs in 2019 so I will be buying a used 2018 or earlier to make sure that I get the Slip Slip Taper Matte/Satin finish Neck.
For some reason, I can't play Hi Gloss Necks...my hands stick like glue!!
The older Tributes are the only Gibson Les Paul I could ever afford!!
Love my Epi but will be buying a Gibson to pass down to my Grandson...hopefully, he'll learn to play....he's only 6 months old!!!...lol...
Looking forward to your opinion on the Tribute!!
Steven White on September 18, 2019:
I have Epi SG Pro. Initially the guitar was dreadful. I would consider it to be not a real instrument at all. Not worth playing however I stuck with it and decided to work on it. I levelled the frets many of which were uneven. Then I got a new neck pickup with alnico II magnets. I rewired to a 50s style sg wiring. After all this it has become a real instrument. I would say that the basics were there to be had like the right woods and half decent pick ups one of which is still in it. However epiphone wiring was wrong and very bad indeed and guitar lacked care & attention to detail like fret-crowning work. I would like to now compare it to a Gibson sg to see how it measured up. Its probably better than a Gibson now! What epiphones lack seems to be how the guitar is finished because these seem to be where shortcuts are made and in the General wiring up of the pots. If you're prepared to sort these issues out Epiphones can make or become true instruments.
Michael James (author) on August 24, 2019:
@seb - That's just not true. Try it yourself. Go to a guitar shop and grab ten guitars off the wall. Different guitars sound differently unplugged, and it is often a good indication of how an electric guitars sounds when plugged in.
And paint most certainly makes a difference, especially when it comes to nitro vs poly.
seb on August 23, 2019:
"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."
What are you smoking? you can't hear a tone difference unplugged unless you use some kind of device to capture and analyze the sound.
"Even the paint makes a difference" ?? yeah the paint changes the tone..lol
Mark Stuart on August 16, 2019:
I bought the Gibson to pass it on to the future generations. I’m not a great player but it’s easier to play good guitars than not
Wizweird on August 02, 2019:
Played my dad's jazzmaster for afew years, then one cold February night, I stand there catching flys,while ,on stage, this 7+foot tall alien was shooting bottle rockets out of the headstock of his lp custom, andaling some sounds I'd never heard before.fast forward many years..I still have the 65jazzmaster,and a 68bandmaster reverb..but longed for that Les Paul custom. I went about 40years, never having a new guitar till I saw the original epi ultra..in cherry sunburst,as well 500 bicks later I'm opening that new box like a kid, and I can honestly say, when I saw that LP, I gasped...my first new guitar...40years later.That lp sits about three feet from my chair, and I play it a ton. Don't even plug it in...also found a new tele, the Nashville one with two Tex mex tele pickups and one strat.I feel now I can go anywhere, and sound good with all types of tunes. Don't be stuck up but thatEP you'll never be sorry.
Michael James (author) on July 19, 2019:
I agree, Tim. There are a lot of incredible guitars on my list, just waiting for me to win the lottery. But until that happens I'm glad Epiphone is around.
Tim Warf on July 18, 2019:
I've been a LP guitar fan my whole life, and I bought an Epi Plus Top Pro last year. I absolutely love this guitar, and wish I would've bought one years ago. I thought I'd never be able to afford an LP, because I had misconception that Epi was a cheap knock off. I was so impressed by the finish I didn't even put the pickguard on it.
As for the pickups, I replaced the ProBuckers with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded Set. The jury is still out on that decision, but I'm considering putting the ProBuckers in the LP II Special I bought first if I don't put them back in the PTP.
All of that being said, I'm sure I'm not the first person to say "if I ever win the lottery, I'll get that Gibson Custom Shop hand aged LP Standard". In all honesty, though, I'm not sure part of the reason why Gibson is facing some of the difficulties they have faced the past few years aren't a direct result of the quality of the Epiphone products at the WAY more affordable pricing.
Michael Lickley on July 03, 2019:
Much fertilizer in this review. What is a "better quality wood" for example. What if any are the effects of using a 3 piece instead of a 1 piece. These things are a matter of cost. If you buy all the mahogany in the world that has the width to make 1 piece bodies, you use this to separate yourself from those that use lower priced wood. Money is not a guarantee of quality. I have never seen a worn out pot on a guitar, broken due to impact or dirty, never worn out. It does not matter what wood an electric guitar is made of you don't hear the wood, electric pickups don't hear at all. They convert changes in a magnetic field into changes in voltage, send it to an amp that converts it into sound. The stiffer and denser the material is the longer the vibrations of the strings will last. This is why tuning forks are made of metal instead of pasta.
Paid2Play on June 12, 2019:
There is a lot of false information here. I love Les Pauls. I have 3 Gibby's (a 1978 Standard, a 1974 Custom, and a 2010 Studio Faded) and an Epi - plus a PRS, a Fender Strat, a Carvin, and a Parker. Every guitar is unique. Even the same model by the same brand varies from guitar to guitar. Unless you have plenty of money saved or have roadies that take care of your equipment, I would recommend an Epiphone LP to anybody that loves LP's and the classic tone of quality humbucker p/u's. (Or a good used 2008-2012 LP Studio Faded w/Burstbucker Pro's if you know where to look and you're willing to wait)
The guy that said "Epiphones just don’t play as well, they don’t have that pin point accuracy in the intonation, the necks aren’t as easy to chord" couldn't be more incorrect. What he needs is a quality set-up.
While it's true that, in most cases, Gibson uses better materials and the maple top is solid vs. veneer, making a blanket statement that a Gibson is always better than an Epi is simply incorrect. My Epiphone Tribute Plus has Gibson '57 Classics in it, Switchcraft electronics, and Mallory-150 tone capacitors. I set it up to play perfectly, it sounds fantastic, and it cost $2200 less than a comparable Gibby. If blindfolded, you couldn't tell if it is a Gibby or an Epi. I had a 1995 Epi Les Paul Standard with the original p/u's but other players thought I had changed the p/u's for BurstBuckers.
That being said, my favorite guitar and the one I play everyday is my 2010 Gibson Studio Faded that came with BBPro's. I found it for $450 and it sounds and plays tremondous. The tag said "used": but it had no sign of wear whatsoever. There wasn't even a light scratrch on the pickguard. A Gibson rep was there and he was just as shocked as I was.
Gerald Priest on June 08, 2019:
Thanks for your explanations on the Epi vs Gibson. I've owned only 2 electric guitars; an Airline that I put flat wound strings on and played it until my little nephew broke the neck on it. And, a Fender Electric 12 String cherry red. I'v owned 3 Epiphone acoustic guitars and all 3 put out great sound. The best one got stolen in Reno. I'd owned it for 5 years. Now I'm thinking electric, and your info has helped me. Thanks again. BTW, Jimmy Page played an Airline during a concert in Ft Worth, and the reviews said that it was the best sounding guitar he played all night.
Sparky DeLong on May 14, 2019:
I picked up an Epiphone PRO-II late last year and I've really enjoyed it. I assumed "just" being an Epi that I'd need to replace the pickups. Tossed a Duncan Distortion in the bridge and... didn't like it as much. Found that I preferred the Probucker, for rock and metal - so I switched them back out just a week ago (and threw the Duncan into a cheap Tele). I've enjoyed the neck and find it a nice guitar to tune down to D with .11 strings on it.
All that being said... now I want a Gibson. The Epi is "nice" but it just lacks something. When played unplugged it feels kind of light and thin; hollow. I played a Gibson Les Paul Studio that a friend had 15+ years ago and I had an Explorer at one time. They both just felt more solid. It's as if they have a heavy growl, even unplugged. The neck on the Explorer was the best I ever played (wish I still had it!).
Anyway... I like the Epi. I do recommend it, especially if you're on a budget. It's a quality guitar and it IS fun to play. But, I want that Gibson. There is a difference. Is it worth the (much) more money for the little more quality? I'm thinking so.
Thk on April 29, 2019:
Epiphones just don’t play as well, they don’t have that pin point accuracy in the intonation, the necks aren’t as easy to chord. In other words a real Gibby is easier to play, gentler on the fingers and helps a musician progress faster.
Carlos Van Hendrix on February 24, 2019:
You can have the most expensive guitar and still sound horrible.
Nothing beats great talent and musicianship.
Tom on February 19, 2019:
Cmi purchased gibson in 1944 and took the name epiphone....epiphone owns gibson
Michael James (author) on February 11, 2019:
@Jesse - I think you made a great choice. The PlusTop PRO may not be a Gibson, but it is a fine guitar that sounds excellent and looks gorgeous. I think you'll love it too!
Jesse Aflleje on February 10, 2019:
I'm 50 and picking up an Epiphone Plustop Pro this weekend. Bought an amp, chords and tuner this weekend and for me it was the same thought process as when I bought my first road bike. I went from $500 to $1000 and $1500+. Then got on a great chat site and an older man (I was like 40) said, first, pick a budget. Then find 2-3 bikes you like in that price range. Then pick the one whose color you like the best. Because you don't even know if you like it yet and have no appreciation of all the little pieces.
So I knew I wanted a Gibson type guitar (my late father had a GIbson ES 335) and based on my budget of under $1000 I set, Gibson was not there and Epiphone was most certainly there. Did research, heard tons of reviews and sounds on YouTube and decided that's what I wanted.
Last weekend I went into a local guitar shop to see if I liked how it felt and I loved it. Chose the color I wanted and told them I'd be back this weekend to pick it up.
From a beginners view, so many pros and cons about wood making a difference or not making a difference and for me, who cares because I don't hear it from one to the other. I understand electronics and pickups are better on the Gibson, but Epiphone still sounds great to me and I'm absolutely sure I'll love my Epiphone.
Robert Laughton on January 10, 2019:
OK just a few thoughts. People who don't like Epi and only buy Gibson and say Epi pickups don't sound as good. then why do they buy the $3000.00 gibson and change the pickups to the ones they like and have in all there other guitars? why don't they buy the Epi and do the same thing and they will have the same sounding guitar for 1/10th the price? The other thing Gibson genuine parts where is the gibson screw and bridge and tuner plant?
Uncle dusty on January 07, 2019:
I beg to differ. My epiphone is much thicker and heavier than any Gibson I’ve played. And the cherry burst on it has a beautiful faded look to it that screams vintage guitar. And the fact that it’s got a flame top.... Oh, it feels so right. It feels like a 58 but heavier, personally, I love that in a guitar. I would love to own a Gibson someday. But I’m happy with my epiphone any day.
Robbie Russell on January 05, 2019:
I've been a solid body player for years Explorers, Flying Vs Les Paul Specials and juniors..my question is this: Is Any Of the Epiphone Les Paul's weight relief..it seems my Epiphones are much heavier. One reason I don't buy Gibsons anymore. I do own a 77-78 Les Paul Pro deluxes with P-90s..I. Use them a lot and very heavy!!!
Roman on December 26, 2018:
As a trained economist, I must say that people usually buy expensive brand names because of this glorified image they have created of the brand in their mind. It’s like when people get thirsty and they automatically think about Coca Cola. Meanwhile tests show that people can’t feel a difference when tasting a cheaper cola product. Marketing people call this ‘brand awareness’ and they create and nurture it by pushing ads on people where their idols are playing Gibsons, essentially saying ‘if you wanna be cool like Slash - buy a Gibson!’. Also there’s network externalities: if people around you play Gibsons, you don’t wanna be the odd one out. All of this is used to make consumers pay a lot more for a product than the actual cost of producing it! This is called exercising market power and is something all companies do. Like when Chinese Huawei first started selling smartphones, they were the cheapest ones. Now that they’ve built up their brand name, they sell for as much as an iPhone. Companies price their goods NOT based on actual materials and construction cost, but on how much people are willing to pay for them, which is again influenced by marketing. Being also an electronics and materials engineer I can say that if stuff like two-piece body vs 3-piece or brass saddle vs steel or a thin layer or maple vs rosewood on the fretboard has any effect on the signal, the effect is so small that it will only be picked up by a super-sensitive lab oscilloscope. Not the human ear. Essentially, only BIG changes in guitar part configuration, like drastically different pickups or drastically different tonewood, will be audible. Like, I highly doubt someone will hear a difference between a Les Paul with a maple neck if the rest is still mahogany, versus a ‘normal’ one.
Michael James (author) on December 23, 2018:
@Briantilb - Not silly at all. Go for it, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with Epiphone or Sqiuer. There is nothing wrong with starting on a more expensive guitar if you can afford it wither. Do what makes you happy!
You are right about Les Paul building the Log at Epiphone, but it was Gibson that eventually developed the guitar. So, Gibson Les Pauls came first, at least on the market. Epis LPs were first made as budget alternatives, but they have gotten really good in recent years.
Briantllb on December 17, 2018:
I'm 62 and about to start to learn to play the guitar, silly I know but what the hell.
I will probably buy an Epiphone LP or a Squier Fender Stratocaster, Not because I can't afford US built Gibson or Fender because I can, but because it would be idiotic for a rank beginner like me to pay Gibson or Fender prices when I can get essentially the same thing for less than a tenth of the price. Oh by the way since Les Paul designed the LOG at Epiphone why are Epiphone LP's not considered the real thing by Gibson fans?
Michael James (author) on November 23, 2018:
@Yael - The basic Les Paul body style and tonewood profile is great for metal, in my opinion. What you really need to look at are the pickups. My Les Paul has BurstBucker Pros, which I think are well-rounded pickups and fine for metal. The 490R/498T sets are a bit hotter I think and perhaps better still for heavy music. Some Gibson pickups are designed with a more vintage sound in mind. If you can't play the guitar in person, try to read up on the characteristics of the pickups or hear some sound samples.
You also may consider an Epiphone or other alternative. Here is an article that may help:
Yael on November 21, 2018:
What kind of Les Paul would sound good for metal
RickyLee3 on October 14, 2018:
The most important ingredient, for any guitar player, regardless of what kind of music your playing, regardless of what guitar you use, are ones fingers, or, what players refer to as "ones touch". I've always maintained, "its the touch, not the tool". So for all of you young guitar players out there, take my words seriously. You can spend all sorts of money, time and energy on guitars, pedals, amps, strings, take all of that time, energy and passion and Play! a good guitar player can make any guitar sound good. Far to many people spend so much time, energy, and money on equipment, thinking that it will make them sound better, what will make you sound better is developing a feel, which you can do on any old guitar that will stay in tune. Take all the time, energy, and effort, you spend on learning about equipment, and put that into your playing, you wont be sorry.
Bob R. on October 11, 2018:
Les Paul, himself, didn't actually like most of the guitars bearing his name. He gave several interviews in Wisconsin (where I am) and mentioned this in a couple. He played a heavily-modified Les Paul Studio, as he did not like all bindings and other 'fancy' crap they toss on the high-dollar models. Further, having played many of the models, I see why he chose the studio model: it just sounds cleaner. That being said, two Epiphone Les Paul models stand out to me and I own both: the silverburst and the Zakk Wylde bullseye--they sound great.
David Clarke on September 13, 2018:
I already own a les Paul but it’s the studio not the standard. But I read and WOW,had a good thought. Epiphone might not sound as good as a Gibson but les Paul the man worked for epiphone. So therefore in a way in my mind a les Paul is a Epiphone guitar not Gibson. Les Paul made it,he worked for Epiphone and it started long before Gibson did. Pity they are made in the Far East but quality wise they do look good and sound good and hope being made under a watchful eye of decent quality control staff. My next guitar will be a Epiphone Les Paul standard for the affordable price and quality. Slash plays a Gibson but gets his for free. Anyway that’s my choice and comments and hope they help. Good playing all!!!!!!!
Michael James (author) on September 12, 2018:
@Scott - Don't sweat it! There is nothing wrong with Epiphone, and in many ways I think they are a better choice for guitarists these days. Play what you can afford and have fun!
Scott on September 11, 2018:
Thank you for the short and informative history of Epiphone/
Gibson connection. This has confused many guitarists
For many years, as the makers of these
Fine guitars. I have enjoyed Epiphone guitars,
And would like a Gibson, but never had the money to afford
Michael James (author) on July 29, 2018:
@CGRT - That was true decades ago. Today, Gibson is the parent company. Gibson and Epiphone were both bought by CMI back in the 1940s. CMI sold out to another company in 1969. In the 1980s they changed ownership again, and rebranded as Gibson Guitar Corp, and later changed the name to Gibson Brands Inc. Epiphone, Tobias, Kramer, etc are all under that Gibson Brands umbrella.
GCGRT on July 28, 2018:
Gibson doesn't own Epiphone. Gibson was bought out by CMI who later bought Epiphone. They are two separate companies owned by the same parent company. Epiphone was given the Les Paul license, as well as other Gibson licenses, by the parent company because Les Paul himself was a huge fan of Epiphone. Epiphone still competes with Gibson under the parent company. Gibson is struggling while Epiphone is sitting pretty on it's pile of cash. Well until the tariffs kick in that is...
T Archuleta on May 31, 2018:
I always said if it’s not a Gibson Les Paul , it’s not a Les Paul. Then my friend bought a epi les Paul can custom pro and I loved it . So the next day I found one in Modesto c. For about 15% of the cost for a new Gibson. Save your money, Epi will get the job done
Mark on May 06, 2018:
Great article, I own 5 Gibson Les Pauls, If I were playing out I would hesitate taking mine. I think they would be a great alternative. Thank you for the info.
Brian conlon on April 25, 2018:
My Epiphone Prophecy comes with Gibson pups and Grover tuners, Mother of pearl and abalone inlays with gold hardware and quilted Maple veneer top with hard case for under a grand. It sounds as good as I can play it although cos I can't put it down it's improved me immensely. I play at home for fun.
Ralph Bush on April 10, 2018:
I recently bought an Epiphone Les Paul Pro Plus Top,with Honey Burst finish. I own and love two Fenders, a 2005 Deluxe Stratacastor and a 2016 Elite Telecaster. I wanted too add to the collection a Les Paul sound. I am pleased with the quality of sound from my Epi and found it to be pleasingly affordable. I may not have the "PURE" 1950s Gibson sound but I don"t play through Marshall Stack Walls either. The Epi sound is very good and is a different tonality than my Fenders. Different animals for different sounds. I just bought a Trans Blue Epi Les Paul for my son's 25th birthday and he is a happy young man.
Leland McKinney on April 10, 2018:
I have a 2015 epiphone les Paul standard pro and bang for buck I have no complaints what so ever, I've owned both the Gibson and epi model, and in my 40 plus years of playing I still prefer the epi over Gibson, bang for buck!!!!!
George on April 01, 2018:
Have owned Epi Les Pauls and Gibson Les Pauls. I currently have an Epi 1960 tribute plus Les Paul which comes with Gibson 57 classic pickups and a maple cap and solid mahogany body. This guitar is top notch and IS a les Paul through and through. Sounds and feels like a Gibson for a quarter of the price. Don't know how Gibson allows this guitar to be built. Must be taking a huge portion of sales away from Gibson with this amazing guitar.
Rick on March 26, 2018:
I think today most musicians would love to have a Gibson Les Paul for recording and an equal model Epi for performing. A change of electronics on an Epiphone can do wonders to the sound. Everything else being equal. I believe this is the main difference. And to upgrade an Epiphone this may be all that is really needed. As things go, I foresee when the bottom of guitar pricing will fall out. People will be looking to sell guitars and it will be a buyers market.
Big kev on March 15, 2018:
@guitar gopher tbh I’ve played guitars with maple and mahogany necks and to be honest I don’t think I could tell the difference in a blind play test but I do like the feel of the slim tapper.
As for the pick ups, I’m one to change pups quite bit but these will do for now, and for me the price increase was just the right side of acceptable.. I understand inflation and cost increases but I do feel sometimes Gibson pull their prices out of the air.
Michael James (author) on March 14, 2018:
@old Chicago guy - You will likely need to do some soldering to install new pickups. I'm also not sure the P-90s will fit correctly without modification. If you ask this question over on the Gibson forums they will probably be able to provide you with specifics.
@Big kev - I have a 2016 Les Paul Studio Faded and I absolutely love it. My only complaints with the 2017 and 2018 versions is they went back to a maple neck and changed the pickups. And the price went up.
I agree about the QC.
Big kev on March 13, 2018:
I recently purchased a 2018 Gibson les Paul faded t. Yes it’s the bottom of the line up but the stripped back looks actually appeal to me. The actual build quality is superb but I must admit I have some issues with the finish, lacquer bubbles on the neck behind the fifth an twelfth frets and One spot at the neck join that looks like a finger print and the pots rattle, although they work fine and don’t crackle they aren’t as stiff as you’d expect from a Gibson and none of those things prompted me to return it even though it probably shouldn’t have left the factory like that and Gibson should have tighter QC, I also hold the shop I bought it from to account for those issues, I feel that if they were a little stricter about what they are willing to accept and sell on Gibson may have no choice but to shape up. that said it plays and sounds fantastic despite the action being a little high for me, I never understand why people complain about the set up of a guitar when it comes from factory and label the guitar trash or junk, action is a personal thing so it seems unlikely that they’re going to have set it up exactly to your liking.
Michael James (author) on February 19, 2018:
@dharris - I've read that too re: Gibson, but I've not experienced it myself. I haven't played a 2018 yet, but the 2017s I played were very good. My advice is to get out there and play a few and forget about the rumors.
I haven't heard/read anything negative about Epiphone.
You can save a few bucks going with a pre-owned instrument, especially if you are considering a Gibson.
dharris on February 18, 2018:
I am hearing a lot of negative issues with Gibson quality recently(2017-2018). I would like to know if Epiphone is experiencing the same issue seeing that they are both owned by the same company. Should I be looking for an older used Gibson or Epiphone instead?
Al Sautner on February 11, 2018:
I have both Guitars and both play well and look great. I have had the guitars for over 15 years each. They both play well and both sound really the same. You can not tell the difference. I have seen newer Epiphones that do not sound as good. I think when I got the guitars the quality of the units were much better. I love them both.
Michael James (author) on October 17, 2017:
Thanks Nick! That's a gorgeous guitar. Congrats!
Nick on October 17, 2017:
Great article. Very helpful and reassuring that Epiohones aren't half bad! Good to know because I just purchased a Epi limited edition les paul custom pro koa!
Michael James (author) on August 16, 2017:
@Steve -Glad you love your guitar! The Tributes are a bargain for what you get. It's scary to see how good Epis can be with a few upgraded components.
Steve Strunk on August 15, 2017:
I have owned a 74 Gibson Les Paul but now play Epiphone Les Paul Ultra II and the Epiphone 2010 Tribute. I love the tuner, usb, and light weight of the Ultra III, but the 2010 Tribute with Gibson pickups just feels like my old Gibson Les Paul plus you get the push-pull tone pots to give you a variety of almost Strat like sounds. If I had to own just one electric, it would be the Epiphone 2010 Tribute followed closely by a 1985 Fender Contemporary Strat. Just my 2 cents!
Matt Zalac on July 25, 2017:
I bought my Epi Les Paul Classic after playing quite a few of Guitar Center's wall full. Quality/playability varied greatly. Conveniently this store also had a nice stock of Gibsons to compare. Bottom line, try before you buy. I love my Epi and it is exceptional in fit, finish and sound. I guess a blanket statement is not valid from what I have seen They are close enough where a one to one comparison needs to be used.
Michael James (author) on July 07, 2017:
@Raymond. A lot of players who loved Gibson Les Pauls and gave up guitar go for an Epiphone when they come back to the instrument. It's a smart choice. Good luck!
Raymond on July 06, 2017:
I dreamed a drooled over a Gibson Les Paul when I was a teenager who was sure I was going to be a rock star in a few years. Now I'm a grown up who hasn't played in decades. I want a guitar to use with Rocksmith, so I'm going to buy an Epi.
chris on June 13, 2017:
buy an epiphone and save up for a better quality amp if you're just starting up
Michael James (author) on June 02, 2017:
@ Murray: No hate here, bro! I mostly play a Gibson myself these days. If you (or me) find the right one, there is sure nothing wrong with that. I do appreciate the Epis though, and I think for many players they are "just right". Thanks for the kind words, and love the covfefe reference, BTW!
@ John: I suspect Gibson holds the Epis back just enough so they never really cross into competitive territory with their expensive instruments, quality-wise. They came somewhat close with their Elitist series. However, that doesn't mean they aren't awesome guitars, totally capable of doing the job for professional musicians. Glad you love your Epi!
John on June 02, 2017:
I couldn't afford a Gibson Les Paul, so I bought a Epiphone. It's been great so far, so I'm gonna encourage others to buy it. The main reason is I get almost the same sound from both & I love playing my Epiphone. I reckon everyone would buy an Epiphone if all the big names were playing them; so in the long run, it's all a matter of how you play it & what tone you create....
Murray on June 01, 2017:
Hi Guitar Gopher, great article. It was about 2 months ago when I read this and all the comments. I had just bought a new Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute and wanted so much just to love it till the end of days (I'm 60). Not to be. I brought it back along with a 1990 Gibson LP Studio and Fender Tele (US Special) and traded 3 guitars for a single brand new 2016 Gibson Les Paul Traditional. Sorry but there is no comparison and I am now a Gibson snob that we all hate...not because I want to but because the difference in feel, quality, playability, and sound just makes it that way. Hate me if you must but just know that there is no covfefe between the Epiphone and Gibson...
Taz4965 on April 01, 2017:
hi folks, played epi's for years. For my 50th birthday bought a Gibson lp standard. Difference is huge frankly. I then found I had some cash for a Gibson lp 'tribute' model which I got for a real saving, getting the 2016 model after the 2017 models had been released. Again, feel so much better than an epi but was approx £100 more. Maybe do a comparison between top epi and bottom Gibson, you'll be surprised!
Edwin Haorokcham on April 01, 2017:
I have an epiphone les paul pro plustop. It's really an awesome piece! The clean sound is unbelievable. I know Gibson is a better guitar but still I'm really satisfied with my piece!
Michael James (author) on March 26, 2017:
@Joe: The Standard is a fine guitar, especially for the price. But I think you'll see a big difference when you get your hands on a PlusTop PRO. A few dollars more, but totally worth it in my opinion. Good luck! Either is a great choice.
@Greg: Congrats on snagging a great Epi! I like the Custom PRO a lot, and probably would have grabbed one if Gibson hadn't come out with the LP Studio Faded last year. If I were making the choice this year I think I'd have gone with the Epiphone.
Joe on March 25, 2017:
Still a hot topic after years. When i started playing the guitar i thought there is nothing better than Gibson on the market (I was repeatedly told so). I probably could afford a Gibson by now but as a hobby player that only plays at home for fun the difference is just not worth 2k for me. Played the Epiphone LP Standart today at my local guitar store which is just about 450$ and i absolutely loved it. The was no Custom Pro in stock but i hope i can test that one too soon and maybe get one of them. Very helpful article to justify my own decision :)
Greg on March 25, 2017:
Thanks for the great article. It helps explain why there is such an extreme difference in price between Gibson and Epi, and really makes you think about what is important to you when making your decision between the two.
I got back into guitar last year after playing off and on for many years. I wanted a Gibson LP and was thinking of going with a brand new one in Pelham Blue. While I was shopping, I came across a used Epiphone LP Custom Pro in Silverburst. It has the two stage volume and tone controls to switch between single and double coil. The guitar was six months old and had barely been played. I fell in love with it and was able to get it for about one tenth of the price of the Pelham Blue Gibson I had my eye on.
Anyway, I now have a beautiful, great sounding guitar, and still have some money in the bank. I may change my mind and upgrade down the road (upgrade? who am I kidding, I never get rid of guitars, only add to my collection), but this guitar is just right for me right now. Thanks again for the article.
Michael James (author) on March 21, 2017:
@matt tan: I can't tell you how many times I've heard similar stories. Guy played a Gibson back in the day. Guy quits music. Guy decides to get back into guitar after many years. Guy passes out when he sees the price of a new Gibson. Guy grabs an Epiphone instead and loves it. Awesome!
This is why I always say Epis aren't just for new players. They're for anyone who loves Gibson guitars, but for whatever reason doesn't love the price.
Enjoy your new Epiphone and thanks for your comment!
matt tan on March 21, 2017:
I had several gibsons (les Paul black , custom horn cream 3 pu, sg , sd 175) in the 70s when i was playing pro. I also had Fender (telecaster, jeff beck signature, 330) , i still have photos as proof on my website LOL.
last month after decades of retirement from music, i decided to return to my first love ie. playing the guitar and composing.
i looked at the price of my 175 today, or theCustom and LP, i shook my head , wish i had kept them. anyway, i finally settled for an Epiphone tribute plus, wine color. i never expected much when i ordered it. today after a month of playing, i tell you, i can't tell the diff between this epiphone and my gibson originals of the 70s. except this one stays in tune hell of a lot better and sings sweetly . will i pay 6k for a recreation gibson 175???? hell ffs, no!!!
Sambo on March 21, 2017:
I own both, I play my Epiphone because it is more comfortable sitting down or standing up. I love my Gibson mostely because it say's Gibson on the headstock,,most people want a Gibson just because it say's GIBSON,,but with new P90 & P93 my Epiphone sounds just as good as my Gibson,,just in a different way. Whatever,,I love both guitars. Of course the Gibson will increase in value while the Epiphone probely will not,,but at my age it doesn't matter,,I will always keep both. Just for your information my Epiphone is a 2000 Korean model,,the Chinese models I will not comment on,,A Chinese Epiphone will just not do it for me.
Tommy Guitar on February 22, 2017:
I've been playing guitar for forty years and still gig on weekends so have owned many guitars and three of them gibson les pauls and two epiphone les pauls.I've had alot of problems with the gibby's as far as bad necks and tuning issues but only needed a small set up with the epi's except one bad pickup selector switch.Just purchased a new epi trditional pro and can't get over the quality of this one from past epi purchases.The bad part is I lost alot of money selling my gibsons because of problems but very happy with the sound of this new epi.
troy46 on February 13, 2017:
congrats on writing a article that receives comments two year later.I havent read any comments about buying U.S. built products.Here in beautiful Flint Mi. They used to take it pretty serious.You couldnt drive a foreign built car without getting keyed or at least spit on.Then G.M. showed their loyalty to the U.S. Worker by leaving this town in a cloud of haz-mat dust.Im just starting to play guitar.Im 55 and have always wanted to play but kids and work took up my leisure hours.I appreciate your honesty and will ne looking for a epi Les Paul. Southern rock and slide rule the southern rock I love demand it. thanks for the honest comparison
Eric on January 13, 2017:
I have both, Epis and Gibsons and my Epis are easier to play and the sound's as sweet or sweeter than the Gibsons.
Mark on January 10, 2017:
it's always been a $$ issue for me. I've played junk my whole life so an Epi is a step up for me in quality.. also for me it is about the tone and the feel.
sah dude on January 10, 2017:
cool ax bra
Cully on January 08, 2017:
I've owned a Gibson Les Paul before. I just bought the Epiphone Traditional Pro II Jan 2017. It plays and sounds amazing! I think Epi has really stepped up their game over the years. No doubt Gibsons are made with hire quality wood/parts etc. but for the price, you can't go wrong with a mid level to hire end Epiphone. After owning my first Epiphone and playing it out one gigs, I have no issues and it continues to impress for a fraction of the cost of the Gibson.
Bryce on December 29, 2016:
After fifty years of playing acoustic and acoustic/ electric guitars except for a couple of band years back in the sixties. Being at the point in my life that I could afford a new Les Paul. I drove into a big guitar shop up in the LA area to try a few guitars and amp combos. The shop had a bunch of new and classic used guitars. I spent the largest part of the day. The result came down to , of all the instruments I tried that day I walked out with an EPI LP PRO Plus top in Redwine. To my 65 year old ears with me and another person playing so I could listen it sounded and felt the best. I am very happy with my Les Paul .
Michael James (author) on December 16, 2016:
@John: I'm glad you were able to get the guitar you wanted, even if it took a little perseverance. It has to be so tough finding the right lefty guitar, especially if you are into the Les Paul single-cut design.
John Keene on December 15, 2016:
I just bought an Epiphone. Les Paul Custom Pro. I play left hand, so its always difficult for me to find a good guitar. I keep hearing and reading, "Try out many guitars!" Well, usually, you can't find many lefty guitars. And they are always so pricey. I have a Gibson LP studio, lefty. Its been a very nice guitar. It fell over in the case last month and the head stock broke. You know how that goes. I got it repaired, but I decided to look for a new on as well. Gibson doesn't offer a huge selection of lefty Les Pauls. They have a cheap studio, and then they go up to as much as $5000 from there. I love the Frampton Les Paul but Gibson told me to get lost when I asked them about a lefty. Reverb.com offers a couple of beautiful classic black beauty lefties, but $6500+ is a bit out of my range. I went to Guitar Center to look at the Epiphone. Les Paul Pro. They told me they wouldn't special order it for me. I said, "but its available at Epiphone", he guy said, sorry dude, and walked off. Guitar Center sucks! I finally called Sweetwater, ordered it cold online. I love it! Like the article said, Eddy V. or any other great guitarist is going to sound great on an Epiphone, but I could play a $8500 dollar classic Les Paul and it wouldn't make any difference. I love to play..........the Epiphone is a little bit different from my Les Paul Studio, but the difference is negligible. I will never make a living with my guitar, so I don't see the advantage of a Gibson. But for me, the Epiphone was the right choice. I don't feel let down, but it has always been my dream to have a Gibson. With age, I've decided, to others, it may look better for me to play a Gibson, but for me, the Epiphone does the trick.
Michael James (author) on December 09, 2016:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, figmo! Always great to get the opinion of a veteran guitarist.
figmo on December 08, 2016:
"Gibson guitar is solid wood versus Epiphone which is veneer...." Just not true. Look at the wood on the top of the Gibson LP above. See that line down the middle where the two pieces of top flamed maple join together? The thickness is just enough to accomodate the contour of the top. No manufacturer in their right mind would build that kind of top from a piece of solid 2" thick piece of high quality flamed maple. And they would not make the top from two pieces split down the middle when they can use a slab of inexpensive mahagony and top it off with thinner piece of maple ).
Besides the top isn't really "veneer" anyway. Veneer is usually around 0.05" think and only installs over a perfectly flat top. When the top is contoured like an LP or other carved top guitar, the top wood is really about 1/2 inch inch thick maple (that's not really "veneer").
The quality of the wood in a Gibson isn't significantly different than an Epi. Everyone buys their woods from the same sources and then stores it in humidity controlled rooms until time to make a run of guitars.
It is all part of the Gibson marketing "mystique". If your product is very expensive and all the top players use it, it must be better than the lower priced competition right?
Wrong ! It is just a marketing strategy. The strategy is : 1. Give your product to all the top bands so people will associate your product with good sound, 2. Keep the price very high so people will think it is higher quality.
Since most musicians are not scientists or science oriented it's easy to convince them that the Gibson name means magical tone. They will sound just like Santana or [insert your fav guitar player's name here]. There are slight differences in tone between guitar makers BUT nothing that cannot be compensated for by small adjustments in amp tone controls.
Your sentence above "Epiphone is made by [blank]. The word Gibson should have been at the end of the sentence. Yes, Gibson owns Epiphone and has for several decades. It's all a marketing strategy. A lot of players don't want to pay $3000 for a guitar that should really sell for $700 (the price of an equivalent Epiphone). So they will buy an Epi. I've played them both. There were slight difference in tonal characteristics between the two brands but nothing that I couldn't compensate for by adjusting the tone controls a bit on the amp. And as far as build quality--the Epi's are flawless ! Workmanship is excellent ! I've seen new Gibson's that showed poor craftsmanship, but the Epi's I have seen were all of the finest craftsmanship. It doesn't matter really WHERE they were built. All the manufacturers know that to compete in this marketplace your craftsmanship and aesthetics must be the very highest. The geographic location of the factory does not matter !
Besides, if you play two Gibsons of the same brand they will sound a little different due to differences in wood density. Wood isn't a uniform homogenous material, even wood taken from the same board varies in density and tonal characteristcs.
I'd rather adjust my amp tone slightly and save $2300!
This is just my opinion.
I've been playing guitar for over 40 years and have owned a dozen different guitars.
Some people just have to have a Gibson, (they have been so conditioned by the really great Gibson marketing department) and my son is one of them.
He wants a Gibson L5. That's about $9000 new from the custom shop!
Maybe I can convince him to just adjust his amp's tone slightly. He could buy 10 Epiphones for the same price!
Michael James (author) on December 06, 2016:
You got me there, Russ! Well done! You can indeed get the Studio model for under thousands of dollars.
Russ on December 05, 2016:
The author has indicated that all Gibson Les Pauls cost "thousands of dollars". That is not the case. Yes, the custom models do cost thousands. But, a new Studio model can be bought for less than 2k, which is not"thousands". I recently bought new 2017 Gibson Les Paul Standard for $2,450. That price may seem high to many, and it is. But, to say that "Les Pauls costs thousands" is a little bit over the top.
Michael James (author) on November 28, 2016:
Glad I could help, Hector. Epiphones are fine guitars. You can always save your pennies for a Gibson down the road.
Hector on November 28, 2016:
Thanks guitar gopher you really made up my mind I couldn't make up my mind to buy a epiphone LP or a Gibson LP I'm definitely getting a epiphone LP as my first electric guitar
MATT on November 16, 2016:
the only thing I was disappointed with the epiphone les paul is that the sound tends to get muddy and doesn't produce the clear tone like the strats do, but it is great for playing the blues.
Steve on August 06, 2016:
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!
Graeme on August 03, 2016:
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.
Matias Chile on July 16, 2016:
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 usd....at 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 10...it'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
Michael James (author) on June 27, 2016:
Very interesting, Jeff. I have no idea if it's true or not, but certainly interesting.
Jeff on June 26, 2016:
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.
Michael James (author) on May 12, 2016:
Congrats on finding a gem, Michelleuk! I love to hear stories about how players found that "one" guitar. Great stuff!
Michelleuk on May 11, 2016:
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.
Michael James (author) on July 29, 2015:
Thanks for your input, Mike! When Epiphone can impress a veteran guitarist like yourself it shows they are really on the right track.
Mike on July 29, 2015:
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.
M42 on July 22, 2015:
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.
Michael James (author) on June 23, 2015:
Good luck with your new LP, AnonymousZ! With the Aqua finish that's a great-looking guitar.
AnonymousZ on June 22, 2015:
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....
Michael James (author) on April 20, 2015:
I noticed that. The plastic top is present in wide shots and missing in closer shots. Sorry about your LP Deluxe!
Epiphone quality on April 19, 2015:
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.
Michael James (author) on February 23, 2015:
@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!