The Argument that is as old as the companies themselves: Gibson VS Epiphone. While technically they are they same company, one is much more pricey than the other. Today we look at the pros and cons of both.
Gibson VS Epiphone: What’s The Difference?
This is the big one, folks. The huge battle seen all over internet forums that bleeds over into real life sometimes: Gibson Vs Epiphone.
While it is easier to point the similarities than it is to point out the differences, for whatever reason…this is a big deal. Gibson is what we call a “legacy’ company, while Epiphone makes affordable guitars mostly based on Gibson models. What do I mean by “legacy” company?
Gibson makes most of their lineup to historic specs. Gibson may add a new color here and there, but the design rarely deviates from classic designs. This is what I mean by Gibson being a legacy company. Gibson follows strict designs and never veers from that course.
Epiphone on the other hand, does whatever it wants. 2020 is proof of this, as many different models hit the market. While Epiphone may base some of their models on classic Gibson designs, Epiphone is not afraid to change things up. Epiphone has become more than just the “affordable Gibson” and has moved on to being a wholly original company.
And that’s why we did a full deep-dive on the Epiphone Les Paul vs Epiphone SG to see which is the best overall guitar.
We know that these two companies are technically the same. They are owned and operated by the same people. But one is much more expensive than the other. So… why?
It comes down to a few factors:
- Electronic components
- Name brand hardware
- Point of origin
- The name on the headstock
Woods: So let’s start with that first one. Woods. In the Gibson Vs Epiphone argument this is probably one of the bigger differences. Gibson uses choice woods for instruments, especially the Flame maple tops. These come in different grades for the wood, and some can be pretty expensive.
Now what does that mean for you, as a consumer? Wood grain is certainly pretty. There is also the idea that different woods ascribe a different tone out of an instrument. I do no believe this argument, not one bit.
Either a guitar sounds good, or it doesn’t. I do not believe in the ‘tone wood” idea. Look at Buzz Osborne! He plays solid metal guitars! I believe tone wood is just a way to market a products to you. Nothing more.
Epiphone uses the same types of woods, but they are not “choice” or “select” versions of the wood. If it says the guitar is made of mahogany, then it is definitely Mahogany. It may not be as pretty or light weight as it’s Gibson counterpart. But essentially, this is the SAME wood.
Look guys, tone comes more from you as a player than it does from wood. You can argue all day that you $3000 Les Paul is superior because of the choice woods they used, and this makes you sound better. But it doesn’t, and you will benefit much more from practice than you will from tone wood.
There has always been the argument: ” If Eric Clapton went to Guitar Center and picked up the cheapest guitar and started to play, would you know it was him?”
My answer has always been YES. Because his tone is in the way he plays, his phrasing, and note choices. Not an expensive guitar.
Electronics: Now THIS is going to probably be the biggest difference when it comes down to the Gibson Vs Epiphone comparison. Over the past year, Epiphone has stepped up their game when it comes to stock electronics. But that hasn’t always been the case.
Epiphone has often used much less expensive electronic components. This is where they are able to cut the most cost. The “Probucker” pickup series is usually made in the far east, and are copies of Gibson’s more expensive custom shop pickups.
The wiring itself is usually lesser quality also, without any added capacitors on the volume/tone pots. This makes a huge tonal difference also. The corners that Epiphone cuts in the electronics, actually make a huge impact on the tone of the guitar. This is where the “Epiphones sound muddy” complaint usually comes from. They do sound muddy.
But this can be remedied.
In the past, people would just upgrade the electronics on their Epiphone guitars themselves. This adds extra cost to your purchase, but not much. Even buying after-market electronics, and having them installed, is cheaper than buying a Gibson.
But this past year closes the gap when it comes to Gibson Vs Epiphone. The electronics have been updated on almost all of the higher end Epiphone models, and some even have Fishman Pickups. This is a game changer for Epiphone, and puts them just under the quality of a Gibson.
Brand Name Hardware: This also once was a problem for Epiphone, as the company used cheaper metal parts than Gibson. One of the biggest Gibson Vs Epiphone arguments involved hardware.
Gibson has the parts machined, out of quality components. This makes no real difference in sound, but it does make the parts last longer. They are less susceptible to rust and wear.
Epiphone used much cheaper metal in most of the models for years. But…
This is yet another thing that changed in 2020. Epiphone now uses what I call “Mid-tier” components. They are name brand, and made better than the generic hardware that once came on most Epiphones.
Epiphone has been using the Tone pros locking bridge system on all of the higher end instruments of the last few years, and almost ALL of their 2020 Lineup!
Is this hardware as good as the Gibson version? That is a question that only you can answer. Personally, I like Tone pros gear and I think it is a vast improvement over the stock Gibson stuff. The bridge does not slide around on me when I am trying to change strings. It’s a small detail, but you notice it if you play a lot!
Point Of Origin: To me, it seems this is the real stigma of the Gibson Vs Epiphone argument. There is a myth that “Made In USA” on the back of the headstock makes a guitar better somehow. I definitely do not see this as the case.
As the picture shows, most Epiphones are made in the far east. Some were originally made in South Korea, while most are now made in China. But this by no means suggests that they are “lesser” instruments. Epiphone still has pretty good quality control.
The same can be said about Gibson to an extent, but in recent years there has been many QC issues with lower end Gibson guitars. I know for a fact, as I was an avid Gibson player until 2016. I personally struggled with trying to find a GOOD Gibson, after trying out multiple models. The one with no issues in the store, out of about 10, was out of my price range.
I was pissed. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a guitar without QC issues. 2016-2017 went down in history as a really bad year for Gibson. This was just after the Robo-Tuner issues they had previously. Gibson was a mess. So much so, the company almost ended up bankrupt.
But this is the core idea about Gibson vs Epiphone: A good guitar, is a good guitar. Regardless of where it was made.
The Name on The Headstock: This is the big one everyone! The thing that seems to be the biggest point of contention with most players.
Yes. People care about the name on the headstock, especially musicians that gig regularly. I cannot explain this phenomenon, as I have never really cared. But to some people, this seems to really matter. But let me try to talk you out of that mindset:
No one cares what kind of guitar you play. Especially not the audience. In fact, most audience members have no idea what kind of guitar you are playing. Mostly, because they do not play guitar. The girl/guy in the front row that is dancing while you’re playing doesn’t care about what the brand name is on your guitar. All she/he cares about is that you can play.
Sounding good is the goal of every guitarist right? We want to make music, and make it sound good. No one is going to walk up to you after the show and say ” Great show! Too bad you don’t play a Gibson though… would’ve made the show sooo much better”.
If someone does come up to you and say that, they have some serious problems. Call your local mental institution and see if someone has escaped!
I have played gigs with expensive guitars, and incredibly affordable guitars. No one ever cared what the headstock said. Hundreds of gigs have came and went for me, and not once has someone said anything about my guitar. They do however, talk about how I played the guitar!
Gibson VS Epiphone: In Conclusion…
So after much debate, I have decided that my personal opinion is that Epiphone exceeds Gibson in almost every way, these days. Not only is Epiphone more budget friendly, but Epiphone has listened to it’s customers over the years, and have made changes to the lineup. Gibson hasn’t.
There is a reason for this, however. I think a Gibson customer might be a little different than an Epiphone customer. If you are buying a Gibson, you probably want a “legacy” guitar. A piece of history. Gibson is notorious for not changing much, because their customers want a guitar as close to a classic model as they can get.
An Epiphone customer is more likely wanting a quality instrument for an affordable price. There is nothing wrong with that mindset, and if you want to modify it, then you can. But to be honest, Epiphone is great out of the box these days. Epiphone also has more variety.
So in my opinion, Epiphone is more likely to get my money. Sorry Gibson, but you have dropped the ball too many times for me.
Gibson Vs Epiphone, which is better?
In my opinion, Epiphone is the better buy these days. Epiphone has made huge leaps in quality over the past year.
Is Epiphone a good company?
Epiphone is one of the oldest guitar companies in the world. While they are owned by Gibson these days, they still make classic models, and are high quality yet affordable guitars.
Why is Epiphone less expensive than Gibson?
While both companies use many of the same designs and features, Epiphone is made in the far east and this reduces the cost for the customer.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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