The Epiphone Les Paul - in a varying forms - is one of the most popular electric guitars on the market today. Our article is a detailed look at all aspects, uses, features, and highlights of this guitar, focusing primarily on the Standard and Custom models.
All the information provided here is based on a first-hand account and years of knowledge working with electric guitars.
Use the table of content below to navigate to different sections and feel free to drop questions in the comments section below the article.
I'll see you there.
Read More: An Epiphone Les Paul Buying Guide
Epiphone's Les Paul is designed to mirror the aesthetics and shape of the original Gibson Les Paul. Almost all Epiphone models maintain the distinct shape and recognizable look of the original design. In most cases, the same models put out by Gibson are put out in an Epiphone version as well.
For example, there's a Gibson Les Paul Standard and an Epiphone version of the Standard.
Gibson signature models are also popular in Epiphone form because they tend to sell better.
The Joe Bonamassa signature is a good one:
While this isn't the case with all Les Paul models, many of them follow this pattern.
What are the models?
Here's a quick list of the most common and current models:
These are the six most common forms the Epiphone Les Paul will take, though without a ton of difference between each model. The differences in models among the Gibson Les Pauls are more drastic than the differences among the Epiphone version.
In my experience, the Epiphones tend to vary in terms of their looks and aesthetics, while the core materials and manufacturing methods remain similar - or even identical - depending on which two models you're comparing.
Are they any good?
One of the most common questions when it comes to these guitars is simply this: Are they any good?
This question gets asked because Epiphone guitars are a lot cheaper than their Gibson counterparts. Yet the question doesn't necessarily mean "in comparison" to the Gibson version (more on that later). It's just asking whether or not the Epiphone LPs are good in their own right.
The answer: Yes, Epiphone Les Pauls are solid and reliable guitars for what you pay. They're not as good as corresponding Gibson versions, but they are good guitars given their lower price range.
Which model is the best?
From a pure quality standpoint, we'd say the Epiphone LP Custom is one of the nicest and your best option if money is not a concern. It's a bit more expensive than the other models but looks great, and tends to have a little more versatility and modern edge to it.
What are the differences between an Epiphone and Gibson Les Paul?
All of this begs the question:
What are the differences between the Epiphone and Gibson versions of the same Les Paul? We've actually gone into a ton of detail comparing Gibson and Epiphone in this article.
We'd recommend referring to it for a side-by-side comparison of the two spec sheets.
How much do they cost?
We've already mentioned that Epiphones are cheaper than Gibson, but how much do they actually cost? We'll break the pricing up between typical new and used ranges:
- The low end: $180
- The high end: $900
- Median range: $450 to $650
- The low end: $100
- The high end: $650
- Median range: $350 to $450
Where can I buy one?
As a manufacturer, Epiphone will look to get their guitars in front of as many eyes as possible. That's why you can get them on platforms like Amazon and even Target's online store. However, there are a handful of places that we'd recommend specifically.
Places we recommend buying new
- Musicians Friend
- Guitar Center (online or in-store)
Places we recommend buying used
Now that we've covered cost, let's talk about what you're actually paying for when you buy one of these guitars. Typical features of an Epiphone Les Paul - like most electric guitars - can be broken down into three categories:
- Body and Neck (construction)
- Pickups and electronics
Let's go over each category one at a time.
Body and Neck
Today, most Epiphones use a Mahogany base for their body construction with some form of weight relief. Then, you'll have a top covering, just like you do in an acoustic guitar. This top will usually be a thin Maple veneer that covers all the joints and hides the interior of the guitar.
Most will also use Mahogany in the neck, with varied fingerboard material (Pau Ferro and Rosewood are both pretty common).
Most of the hardware will be stock Epiphone parts. This includes the bridge, tailpiece, and tuning machines/heads. In some cases you'll have Grover brand tuning machines - a nice upgrade over the stock Epiphone tuners. Otherwise, these parts are some kind of mass-produced product that Epiphone puts their name on so they can have a stock part. It's cheaper than getting your bridge parts from a third-party company like Wilkinson or an ABR-1 from Faber USA.
Pickups & Electronics
These days Epiphone uses a humbucker series they've patented and produced in-house called the "Probucker". They include the following:
- Epiphone Probucker 1
- Epiphone Probucker 2
- Epiphone Probucker 3
For example, the Les Paul Standard has the Probucker 1 and 2, while the Custom has the Probucker 2 and 3. While it's true that Epiphone has taken a little more time to develop the Probucker - making it more than just a throw-away stock part - they still aren't nearly as good as something like the Gibson Burstbucker or perhaps a Seymour Duncan swap.
Other electronics like potentiometers and wiring are going to be stock and usually bought in bulk from a cheap manufacturer.
What do they sound like?
With a lot of stock parts and some steep cost-cutting, what do these guitars end up sounding like? We can look to YouTube demos and some audio samples to get a feel for the final product.
Epiphone LP Custom Demo
The following is a nice demo of the Les Paul Custom by Musician's Friend, with a lot of clean tones sprinkled with tremolo and reverb. Also, there's no talking in the video.
LP Standard Demo
You won't notice a ton of audible differences between the Custom and the '50s Standard, which is in the demo below, played by the same fella from the above video.
The Standard does have a little more grit and bite, if I had to come up with a difference. It can also sound a little brighter if you're splitting hairs.
But again, the two models - and most Epiphones - are going to have a lot of similarities in their tone.
All of these guitars have a similar sound, which we've found to be decent though doesn't meet the standard you'd expect out of the "real deal" Gibson Les Pauls.
Sure, the Epiphones are bright, aggressive, and seem to hold a lot of sustain on the higher notes.
But, you're definitely taking a step down in sound quality.
You get what you pay for.
What types of music are they best for?
Epiphone guitars, Les Paul and others, have a lot of versatility and can be used for a wide range of sounds and styles. Between the models, something like the Les Paul Custom is going to be better for metal, modern rock, and heavier styles, while the Standard is going to fit better in a blues or classic rock role.
The Standard and Studio are both designed for lead styles, and sound particularly good in a blues context.
As we mentioned with the Standard, the grit and brighter distortion produced are good fits in the classic rock style. The AC/DC sound is pretty easy to recreate with these guitars, even being as cheap as they are.
The Custom is our preferred Epiphone recommendation for metal and modern rock. It's a bit darker and heavier which gives you some more thickness on the lower end of your EQ. It still has a bright tone profile, but for people that do a lot of both rhythm and lead guitar at higher gain levels, it can be a great fit.
Are they better for lead or rhythm guitar?
While Les Pauls have historically been popular among lead guitar players, the Epiphone versions are pretty versatile and shouldn't be limited to one role or the other. Since they all use the dual humbucker setup, they're going to have a natural thickness and warmth that makes them good fits for rhythm.
At the same time, the heaviness and body design give them that "searing" sustain on the higher register, kind of like Slash's soloing sound.
So on the lead and rhythm spectrum, they're right in the middle.
We like and recommend them for almost all styles, and coupled with the lower price, they're a popular fit in all kinds of musical situations.