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Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Let’s get something straight…Epiphone is not JUST a cheap substitute for Gibsons. Epiphones are excellent instruments, and while yes, they are usually cheaper than Gibsons, they can often offer better value for the money than their more expensive big brothers. In fact, the best sounding and playing lead guitar that I’ve ever had was an Epiphone Explorer that I sold many years ago…yes I regret it. On that same note, you can save thousands by just choosing an Epi…

Author: DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 23 years. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist.

A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).

Key Takeaways:

  • Epiphone Les Paul Custom is the Best Epiphone after considering several factors, such as sound, playability, versatility, hardware, and value for the money. It’s pretty much impossible to find a better Les Paul under $1000 than this.
  • Very few Epiphone guitars are produced in the USA, and those that are tend to be much more expensive. Most Epiphones are made in China.
  • Our best budget pick is Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1. It has a cheaper feel when compared to the winner, Epi LP Custom, but the Les Paul sound and fun playability are still there.
  • If you have any questions about Epiphone or any other guitars, leave a comment down below, we are happy to chat with you!

displays Epiphone Les Paul Custom

Best Overall – Epiphone Les Paul Custom

Reviewer: DL Shepherd

Sound
Playability
Overall Quality
Value For Money

Summary

Pros 
-Dressed-up, tuxedo style looks amazing under stage lighting
-Mahogany body and neck give it a ton of sustain
-Solid construction means it’s ready for serious playing
-Warm, rich tone works well with a variety of genres

Cons
-Can be a bit heavy when played standing up for long periods.

Who is this guitar for?
The Epiphone Les Paul Custom is great for anyone who is a fan of the Gibson Les Paul Custom but doesn’t want to pay the high price for it. It is a very versatile guitar that will lend itself well to a wide variety of genres. 

4.8

How Epiphone Les Paul Custom sounds:

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Best for Beginners – Epiphone Power Players SG Electric Guitar

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Small scale length is great for smaller hands
  • Included accessories make starting off even easier
  • Incredibly durable and well built
  • Good overall sound when plugged in

Cons

  • It doesn’t come with a practice amp
  • SGs are known for their headstock “dive”

Who is this guitar for?

The Epiphone Power Players SG is great for beginners who want to get started off on the right foot. They are also great for smaller players thanks to the reduced scale length.

 

Best Premium – Epiphone USA Casino

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros

  • Made in the USA from premium tonewood
  • Premium electronics provide an incredible vintage tone
  • Lightweight body makes it comfortable to play for longer sessions

Cons

  • Tends to feedback a lot at higher gain settings

Who is this guitar for?

The Epiphone USA Casino is a great guitar for anyone who is looking for a classic-sounding axe that is made in the USA. It is the perfect guitar for serious Beatles fans or for those who want a hollowbody equipped with P90s.

Best Budget – Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Quality tonewoods and hardware stand up to extensive playing
  • Stripped-down styling looks great under stage lighting
  • High-output humbuckers with ceramic magnets sound amazing for high-gain music.
  • Neck feels great in your hand and plays effortlessly

Cons

  • Can be a little heavy when played standing up for long periods
  • Ceramic magnets may be too bright for some players to appreciate

Who is this guitar for?

The Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 is for anyone looking for a budget-priced Les Paul to add to their collection. It is also great for beginners and for fans of heavy music.

Best for Metal – Epiphone Extura Prophecy

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Premium features such as Grover locking tuners are usually found on much more expensive models.
  • Extura body style is comfortable while allowing for sustain and playability
  • Fishman Fluence pickups maintain clarity in high-gain situations
  • The fast-playing neck makes soloing a breeze

Cons

  • Body style may not be for everyone
  • A gloss finish would be more durable

Who is this guitar for?

The Epiphone Extura Prophecy is for any metalhead that is looking for a great axe with active pickups to add to their arsenal.

Compare The Key Specs:

Graphic Compares 5 Best Epiphone Guitars

displays a Gibson vs Epiphone meme

If you have been hearing the buzz about Epiphones and wondered why they were so good, then you definitely need to keep reading. Epiphone has been a company since the early 1920s, and they have been building high-quality instruments the entire time. They started as an American company and were purchased by Gibson in 1957. 

They were made popular by the Beatles in the 1960s. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon all played Epiphone Casinos on every Beatles album. It wasn’t long before Epiphone’s instruments exploded in popularity.

Check our favorite Gibson electric guitars here.

Epiphone makes guitars and basses in their own designs as well as designs that are inspired by Gibson. You can find original designs such as the Casino, Regent, and Wilshire in the same lineup as Gibson-inspired designs like the Les Paul, Explorer, and SG. They are now made overseas, which means that they are cheaper than their Gibson family members. This allows guitarists on a budget to get Gibson designs at a fraction of the cost. 

Let’s take a look at my favorite Epiphone guitars that your money can buy, as well as several runners-up. 

Note! This article focuses on Epiphone electric guitars. If you are in search for Epiphone acoustic guitar, check this article of ours: 5 Best Epiphone Acoustic Guitars

Our Reviews of The Top 5

Keep These 3 Key Things In Mind When Choosing:

Pay attention to the pickup choices. Epiphones can have

  • humbuckers,
  • single coils,
  • P-90s,
  • P-100s,
  • mini-humbuckers,
  • active humbuckers,
  • and Fishman Fluence pickups installed.

If you play high-gain music, it is typically best to avoid semi-hollow bodied and hollow-bodied guitars due to the amount of feedback they can produce when used in a high-gain situation.

Very few Epiphone guitars are produced in the USA, and those that are tend to be much more expensive. Most Epiphones are made in China.

How Did We Choose These Guitars?

I’m a self-professed Epiphone freak. In fact, the best sounding and playing lead guitar that I’ve ever had was an Epiphone Explorer that I sold many years ago. I have since been on the lookout for another one, but they only made it for 2 years which makes them both hard to find and pricey now (just my luck). 

Since I have been on an Epiphone kick lately, I have had some time to shop around and play several models that I have not played before. I had no idea I would be writing this article, so you could say that things just sort of fell into place. I now know that the universe wants me to get a new Epiphone!

Basically, I looked at my notebook that I keep with all of my guitar notes in it. I also refreshed my memory by doing some in-depth research online. I relied on my recent experiences of playing fresh Epiphone models in music stores. Ultimately, I came up with this list for you all so that I could try to hit every player that might be reading it. 

Most electric guitars we recommend are run through tests like these:

  • We check electronics.
  • We inspect the guitar carefully to get a good idea of the finish and built quality of the guitar.
  • We inspect the fretwork and edges of the fretboard to make sure there are no sharp edges.
  • We run the guitar usually through BOSS Katana 50 MK2 and test clean, crunch, and distorted tones with lead and rhythm playing.
  • We use different playing styles to get a good feel for the playability. We use fingerpicking, sweep picking, riffs from different genres, shredding, tapping, chord playing, etc.
  • We test all the possible pickup combinations and use different Volume and Tone settings from the guitar.
  • We measure and weight the guitar.
  • We test the guitar with drop tunings.

Learn more about GND’s testing and reviewing processes here.

Best Overall – Epiphone Les Paul Custom

displays Epiphone Les Paul Custom

Specs

Body StyleLes Paul
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck ShapeSlim Taper
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Ebony fingerboard. 12″ radius.
Nut MaterialGraphTech nut
Nut Width1.693″
PickupsProBucker-2 Humbucker & ProBucker-3 Humbucker
Controls2 x volume
2 x tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeLockTone ABR Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
TunersGrover® Rotomatic® 18:1 Tuners

You may be wondering why I didn’t pick a more expensive model for the best Epiphone electric guitar. In truth, I wanted a guitar that not only batted well above its average when it came to playability and tone, but I also wanted a guitar that reflected Epiphone’s incredible value. 

The Epiphone Les Paul Custom was the guitar that hit all of the marks. Based on the Gibson Les Paul Custom, the Epiphone Les Paul Custom gives players the same high-end tuxedo looks at a mere fraction of the price. There’s just something about the way the black and white contrasts with gold hardware and mother-of-pearl inlays that screams, “Play me!”

It starts with premium cuts of mahogany that are used for both the body and neck. The neck profile is Epiphone’s SlimTaper profile which is very similar to Gibson’s SlimTaper necks. The neck is capped with real ebony and inlaid with mother-of-pearl rectangle inlays. There’s even the familiar Gibson diamond inlay on the headstock!

It is dressed out with gold hardware and multi-ply binding to give it an ultra-classy look. It just doesn’t get better than that. 

When it comes to tone, the Epiphone Les Paul Custom is one of the best-sounding Epiphone electric guitars that works for all genres of music.

The pair of Epiphone ProBucker humbucker pickups give it a warm, vintage vibe while remaining thick and meaty. There is plenty of sustain thanks to the all-mahogany body and LockTone ABR bridge. It looks and feels like a classic Les Paul that costs several times the price. 

You can plug it into any electric guitar amp and get a great tone. You can easily dial in some warm, sparkling cleans (like “Stairway to Heaven”) or turn up the gain slightly and flip on the neck pickup for some smooth overdriven blues tones. Crank the gain, set the guitar’s volume and tone controls to the max, and chug out some heavy riffs and screaming leads with ease. 

If you’re looking for a guitar that looks gorgeous, has an amazing tone, and is incredibly versatile, look at the Epiphone Les Paul Custom. You’ll wonder why you haven’t jumped on one much sooner! 

Check a sound demo:

Summary 

Pros 

  • Dressed-up, tuxedo style looks amazing under stage lighting
  • Mahogany body and neck give it a ton of sustain
  • Solid construction means it’s ready for serious playing
  • Warm, rich tone works well with a variety of genres

Cons

  • Can be a bit heavy when played standing up for long periods. 
What others are saying:

“I’ve had more Les Pauls than some people have had hot dinners! I can say that this version by Epiphone meets & exceeds guitars costing thousands more. The fit & finish is superb & the tone is as a Les Paul should be.” – Mike, Sweetwater customer

Who Is This For?

The Epiphone Les Paul Custom is great for anyone who is a fan of the Gibson Les Paul Custom but doesn’t want to pay the high price for it. It is a very versatile guitar that will lend itself well to a wide variety of genres. 

Who This is NOT For?

This guitar is not for someone who is looking for a lightweight guitar. Les Pauls are typically heavier guitars. 

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Best for Beginners – Epiphone Power Players SG Electric Guitar

Specs

Body StyleSG
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck ShapeSlim Taper D
Fretboard22 Nickel Medium Jumbo frets.
Indian Laurel fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutPlastic nut
Nut Width1.614″
PickupsEpiphone 650R Humbucker & Epiphone 700T Humbucker
Controls2 x volume
2 x tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length22.73″
BridgeLightning Bar Compensated Wrap Around
TunersDie-cast, Kidney Buttons

Starting out with the right gear is very important for new players. Epiphone has always seemed to cater to new players by providing high-quality guitars at entry-level prices. The Epiphone Power Players SG is no exception. Not only do new players get a quality axe, but they also get a few extra accessories to go with it. It’s the best beginner electric guitar that I have played in a while!  

The SG body style is a classic that is perfect for budding rock or metal players. It is constructed of mahogany and paired with a mahogany neck with an Indian laurel fretboard. The fretboard is decorated with trapezoid inlays for a professional look. It is equipped with Epiphone 700T and 650R humbuckers for a classic sound. 

One of the things that makes this guitar the best Epiphone electric guitar for beginners is the slightly shorter scale length. Instead of a 24.75-inch scale length that is typical for Gibson and Epiphone guitars, this guitar is shorter at 22.73 inches. This means that it will accommodate smaller hands with ease. For younger players, it makes learning strumming chords much easier, thus making them want to keep playing. 

The shorter scale is noticeable for seasoned players, but it is a great second or third (or tenth) guitar to keep around for songwriting purposes.

Soloing can be done easily with plenty of access to the upper frets. The SlimTaper “D” neck profile is comfortable with a bit more meat on it than a “C” shaped neck offers. This means that strumming chords are anchored better while still allowing for fast licks and riffs to be played. 

Epiphone throws in a strap, a gig bag, an instrument cable, and some picks to go along with the guitar. All that’s needed is a good guitar amp (a small practice amp works great). 

If you’re a beginner that wants to get started off on the right foot, then you need the best Epiphone electric guitar for beginners: The Epiphone Power Player SG. 

Check a sound demo:

Summary 

Pros 

  • Small scale length is great for smaller hands
  • Included accessories make starting off even easier
  • Incredibly durable and well built
  • Good overall sound when plugged in

Cons

  • It doesn’t come with a practice amp
  • SGs are known for their headstock “dive”
What others are saying:

Quality guitar suitable for the price and an excellent option for those who are starting and / or (because they have small hands) have difficulty covering the frets of a full-size scale. – Thomann customer from Portugal

Who Is This For?

The Epiphone Power Players SG is great for beginners who want to get started off on the right foot. They are also great for smaller players thanks to the reduced scale length. 

Who This is NOT For?

This is not for players who are looking for a full-size SG to add to their collection. It is roughly 2 inches shorter.

Is the Gibson SG that much better than the Epiphone SG? Answer the Gibson SG vs Epiphone SG debate!

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Best Premium – Epiphone USA Casino

Specs

Body StyleHollowbody Casino
Body WoodMaple/Poplar
Top WoodMaple/Poplar
NeckMahogany
Neck ShapeRounded C
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Indian Rosewood fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutGraph Tech NuBone nut
Nut Width1.687″
Pickups2 x Gibson USA P-90 Dogear Single-coil
Controls2 x volume
2 x tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeABR-1 Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Trapeze Tailpiece
TunersVintage Deluxe with White Oval buttons

The Epiphone USA Casino is the most expensive Epiphone on the market right now, and for a very good reason: It is made right here in the USA! Other Epiphone models are made overseas. This is the guitar that helped put Epiphone on the map thanks to the Beatles using them on virtually every recording that they released.

So, what’s so great about the Epiphone USA Casino? The better question is, “What is NOT great about it?” The answer to that is, “Nothing!”

The Epiphone USA Casino is crafted with a laminated maple/poplar/maple body with a neck made from mahogany. It is capped with a rosewood fretboard that is decorated with acrylic parallelogram inlays for a classy look. A Tune-o-matic bridge and trapeze tailpiece give it tuning stability with a vintage vibe. 

The electronics are completely hand-wired and include coveted orange drop capacitors. The pickups are a pair of Gibson P-90s – some of the most sought-after and iconic pickups available. They provide smooth clean tones with more shimmer and sparkle than humbuckers.

Turn up the gain on the amplifier to get gnarly rock tones with more sizzle and bite than a humbucker can give. 

The Epiphone USA Casino gives you plenty of airy rhythm playing reminiscent of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as well as grinding soloing that will accommodate everything from blues to full-blown rock and roll. The neck plays smoothly, and the body is lightweight and comfortable to play for long sessions while standing. 

It is one of the best electric guitars on the market, and it helped make Epiphone one of the best brands in the world. Pick one up and you’ll be hooked! 

Check a sound demo:

Summary 

Pros

  • Made in the USA from premium tonewood
  • Premium electronics provide an incredible vintage tone
  • Lightweight body makes it comfortable to play for longer sessions

Cons

  • Tends to feed back a lot at higher gain settings
What others are saying:

“I have played and owned a number of arch top guitars ranging from fat jazz boxes to ES 335s. I also have one of the Gibson reissue Es 330 guitars with a Bigsby. This USA made Casino is absolutely stellar. Resonant and rich with the right amount of bite when you dig in. Killer pups, great neck and wonderful feel, fit and finish; and well set up out of the box. I really can’t say enough about it. It’s harmonically complex yet articulate, very light easy to play and smells good!” Jeff, Sweetwater customer

Who Is This For?

The Epiphone USA Casino is a great guitar for anyone who is looking for a classic sounding axe that is made in the USA. It is the perfect guitar for serious Beatles fans or for those who want a hollowbody equipped with P90s. 

Who This is NOT For?

This guitar is not for those who use a tone of gain as it tends to feedback a lot when used in high-gain situations. 

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Best Budget – Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1

Specs

Body StyleLes Paul Studio
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck Shape60’s SlimTaper, D profile
Fretboard22 Medium Jumbo frets.
Rosewood fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutPlastic nut
Nut Width1.6875″
Pickups650R Zebra Ceramic Humbucker
& 700T Zebra Ceramic Humbucker
Controls2 x volume
2 x tone
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length24.75″
BridgeLockTone Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
TunersPremium die-cast, 14:1 ratio

If you’re looking for just another cheap guitar, then move along. This is NOT just another cheap guitar! The Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 is a killer guitar and a top Epiphone for the money! Sure, the market is flooded with budget-friendly guitars on the market, but the Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 gives you a lot of features that the other guys don’t.

For starters, it is made with a mahogany body and a mahogany neck just like most Les Paul models. The neck profile is a SlimTaper “D” shape and is very comfortable when playing leads or rhythm. The bridge is a Gibson-designed Tune-o-matic with a stop bar tailpiece, that feels really comfortable against picking hand when palm muting. Premium tuners help keep everything in tune. 

As with other Les Paul Studio models, this model also lacks the visual appointments such as fancy inlays, body and neck binding, and crazy colors.

It is a simple, stripped-down Les Paul guitar that projects a no-nonsense attitude both on the stage and in the studio. 

One of the best things about the Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 is the tone! It is equipped with two Epiphone Zebra-coil humbuckers. These are open coil pickups instead of the traditional covered pickups that come with most Les Paul models. The thing that I really like about these pickups is that they use ceramic magnets instead of Alnico magnets. Ceramic magnets give the guitar more treble bite than Alnico magnets, and that is a great thing for players of heavy music. 

The tone has warmth with a high-end bite that sounds great when played with a high-gain guitar amp. It projects well and solos stand out of the mix well. Rhythm playing is crisp and crunchy whether you’re playing clean or with distortion. Overall, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better guitar for less than three bills. 

Pick one of these guys up today to find out what you’re missing! 

Check GNDs sound demo:

Summary 

Pros 

  • Quality tonewoods and hardware stand up to extensive playing
  • Stripped-down styling looks great under stage lighting
  • High-output humbuckers with ceramic magnets sound amazing for high-gain music.
  • Neck feels great in your hand and plays effortlessly

Cons

  • Can be a little heavy when played standing up for long periods
  • Ceramic magnets may be too bright for some players to appreciate
What others are saying:

“If you want a Les Paul and don’t want to spend your life savings. This one is awesome! Stays in tune really well and doesn’t need much of a setup. Great for any level of guitar player and is also a beautiful instrument.” – Matthew, Sweetwater Customer

Who Is This For?

 The Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 is for anyone looking for a budget-priced Les Paul to add to their collection. It is also great for beginners and for fans of heavy music. 

Who This is NOT For?

This guitar is not for fans of a rich, warm tone. The ceramic magnets in the pickups have more high-end bite than traditional Alnico magnets. 

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Best for Metal – Epiphone Extura Prophecy

Specs

Body StyleExtura Phophecy (Gibson Explorer-style)
Body WoodMahogany
NeckMahogany
Neck ShapeAsymmetrical Slim Taper
Fretboard24 Jumbo frets.
Ebony fingerboard. 12″ radius.
NutGraph Tech NuBone XL Black nut
Nut Width1.692″
Pickups2 x Fishman Fluence Proprietary Humbucker
Controls1 x volume (push/pull coil-split)
1 x tone (push / pull Vintage/Modern pickup)
3-way toggle pickup switch
Scale-Length25.5″
BridgeEpiphone LockTone Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
TunersGrover Locking Rotomatics

Extreme music calls for extreme guitars. That is exactly how I would define every aspect of the Epiphone Extura Prophecy. It has extreme looks, extreme tone, and extreme playability. That’s why it is the best Epiphone electric guitar for metal. 

The first thing that stands out is the body style. It is the result of combining the Gibson Explorer body with the Gibson Futura body. It is a sleek Explorer shape that is made from a mahogany body capped with a maple top and fitted to a mahogany neck with an ebony fingerboard. This combination produces loads of sustain – just like its Gibson counterparts. 

The neck is a SlimTaper neck just like you’d find on Gibson models, and it plays effortlessly.

The body is designed to make access to the higher frets (there are 24 frets total) easier. This allows you to play lightning-fast licks and solos with ease. 

One look around the body will tell you what kind of guitar you’re dealing with. It is loaded with premium appointments like body and neck binding, abalone inlays, and locking Grover tuners. This is a premium guitar in every sense of the word. 

It has the tone to bad up its good looks too. The pickups are Fishman Fluence active pickups which are some of the best metal pickups on the market. Many heavy metal artists use them because they keep their intelligibility even when played with a ton of gain. Whether you’re lightly fingerpicking a clean passage or cranking up the gain, it takes your riff playing to a completely different dimension!

Today’s metal requires some extreme guitars. Let the Epiphone Extura Prophecy be your next one. 

Check a sound demo:

Summary 

Pros 

  • Premium features such as Grover locking tuners are usually found on much more expensive models.
  • Extura body style is comfortable while allowing for sustain and playability
  • Fishman Fluence pickups maintain clarity in high-gain situations
  • The fast-playing neck makes soloing a breeze

Cons

  • Body style may not be for everyone
  • A gloss finish would be more durable
What others are saying:

“Are there better guitars out there? Yes but nowhere near this price point. You would be forced to spend 50%-75% more to get something equivalent or better. With me receiving two different ones and both being phenomenal examples, I have to say thats good odds that these are well built guitars. I own guitars from Gibson, BC Rich, Schecter, Sterling, and Epiphones. Although most of my guitars are very nice mid range products the Epiphone Prophecy is the nicest (even over my Gibson thats awesome itself). If you like pointy Metal guitars, you might need to take a good hard look at these Exturas. Ive seen nothing that compares. Not even close.” – Robert, Sweetwater customer

Who Is This For?

The Epiphone Extura Prophecy is for any metalhead that is looking for a great axe with active pickups to add to their arsenal. 

Who This is NOT For?

This guitar is not for fans of passive pickups. Fishman Fluence pickups are active! 

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Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5


A Brief History of Epiphone Guitars

The history of Epiphone guitars starts in 1873 in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire (now present day Turkey) with Anastasios Stathopoulos. He built traditional instruments, such as ouds and laoutos, and did repair work. He relocated to Queens, New York in 1903 and opened up an instrument shop. He began by making mandolins. 

After his death, his son Epaminondas “Epi”, took over the business and began manufacturing banjos. They began making fine acoustic guitars in 1928. Epi died in 1943, and the company then relocated to Philadelphia in 1951. 

Epiphone was then sold to Gibson in 1957. Les Paul, a popular jazz guitarist at the time, worked nights in the Epiphone factory to build “The Log”, which was the first prototype of what would be called the Les Paul electric guitar. 

In the 1970s, Gibson outsourced the production of Epiphones to Japan, and by the late 1970s all Epiphone production had been outsourced to Korea. Gibson branded products were still being produced in the USA. In 1997, the production of Epiphone guitars was outsourced to China and Indonesia (where they are still made today). Some of the factories in which Epiphones are produced are the same factories in which other brands, such as Ibanez, are produced. 


Buyer’s Guide

The Epiphone Range Explained

Epiphone has several categories of electric guitars. These are Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop, Inspired by Gibson, Original, and Players Packs. Some guitars can technically be part of one or more categories especially if they are an artist signature guitar, but there are some differences.

Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop

Gibson Custom 1958 Korina Flying V

Epiphone’s Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop includes guitars that are often made in the Gibson Custom Shop. They are higher-end Epiphone electric guitars and even include Gibson BurstBucker pickups. These guitars are:

  • Korina Flying V
  • Korina Explorer
  • 1959 Les Paul Standard
  • 1961 Les Paul SG

Inspired by Gibson

Epiphone Les Paul Modern

Their Inspired by Gibson lineup includes models that are either faithful recreations of Gibson original designs (like the ES, Les Paul, SG, Explorer, Flying V, and Firebird) as well as designs that were inspired by Gibson originals (like the Extura, a mix between Gibson’s Futura and Gibson’s Explorer). 

Other guitars in the Inspired by Gibson lineup include:

  • Modern Les Paul
  • Modern SG
  • Modern Designer (includes Extura)
  • Power Player SG and Les Paul
  • Artist signatures (Emilie Wolfe, Billie Joe Armstrong, etc.)
  • Slash series
  • Adam Jones series

Epiphone Original Series

Epiphone Crestwood Custom (Tremotone)

Epiphone had many original guitar designs over the years as well. These are their Original series and include the Epiphone USA Casino – their only USA-built electric guitar at this time. Their original hollowbody and semi-hollowbody designs, such as the Sheraton and Zephyr, are included as well as solidbody originals like the Crestwood, Coronet, and Wilshire P90. 

Player Packs

Slash Players Pack

Lastly, they have player packs which are packages designed with new players in mind. These include:

  • Power Player SG and Les Paul
  • Les Paul Players Pack
  • Slash Players Pack
  • Billie Joe Armstrong Players Pack
  • Les Paul Melody Maker Starter Pack

How to Choose The Right Epiphone Series

If you are a beginner, you might consider getting something from the Player Pack lineup. These usually come with accessories such as picks, a strap, cables, a gig bag, and sometimes a small practice amp. 

Players who are looking to upgrade from their beginner guitar might want to look at their higher-quality offerings in their Original series or Inspired by Gibson series. These designs are either completely unique to Epiphone (the Riviera or Crestwood, for example) or are based on Gibson designs (the Les Paul, the Explorer, the Flying V, for example). Accomplished players will also enjoy these.

If you are a die-hard Gibson fan that is on a budget, the Inspired by Gibson series will give you access to some of Gibson’s most sought-after designs without the hefty price tag. Many of them are faithful recreations of original Gibsons and play and sound very similarly. 

If you have always drooled over Gibson Custom Shop guitars that cost more than some cars, then you will love the Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop guitars. These are faithful recreations of some of Gibson’s most sought-after axes made with virtually the same materials (like African Korina wood) – but they’re a mere fraction of the price of the original Gibsons. They come with Gibson BurstBucker pickups just like original Gibsons so you can honestly say that it is as close to a Gibson as you can get without getting the real thing. They are amazing guitars to say the least!


How to Choose The Right Epiphone Electric Guitar For You?

Body Styles

displays Les Paul electric guitar bodyshape
Les Paul is the most popular body style for Epiphones.

Epiphone electric guitars are available in many different body styles. These include Gibson original solidbody designs such as

  • Les Paul
  • SG
  • Explorer
  • Flying V
  • Firebird

Other solidbody designs include

  • Crestwood
  • Wilshire
  • and Coronet which are Epiphone original designs.

These are great for many different styles of music including heavier rock. 

They also make a wide variety of hollowbody electric guitars and semi-hollowbody electric guitars. One of these, the ES, is a Gibson design while the rest are Epiphone originals. Those originals include

  • Sheraton
  • Casino
  • Riveria
  • and Zephyr.

These are great for blues, jazz, and country. 

Woods

displays mahogany wood and reveals how it can affect the sound of electric guitar
Mahogany is the most popular wood for Epiphone electric guitars.

Epiphone uses high-quality electric guitar tonewoods in the construction of their guitars. These woods include:

  • Mahogany – Warm, rich tone with plenty of mids, punchy bass, and sparkling treble. This is the most common type of tonewood used in Epiphone solidbody guitars.
  • Maple – bright, crisp, and high-mid focused. This is used for necks and body caps. 
  • Ebony – bright and focused. This is used for fretboards.
  • Rosewood – well balanced with forward mids, warm bass, and shimmering treble. Epiphone uses this for fretboards.
  • Indian Laurel – Similar to rosewood and used for fretboards.
  • Poplar – very neutral tone without a lot of sustain. This is used in conjunction with maple for many of their semi-hollow and hollow bodies. 

Pickups

image reveals How different electric guitar pickups sound

Epiphone pickups are also designed after Gibson models. You can find humbuckers (open coil and covered), P90s, mini-humbuckers, and even Fender-style single coils (some Melody Maker models). 

Some Epiphone models, like their Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop models, come with original Gibson pickups. These are BurstBucker models which Gibson made famous.

Neck Profile

This graph reveals most common guitar neck shapes

Neck profile is very important. Typically, thinner necks are sought after by players who play complicated passages with a lot of technical complexity – aka “Shredders”. Thicker necks are usually preferred by jazz guitarists who play a lot of chords because the extra heft makes chording much easier. 

The common neck profiles that you will find in Epiphone guitars is the modern “C” shape and the modern “D” shape. The “C” profile is a great all-around profile for chords and leads. This is what many manufacturers use for their guitars in some form. The “D” shape is found on a lot of their semi-hollowbody and hollowbody guitars. 

Before choosing, play a couple of different neck profiles before you decide on what you like better. It is a matter of personal preference. 

Budget

Your budget will often dictate what you can and can’t own. It happens to all of us, unfortunately! With Epiphone, budget is less of a concern because they already push the boundaries of what is considered a “budget guitar”. Even their more expensive guitars provide great value!

That being said, some are better than others.

  • Many of their lowest priced axes may have hardware that is on the cheaper side, and they may have slight issues with tuning due to lower-quality tuners.
  • Stepping up to their mid-grade lineup gets you better construction overall.
  • At their highest tier, you get Gibson pickups and premium hardware, such as locking tuners. 

Many of their lowest-priced instruments use the same tonewoods as their more expensive instruments, so it is safe to say that many quality concerns come in with the hardware and electronics more than anything else. And in general (there might be some exceptions), you can get nice tones and good playability out of a Epiphone guitar, no matter the price range.

Find the one that fits your budget and jump on it! 

Skill Level

infographic reveals Different Guitar Skill Levels

Epiphone guitars are designed with pretty much every player in mind. Their low cost makes them popular with beginner and novice players. Even upgrading to a more expensive Epiphone won’t break the bank, allowing guitarists on a budget to own more than one guitar at a time. 

More experience players appreciate the pro features that their Inspired by Gibson Custom Shop and Inspired by Gibson lineup incorporate. While they don’t use Gibson parts, they are usually better quality than their less expensive counterparts, thus making them more desirable by seasoned players. 

Regardless of your skill level, you should be able to find an Epiphone that fits your playing style. 

How to Test

There are a ton of choices on this list alone so it is completely understandable to be lost when it comes to figuring out which brand to go with. You can narrow down your search by figuring out your basics:

  • What is my playing style? Soloing or rhythm? Shredder or chugger? High-gain or low-gain?
  • What tone do I want? Bright, articulate and chimy? Low, rich, and mid-focused?
  • How will I be playing most of the time? At home? In the studio? On the road? 

Figuring out your style will help you narrow down what neck profile you’ll most likely enjoy and what pickups should be in the guitar when you buy it.

  • Humbuckers are typically warmer than P90s which tend to have more high-end sizzle to them.
  • Thinner necks are usually preferred by those who like to shred and thicker necks are usually preferred by those who play a lot of chords. 

Once you have narrowed that down, you can now figure out what body style you want.

Keep in mind that guitars like Explorers and Les Pauls typically weigh more than other guitars because they use more wood during their construction.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of sitting while you’re playing, you’ll want a body shape that is comfortable to hold while sitting (a Flying V is NOT comfortable to play while sitting down, for example). 

Once you have it narrowed down between 2 or three models, then you need to play them! This will help you determine once and for all which guitar you want the most. 


FAQ

Are Epiphone Guitars Any Good?

Epiphones are great guitars for the money. Their quality control has really improved over the years, and they are now making some awesome instruments. 

Do Any Famous Guitarists Use Epiphone?

Absolutely! Famous Epiphone players see playing Epiphone guitars include:

-Matt Heafy – Trivium
-Noel Gallagher – Oasis
-Ray Toro – My Chemical Romance
-Tom Delonge – Blink 182/Angels and Airwaves
-Alex Lifeson – Rush
-Nancy Wilson – Heart
-Emily Wolfe

What Epiphone Did The Beatles Use?

The Beatles used Epiphone Casinos. 

Is Gibson Really Better Than Epiphone?

Gibson typically uses higher quality parts to build their guitars. This includes wood, electronics, and hardware. If you have ever had the chance to compare the electronics on an Epiphone and a Gibson, you’ll be able to physically see the difference in the wiring. 

For this reason, Gibsons are generally much better than Epiphones. 

Where Are Epiphone Guitars Made?

They are currently made at a Gibson-owned factory in Qingdao, China. 

Do Epiphone Guitars Come With A Case?

Generally, no they do not include a case. Some models, such as their 1959 Les Paul Standard, come with cases. Some of their guitars come with gig bags, especially those that come in a Player Pack. 

Who Owns Epiphone Guitars?

Gibson Brands, Inc. owns Epiphone Guitars.

Why Are Epiphones So Cheap?

Epiphones are cheap because they use lower-quality materials than Gibson and are made in China. 

Are Epiphone Guitars Good Quality?

Yes, most Epiphone guitars are good quality. The higher-end models are exceptional guitars, while their lowest-priced guitars are usually good enough for beginners. 

Are Epiphone Guitars Better Than Squier Guitars?

This would depend on your preferences. If you like Fender guitars, a Squier guitar may fit your needs better than an Epiphone. If you are a Gibson fan, then Epiphone will almost certainly be better than Squier. In my experience, Epiphone makes a much higher quality guitar than Squier. 


Conclusion

Our world isn’t getting any cheaper, and that includes guitars. I’m a huge Gibson fan and I fortunate enough to own a few of them. However, I will pick up an Epiphone in a heartbeat and play it on tour or in the studio. They have came a long way with their quality control over the years, and I am continually impressed every time I pick one up. 

I will admit that at the time of this article, I am indeed looking for an Epiphone to add to my already large collection. The ones that I have played recently have been stellar in terms of playability and tone. Dare I say – they rival Gibson when it comes to fit an finish, especially since Gibson has had some recent issues with quality control. I played an Epiphone Explorer the other day that made my Gibson Explorer feel cheap in comparison. Those that simply write off Epiphone as “just another cheap guitar” are highly mistaken! 

The greatest Epiphone guitars of all time are being made right now, in my opinion. They are much more than just a “cheap guitar” – they are a force to be reckoned with especially in today’s economy!

Thanks for reading, and happy picking from everyone here at guitaristnextdoor.com! 

DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 25 years and teaching guitar since High-School. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist. A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia. Expertise: teaching guitars, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, guide pedals, flatpicking, bluegrass, metal, rock, and blues.
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Best best best..

Teemu Suomala

BEST

Pedro

Jesus they didn’t include a Riviera. You can throw all of those in the garbage (including the casino) and get a Riviera instead.

Teemu Suomala

Hi Pedro and thanks for reveling your opinion! Could you give some context on why Riviera is the #1 Epiphone in your opinion? Just curious and would love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Mike Curry

I’ve been playing the guitar for over 50 years. I own several Epi’s. My favorites are the Les Paul modern. I love the sound of the humbuckers on it and the push/pull coil tapping. I also love my Epi Sheraton. It has a very eye pleasing headstock and fret board, and it’s all trimmed in gold. It has a more mellow sound, as hollow bodies often have. The pro-burst humbuckers sound great, and this also has coil tap for each pickup. It’s great for playing old CCR songs. Thanks

Teemu Suomala

Hi Mike and thanks for commenting and reveling your experience! What do you think: what lifts Les Paul Modern below Les Paul Custom for you? Would love to know! I have read and listened to Epi Shearton on Youtube, but for some reason, most local music stores don’t carry it where I live…hopefully one day…Take care Mike!

Lady Stardust

People don’t give the Sheraton enough love. I work in a music store – and recently bought an Epiphone Sheraton Pro II in wine red. It’s so beautiful and elegant! I love the flower inlay on the headstock and the binding around the guitar. It came from the factory perfectly set up and intonated, which is very rare for an epiphone especially. The only downside is the gold hardware, however. Unfortunately gold plated hardware likes to tarnish so requires light polishing. Some of these suggestions are great for the respective groups you’ve listed for each model. Thanks for the article!

Teemu Suomala

Hi and thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences! I agree, Sheraton is a great guitar that doesn’t get that much attention. Would love to hear your thoughts on this, since you seem to love Sheraton: What lifts Sheraton on top of the Epiphone B.B. King Lucille and Epiphone ES-339 for example in your opinion?

Gabrielle

I have a Epiphone wildkat royale. It’s an awesome guitar. I highly recommend it.

Tyler Connaghan

Hae you had the chance to gig with it at all? I’m interested in getting one of these and would love to know how it holds up!

Teemu Suomala

Darren lifted up great picks here

And I agree on #1 pick. Epiphone Les Paul Custom the best overall Epiphone Electric guitar to me too.

If you are looking for a more unique Epiphone with versatile sounds, check Epiphone Firebird.

Darren listed Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 as the “Best Budget”. It offers excellent value, sounds good, and looks stunning.

But if you have closer to $500 to spend, check Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn & Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90s. Both cost well under $500, but are a clear step up from Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1.

What do you think?

Prison-Mike

Great picks! I just ordered Epiphone Les Paul Custom. So Excited!