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The 5 Best Alternatives to the Gibson SG Standard

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.


SG-Style Guitars: Alternatives to the Gibson SG Standard

When I was a kid, I listened to the classic rock stations on the radio, and it seemed 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 that 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 an 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.


1. Epiphone G-400 Professional

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 that is extremely important to certain types of players 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

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2. ESP LTD Viper-1000

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. 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

Paul Reed Smith S2 Mira

3. Paul Reed Smith S2 Mira

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 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 S1

4. Schecter S1

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 are the two humbucking pickups. Rosewood fingerboard? You 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 a random writer on the internet told the truth about a thing.

Schecter Guitar Research S-1 Features:

  • 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

Yamaha RevStar RS820CR

5. 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

Questions & Answers

Question: Why did you only compare the alternatives to the higher end Gibson SG? The Gibson SG comes in several versions and price ranges such as the SG Vintage ($799) or the SG Faded 2017T ($799) or the SG Special P90 ($799).

Answer: The title of this article is '5 Best Alternatives To The Gibson SG Standard.' The content of this article fits the title. I have not written an article about the 5 best alternatives to the Gibson SG Faded. As a person who is fairly well obsessed with guitars, I'm extremely aware of the lower priced SGs. I freaking love Gibson SGs.

Question: I am curious as to what can sound and have upper fret access like an sg but not be necessarily the same shape. Outside of the Mira most of these guitars share the biggest issue that sg's have, neck dive. What guitars that are mahogany, short scale, and 22 frets and maybe a trem can get that sg midrange tone?

Answer: You may be more inclined to play and love a Gibson Firebird. No, the tone won't be exactly the same, but then again, Firebirds, like SGs, can have different pickups. You could get very close to the same tone, and especially with the use of your controls on the guitar and amp. The Gibson Explorer is another thing which could get you in the same ballpark. Or you could go less expensive, with something like a Schecter Stealth C-1.

Question: What's the difference between the tones of the Yamaha Revstar RS620 and the RS820CR?

Answer: Very very little. I wouldn't think, that were you to take a blindfold test, you would be able to tell much difference or any difference.

Question: What about these so-called replica brands like Tokai or Orville - do you think they are a viable alternative at a lower cost to a regular Gibson SG Standard?

Answer: Yes. There is absolutely no reason someone else could not make an SG copy as good or better than what Gibson makes. Tokai and Orville are both very good brands, and I have a friend who owns a very very nice Orville SG.

Now that I've stated that, there is a lot of clarification to be done. When you talk about Tokai, you are talking about a lot of different things. Today's Tokai is not yesterday's Tokai.

If you can get a Tokai SG copy from the 1970s, then that is absolutely on par with Gibson. Tokai models from that period were accompanied by numbers, the higher the number generally meant the higher the build quality standards.

Don't forget Burny or Greco from the exact same time period.

When we talk about Orville, it's my opinion we should also talk about Epiphone. I will tell anyone and everyone that I believe top-end Epiphone to be every bit as good, possibly better, than low-end Gibson. This is just a general opinion of mine. You can get more bells and whistles for the money on high-end Epiphone than with the low-end Gibson.

And Orville was basically supplanted by an expansion of Epiphone. They are not exactly the same thing, but they're not far apart.

Question: I realize the title of the article, but aren't the less expensive Gibsons an alternative as well?

Answer: Gibson has made, in recent years, some very inexpensive electric guitars, and some in the SG shape, but I do not consider them to be alternatives to something in the price range of the SG Standard, as something in that price range is expected to be of a certain quality. In other words, to be pretty blunt about it, you have to go to Asian manufacturing to get something on that level of quality for less money.

© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw


Joseph6strings10fingers on November 19, 2019:

The Epiphone China Facility is State of the Art and American owned and operated the China facility has American luthiers and supervisors on site Scott Lewis is plant manager the Epiphone G400 Sg Pro's are hand crafted the exact way as the Gibson Standard Sg...the Gibson Standard Sg is most certainly not superior over the Epiphone G400 Sg Pro's especially not the Epiphone G400 exclusive deluxe Sg Pro the Epiphone G400 Sg Pro series are the very best Sgs at any price the craftsmanship and electronics are remarkable the Alnico Classic pro pickups are Epiphone 1957 pickups a very incredible Guitar for sure a true classic...

John on March 16, 2019:

What about paralle vs series wiring of pickups

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 03, 2018:

@Josh and @Johnny - sorry, I just don't have experience with those specific models yet. I'm always hoping to get out and see some new stuff.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 03, 2018:

ssschroetke - best guitar for the money would depend on what you were looking for.

Epiphone is under-rated as a brand. People just don't like the head-stock because it isn't shaped like Gibson, and then there is the matter of being made in Asia.

But high end epiphone stuff is very nice, and if you were looking for something that was most like a Gibson SG standard, then that's where you go.

The Schecter and ESP/LTD stuff is pretty comparable in value and quality, in my opinion, and either of those are great, and especially suited to the metal guitarist.

That Yamaha RevStar shouldn't be overlooked. I can't think of popular stars endorsing Yamaha a lot these days. Well, if someone wanted something different from what everyone else has - that would be it.

PRS, of course, is great. The new line is affordable because the manufacturing involves a lot more machines than the high end PRS stuff.

ssschroetke on October 03, 2018:

Thank you for this review.

So of these, which is your personal favorite?

And which gives the most bang for the buck? (it reads like the Schecter might).

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on September 29, 2018:

I'm sure it is a great guitar, Josh, I've just never got to play one of those. At least not yet.

Josh on September 29, 2018:

How about the Ibanez AX120MF? Very SG like and ton of colors.

Johnny on August 19, 2018:

What about the guild s100 polara

asifahsankhan on December 20, 2016:

Very impressive.

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