Is an Epiphone a real Les Paul? This is one of the most asked questions we get, and today we set the record straight. The answer might surprise you!
This is a debate that I have seen for years all over internet forums. I have also heard it from guitarists before the internet was ever a thing. People always seem to ask “Is an Epiphone a real Les Paul?”“. The answer is a little bit complex. But more importantly…why would someone even ask this question?
I don’t think it is any secret that we are big fans of Epiphone here at Electrikjam. It is really easy to just dismiss Epiphone as being a “budget brand Gibson guitar”. But the thing is: Epiphone is it’s own thing completely. But while Epiphone is it’s own company, it is also the only company that makes faithful reproductions of popular Gibson models, as Gibson is the parent company.
But a lot of guitarists shun cheaper guitars, in favor of Gibson and other expensive guitars. The same thing happens when it comes to Fender guitars, as well. Some people call this “guitar snobbery”. I call it “preference” since you can’t help what you like!
Fender has a cheaper version of all of the most popular models, made in Mexico, when the main line of guitars is made in Corona California. Personally, I have never been able to tell a big difference between a Mexi Fender and an American one. Both guitars could be good/bad. Fender also an even more affordable brand in Squier, made in China and Indonesia.
Is An Epiphone A Real Les Paul?
According to Epiphone and Gibson: Yes, Epiphone Les Paul models are real Les Pauls. The Epiphone models are the only company other than Gibson that can use the Les Paul name on the guitars. Epiphone Les Paul guitars are made in Asia, but retain most of the same features as a Gibson. The big differences between a Gibson and Epiphone are how they are made, the components used, and the country of origin.
So what does that mean for you as a consumer? Well it depends on a lot of things, starting with your budget. Gibson Les Paul guitars can be pretty pricey. They start usually around $1000 and can go all the way up to $5000, depending on the model. The ‘historic models” by Gibson are usually the most expensive, as they take the most work to produce.
But in essence, an Epiphone is definitely still a Les Paul. Whether you are looking at the budget “Standard” series, or something more premium like the Prophecy models. Epiphone and Gibson have more in common than they differ!
- Solid Mahogany Body
- Mahogany Body
- Maple Top/Cap
- Tune-O-Matic Bridge
- 2 Volume/Tone Knobs
- 3 Way Switch
- Dual Humbuckers
- Rosewood Fingerboard
There are quite a few differences though, when it comes to components. The first being the pickups. Epiphone uses outsourced humbuckers, usually made in Asia. Gibson uses custom shop pickups like the 490T set in most Les Paul models. This is usually seen as the biggest weak point when it comes to an Epiphone, and lots of people change the pickups in their Epiphone Les Paul.
The quality of woods is different as well. This is most evident in the maple tops used. Epiphone will use a veneer for the “flame effect” while Gibson uses AAA Flamed Maple for the more expensive models. Epiphone also uses a thicker poly finish on the wood, while Gibson uses Nitro. We have talked about these differences before, and it is either not a big deal, or a total deal breaker depending on the guitarist.
Epiphone also makes signature models, more so than Gibson, actually! Gibson makes a few signature models, but they are rarely available to your everyday customers, and very expensive. Some models, Like the one that Matt Heafy plays from Trivium, can only be found as an Epiphone version. So if you are into signature models, then Epiphone is your best bet. Most are limited editions that come with a case, and a certificate of authenticity. These Epiphone models are functional collector’s items!
Is An Epiphone A Real Les Paul? YES!
If you have ever asked “Is an Epiphone a real Les Paul” the answer is definitely YES! In fact Epiphone is the only company allowed to make anything with the official Les Paul moniker. Are there differences? There are.
But Epiphone makes one hell of a guitar for people on a budget, especially beginners. I had an Epiphone Les Paul for years, and it grew with me! I changed the pickups and tuners, and eventually I changed the nut on it as well. It was a great sounding guitar, and used in many pro situations.
So if you want a “real” Les Paul guitar, there are tons of options out there from Gibson and Epiphone alike!
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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