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Did you grow up obsessed with Jimmy Page’s roaring tone and high-flying solos? How about Zakk Wylde’s aggressive rock tone with Ozzy? Do you go nuts over Slash’s shredding in Guns N’ Roses’ high-energy tracks? Then this review is for YOU.
What Page, Wylde, and Slash all have in common is that they were all professional mascots of one of the most legendary guitars ever created: the Les Paul.
The Les Paul was first sold by Gibson in 1952 and was designed by Gibson’s president Ted McCarty, factory manager John Huis, and guitar player-turned-innovator Les Paul.
Featuring a solid mahogany body with a set-in mahogany neck, powerful humbuckers, 24.75” scale length, and gorgeous sunburst and glimmering gold finishes, the Les Paul is truly a rock-and-roller’s dream.
But don’t worry; the world renowned axe isn’t only for the Greats of Shreddom.
Years after the Les Paul went on the market, Epiphone began manufacturing a Les Paul that is more affordable than the original Gibson guitar, making it available to the average person. Plus, it still packs a punch that’s something to write home about.
So, let’s dive in!
The Epiphone legacy comes from late 19th-century Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire, which is known today as Izmir, Turkey. The founder of Epiphone, a Greek man by the name of Anastasios Stathopoulos, produced violins, lutes, and mandolins and was hugely successful.
In 1903, the Stathopoulos family moved to New York City, but when Anastasios died a dozen years later, his son, Epaminindas, took control of the company, determined to keep his father’s legacy pressing forward.
Originally known as the House of Stathopoulo, the company’s name was later changed to Epiphone, taking its origin in Epaminindas’s nickname, “Epi”.
In 1943, Epi passed away, and the company was left to his brothers, Frixo and Orphie. In 1957, Epiphone was taken over by one of its largest rival companies, Gibson. This was a monumental change that would change the trajectory of Epiphone forever.
Gibson used its acquiring of Epiphone in an incredibly effective way. While Epiphone’s original designs continued to be manufactured, Epiphone was also allowed the rights to Gibson’s design plans, which allowed Gibson to produce more affordable versions of its instruments and broaden its market reach—through the Epiphone name.
To sum up: Epiphone is not the same as Gibson, but was acquired by Gibson in the 1950s. Thanks to this acquisition, Epiphone is allowed to produce cheaper versions of famous Gibson guitars, such as the Les Paul.
Obviously, the pickups aren’t going to be top of the line, as they’re cheaper and use ceramic magnets. Some DiMarzios or other AlNiCo humbuckers might be a good replacement if you’d like to spend a few extra bucks on your budget guitar.
As mentioned above, the stock tuners are not great and should probably be replaced, but this is a relatively quick and cheap upgrade to make that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
The mahogany body and neck combination sounds great with the double-humbuckers and 24.75” scale length, yielding a wonderfully broad and warm tone. That said, it’s definitely optimized for blues, rock, or metal and sounds best with some distortion, overdrive, or grit added; the clean channel is not where this guitar shines.
Compared to the Gibson, the Epiphone lacks some richness and overtone response, likely due to the thinner body design and cheaper pickups. But for a budget guitar, it’s great.
Overall, the Epiphone LP Special II sounds fantastic for a budget guitar.
While the guitar is manufactured in China and uses cheaper hardware for cost-cutting purposes, the only areas that this truly shows an issue are in visual perfection and the tuners. The quality control is lower for Epiphone guitars, so some finish issues, inlay issues, or other visual imperfections are more likely on an Epiphone than on a Gibson.
Also, as I mentioned above, the tuners are notoriously loose and would be a great thing to replace early on to save yourself a headache. A less significant note, the bridge saddles feel a bit cheap and could do well to be replaced, but it won’t make a huge difference.
The tone is great with some distortion or overdrive, and the guitar feels great in the hands, with a slim “D” shape and lightweight body.
If you’re looking to get a cheap guitar that excels in the areas of rock, blues, metal, or other distortion-heavy playing, this would be a great option for you. With overall pretty good hardware and construction for a budget guitar, and a mahogany body consistent with the original Les Paul’s design, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Overall, I give this guitar a rating of 4 out of 5.
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