Is Epiphone the Best Alternative to the Gibson Les Paul?

Updated on November 20, 2016
Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

How do guitars like the ESP LTD EC-1000 stack up against Epiphone as alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul?
How do guitars like the ESP LTD EC-1000 stack up against Epiphone as alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul?

Les Paul Alternatives

The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is an excellent affordable alternative to the Gibson Les Paul. As you surely know, the Gibson Les Paul is one of the top guitars in the world, and has a storied history going back decades.

The problem is, a great guitar like the Gibson Les Paul comes at a price a bit too steep for many musicians. They are totally worth it if you can swing the cash, but some of us simply can't.

Fortunately, Gibson puts out outstanding versions of their classic guitars through their Epiphone brand. Epiphones feel like Gibsons, sound almost like Gibsons, and they look fantastic.

If you're playing one onstage nobody but other guitar geeks will know it's not a Gibson. It's nice that they cost only a fraction of what a Gibson Les Paul goes for too! An Epiphone isn't just the best Les Paul copy, it's a real Les Paul.

But, of course, they are not Gibsons. There is a reason Gibson is known as one of the top American guitar companies.

The Epiphone vs Gibson debate will not likely be settled anytime soon. Still, every Epiphone Les Paul I've ever owned was a quality instrument, and I've always highly recommended them. But there are some other guitars in the running for the title of Best Gibson Les Paul Alternative.

In this post we'll take a look at the Epi LP and other alternatives to the classic Gibson Les Paul, and in the end you can decide if you still think you need to drop a bunch of cash on a Gibson.

Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO

In the past, even the biggest Epiphone Les Paul fans had a couple of complaints. Firstly, the electronics we're sometimes lacking. Not that the hardware and electronics weren't up to par with what you'd expect from a guitar in its price range, because if you were an intermediate guitarist even back then it was tough to beat an Epi LP.

But many veteran guitarists like to purchase Epiphone Les Pauls and upgrade components, ending up with a great custom guitar often superior to a Gibson. The switches, jacks, pots and wiring were often the first things to go, and that was unfortunate.

Secondly-and this is the thing that I always felt separated Epiphone from Gibson-the pickups were subpar. They were always impressive for a $500 guitar, but not up to Gibson standards by a long shot.

Epiphone has gone a long way to remedying both situations with the Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO series. These guitars feature improved, more reliable components that are much less likely to let you down.

More importantly, they feature Epiphone's seriously upgraded ProBucker pickups. These are much improved, and offer more clarity, warmth and texture than I've ever heard in a stock Epiphone until now. While Gibson pickups are still superior, considering the price difference you might find no need to upgrade your shiny new Epiphone Les Paul.

The Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO also shows off some pretty burst and see-through tops, as their name would indicate.

If you love the look and sound of the Gibson Les Paul but don't have the cash, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard is the best alternative to your Gibson dreams you're going to find!

More on the Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO

Other Non-Gibson Les Paul Alternatives

In my opinion, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO is one of the best intermediate-level electric guitars out there, and a great option for those looking for an affordable Les Paul. But what else is out there that can compare to Gibson and still save us some cash?

For a guitar to be a valid alternative to a Gibson Les Paul it can't just look the part, it also has to meet certain criteria. In my opinion, here are the most important specs:

  • Mahogany body
  • Mahogany neck
  • Single-cutaway design
  • Rosewood or Ebony fingerboard
  • Fixed bridge
  • A pair of passive humbuckers

There are a lot of cheap guitars out there that meet that criteria, but that's not what we're looking for here. We want a quality instrument that will sound great and look good doing it.

And, there are some companies that make great Les Paul copies, but let's face it: If you want a Les Paul you should get an Epi or Gibson. There are other options out there, and here are a few of my favorite guitars that make the cut:

ESP-LTD EC-1000

The ESP-LTD EC-1000 is a remarkable guitar in its own right, but how does it stack up against the Gibson Les Paul? It has the mahogany body, mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard we want, and some models have a maple top.

However, same as with Epiphone, we're not going to see the thick carved maple cap here as featured on a Gibson.

Same scale, type of bridge and general design as a Les Paul, though the EC-1000 features 24 frets instead of 22. The EC-1000 also comes in a Custom model and a few other really cool options, including those with Floyd Rose tremolos if you want it.

When it comes to pickups, there are a few options here as well. You can go with active EMGs on some models, but others have more Les Paul-ish choices. There are DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary pickups which are more like a typical Gibson setup, or models with a Seymour Duncan open-coil SH-1/SH-4 set.

The ESP LTD EC-1000 takes the Les Paul concept and builds on it, giving us an amazing guitar with impressive options. And it doesn't hurt that ESP is known for making custom guitars to the demanding specs of professional musicians. This is a guitar company that knows how to put out a quality product.

Check out the ESP-LTD EC-1000T CTM

PRS SE 245

There are a lot of PRS fans out there that might take exception to calling these guitars an alternative to anything. PRS is one of the top guitar makers in the world, and like Gibson they have a reputation for excellence. However, their single-cutaway designs give guitarists who like that style a serious choice between these two guitar giants.

PRS is one of the few American guitar companies out there who are legitimately competitive with Gibson. Of course, their prices are competitive too. So a few years back PRS launched the SE lineup, and just like Epiphone they are able to bring us more affordable guitars with their legendary brand name.

PRS guitars are unique. They feature different scale lengths than the standard Gibson or Fender designs, and many PRS instruments feature their well-known double-cutaway body shape.

The single-cutaway PRS SE 245 is enough like a Les Paul to call it an affordable alternative, but different enough to say you're marching to your own drummer. It has a mahogany body and neck with a maple top, rosewood fingerboard and PRS open-coil humbuckers.

Back in the '90s it seemed like everyone was hanging up their Les Paul in favor of a PRS guitar. They are worth checking out if you want something sort of like a Les Paul, but with its own well-earned reputation.

The SE series makes PRS instruments affordable to intermediate and working guitarists.

Learn More About the PRS SE 245

Schecter Solo 6 Custom

Many Schecter guitars are geared towards metal and heavy rock, but they have a few models in their lineup that walk the line closer to that classic Les Paul vibe. The Schecter Solo 6 Custom is one of them.

The Solo 6 body style is offered as an alternative to many Schecter guitars that otherwise come in their classic C-style body design. It's a single-cutway shape and if you are a Les Paul fan you're probably going to dig it.

Like ESP-LTD, Schecter builds on the single-cutaway, dual humbucker concept with active pickups, whammy bars and some cutting-edge finishes and graphics.

However, the Solo 6 Custom comes with Seymour Duncan pickups, and features some pretty colors and designs that are more classic than radical. There's the mahogany body and neck, but here we see an ebony fingerboard, which will be slightly brighter in tone.

The Schecter Solo 6 Custom is a great alternative to the Gibson Les Paul for guitarists looking to save a little cash, and make their mark with a unique guitar. As for Schecter in general, I've always thought of them as a guitar company that delivers instruments that seem better than their price would indicate. In my opinion they are one of the best values in the guitar world today.

Hear the Schecter Solo 6 Custom

Why Choose a Les Paul Alternative?

Some of us have no choice but to settle for a lower-priced guitar. But there are others among us who can afford a Gibson but play an Epiphone anyway. Why?

There are few things prettier than an American-made Gibson Les Paul, and they are truly among the best guitars in the world. If you own one you'd better care for it and watch out for it in gigging and practice situations.

The PRS SE 245 is an affordable alternative to the Gibson Les Paul
The PRS SE 245 is an affordable alternative to the Gibson Les Paul

Some players don't like to deal with all of that. If you instead play an Epiphone, or another solid alternative to the Gibson Les Paul, you don't worry so much about it getting lost or stolen, and you won't freak out if it gets dinged.

That fact that the Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro and the other guitars in this article are good enough to gig with means your Gibson can stay safe at home.

Other guitarists don't care a whit about gigging or recording or playing in bands. For some of us who consider ourselves hobby players, something like an Epiphone Les Paul is the perfect guitar. If you're only playing for your own enjoyment, why spend more than you have to?

As a 30-year guitar veteran I wouldn't hesitate to play an Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro in a band situation. If you want a Les Paul, Epiphone Les Pauls are the best alternatives to Gibson.

If you want something like a Les Paul from a great brand like Schecter, PRS or ESP-LTD, you have some great choices as well.

Your Opinion on Les Paul Alternatives

Which do you think is the best affordable alternative to the Gibson Les Paul

See results

Comments

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    • profile image

      Kurt Arpeggio 

      7 months ago

      I have a Gibson and an Epi Plustop Pro. The differences are few. The binding on the epi doesn’t cover the fret end but the fit is plenty comfortable. And the pickups, sound fantastic but not the same as the Gibson. Muffled and muddy in a side by side comparison, but less noticeable when played alone.

    • profile image

      J. 

      9 months ago

      I own a Epi Standard pro, and a 76 Gibson LP Custom ( a good one! Norlin snobs). While the Gibson does sound the best, and only by a small margin..I'll say 5-10% if you want to quantify it.. The Epiphone plays so much better, my hands just get excited when I play it, and adding some good Duncan's (Alnico 2 pro) brought it really close to my Gibson (which has a Duncan Seth Lover). Basically my point is a $500 dollar guitar is within range of the tone of my $2500+ Gibson and Kills it on play ability. Needless to say, I play the Epiphone 10x more than the Gibson at this point. The current Epiphones are exceptional value, They just need some better pickups to really "get there".

    • profile image

      Dave 

      18 months ago

      The LTD EC401vf is a better value than the ec1000 comes with a maple top and either the seymour JB/59 combo or the newer model with the Dimarizo set. I have one of these made in korea and a LP traditional pro and play the 401 more than my LP.

    • profile image

      Tom 

      2 years ago

      This is very similar to the quality of wine discussion. I cured many friends organizing blind tests of wines. Most of friends had been converted to the nice taste drinkers. If I organize a blind test between Epiphone and Gibson the result will be purely statistical. Both brands provide equal quality of sound those days... The other thing is brand and prestige. So you pay for prestige. I've got Gibson ES-175 and it was faulty. I played Epi LP Traditional Pro last time and it was fantastic. You will find opposite examples too.

      BUT if I ask better player to play on any instrument and worse one on the same instrument you will recognize the difference after a milisecond. So rather go and spend your time practicing than spend your money on the paint on the headstock. In the result you will be better musician with more money. IMHO of course

    • profile image

      Michelleuk 

      2 years ago

      Saying that all Epiphones are bad quality, terrible guitars or "cheap copies" etc is an incredibly naive and uneducated comment.

      There are a large number Of Epiphone guitars that will blow the Gibsons out of the water in every department.

      There are a lot of VERY VERY good Epiphones out there, but of course you have to have a little luck in finding one.

      But the same can be said for Gibson too, there are VERY many terrible Gibson guitars and you have to be lucky to get "A good one".

      I am a pro player and recording artist for over 35 years and own many guitars including customs, Gibsons, Fenders etc, but I always go back to my faithful sweet playing and sounding Epiphone LP Standard.

      The problem is that many see the Gibson guitar as the "holy grail" of guitars and will accept no critisicm of them, blindly following and worshipping the headstock logo.

      The secret to true joy and freedom in the guitar world which opens a whole world of possibilities is to get over the "Mojo" that you think a guitar has simply because it says "Gibson" on the end.

      If you can get over that restraint then you will become a more wordly and wise individual.

    • profile image

      Tiago Ferrari 

      2 years ago

      I think people usually dont understand the reasons to buy an Epi, as they try to compare it with guitars sometimes 2x/3x its price. Some people simple cannot raise mor money, and need something solid.

      IMO, Epi is the one of the best guitars in its price range, a great neck, a rich sound, and you can upgrade it later if you want to. Its just perfect for the type of players you mentioned above.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Guitar Gopher 

      2 years ago

      Thanks Dean! Solid advice.

    • profile image

      Dean 

      2 years ago

      I'm not impressed with ANY Epiphone Les Paul ever made, even in the slightest. That said, Gibson since 1985 isn't any better.

      I would say look at Heritage, ESP (not LTD, the necks basically need resets as they're often at the wrong angle), or the Godin Summit Classic HB, which are better made guitars than Gibson, and in the case of the Godin, significantly cheaper. Myself, I will likely sell my Les Paul for a Godin lgxt, which is 25.5" scale, but the same woods as the Les Paul and should sound very similar.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Guitar Gopher 

      3 years ago

      I can't say I agree, Raffi, but thanks for adding your opinion!

    • profile image

      Raffii 

      3 years ago

      Epiphone is very bad quality. Many no name guitars have better quality than Epiphone.

    working

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