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.
The Gibson Les Paul was and forever is a signature guitar. The instrument transcended that long, long ago, however - and exists in more permutations than one could wrap their heads around easily. The guitar is now something one thinks of more as a template. A single cutaway solid body guitar with a mahogany body, maple top, mahogany neck with a 24.75" scale length, and nearly always, two humbucking pickups. Even those things are somewhat negotiable.
Epiphone as a manufacturer has a long history. Anastasios Stathopoulos started making instruments in Turkey. He moved to the USA in the early 1900s where his son Epaminondas, or 'Epi' took over. The early Epiphone guitars were arch-top guitars thought to be the equals of Gibson arch-tops.
The Epiphone guitar company was passed on to the brothers of Epaminondas after he died. In 1951 the workers of the company went on strike. This weakened the state of Epiphone's finances to the point that Gibson guitars managed to buy out their rivals. Since that time Epiphone has been a subsidiary of Gibson.
Why buy an Epiphone signature series Les Paul?
From 1957 through 1970 Epiphone was a made in the USA brand of guitars the equal of Gibson. In fact, most of the guitars from that period are exactly like Gibson models of the same period, they just say Epiphone on them instead of Gibson. Those guitars are going to be pretty hard to find, and they won't be inexpensive, as they're rather collectible, and most the persons who have one will know it.
After 1970, Epiphone moved to Japan where guitars could be built with less cost in labor, and sold at a lower price point than comparable Gibson guitars. There are still Epiphone guitars made in Japan today, but they are sold domestically, and so they are hard to come by. You will know them for their use of the Gibson 'open book' headstock, which Korean and Chinese made Epiphone guitars do not have.
In the 1980s the most of the Epiphone production moved to Korea. In 2002 production was moved to China. The reasons for this is Gibson wants Epiphone to be as affordable as possible. Some persons frown upon buying guitars not made in the USA, but I'll tell you the truth, if you're a working class person struggling to make your life as good as possible, Gibson guitars are over-priced. For what you pay for these high end Epiphone guitars you get more guitar for your dollars spent.
Everyone knows the Gibson Les Paul is one of the brand and the nation's most enduring products. Some of these top end Epiphone Les Paul guitars, however, do not have an equivalent made by Gibson. So for certain specification points you may find most substantially desirable, the Epiphone will be your best and only option.
A lot of guitarists are cursed with a serious illness we very very seriously call GAS. Gas is guitar acquisition syndrome. Well, it can seriously affect your finances. But another thing which can hurt the guitarist who's already spent three thousand dollars or so on a fine Gibson Les Paul is the fear of the thing getting damaged, or even stolen from playing in some shady club somewhere. You always need a backup which you can live with getting scratched a little, and take to play in the darkest and smokiest dive bars. An Epiphone can more than just back you up.
1. Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Les Paul
Joe Bonamassa is one of the most talented guitarists in the world at this time. He's a spectacular player few could ever hope to match in his technique and flawless execution. Were I to pick a complaint about Joe it would be that he never seems to make a mistake. One wonders if he's not a guitar playing android or something.
Seemingly born to play the guitar, Joe was well known in the state of New York by the time he was just ten years old. By the time he was twelve years old Joe was the opening act for B.B. King. That doesn't even sound like it could be true, and yet it is true.
Well, Joe owns a lot of very fine guitars. And when you hear him talk or read his interviews he comes across as a very nice person. His Epiphone signature series Les Paul is also a technical marvel for the dollars, and a very nice guitar for anyone to have. Epiphone makes more than one Joe Bonamassa Les Paul. The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa guitar is noteworthy primarily for featuring Gibson Bustbucker pickups.
There is one of these in a gold top. And there is a 2015 version in a very forest green color with a Bigsby tremolo bar on it. There will likely be new versions of the Epiphone Bonamassa LP for years to come. And they'll probably do something a little bit different every year, but the essential guitar will be the same. What is important to know here is this guitar has the 1959 Gibson style neck. This is a fatter neck than the 60s era LP necks. So know going in whether or not these will be comfortable for you.
Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Les Paul features:
- Mahogany body
- Carved maple cap
- 24-3/4" scale
- Glued, deep-set mahogany neck
- Rounded D, 1959-style neck shape
- Rosewood fretboard
- 12" radius
- 22 frets
- 1-11/16" nut width
- LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge
- Gibson BurstBucker 3 bridge pickup
- Gibson BurstBucker 2
- neck pickup
- Volume, volume, tone, tone controls
- Grover 14:1 tuners
- Nickel hardware
- 3-way pickup selector toggle switch
- Polyurethane finish
Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Les Paul electric guitar review
2. Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom
Zakk Wylde is a mainstay in heavy metal guitar. He looks like he could bounce anyone who stood in the way of his destiny off the floor a few times, one armed, no less. Famous for being a guy who can play all the tough guitar parts the wizards who've played for Ozzy Osbourne over the years laid down before he got there, and then do his own equally distinct thing, Zakk should be playing guitars for his legions of fans for long years to come. We hope so, anyway. And lets not forget Black Label society, or anything else Zakk gets into.
The Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom Plus Bullseye guitar is a hit. Has been a hit for a long time. Will be a hit for a long time to come. There have been a couple different types of this guitar put out. But this one with the EMG active pickups is the one you will most likely see, and if you are into heavy metal guitar playing you already know EMGs will do you dirty. 'Dirty,' in this case, being exactly what the doctor ordered.
There are three primary and important differences between the Zakk Wylde guitar and the Joe Bonamassa guitar. The Wylde one has active EMG pickups which are most suitable for heavy metal. The neck of the Wylde guitar is a Gibson 1960s style neck, which is thinner or 'faster,' depending, of course, on the size of one's hands. And lastly, but also very important - the Wylde guitar costs less because it does not come with a hard shell case.
Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom features:
- Mahogany body
- Carved maple top with maple veneer
- Set hard maple neck
- SlimTaper D 1960s-style neck profile
- 22 frets
- Active EMG-81 bridge humbucking pickups
- Active EMG-85 neck humbucking pickup
- 2 volume, 2 tone controls
- 3-way pickup selector
- Gold hardware
- LockTone Tune-o-matic/stopbar tailpiece
- Grover tuners
- Case sold separately
3. Ltd. Ed. Lee Malia Signature Les Paul Custom
Everyone has their own set of aesthetic values. And what 'aesthetic value' translates as is taste. Holy smoke, the Epiphone Lee Malia Signature Les Paul Custom is one damned fine looking guitar. I mean, I like guitars, and it is hard to find an ugly Les Paul. In fact, I'm not sure ugly Les Paul guitars even exist. But this Lee Malia guitar is damned fine to look at.
This guitar is plainly much more attractive than some much more expensive ones which say Gibson on them. It certainly stands out from the crowd for its abalone inlay and walnut finish. But there is more to this guitar than its looks.
If you look at the pickups here you will see the bridge pickup is a humbucker, but the neck pickup is a P90 style single coil pickup. In fact they are Gibson pickups, a P94 at the neck, and a Gibson 84T-LM humbucker with coil tapping in the bridge position. The guitar is basically an Epiphone recreation of a Gibson Artisan Les Paul from the 1970s.
Who is Lee Malia? He's the guitarist for a British group which combines metal music with electronica music. The band is called Bring Me The Horizon. Lee specifically wanted a guitar which, when someone looked at it, they wouldn't assume it was from some heavy metal guitar guy.
This guitar differs from the 1970s LP in that this guitar has the 1959 Les Paul neck profile. The artisan floral abalone inlay is very classy. To me it evokes more of a country and western music vibe. The case is not included with this guitar. But good heavens, if you buy one of these please protect it in a case.
- Body shape: Single cutaway
- Body type: Solid body
- Body material: Solid wood
- Top wood: Maple
- Body wood: Mahogany
- Body finish: Gloss
- Orientation: Right handed
- Neck shape: C rounded
- Neck wood: Mahogany
- Neck Joint: Set-in
- Scale length: 24.75"
- Truss rod: Standard
- Neck finish: Gloss
- Fretboard Material: Rosewood
- Radius: 12"
- Fret size: Medium jumbo
- Number of frets: 22
- Inlays: Artisan floral pattern
- Nut width: 1.687" (42.8mm)
- Pickup Configuration: HS
- Neck: P-94
- Bridge: 84T-LM
- Active or passive: Passive
- Series or parallel: Series
- Special electronics: Bridge volume with coil-tapping
- Control layout: Volume 1, volume 2, tone 1, tone 2
- Pickup switch: 3-way
- Bridge type: Fixed
- Bridge design: Tune-o-matic
- Tailpiece: Not applicable
- Gold color Tuning machines: Deluxe with tulip
- Case: Sold separately
- Country of origin: China
4. Epiphone Matt Heafy Les Paul
The Epiphone Matt Heafy guitar is available in the standard six string version, and there is then also a seven string version. For our purposes here we will only be talking specifically about the six string guitar. This guitar is very similar to some models put out by Schecter and Jackson. All great guitars priced around the same and all featuring contours for access to the upper frets, and active EMG pickups.
Matt Heafy is one cool dude. He's a Japanese-American heavy metal guitarist, and he's been playing professionally since around the age most people ever get interested and started messing with guitars. He's like Joe Bonamassa in that respect. A child prodigy of the guitar.
Musician's Friend describes the maple top on this guitar as a veneer. This shouldn't be discouraging to anyone, as the active EMGs and the wonders of mahogany are what drive the sound here. And Matt says the guitars from Epiphone with his name on them are exactly alike the ones he plays on stage.
This Ltd. Ed. Epiphone Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom features an EMG-85 in the neck position and an EMG-81 in the bridge position. The EMG-81 is one of the most popular metal pickups ever and has been at the center of a sound revolution since it was first introduced. Utilizing powerful ceramic magnets and close aperture coils, the EMG-81 is designed for detailed intensity, incredible amounts of high end cut, and fluid sustain. The EMG-85 features Alnico-V magnets and has a slightly more rounded tone.
My thoughts are this guitar is very similar in all but looks to the Zakk Wylde guitar. I would not, personally, be able to say one was better or worse than the other. I'd say they could be virtually interchangeable. If I went to go buy a Matt Heafy or a Zakk Wylde and left with the other one instead it would likely be because of the most minute particulars regarding how they felt in my hands.
- Body Material: Mahogany
- Top Material: Plain Maple Veneer
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Neck Shape: 1960's SlimTaper; D profile
- Neck Joint: Glued In; Deep-Set Neck Joint with "Axcess" heel
- Truss Rod: Adjustable
- Truss Rod Cover: 2-ply (Black/White); "MKH Les Paul Custom" in white silkprint
- Scale Length: 24.75"
- Fingerboard Material: Ebony with pearloid Block inlays
- Neck Pickup: EMG-85
- Knobs: Black Speed Knobs
- Bridge Pickup: EMG-81
- Epiphone All-metal 3-way Pickup Selector; White toggle cap
- Neck Pickup Volume
- Bridge Pickup Volume
- Neck Pickup Tone
- Bridge Pickup Tone
- (Active) 9V battery compartment in back
- Bridge: LockTone tune-o-matic/Stopbar
- Binding Body Top - 7-ply (White/Black)
- Headstock - 5-ply (White/Black)
- Fingerboard - 1-ply (White)
- Fingerboard Radius: 12"
- Frets 22; medium-jumbo
- Nut Width: 1-11/16"
- Hardware: Black
- Machine Heads: Deluxe Die-cast with metal Tulip Buttons 14:1 ratio
- Output Jack: Epiphone Heavy-Duty with metal output jack plate
- Color: Ebony (gloss)
- Includes Epiphone StrapLocks
- Case sold separately
5. Epiphone 'AFD' Slash Les Paul
To be very clear upfront, there have been more Slash model Gibson and Epiphone Les Paul guitars than one can keep up with easily. They're making more versions of them constantly. But this particular guitar is going at a stunning price point. This is far less expensive an instrument than any of the ones listed above here. This is the bang for the bucks special.
Ideal for beginner guitarists or serious guitarists who love to do modifications on a Les Paul platform, or just need another guitar to play in the clubs on the dark end of the strip; this guitar is for you. The Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul electric guitar performance package is priced under five hundred bucks, and includes a small practice amplifier. This is a dream come true value package deal for anyone getting started with guitars, or for someone who needs a travel package.
One need no purchase the performance package if all one needs or wants is the guitar. And regarding the guitar, you can see here we are talking about what is more like a Les Paul Jr. than a full on LP. The controls are at a bare minimum, as is the ornamentation.
The performance package I linked just above is splendid though. It comes with a gig bag, a guitar cord, a 15 watt, two channel practice amp sporting an 8 inch speaker, guitar picks, and a guitar strap. This is a starter package or a travel package I'd recommend to anyone.
The guitar itself is cut from the Epiphone Les Paul Special mold. This means the body is thinner than traditional LPs, and so, it weighs not much at all. These guitars have a tuner on them. The pickups are of ceramic magnet variety. And if you watch the video I have provided here, you can hear this guitar sounds very very good. But in the video the person doing the presentation is demonstrating a package without an amplifier. You can get this guitar in a number of package options. The one I have linked, again, includes the amp.
- Basswood body
- Bolt-on mahogany neck
- Rosewood fretboard
- 21 frets
- D-shaped profile
- Epiphone 700T bridge humbucker
- Epiphone 650R neck humbucker
- Master volume, master volume controls
- 3-way pickup toggle switch
- Nickel hardware
- Intonated, one-piece wraparound bridge-stopbar
- Coverered, 14:1 diecast tuners
- Polyurethane finish