You are currently viewing Epiphone Les Paul Special VE (Vintage Edition) Review – In-Depth Tested

Last Updated on March 6, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

epiphone les paul special vintage edition guitaristnextdoor ratings displayed for readers

When Les Paul walked into the Gibson offices with his solid-body guitar prototype, “The Log”, he probably had no idea he was set to inspire one of the most popular guitars of all time.

Now, nearly 70 years since its original release, the Les Paul is still going strong as ever.

GuitaristNext Door recently got hold of a budget edition of this famed electric—the Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition—and we detailed the whole experience.

Check out o this Epiphone LP Special VE review to see if this affordable axe is a good choice for you.

Note: I also recommend that you check out my results after testing the 5 Best Electric Guitars under $200, this Epiphone is featured there too!

photo reveals owner of

Author: 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…).

The Review

Summary(If you are in a hurry)

epiphone les paul special vintage edition pros and cons displayed for readers

When some of us first started playing guitar, we were a little snobbish about brands like Epiphone and Squier. Not that our starter guitars were any better, but we just had this stupid idea in that these were Gibson and Fender knock-offs.

Well, years have passed and we know a lot better now. These aren’t knock-offs; they’re reproductions, and damn good ones at that.

Nowadays, most of us would consider ourselves lucky to have a nice Epiphone, and my test-drive of this new Les Paul Special VE has sold me on that even further.

Like every low-cost guitar, this one’s got its share of problems. But, I think anyone wanting an LP to call their own will have a good time with the fat, smooth tones of the Vintage Edition.

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You can watch my full in-depth video review of this Les Paul also!

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Epiphone Les Paul Special VE specs:

Body typeSolidbody
Body shapeLes Paul
Body woodPoplar
Neck woodMahogany
Neck shape60s Slim-Taper D neck profile = Comfortable, Best fit for rhythm and riffs in my opinion
Scale length24.75 inches = Shorter-scale reduces string tension, less finger-strenght is required to play the axe
Nut width1.6875 inches
Fretboard materialRosewood 
Fretboard radius14 inches = Pretty flat, easy to move your hands around
Number of frets22 Medium Jumbo
PickupsNeck: 650R humbucker; Bridge 700T humbucker = Great pickups in my opinion!
BridgeTune-o-matic fixed bridge
ControlsMaster volume and master tone, 3-way switch
TunersPremium covered, 14:1 ratio = The Worst thing about this guitar!
image displays Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition(VE) dimensions and weight

Things to Consider Before Buying an Epiphone Les Paul Special VE

If you’re in the market for your first electric, the Epi LP Special VE is a great starter guitar.

There aren’t many guitars under $200 that sound and play better than this model. It offers all the tone and playability you need to learn to shred.

Even more experienced players like myself can get good use out of this Epiphone. I’m not really playing out these days, so I’d definitely buy this low-cost LP before I’d go for a Gibson Les Paul.

Is it the best beginner guitar around? Maybe not, at least not for every player.

Its issues, though few, can be annoying to deal with right from the start. But, even if it does go out of tune easily, I wouldn’t say any of its problems are deal-breakers.

So whether you’re a musical newcomer or a seasoned stage vet, let’s see what this heritage Epiphone can offer you.


epiphone les paul special vintage edition overview displayed for readers

I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but I think this simple-looking guitar is stunning.

This particular model sports an all-black, low-gloss finish on all parts: headstock, neck, and body.

The finish is called Vintage Worn Ebony and is made to look like a guitar that’s seen some action.

It’s not a flashy hotrod kind of axe, but anyone who’s into more austere vibes will appreciate its simple beauty.

The rugged black is punctuated by the Special’s gleaming chrome bridge and open-coil humbuckers. 

This silver shine is especially bright against the body’s muted darkness and looks great. It makes you wonder why Epiphone didn’t use more attractive control knobs to complete the effect. I’d definitely change these knobs for something that looks (and feels) better.

If my Les Paul Special VE looks too plain for you, don’t worry! You can get this model in other Vintage Worn finishes including Sunburst and Cherry Sunburst.


epiphone les paul special vintage edition hardware overview displayed for readers

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the hardware on this guitar.

It comes armed with a vintage-style fixed Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. This is a great feature of Les Pauls that lets you adjust each string saddle. 

Why is this important? Adjusting the saddles allows you to intonate your guitar to near-perfection so your axe can sound its best. You can learn more about Tune-o-matic bridges here.

Both these pieces seem dependable and sturdy and score big points for this LP.

The tone and volume knobs are alright, though nothing to brag about. The plastic they’re made of feels a little cheap, but what matters is that they work. And hey, this is a cheap guitar.

One of my worries when I get a budget guitar is that it will have low-quality frets. On some guitars, fret quality can be downright terrible.

Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue with my Epiphone. Each of its 22 medium-jumbo frets is as smooth as I’d hoped for.

Now, onto the worst part of this guitar…

The tuning machines are quite bad. Epiphone, if you’re reading this, do better!

Yeah, they’re not as bad as plastic tuners like you’d find on an actual toy guitar, but they are annoyingly loose.

Who wants to tune their guitar every other song? Not me! In order to play this guitar in the long run, I’ll eventually have to upgrade these tuners. 

They’re this guitar’s biggest problem, and bring my rating of the hardware all the way down to 2.5 out of 5 stars.

And the reason I wait for more from tuners of this? Because I tested 5 different electric guitars under $200, and tuners of this Epi were easily the worst.


photo displays Epiphone Les Paul Special VE's electronics

Something you’ll commonly find in a lot of low-price electric guitars is poor electrical work. So of course I had to open up this LP’s back panel to take a look at the wiring.

Fortunately for me, the techs at Epiphone did a good job with this axe. All the connections look strong and clean, so I’m not expecting any issues there.

You can see some signs of hasty wiring in the toggle-switch, but it doesn’t seem to have led to any functionality problems. 

Turning the knobs and flipping the pickup selector switch is as smooth and crackle-free as it should be. The only thing I would have asked for here is to have a volume and tone knob for each pickup instead of the master controls. 

Maybe my favorite thing about this guitar is its pickup offering. In the Les Paul Special Vintage Edition, you get the Epiphone 650R and 700T, which are surprisingly powerful pups.

They run hot and provide the classic, warm tone LPs are known for. 

These are actually the same pickups you’ll get in Epiphone models costing $100 more than the Special VE, making this a great-sounding starter guitar.

Factoring in its overall cost:value ratio, I’m rating this guitar’s electronics 5-stars.


Watch the unboxing of this guitar here:

The fact is, Epiphone didn’t become one of the world’s most successful guitar manufacturers by producing low-quality instruments.

The LP Special, aside from just a few small flaws, has terrific construction considering its cost.

What really keeps this guitar’s price down is the body wood choice. They picked poplar, which is a downgrade from the mahogany bodies you’ll find on Epiphone’s higher-end models.

However, they still included the authentic mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard—one of the signature traits of vintage Les Pauls.

Aside from the bad tuning machines I already mentioned, I only found a couple of other things wrong with this guitar.

The most minor issue is a small crack inside the cavity behind the backplate. With its hidden, out-of-the-way location, I don’t see this expanding into anything to stress about.

epiphone les paul special vintage edition crack displayed for readers

These frets are made well, but they’re not set into the guitar very precisely. Their heights are a bit uneven over the course of the fretboard, which caused some buzzing when I first played it.

The easiest solution to this problem is simply to raise the action, so I did that to get rid of the fret buzz. But sacrificing string height for no fret noise isn’t a choice I would normally want to make. 

I guess I could take it to a tech to be refretted, but I don’t know if I want to put that much extra money into a budget model like this.

Overall, none of these build quality flaws are deal-breakers, and I’m happy to focus on the good things like its smooth-playing rosewood fretboard.


epiphone les paul special vintage edition playability overview displayed for readers

There are several features of the Les Paul Special VE that make it a fun guitar to play.

It didn’t exactly come playable out of the box, but it was ready to go after a tuning and some action adjustment.

Like I was just saying, I love its rosewood fingerboard. Epiphone might have cut a few corners in other areas, but at least they gave us the best fretboard a guitarist can ask for.

The nut width is a little bit narrow, but there’s still plenty of room for fingerpicking.

Fretting is really nice for two reasons:

  1. The Medium-Jumbo frets give a really smooth playing feel that makes note-bending and riffing a piece of cake. You can read this if you’re confused about fret sizes.
  2. The shorter scale length lowers string tension, so your fingers don’t have to press down as hard.

You can just about do it all on this axe—tapping, slapping, fingerpicking, flat-picking, and on.

However, the playability isn’t perfect, and I would change one or two things about it if I could.

The first thing I noticed was that the fret edges stick past the fingerboard just a bit. It’s not bad enough to be a real problem—I might have expected worse—but it does catch me up a little.

The other thing I don’t like, and actually my biggest problem with the playability, is the finish of the neck.

The neck’s got the same Vintage Worn finish as the body and just doesn’t feel smooth on my palm. It’s somewhat rough and doesn’t have the silky, fast-playing feel I love.

Yes it’s vintage, but it’s not the best feeling neck when it comes to finish.


After checking out every other detail of my new Epiphone, I was super excited to plug it in and see what it could do.

I hooked it up to my Roland Micro Cube GX and tested it out in all 3 pickup configurations in lots of different styles.

Of course, I wasn’t expecting Gibson-quality tones—Epiphone pickups and mass-manufacturing QC wouldn’t quite be able to pull that off—but I really liked what this guitar delivered.

Every note I played sang sweet, warm, and resonant. The highs might be a bit harsher than I’d prefer, but for the most part, I thought it was really well-balanced.

Distorted, it definitely has enough crunch for rock, punk, and even metal to some degree. There are better guitars for metal at this price range, but you can still pull some heavy stuff off with the Special VE.

It’s the cleans where this guitar really shines. They manage to both be articulate but fluid at the same time—really pleasing and harmonious.

So if you play softer styles like blues, jazz, folk, or country, this axe would be a great budget choice.

Here are a couple of graphs that highlight the those of this guitar:

Genres and songs this Epi can handle in my opinion:

graph reveals which genres and songs Epiphone Les Paul Special VE can handle

Tones that pickups offer in my opinion:

compares tones of the pickups of 5 best guitars under 200

Tones that tonewoods offer in my opinion:

epiphone les paul special vintage edition tonewoods sounds overview displayed for readers

Final Verdict

epiphone les paul special vintage edition guitaristnextdoor ratings displayed for readers


  • Affordable historic model
  • Authentic Les Paul Playability (not the meatiest neck tho)
  • Pickups offer great value for the money (the same pups can be found on more expensive guitars)
  • Attractive vintage worn finish
  • Clear, strong dual humbuckers
  • Dependable Tune-O-Matic bridge


  • Unreliable tuning machines; can require a lot of tuning
  • Uneven frets; can cause some fret buzz
  • Some rough fret edges

I’ll say it one more time—the tuners of this guitar are the worst thing about this axe!

Aside from that, I really have no major complaints about this LP. It’s a great-sounding electric that you can use in basically any style of music.

If you don’t mind tuning a lot (or if you’re down to get these tuning machines swapped out), this Epiphone is an excellent electric guitar for beginners.

It would rank a lot higher with me, but the low-quality tuners land it a final rating of 3.8 out of 5 stars.

It’s not perfect, and there are a few things I would change about it, but I’d say the Les Paul Special VE is definitely worth the money.

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What Others Are Saying?

Some consider the Special Vintage Edition to be one the best Epiphone Les Paul there is…at least for the money.

Though I can’t say I fully agree, it’s a guitar I’m happy to have purchased.

The general consensus seems to be that this is a guitar well worth the money. Its easy playability, quality construction, and beefy humbucker-driven tone make it a prized starter electric guitar.

Most seem to agree that the tuners need an upgrade. And the occasional damaged guitar does get past Epiphone’s QC, leading to a few disappointed buyers. 

But all in all, the Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition is a highly rated budget guitar. 


Where Is the Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition VE Made?

Nowadays, all Epiphone guitars except the Elitist series are made in China.

Does that mean they’re inferior to guitars made elsewhere? Definitely not!

China is home to guitar factories for most major brands, and tons of respectable guitars ship from there every year.

What matters isn’t where the Les Paul Special VE is made, but how it’s made. And in my opinion, it’s made quite well.

What’s the Difference Between the Epiphone Les Paul Special VE and Similar Guitars?

Guitars around this price can vary in pretty much every way. Even from the Epiphone model to the Epiphone model, you’ll find different woods for every part, different pickups, different controls, etc.

Here’s a quick overview of how the Special VE compares to some similar guitars:

Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition vs. Epiphone Les Paul 100

graph compares Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition vs. Epiphone Les Paul 100

My Special VE is one of the most affordable Epiphones around these days, which is obviously a big selling point.

Higher quality Epis, like the Les Paul 100, can easily cost hundreds of dollars more. And that doesn’t even mean everything about them is an upgrade!

For instance, the LP 100 gives you a body wood upgrade from poplar to mahogany. But at the same time, the neck material changes from mahogany to lower-grade okoume.

Both guitars use the same pickups, but the 100 has those dual volume and tone controls I wish the VE had.

Epiphone Les Paul Special VE vs. ESP LTD EC-10

graph compares Epiphone Les Paul Special VE vs. ESP LTD EC-10

A strong competitor of the Special VE is the ESP LTD EC-10.

Both guitars under $200 with Les Paul-style bodies, the differences are hard to tell at first glance.

The EC-10 subs basswood for the body and maple for the neck which would make it a somewhat fatter, brighter guitar than the VE.

The EC-10’s neck finish is much smoother than the Les Paul’s, but its engineered wood fretboard can’t compare to the LP’s rosewood.

You’ll find much better hardware in the ESP LTD EC-10—its tuners are high-grade and actually hold pitch, for starters.

Its pickups are more powerful than the Epiphone’s, making it a better guitar for metal. However, I still think the LP VE has a better clean voice.

Hear how ESP sounds:

You can read my review about this axe here.

Check The Current Price of ESP LTD EC-10:


Ibanez GRX70QA – The Best Electric Guitar Under $200

If you want to explorer lots of different genres with your budget guitar and still sound great, plus you want easy playability under $200, there is no better option available than this Ibanez GRX70QA in my opinion.

This is the best guitar overall under $200 for me. It’s not perfect, it had some fret buzz/uneven frets, sharp fret edges and you can get better tuners for this price, but the playability and tone-wise this is hard to beat.

If these sound good to you, this might be the right guitar for you!

You can read my review of this axe here.

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Jackson JS22 Dinky – Best Under $200 Guitar for Metal

The JS22 Dinky is my favorite metal guitar under $200. It can take a lot of crunch and is truly designed for playing heavy metal.

It has better hardware(tuners) and it’s more comfortable to play, but the Les Paul VE is more versatile overall.

You can read my review of this axe here.

Check Price on:


In my search for the best electric guitar under $200, the Les Paul Special VE was a fun tone-machine that I’m happy to add to my collection.

It puts the power of classic rock and a touch of musical heritage into the hands of beginners at a bargain price.

Though not my favorite axe, I’ll be jamming on the Special VE for quite a while.

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 also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, 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 been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, 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…). Expertise: guitar learning techniques, electric guitars, and guitar amplifiers. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or just email me.
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Take the guitar to a decent setup guy. He can level and round off the frets/fret ends to near perfection. He can also swap out the tuners. Consider some 250K pots to dial back some of the highs, and you will have a guitar that plays as fast and smooth as anything on the market. The nicest fretboard I’ve ever seen. It’s like owning a really nice Melody Maker with the lowest action you’ve ever seen. Well worth doing the mods. This thing was made for the Blues. I am a fast player with an exceedingly light touch. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would choose a different neck profile or fretboard. But, as with most guitars, it will require a competent setup to bring it fully to life. And don’t be thrown by the bolted neck. I bought this guitar as a lark. And if 50+ years of playing taught me anything, it’s that this guitar is a keeper. The pickups have me respecting ceramic magnets more than l ever thought I would too. Don’t get the ESP or any of the others. They will not be as rewarding as this guitar over the long haul. After being properly dialed in, almost nothing except Gibson’s best examples can equal the neck/fretboard configuration. And yes, the frets are spectacular.


I agree with the idea that the tuners could be upgraded. When I took the guitar out of the box, I did notice the fret buzz, and tried raising the action. That got rid of the buzz, but was unsatisfactory with respect to overall playability. I went ahead and made a slight adjustment to the truss rod (loosened it about 1/4 turn); after lowering the action, setting the intonation, and a new set of 10 – 46 strings, I was like a kid in a candy store! So far, the only mod I’ve made in the two years I’ve had it was to add a LP – style pickguard….