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The 5 Best Alternatives to the Gibson SG Standard

Updated on December 18, 2016
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

When I was a kid I listened to the classic rock stations on the radio, and it seems like AC/DC were played at least once every hour. When I got just a little older I got into Black Sabbath, and wondered why I'd hadn't sought out their music sooner. Sabbath wasn't played on Texas classic rock radio as much as it should have been. Angus Young and Tony Iommi sure made the music memorable, and they did it playing Gibson SG Standard guitars.

There are plenty more heroes of the Gibson SG, of course. The SG Standard is only the single most successful product Gibson guitars ever produced. I'm not making that up, by the way. The SG doesn't get the glory the Les Paul gets, but it does get purchased more frequently. The Gibson SG Standard is a damned fine guitar, and you'll not find folks who think otherwise very often, but a new one today costs well more than a thousand dollars.

If you're like me, the chances of having more than a thousand bucks to drop on a guitar in the near future aren't so good. Well, there are options. A lot of the reason Gibson guitars cost so much is tied up in their name recognition, history, and their being built in the USA. All these are fine things, but what's a poor boy to do?

SG style guitars offer some advantages the Les Paul style guitars do not

Sometimes people think because most Les Paul guitars are more expensive than most SG guitars that the Les Paul must be a better guitar. This is a misconception for many reasons. One of the reasons the Les Paul is more expensive is because it has a carved maple top on the body. Maple is expensive, and carving a maple top to put on the body of the Les Paul costs a lot in both labor and material. There is nothing about that maple top which makes the Paul objectively better or worse.

Maple weighs a lot. Les Paul guitars always weigh more than SG guitars, and if you stand and play for hours at a time, that Les Paul can really put a lot of strain on your shoulders and back. The SG can be the superior option for that reason alone. Another thing is the double cutaway of the SG gives you easy access to all the frets on the guitar. The upper frets on the Les Paul aren't nearly so accessible.

So whether we're talking about Gibson, Epiphone, ESP, Schecter, or any other manufacturer who offers a LP style guitar with a carved maple top, and an SG style double cutaway guitar of a thinner mahogany body, there are some advantages to owning and playing the SG guitar. Even were the price not an issue, the lesser weight and greater fretboard accessibility would be considerable advantages. The 2017 Gibson SG Standard is our benchmark here, a wonderful guitar, but priced in the neighborhood of fifteen hundred dollars. The purpose of this page is to explore less expensive options.

Epiphone G-400 professional

Epiphone G-400 Pro demonstration

The Epiphone G-400 is a super obvious thing to include in an article such as this one. It is also a great guitar that can literally do everything the SG Standard can do, and do it at less than one third the price. The Gibson SG Standard is now sporting Gibson's premium '57 Classic pickups. Those are some of the finest pickups Gibson makes. And the Gibson SG gets a fancier finish.

I'd never say the SG Standard HP isn't a better guitar. But I will say that were one to drop the '57 Classic pups into the G-400 pro, you'd likely never be able to hear a difference between the two. The fact you can literally purchase three G-400 pros for the price of a new SG Standard, and have a few hundred bucks left over really stands out to me here.

Another thing which is extremely important to certain types of player is the coil split feature. It's a nice and very cool electronics upgrade, but only for people who use it. The Epiphone G-400 pro, like the SG Standard, is equipped with coil splitting capability. Coil taps or splits certainly provide some diversity one would have to work harder to get otherwise; it is really a matter of whether or not you want single coil tones.

Epiphone G-400 Professional features:

  • Mahogany double-cutaway body
  • 24.75" Scale set-in mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • 22 Medium jumbo frets
  • Trapezoid fretboard inlay
  • Alnico Classic Pro neck humbucker with coil-split
  • Alnico Classic Pro Plus bridge humbucker with coil-split
  • LockTone tune-o-matic bridge
  • LockTone stopbar tailpiece
  • Wilkinson Vintage Classics, 14:1 ratio
  • Case sold separately

ESP LTD Viper-1000

ESP-LTD VIPER 1000 demonstration

You can see the ESP LTD Viper is offset a little from the Gibson SG in terms of body shape. It is an aggressive look for a guitar made for aggressive music. ESP has long excelled at making guitars heavy metal guitarists want to own and play.

There are less expensive versions of the Viper. The Viper 1000 is the top of the line. It's a beautiful guitar with all that binding and inlay. Be certain you realize the Viper 1000 is available with EMG pickups, or with Seymour Duncan pickups. The most of them you will see will have the EMG 81/85 active pickups set, however.

You do not get coil splitting or coil tapping with the Viper. The Viper is all about its humbucking crunch, bark, and growl. So if a Gibson SG is what feels the most wonderful in your hands, but its passive pickups aren't quite mean enough for you, then the Viper 1000 is the exact guitar you are looking for.

These guitars have an ebony fingerboard. Don't yell at me, or anything, please; but I think of ebony fingerboards as superior to rosewood fingerboards. Yes, I'm saying the SG and the Les Paul would both be better guitars were they to have ebony fretboards. I'm a bit of a heretic, but I'm not the only one.

The Viper 1000 is also a two octave guitar. What this means is you've got 24 frets to play with, two more than come on the Gibson SG. The scale length of this guitar, however, is still the comfortable and traditional scale length Gibson is so well known for. These guitars aren't inexpensive. They go for around eight hundred dollars, and are worth every last penny.

ESP LTD Viper-1000 Solidbody Electric Guitar Features:

  • The Viper 1000 has a Mahogany Body with a 3 piece Mahogany Neck and an Ebony Fingerboard
  • This guitar comes equipped with a TonePros Locking TOM Bridge and LTD Locking Tuners
  • It has a Set-Neck Construction and 24.75" Scale
  • 24 Extra Jumbo Frets and a Thin-U Neck Contour
  • The pickups are active EMG 81(b) & EMG 85(n)
  • The controls are Vol/Tone with a Toggle Switch

Paul Reed Smith S2 Mira

PRS S2 Mira demonstration

A company as big and long lived as Gibson will make some enemies over time. Well, some folks dislike Gibson the big company. It doesn't mean they don't like the guitars. Paul Reed Smith is probably not a huge fan of the current Gibson management.

Well, Paul Reed Smith is probably too busy maintaining his absolutely fabulous reputation as a guitar man to think so often about how Gibson tried to sue him once. Paul just wants to forever build and sell better guitars than he did yesterday. Let me tell you, that's a hard thing to have as a goal, but the man will likely find a way.

The PRS S2 line of guitars is all new. They are also made in the USA, and if buying US made guitars is important to you, but you also don't like the way the Gibson people do things, then hey, PRS might just be exactly what you're looking for.

One thing I don't think people always realize about PRS guitars is everything on one is made by PRS. So many companies will use pickups, bridges, tuning machines, or other parts which were made by another company. That's not how Paul Reed Smith does things at all, every last part of a PRS guitar was manufactured by the Paul Reed Smith guitar manufacturing company.

So the PRS S2 Mira is similar to a Gibson SG in some ways, but it is every molecule a PRS production. All the essential elements of an SG are here, a mahogany body, a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard, and two humbucking pickups. It also offers coil splits. The scale length used is ever so slightly longer than the Gibson SG's 24.75", PRS S2 Mira is 25".

This guitar is not so inexpensive, however. The PRS S2 Mira with typically sells for twelve hundred dollars. If you opt for the dot inlays instead of the birds in flight, you can get it for less.

Paul Reed Smith S2 Mira Features:

  • Body Wood: Asymmetric Beveled Thin Mahogany
  • Number of Frets: 25"
  • Neck Wood: Mahogany
  • Fretboard Wood: Rosewood
  • Neck Shape: Pattern Regular
  • Fretboard Inlays: Dots
  • Bridge: PRS Stoptail
  • Tuners: PRS S2 Locking Tuners
  • Truss Rod Cover: "Mira"
  • Hardware Type: Nickel
  • Treble Pickup: S2 Mira Treble
  • Bass Pickups: S2 Mira Bass
  • Pickup Switching: Volume and Push/Pull Tone Control with 3-Way Blade Pickup Switch
  • Includes gig bag

Schecter S1

Schecter Guitar Research S-1 discussion and demonstration

Even the least expensive Schecter guitars enjoy a fine reputation these days. The Schecter S-1 isn't even close to being one of their least expensive instruments, and when you read enough reviews about the things, or even better, go test drive one yourself; you'll know they why concerning that reputation. All the elements of an SG are found here, though the body is clearly its own shape.

Friends, I don't know where you stand with bridges. I hope we can all agree we shouldn't be burning any of them. As for myself, I'm well enamored of the tune-o-matic and stop-bar tailpiece assembly. These fine Gibson style pieces of equipment always just feel right to me. This Schecter S-1, like thousands of other guitars, feature these fine and well established pieces of hardware.

The elements of an SG in the Schecter S-1 don't stop anywhere near the bridge. The body is mahogany, the neck is mahogany, the scale length is the time honored Gibson traditional, and there is the two humbucking pickups. Rosewood fingerboard? You guarantee bet there is a rosewood fingerboard.

The humbuckers are Schecter brand, and they are passive. So this guitar is really meant to provide a lower cost substitute to the Gibson SG Standard. Coil tapping? Yes Sir, we do have coil taps here in the form of the infamous push-pull pots.

Schecter's easily identifiable head-stock is pretty cool. You don't mistake a Schecter for something else once you are familiar with that head-stock. Their fretboard positioning marker inlay work is also something all their own. Schecter guitars are built in South Korea, but they're shipped to California for some professional finishing and set-up work.

What are the damages here? Schecter's S-1 is currently going for six hundred bucks. It does absolutely everything the SG Standard does at roughly one half the cost. I don't want you to take my word for this being every bit as good a guitar as the SG Standard, I want you to go play one yourself, and then remember how random writer on the internet told the truth about a thing.

Schecter Guitar Research S-1Features:

  • Body shape: Double cutaway
  • Body type: Solid body
  • Body material: Solid wood
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Body finish: Satin
  • Neck shape: C thin
  • Neck wood: Mahogany 3-piece
  • Joint: Set-in
  • Scale length: 24.75"
  • Truss rod: Dual-action
  • Neck finish: Gloss
  • Fretboard Material: Rosewood
  • Radius: 14"
  • Fret size: Extra-jumbo
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Inlays: Tempest
  • Nut width: 1.65" (42mm)
  • Schecter Brand Passive Pickups Configuration: HH
  • Neck: Diamond Plus
  • Bridge: Diamond Plus
  • Special electronics: Push/pull tone control
  • Control layout: Volume 1, volume 2, master tone
  • Pickup switch: 3-way
  • Coil tap or split: Coil tap
  • Fixed Bridge design: Tune-o-matic
  • Tailpiece: Stopbar
  • Tuning machines: Grover, Black Chrome in Color
  • Country of origin: South Korea

Yamaha RevStar RS820CR

In the 1970s when the Japanese were copying Fender and Gibson left and right and creating the large genre of guitars we now refer to as 'lawsuit guitars,' they made outright copies of Les Paul and SG instruments. Well, Yamaha was in the thick of it. They made copies so dang well everyone wants to own one now.

These days they make all sorts of original guitars. The RevStar guitars are another one of their fine offerings. There are a lot of models of RevStar, but the one I'm discussing here is the one most similar to Gibson's SG Standard in specifications and performance.

This guitar has all the things the SG has in major specs. Mahogany body, mahogany neck, set neck construction, two humbuckers, Gibson's scale length, so forth and so on. But this RevStar has a maple top on it. So what you have here is something also similar to a double cutaway Les Paul. And yet it is also sporting some original features.

This model features VH5+ pickups with Alnico V magnets, German silver baseplate and heavy formvar wire for bright, powerful, balanced vintage/modern sound. What's coolest here is the 'dry switch.' The push-pull tone pot activates the Dry Switch. The Dry Switch filters out low frequencies to give the punch and clarity of a single-coil pickup minus the inevitable hum and hollow tone often associated with split humbucking pickups.

This is a thousand dollar guitar. It'll do everything the Gibson SG Standard will do, and you'll have something with this instrument few others will have, for these guitars are very new. Great looks, great sound, and great value found here.

Yamaha RevStar RS820CR Features:

  • Body shape: Double cutaway
  • Body type: Solid body
  • Body material: Solid wood
  • Top wood: Maple
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Body finish: Gloss
  • Neck wood: Mahogany
  • Joint: Set-in
  • Scale length: 24.75"
  • Truss rod: Standard
  • Neck finish: Gloss
  • Fretboard Material: Rosewood
  • Radius: 13.75"
  • Fret size: Jumbo
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Inlays: Dot
  • Yamaha Brand Pickups Configuration: HH
  • Neck: VH5+ Vintage output humbucker with satin nickel cover
  • Bridge: VH5+ Vintage output humbucker with satin nickel cover
  • Active or passive pickups: Passive
  • Series or parallel: Series
  • Special electronics: Push/pull tone control, Dry switch
  • Control layout: Master volume, tone
  • Pickup switch: 3-way
  • Fixed Bridge design: Tonepros AVT-II
  • Chrome Color Tuning machines: Die-cast
  • Case: Gig bag
  • Country of origin: Indonesia

Yamaha Revstar RS820cr demonstration

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    • asifahsankhan profile image

      asifahsankhan 7 months ago

      Very impressive.

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