For players on a tight budget, who still want that classic Les Paul sound and feel, Epiphone is a solid option.
Endorsed by Gibson, Epiphone offer an authentic Les Paul spec without the hefty price tag.
There are several Epi LP models to choose from, ranging from the modestly priced LP-100 ($280) to the more sophisticated Ultra-III ($749).
We've chosen the Standard and Tribute Plus from the Epiphone range, based on consistently positive ratings and reviews.
The most logical place to "set the bar" for any Les Paul comparison is the Gibson Les Paul Standard.
However, as revealed in the Studio Vs Standard shootout, the Studio appears to be the most reasonably priced of the two based on spec. Its no-nonsense setup makes it the perfect benchmark for comparing the Epiphone offerings.
|Model||Gibson LP Studio||Epiphone LP Tribute Plus||Epiphone LP Standard|
|Weight||3.7 kg / 8.2 lbs||3.8 kg / 8.4 lbs||3.85 kg / 8.5 lbs|
|Tuners||Grover Kidney 18:1||Grover Locking Rotomatic 106
“Deep Set” Mahogany
|Nut Material||Brass||Imitation bone (PVC)||PVC|
|Frets||22 Medium Jumbo|
|Inlays||Mother of Pearl||Pearloid||Pearloid|
Flamed Maple Top (B grade)
Flamed Maple Top (AAA grade)
2x Push/Pull Coil-Tap
|Gibson USA 57 Classic
Gibson USA 57 Plus (bridge)
Push/Pull Coil Tap
|Alnico Classic humbuckers|
||Locktone Tune-o-matic Stopbar
|Gibson LP Studio||Epiphone LP Tribute Plus||Epiphone LP Standard|
At $800 less than the Gibson Studio, Epiphone's Standard Les Paul understandably has low expectations. But the general consensus is that those expectations are exceeded for the price, hence the high rating.
It's definitely worth saving up the extra $100 for the Standard over the LP-100 if you're on a tight budget. It gets you much closer to that sought after Les Paul look, feel and sound right out of the box.
While the quality of materials, electronics and hardware is inevitably compromised on the Epi Standard, the finished product is surprisingly satisfying to play.
The most noticeable differences between the Epiphone and Gibson lie in the stock pickups (standard alnico Classics) and the absence of a flamed maple top.
But construction wise, this is a solid, reliable instrument that is by no means shy of being gig-worthy. Together, the set-neck, Tune-o-matic stop-bar construction and Grover tuners give you plenty of sustain and tuning stability.
With a decent amp, you'll be able to explore a diverse range of tones. But all the characteristic Les Paul tonal qualities are there - fat, warm cleans and smooth, gutsy leads.
The alnico Classics don't offer the same depth and clarity as the Gibson USA 57's, and they can get a tad muddy when the gain is pushed. But you'll know at some point in the future you can simply swap them out for something more authentic and wring more potential out of this guitar if you're thirsty for it.
And that's a key point with these lower priced guitars. When the foundations are as solid as this, you'll be able to upgrade to something very close to the Gibson standard at less than half the cost.
Whether you plan to upgrade or not, those who played through earlier decades could have only dreamed of owning such a high quality instrument for this price. Whether or not we want to admit it, we have Chinese manufacturing to thank for that.
The Tribute Plus is as close to the "real deal" as you're likely to get with an Epiphone Les Paul.
Not only does it use the same USA '57 Classic pickups as Gibson models of recent years, but it also offers an array of features that you would expect to find on a high-end Gibson, such as an AAA grade flamed maple top, giving the model its "Plus" name.
In a way, the Tribute represents what Epiphone's Standard could be, upgraded to its full potential, straight from the factory.
At $500 cheaper than the Gibson Studio, you're still making a significant saving without sacrificing anything particularly noticeable, except the prestige of the Gibson name on the headstock.
The '57 pickups give you the articulation and depth to your tone that the Epiphone Standard simply cannot match with its more modest stocks.
So where are the costs being cut? Again, Chinese manufacturing brings with it cheaper labour and, spread across thousands of units, allows Epiphone to sell their wares for significantly less.
There are also savings made on the nut (PVC vs brass), inlays (pearloid vs Mother of Pearl) and lower mass fingerboard.
So, intelligent cost cutting all-round, yet many users still consider this Epiphone a true investment, with early buyers even seeing a rise in price with demand over the years.
Unlike the Epiphone Standard, the Tribute doesn't have much room for improvement in terms of upgrades. It's 95% Gibson and only the most discerning players will get any thrill from paying an extra 100% in price for that extra 5% (if that) in authenticity.
While it's true that you "get what you pay for", Epiphone have proven that most preconceptions about how brand alone determines quality are grossly misrepresentative.
Whether you only have $400 or $750 to spend on your Les Paul, you will not be disappointed with either of Epiphone's offerings featured on this page. Each one exceeds expectations for its respective price range, especially the Tribute, and that is what is important here.
There's a tendency to forget just how far we've come with guitar manufacturing in terms of en masse quality control and intelligent cost-cutting. The relatively low price of the two Epiphones featured here is more a product of modern market innovation than substantial cuts in quality.
And that's what makes them such exciting purchases for those of us on low incomes who want to own this iconic instrument.