Epiphone LP Special II Review You’ll Love

By Danny Trent | Electric Guitars

Last Updated on

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!

Let’s talk about Epiphone

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.

Alright, now let’s talk Epiphone LP Special II Specs…

  • Body: The Epiphone LP is carefully shaped out of a solid piece of mahogany and is designed in single-cutaway construction, for easy access to higher notes. As a tonewood, mahogany creates warm and broad tones, but has pretty good dynamic response and bite as well. The tone is less pointed or sharp than other tonewoods, but is broad and round, an excellent design choice that’s taken a step further with the addition of bold humbucking pickups. Compared to its Gibson counterpart, the Epiphone body is thinner and doesn’t include the Gibson’s trademark bump on the front.
  • Neck: Like the body, the neck of the Epi LP Special II is a solid piece of mahogany, but unlike many of the original Gibsons, the neck is bolt-on. It features a SlimTaper D shape that feels great in the hand and has a gloss finish on the backside. (I prefer matte finish necks, but to each their own.) The only non-mahogany tonewood on the guitar, the fingerboard is appropriately made of rosewood and has 22 frets.
  • Pickups: The Epi LP features a double humbucker pick-up arrangement, with a 650R as the neck pickup and a 700T as the bridge pickup. These are high-output pickups and are not optimized for clean tone production as much as for gritty and distorted tones, and they provide clear highs and immaculate definition without getting muddy like some other humbuckers do. The bridge’s 700T is hotter than the neck pickup to provide some extra grit when needed, while preserving the pickup’s clear balance of bold lows and singing highs. They are also supreme in the anti-hum department, as any good humbucker should be!
  • Hardware: A bit simplified compared to the original Les Paul’s design, the Epiphone version has a master volume knob, a tone knob, and a 3-way pickup selector switch. The bridge features a LockTone Tune-O-Matic setup, which both provides a sustain boost and makes string changing a bit easier. The ¼” jack is solid and feels more reliable than the jacks on some other budget guitars. However, the tuners are notorious for being sub-par and detuning during big bends, and the bridge saddles might be a good cheap item to upgrade because they feel pretty cheap as well.
  • Scale: Consistent with the original design, the Epi LP has a 24.75” scale length. While Fender, for example, typically used a 25.5” scale length to achieve shimmering highs and bright tone, the Les Paul’s shorter length (which has varied over the years but actually averages out at around 24.6”) provides a softer feel with less string tension and a rounder, warmer sounding tone. An astute design, the warm scale length goes well with the warmth of the mahogany and the broadness of the double-humbucker setup.

But how does it sound? 

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.

In conclusion…

  • Cons:
    • Cheap tuners
    • Pickups could be better
    • Thinner body shape
    • Lacking tone quality when played clean
    • (I prefer a matte neck finish over glossy, but to each their own…)

For more options or alternative guitars to try, check out my round-up of the Top 11 Electric Guitars for Beginners! 

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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