You’ve heard of Gibson. You’re aware of China. You know about clones and counterfeit products. Well, that’s what a Chibson guitar is…
Gibson guitars, from the iconic Les Paul to its SG, are well-known, instantly recognizable guitars that are used (and have been used) by some of the best guitarists of all time.
Everybody from Buzz Osbourne to Jimmy Page has used Gibson guitars (usually Les Pauls). But what if you cannot afford a Gibson? Most people buy an Epiphone.
They buy Epiphone because Epiphone guitars – most notably its Les Paul and SG models – are pretty much as good as Gibson’s these days. Just A LOT cheaper.
And that is why plenty of professional players, guys like Matt Heafy of Trivium, use Epiphone.
But China has different ideas and options for those that want to pay, well… even less.
What Are Chibson Guitars?
Chibson – which means “Chinese Gibson” – is a Chinese guitar company that essentially makes carbon copies of iconic Gibson guitars like the Les Paul Custom.
But unlike Gibson guitars, Chibson guitars cost considerably less.
How much less? You can get a Gibson Les Paul clone for about $170, and it will be based more or less exactly on the exact styling, shape, and form of the Les Paul Custom.
I know what you’re thinking – how is this possible? If you can buy a knock-off Gibson Les Paul Custom for less than $200, why aren’t more people doing it?
The main reason for this is that they suck. Also, from an ethical perspective, it really isn’t particularly commendable. Chibson is stealing Gibson’s Les Paul IP – there’s no way around this.
How is This Even Legal?
You see, most of the cheaper guitars (and even some of the more expensive ones) you can buy are manufactured in China.
China makes everything from phones to small plastic toys.
And China’s factories have access to nearly all the schematics and designs for everything from iPhones to electric guitars.
In the West, a company’s designs are protected by IP law and, if they’re stolen, the company can take legal action.
It works the same with patents.
Interestingly, this is why many popular Chinese phone brands do not sell their phones in the USA.
These phone companies use patented technology, technology that requires licensing, so if they rocked up in the US market they’d be open to legal action.
China doesn’t care about IP law, nothing is sacred in its manufacturing universe. And this applies to phones, tablets, trainers, glasses, and, yes, even electric guitars.
You Can Design Your Own Chibson Les Paul Custom
One of the Chibson’s most unique things, however, is that it will let you design your guitar from the ground-up. You can pick the color, the finish, the wood types, the pickups, even the design that goes on the headstock.
OK, so where do you buy Chibson guitars? I’m pretty sure you won’t see them inside your local guitar shop or online inside reputable guitar retail sites.
As always, if you want to buy something dodgy or counterfeit you’re going to have to use the internet.
And to buy a Chibson guitar, you’ll need to delve into the murky world AliExpress, AKA the asshole of the internet.
But as noted in the video below: it is probably isn’t a good idea to even flirt wait the idea of buying a Chibson guitar. You’ll pay maybe $200 for a customised Les Paul guitar which might sound appealing on paper or in your head.
But with guitars, you really do get what you pay for, as you can see in the video below
Why? Cheap components and poor workmanship combined. Put these two things together and you have a recipe for disaster when you’re talking about electric guitars.
Add in the fact that there isn’t a Chinese word for “warranty” and you’re essentially just burning money. Yes, you will get a guitar. It will have strings and probably look pretty nice.
But it will not play like a Gibson, or even an Epiphone for the simple reason that it is a knock-off – no love or craftsmanship went into making it.
Knock-offs are only designed to do one thing: extract money from suckers.
This is why you don’t get a receipt from your drug dealer, or when you buy a stolen TV. You might save a few bucks in the latter example but if something goes wrong – and it ALWAYS does – you have no recourse.
Chinese companies are not well known for their customer service and/or returns policies. Basically, they get your money and that is it – no comeback, no refunds, just a wall of silence.
How To Spot A Chibson?
To the untrained eye, it might actually be pretty hard to spot a Chibson. The main reason for this is that you can request that your Chibson guitar has the same headstock design as a proper Les Paul Custom or Standard.
Or you could design your own, if that’s more you style.
From a distance, and even close up, you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference between the Chibson Les Paul and a proper Les Paul.
Once you pick it up though, you’ll know.
The weight will feel off, the guitar less balanced. And then there’s the components and little tell signs that what you are holding is not a $2000 Gibson Les Paul Custom.
And then you’ll run into reliability issues, things like components failing, bad wiring, the wood warping or constant issues with intonation.
Problems like bad/shoddy fretwork and twisted necks are going to be either difficult to repair on a Chibson Guitar, or they will be impossible to repair.
Another great way to spot a Chibson Guitar is in the serial number. These are usually “lifted ” serial numbers that the Chibson guitars use. If you contact Gibson USA about the serial number, they can tell you if it’s fake.
In other words, it will end up being a $200 pain in the nutsack, and you’ll rue the day you ever thought about “going Chinese” for your “custom” guitar.
And beyond this, it’s just not cool – the whole practice of making “clone” guitars stinks. You shouldn’t tolerate it or support it.
Instead, if you cannot afford a Gibson Les Paul, go and get yourself an Epiphone Les Paul instead – they’re infinitely cheaper and, in most cases, just as good.
My personal favorite right now would be this one – I’ve had one for 12 months and it plays until anything else in my collection. For tone, playability, and overall spec, it is as good as a Gibson Les Paul Standard in my book.
Or, basically any of these epic Les Paul-style Epiphones (these are taken from our Best Gibson Les Paul Alternative Guide):
- Epiphone Les Paul Muse
- Epiphone Les Paul Classic
- Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy
- Epiphone Les Paul Studio
- Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy Electric Guitar
- Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Special Edition
The new “Muse” series doesn’t have much in common with a classic Les Paul outside of the shape. The body woods are completely different, as well as the neck woods. The body itself is chambered to lighten the load of the usually heavy Les Paul. Not to mention, the insanely cool colors that these new models come in
These are satin finish models that are very close to the Gibson specs. Make no mistake, this is a proper Les Paul. The specs reinforce this. The cool thing about these different satin finishes is they will eventually “wear away” the more you play. Like their expensive Gibson counterparts!
With its Fishman Fluence humbuckers, iconic design, and amazing specs and components, the Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy is easily the best Gibson Les Paul on the market right now. In fact, I think I’d still take one of these over a proper Gibson Les Paul. It is that good…
The Epiphone Les Paul Studio is modeled after it's Gibson counterpart in every way. This is a less flashy model, that still gets the job done! The dual humbuckers are ready to roar, and 2021 has added some cool new finishes!
The Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy is part of the "Inspired by Gibson" collection that closely adheres to the classic Kalamazoo style. But don't let the old school vibe deceive you—there are enough modern twists to make this an extremely versatile player. Featuring a AAA Flame Veneer, satin finish, and Fishman Fluence pickups...th prophecy is a metal machine!
This Epiphone Les Paul model features the same body tonewoods you'd find on an original '59 Les Paul: namely mahogany with a AAA maple veneer top. Available in two sunburst finishes, the wood grain shines through and so does the tone. The neck is made of mahogany with a rounded medium C profile. It is an absolute beauty, basically.
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RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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