So you know you want an Epiphone. But what Epiphone Les Paul should I buy? Today we break down the different models, and help you decide which is the best choice!
What Epiphone Les Paul Should I Buy?
We absolutely LOVE Epiphone here at Electrikjam. Not only are Epiphone guitars affordable, but these are usually fantastic instruments out of the box with tons of features. Epiphone sometimes gets a bad rap for being a budget brand guitar, and I think that is hugely unfair. Epiphone makes some top tier instruments, and some are “Epiphone Exclusives” that you cannot even find from Gibson.
These days, I see just as many Epiphone guitars being played by pros, as I do Gibson. I think that is a true testament to the modern day quality of Epiphone. This is a far cry from the days of being “Gibson’s little brother” when it comes to brand recognition. Epiphone is totally it’s own thing these days, and the newer models show just how far they have come.
But that isn’t why you are here is it? You have already made the decision to buy an Epiphone! But “What Epiphone Les Paul should I buy?” is the question you are currently asking yourself. Well today, we are going to break down the different tiers for you, and help you make an informed choice. I think it can get really confusing since there over 50 models of Epiphone Les pauls to choose from, and they are all similar, yet very different. Today we will be looking at:
- Player Experience
This way, we can organize all of the different models in a way that is easier to understand than the endless scrolling through the Epiphone catalog. Epiphone may have a huge selection, but not every model is going to suit you as an individual. So let’s get started, and see if we can answer the question of: “What Epiphone Les Paul Should I Buy?”
Budget/Beginner: The First Step…
If you are just starting out, I always recommend that you get a good quality guitar that does not break the bank. There is no reason to buy a high-spec expensive model right out of the gate. You might not like playing guitar at all! And if you spent a thousand dollars on a professional model guitar, you might have some regrets.
Beginner guitars often have a bad reputation, but I think that is an outdated opinion. Budget guitars these days are made with CNC machines that rarely make a mistake. 30 years ago, a budget guitar might have been unplayable, but times have definitely changed. You even see professionals using budget guitars on stage these days!
So don’t let the price scare you away. These beginner models are a great entry point for anyone that wants and Epiphone Les Paul.
#1 Epiphone Les Paul Special
We have done a full review already on the Epiphone Les Paul Special, and we talked a lot about what makes this a great guitar for beginners. It has the shape, and overall design of a regular Les Paul… just stripped down a bit. You get the “essence” of what any Les Paul should be, without any of the higher end features that you see on the more expensive models. This is a “no frills” type of guitar, but it is also one of the best for anyone starting out.
As I stated in the review, this has one of the easiest necks to play on any beginner guitar I have ever owned. It works especially well for those learning because the neck is comfortable for any size of hand. This is often something a beginner thinks about. So what Epiphone Les Paul should I buy if I am a beginner on a budget? Its this one! But there is another choice, albeit a little more costly…
The Epiphone Les Paul Special is the perfect guitar for someone just starting out, or for players that just want to try out a Les Paul. The dual humbucker design can handle just about anything from Rock to Country. This is the best budget Les Paul you can buy!
#2 Epiphone Les Paul Studio
This is a proper Les Paul, through and through. It has all of the features that a regular Les Paul has, and it is a step up from the Special model in every way. The thing about the Studio, is that it comes in rather plain colors and has Epiphone branded hardware. You will notice that it is also missing a flame maple top, and the signature cream binding. This lack of aesthetic appointments keeps it well within range of a budget guitar.
We have praised this model before as well, and it took the #1 spot for the best beginner guitar. This is a proper Les Paul, without any of the flash. If I were asking myself “What Epiphone Les Paul should I buy?”…then the answer would probably be the Les Paul Studio if I were a beginner. It is a small step above the Special model, but that small step can mean a lot for a new player.
It has the classic four knob design, dual humbuckers, three way switch, and a proper pickguard. The difference in the Studio models VS the Standard line is the weight, aesthetics, hardware, and finish options. Otherwise, this is a fantastic Les Paul on a budget! This is also a guitar that you will not grow out of as a beginner. This can be a guitar that you continue to use for years.
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!
For players that are no longer in the beginner class, you may be wanting a serious upgrade to your guitar. This is natural, because as you learn more about the instrument, you learn more about what you like specifically. Every guitarist goes through this phase as we learn more about the guitar and develop our own styles. If you started with the Epiphone Les Paul Special mentioned above, you may have outgrown that instrument.
This means that you have moved on from the beginner phase, and it’s time to start looking for something that suits you better. The problem for some people, is going to be the budget. Many intermediate level instruments can be costly, and that leaves some players stuck on getting an upgrade.
Epiphone is a company that really shines with mid-tier priced models made for more experienced players. This is where the catalog really opens up when it comes to having some awesome features and specs. With the intermediate models, you get more name brand hardware. You also start seeing better pickups and electronics. Finally, you also get some beautiful finishes and maple top caps which are a staple of the Les Paul name!
If you have moved on from the beginner stage and you are asking yourself “What Epiphone Les Paul should I buy?”…then this is where you need to start!
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
This is it! This is the start of the intermediate line of Epiphone Les Paul models that hold the tradition of the Gibson counterparts. These are fully equipped to be the next logical step for anyone that is ready to take guitar playing seriously. While the beginner models were lacking in the feature department, the Standard line is not lacking at all:
- Mahogany body with AA flame maple cap
- Mahogany neck with Indian laurel fretboard
- Probucker 2 and Probucker 3 wax-potted pickups with Alnico II magnets
- Cream Binding
- Lock Tone Tune-O-Matic Bridge
- Grover Tuners
- Graphtech Nut
- 60’s Neck Profile (Thin C Shape)
- 2 Volume, 2 Tone knobs
- Top Hat Knobs
- 3 way Selector
- Pearloid Inlays
Like I said, this is where you really start seeing some great features when it comes to the Epiphone Les Paul lineup. The Standard series has all of the cosmetic appointments that the cheaper models are lacking. Like the beautiful pearl inlays, and the cream binding around the body and neck. The finishing on these models is next level as well.
But the hardware is also excellent with the Standard series. You have a locking bridge that will not fall off when you are changing strings. You also get a Graphtech nut and Grover tuners that will ensure your guitar stays in tune no matter how you abuse it. All of the features, including some new ones, can be explained on Epiphone Official.
The Probucker pickups are also a step up. These are designed after the famous Gibson PAF style humbucker, and you can get some great tones out of these. The neck pickup is creamy and smooth, perfect for leads. The bridge pickup is a little hotter, and you can get some serious chugging tones out of it.
All in all, the Standard series has a lot to offer when it comes to the intermediate player. This is the perfect “in-between” model for players on a budget. But what if you are going to be taking it to the next level? What if you are a pro guitarist wondering what Epiphone Les Paul should I buy?
Epiphone Les Paul: Pro Level
This is where we get to the top of the line Epiphone Les Paul models. There are quite a few models that fall under what I call the “pro category”. These are the absolute top of the line models for Epiphone, and the features reflect it. They usually have brand name hardware and pickups. Some even come with Gibson Custom Shop Pickups. The pro models are:
- Les Paul Custom
- Les Paul Standard Pro
- Artist Models
- Special Edition Models
- Limited Edition Models
- Les Paul Modern
- Prophecy Series
All of the models with these names attached come with some really impressive features, while still staying in “budget guitar” territory. Now when I say “budget” what I mean is these are usually still under $1000. The Artist Models are at the top of the class when it comes to the Pro Series. The Matt Heafy Les Paul is a great example of what Epiphone has to offer when you up the budget a little.
The limited edition models often come in different finishes and wood combos. You get all kinds of exotic choices like premium Koa wood. These limited models also have some nice finishing touches like special inlays, or exclusive pickups that other models do not have.
The Prophecy Series is also an amazing example. These are guitars that are built to shred, and they come with all kinds of modern touches that you cant even find on a Gibson! The Prophecy models have Fishman Fluence pickups pre-installed. Just because it says “Epiphone” on the headstock, does not mean that is cheap. I would put the Prophecy head-to-head with a Gibson any day of the week!
These are great guitars period. Not just “great guitars for the money“. These guitars are designed to be used by anyone that plays live gigs, or does studio recording. They are very close to being Gibson models when it comes to sound quality and specs. The only real difference, is that Epiphone is made overseas. The quality and features you want as a pro guitarist, are all there.
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…
What Epiphone Les Paul Should I Buy?
As you see, there is literally something for everyone when it comes to Epiphone. It comes down to what kind of player you are, when choosing the right model. The good thing, is that there is a Les paul out there for you, no matter what your budget may be. Even the cheapest Epiphone Les Paul outplays your standard off-brand beginner setup.
But Epiphone should not just be associated with beginners. As you can see, they have plenty of options for professional guitarists. I have seen a lot of gigging musicians using Epiphone guitars lately, and I think that is an awesome choice for a myriad of reasons.
If you are a gigging guitarist, and you are playing bars and outdoor gigs… an Epiphone might be a better choice than a Gibson for you. Who wants to take their $3000 Les Paul to outside gis, or dark bars where it can be damaged or stolen? Especially when the Epiphone will get the job done! And I promise you, the audience is not looking at the name on the headstock. They are listening to you play!
So no matter what your budget is, or your level of experience, there is an Epiphone Les Paul out there for you!
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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