The Gibson Les Paul is an Iconic Guitar. But what about The Best Gibson Les Paul Alternatives? There is quite a few to choose from, and they vary in price and quality. Let’s dive in, and take a look.
The Best Gibson Les Paul Alternatives
That’s a pretty tough call, actually. Why not just buy a Gibson? For Some people, the logical answer to getting the classic Les Paul tone and features is… just buy a Gibson.
In Fact, Gibson recently made a case against having a Les Paul-style guitar made by another brand. The “Play Authentic” campaign was created to deter you completely from the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives.
The campaign was highly panned, and Gibson only added to the missteps of the past 15 years with the “Play Authentic” Campaign. It made people who played some of the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives feel like they were playing a “lesser” instrument.
The #1 cause for this was Epiphone players, that felt the campaign was targeting them.
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Epiphone is an offshoot of Gibson, but the way the campaign was worded, it was Gibson or nothing. Gibson went on to make some frivolous lawsuits against smaller companies that made the familiar “Single Cut” design.
So for the people that don’t care about “Playing Authentic” and simply want to have the best Gibson Les Paul alternative, at a good price point… this article is for you!
I’m 100% NOT saying you shouldn’t buy a Gibson. It’s your money, and you can spend it however you want.
But your money may be better spent elsewhere! And Epiphone does killer Les Paul and SG guitars.
The guitar is a personal choice, and a tool to use for artistic expression. If Gibson checks all the boxes you want in a guitar, then, by all means, buy one.
But we like to help out the beginner guitarist here. And sometimes just because something has a huge price tag, does not mean it’s the best you can buy for YOU.
For the rest of us…
The Best Gibson Les Paul Alternatives: Features To Look Out For
The guitars that we will be checking out today will have similar features across the board because it’s the feature-set that makes a Les Paul… a Les Paul. Those features include:
- 3X3 Headstock
- Dual Humbucker
- 22 Frets
- Gibson Scale Length
- Single Cut Design
- Individual Tone and Volume Controls
- Flat neck Radius
- TOM Style Bridge
While these features are what make a Les Paul stand out among all the other classic guitar designs, our list will not be limited to all of them. Some of our choices make only incorporate a few of the elements, or just plain retain the “Spirit” of a Les Paul. The best Gibson Les Paul alternatives are meant to be at least a little divergent from the classic design.
Gibson has not changed the Les Paul design in years. Many purists want classic specs and features. For the rest of us, maybe we want a more “modern” design. We will take a look at all of this and more.
And because of the design of the Les Paul, and its shape, if you get one you’ll need to get a specific style of case designed for that particular cut.
I wanted all of the options on the list to be affordable. The main reason someone does not buy a Gibson is that they are expensive. So we will be avoiding anything over the $1500 price point. These are also in no particular order, as I couldn’t decide on a favorite.
All right! With all of that said, let’s get started!
#5 Schecter Solo II Series
The Schecter Solo II series is one of the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives on the market. The reviews speak for themselves, as well as the many players that have used the Schecter to replace their Gibson. When it comes to features, it has everything that a Gibson Les Paul has, but actually a little better!
All of the hardware is upgraded from the factory, and the Solo II series comes with American-made Humbucker sets that rival anything Gibson makes. The Solo II has a wide, thin neck and name-brand tuners.
- Body: Mahogany
- Top: Flamed maple
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Ebony
- Body binding: White
- Fretboard binding: White
- Frets: 22 X-Jumbo
- Scale: 628 mm
- Fretboard radius: 12″-16″
- Pickups: 1x Schecter USA Pasadena (neck) and 1x Schecter USA Pasadena Plus (bridge) humbuckers
- 3-Way switch
- Machine heads: Schecter locking
This is a lot of guitar for the money.
The Schecter Solo II has been said to be the guitar Gibson wishes it could make, by many reviewers. The Solo II has many features that Gibson does not even consider. Like the compound radius neck, that makes it easier to solo up high, and easier to form chords down low.
The Solo II series comes in several finish options, and several feature sets. They even make one with a Floyd Rose and 24 frets! It’s totally up to you when it comes to personal style and features, so take your pick!
A quality Schecter guitar that runs American-made Pasadena and Pasadena Plus humbuckers, the Schecter Solo II Series is a truly outstanding guitar with amazing tonal abilities in the right hands. It also looks dope AF...
#4 ESP/LTD Eclipse Series
ESP/LTD really rose to fame in the ’80s by signing on many famous metal guitarists, like Metallica, Sepultura, and Megadeth. While they mainly focus fire on the metal community, ESP/LTD also make some more classic designs, just with modern features.
The Eclipse is the perfect example of this. Sure, it looks like a Les Paul. It makes for one of the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives though, because it comes in so many different models. There is an Eclipse for just about any style and price point. Whether you want to play extreme metal, or you want to kick back and riff on some blues… there is a model for you.
The lineup is so vast, I recommend checking out the ESP Official Website. The features also vary from model to model. Especially when it comes to pickup choices. So do your research if the Eclipse seems like the perfect guitar for you!
A near-perfect guitar in every way. The neck is rapid, it looks like a weapon when you're wearing it, and it sounds incredible, thanks to its Seymour Duncan JB/59 passive pickup setup. It ain't cheap, but this could well be on the best Les Paul-style guitars ever created.
#3 PRS SE 245
Not only does PRS make some of the best guitars on the planet, they also make one of the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives in the business. The PRS SE Standard comes in at under $500 and has all the features you could want in a Les Paul, without the hefty price tag.
PRS is very proud of the SE lineup, which started as a simple affordable option to the USA counterparts. But these days, the PRS SE line has taken over not only the budget guitar market but the professional market as well. Paul Reed Smith often talks of the quality of the SE Line, and how he sees them in big-name studios all the time.
Personally, I agree with him. I have seen some pretty big-name artists playing the SE Series guitars. They are great guitars right out of the box, but they become whole new beasts when you upgrade the pickups. This is by far one of the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives on the market and if you have never tried one before, then now is the time!
For the money, there probably isn't a better production guitar on the market. The PRS SE 245 serves up incredible value for money, and it plays like a dream. If you want to spend under $800 on a Les Paul-style guitar, this is the one to go for. Period.
#2 Jackson Monarkh
Ok, this one is definitely geared more toward heavy metal players, than anyone else. While it retains the classic Les Paul look, the features are very far from classic:
- Dual Control Layout
- Name Brand Pickups (Duncan/ EMG)
- Compound Radius
- Skinny Neck For Shredding
- Mahogany Body, Maple Top
- 12” Radius – 16”Radius
- Several Finish Options
The Jackson Monarkh is the best Gibson Les Paul alternative out there for shredders and metal players. Even Marty Friedman started playing one regularly a few years ago! To my knowledge, this is the first attempt Jackson has ever made in the “single cut” guitar market, and the base model starts at around $200.
The pro models get a little pricier, but they come with brand name everything. Even the most expensive model sits well under our predetermined $1500 budget!
If you want to play fast, you need a thin neck. The Jackson Monarkh was designed with shredders in mind. And it shows when you play it. This is a modern metalheads' Les Paul with all the trimmings, including Seymour Duncan humbuckers for screaming tones. No wonder Marty Friedman likes them so much...
#1 Epiphone Les Paul
Wait…the best Gibson Les Paul alternative is…another Les Paul? Well, yes, actually! Epiphone has come into its own as a company over the past year, completely redesigning their Les Paul lineup to be closer to historical specs. We did coverage all of last year, and we were very impressed!
So if you are strapped for cash, then Epiphone is the best Gibson Les Paul alternative. Because they are designed by the same people that make the Gibson Les Paul. Many are very budget-friendly!
There are more than 12 Epiphone Les Paul models out right now. One of them, the Prophecy, is made for Metal! But if that isn’t your style, then you can also buy the classic models that are identical in specs to their Gibson counterparts!
For the looks, the tone, and the specs, the Epiphone Les Paul Custom is our #1 pick for the best Gibson Les Paul alternative. Based on the iconic '54 Les Paul design, this model adds in chrome hardware and ProBucker pickups for killer tone and massive playability. Amazing stuff.
The Best Gibson Les Paul Alternatives: You have Buying Power!
So that’s our best Gibson Les Paul alternatives, and I think there is something for everyone here! No matter what your style is, there is a guitar out there for you.
Also, don’t forget Epiphone’s amazing line of SG guitars which are not only lighter than a Les Paul but equally just as good for rock and metal.
Let me get personal for a second… I used to be a Gibson player. I thought they made the best guitars. I thought that all that money was justified because I was buying a part of a legacy. But guess what?
No one in the audience cared when I was playing on stage. The studio certainly didn’t care about my Gibson Les Paul either. The only person I was trying to prove anything to… was myself. I eventually found other guitars, one or two that are here on the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives list.
Nothing changed. My playing didn’t get worse because I wasn’t playing Gibson.
I was doing just fine playing the guitar that I liked.
The name on the headstock means nada. What matters, is if you enjoy the guitar you are playing. That is “playing authentic”.
Gibson Alternative FAQs
Are the Best Gibson Les Paul alternatives worth it?
Definitely! There are many guitars, and guitar companies that make single cut, Les Paul style guitars that definitely rival the Gibson Les Paul!
What brands make the best Les Paul Style guitars?
PRS SE, ESP/LTD, and Schecter all make Les Paul style guitars that rival anything Gibson makes! Some have more modern features, while some are more classic.
Are Epiphone Les Paul Guitars any good?
I think that Epiphone make the best Gibson Les Paul alternatives. Most play, and sound almost as good as a Gibson.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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