You are currently viewing Gibson SG vs Epiphone SG – Is Spending Extra Worth it?

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

You are into rock guitar? If that’s the case, the SG is most likely one of the axes you really want to try out, and most likely even own. Thanks to players like Angus Young of AC/DC and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, they are synonymous with rock. Even the Godmother of Rock n’ Roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, wielded one after the guitars were first introduced in 1961. Now, let’s solve this Epi vs Gibson SG problem and get you playing your new SG fast. Thank you for coming here and let’s get into it.

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.

displays Edward Bond and Gibson Guitar

Editor: Edward Bond

Edward has been playing the guitar since 2002. So Edward has over 20 years of experience as a guitarist, has authored 15 guitar books, has written for renowned music blogs, and spent a decade teaching music. He began merging his passion for writing and music in 2020 and has written for big guitar websites such as Guitar Head Publishing and KillerGuitarRigs.com.

Originally from Seattle, Edward moved to Norway in 2021 for a master’s in music. He’s studied at the Jazz Institute Berlin and Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and currently resides in Trondheim. His education includes a European Jazz Master’s, a diploma in Film and Game Scoring from Sofia, and a Bachelor’s in Jazz from University of Oregon.

Edward has played in numerous bands and currently, Edward works on his own project Starship Infinity


I’ve been a Gibson fan all my life, and I have been fortunate enough to play a lot of SG models over the years. Growing up, some of the local guitarists I looked up to played SG models. It was one of the coolest-looking guitars on the stage, and its unique shape easily stood out from the super Strats and more modern designs that were so prevalent. 

I believe the Gibson SG was the first Gibson electric guitar that I ever played, if memory serves me correctly. I have written this article based on my lifelong experience (25 years and counting) with Gibson and the Gibson SG. 

We’ll dig in to discover the differences between the Gibson and Epiphone SG’s. I have used the SG Standard models to compare because they are the most-sold Gibson guitars of all time…


Gibson SG and Epiphone SG: A Head-to-Head Comparison

Summary (if you’re in a hurry!)

The Gibson SG began life as a new version of the Les Paul. However, Les Paul himself hated the design. Gibson removed his name from it and named it the SG, which stood for “Solid Guitar.” It has remained a part of the Gibson lineup ever since. 

image showing Gibson SG Standard '61 finished in Vintage Cherry
Gibson SG Standard ’61 – Vintage Cherry

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Gibson purchased Epiphone in 1957 when the company fell on bad times. They were made in America until the 1970s when Gibson decided to move the Epiphone operation to Japan to compete with the influx of Asian-made guitars that were quickly becoming popular in the USA. 

It wasn’t until 1988 that Epiphone began to make Gibson-inspired designs – one of which was the SG. They were made in Korea at that time. Today, Epiphone guitars are made in the Epiphone factory in Qingdao, China. The most significant difference between the Gibson SG and Epiphone SG is that the Gibson models are made in the USA, and the Epiphone models are made in China.

When Should You Choose the Gibson SG?

Choose the Gibson SG if you want to own an authentic piece of history. It’s the real deal and the main reason that the Epiphone SG exists in the first place. If you have to have the best, nothing beats the original, American-made Gibson SG. 

The quality is higher than Epiphone’s because Gibson uses meticulous manufacturing methods and new technology like the Plek machine. They also use higher-quality materials than Epiphone, including tonewoods and hardware. 

Truth. It’s practice time.

Also, the Gibson SG offers premium Gibson 490R and 490T humbuckers, which are hotter and sound clearer than Epiphone’s Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. The Gibson will also have a nitrocellulose finish instead of a poly-based finish, as is on the Epiphone SG.

When Should You Choose the Epiphone SG?

Choose the Epiphone SG if you’re looking to save money while getting a high-quality guitar at the same time. They are made in China to Gibson’s demanding specs and are high-quality guitars for the price. 

Now we will look at the similarities and differences between the two models and break down their construction, playability, and sound.

image showing Epiphone SG Standard '61 Electric Guitar finished in Vintage Cherry
Epiphone SG Standard ’61 Electric Guitar – Vintage Cherry

Key Similarities Between Gibson SG and Epiphone SG

Here are some things that both models have in common:

  • Mahogany body.
  • Set neck.
  • 12” neck radius.
  • GraphTech nut.
  • 22 medium Jumbo frets.
  • 24.75” scale length.
  • 1.695” nut width.
  • 2 volume controls, 2 tone controls, and a 3-way toggle switch.
  • Come with Gibson .010-.046 strings.

Key Differences Between Gibson SG and Epiphone SG

Here are some key differences between the two models (note that there are tons of different versions to choose from):

Gibson SGEpiphone SG
Neck ShapeRoundedSlimTaper 60s
FinishNitrocellulose Gloss (urethane)
Fingerboard MaterialRosewoodIndian Laurel
Fingerboard InlayAcrylicPearloid
Bridge/TailpieceNashville Tune-O-Matic with stopbarLockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic with stopbar
TunersGrover 18:1 ratioEpiphone Deluxe 18:1 ratio
PickupsGibson 490R/490T humbuckersEpiphone Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers
CaseSoftshell case includedSold separately

The Gibson SG: A Short History

Manufacturing Location

  • The Gibson SG is manufactured in Nashville, Tennessee, at Gibson’s factory. 
  • The Epiphone SG is manufactured in the Epiphone factory in Qingdao, China. 

Design & Construction

Both guitars feature a thin, flat-top mahogany body with distinctive double cutaways. This shape debuted in 1961 as the new Les Paul design.

Both guitars weigh in around 6.0 lbs – 6.8 lbs. They are among the lighter Gibson models, especially compared to the Les Paul, which weighs 9 – 10 lbs. This means that guitarists with back problems or those who prefer a lighter guitar will appreciate the reduced weight of the SG. 

I want you to leave my site in a better state you came. Listen. The only thing separating you from the best guitarists of the world is consistency and giving everything you got in practice. That’s it. It’s hard, I know. But not making progress is hard too. Trust me, I know.

Teemu – Founder of GND.

The most significant difference between the two bodies is that the Gibson is finished with nitrocellulose lacquer while the Epiphone is finished with a poly or urethane-based finish. It would be challenging to tell the difference between the two bodies from a distance, though. They are nearly identical. 

There is one design issue with both SG models. The neck is heavier than the body, and therefore, it causes the headstock to “dive” toward the ground. This has been an issue with the guitars since their inception. 

It can be reduced by relocating the strap button closer to the neck pocket of the guitar if it isn’t there already. Still, you will notice that the neck wants to point toward the floor when your hand isn’t holding it up. 

How To Fix Neck Dive

Hardware Quality

  • The Gibson SG has Grover Rotomatic tuners, while the Epiphone SG has Epiphone Deluxe 18:1 tuners. 

They both feel solid and keep the guitar in tune very well. They are very close by comparison. 

The bridges differ as well, but they are essentially the same design. 

  • The Gibson SG uses a Tune-O-Matic bridge and a stopbar tailpiece. 
  • The bridge on the Epiphone is a LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic. 

The Gibson bridge seems of higher quality. 

Playability And Neck Profile

Both the Gibson SG and the Epiphone SG share similarities regarding playability. They are both very playable and fast. 

  • The most significant difference is the neck profile. 

The Gibson SG has a rounded neck profile thicker than the Epiphone’s. The thinner Epiphone neck is a SlimTaper 60s profile that is great for beginners and those with smaller hands. 

  • The scale on both guitars is the same at 24.75”. 
  • Both have 1.695” wide GraphTech nuts for excellent tuning stability. 
  • Both are fitted with medium jumbo frets as well. 

This means that both guitars will feel about the same when you are pressing down on the strings. It also means that both guitars will have roughly the same feel since the distance between the frets is the same. 

Both guitars are a great choice if you’re looking for a comfortable neck. I prefer the extra thickness that the Gibson neck offers and believe it plays better. However, the Epiphone neck is NOT bad in any way! It really comes down to personal preference. That is why it is essential to play both of them to find out which is best for you. 

The fingerboard on the Gibson SG is made out of rosewood, while the Epiphone SG is made from Indian laurel. They both feel similar, but Gibson’s rosewood is a bit darker and more vibrant in color. 

Gibson SGEpiphone SG
Neck ProfileRoundedSlimTaper 60s
Neck MaterialMahoganyMahogany
Neck Radius12”12”
Fingerboard MaterialRosewoodIndian Laurel
Fret SizeMedium JumboMedium Jumbo
Number of Frets2222
Nut Width1.695”1.695”
Scale Length24.75”24.75”

Pickups & Electronics

  • Both guitars feature the same control layout and pickup configuration. 
  • Each has 2 humbuckers, 2 volume controls, 2 tone controls, and a 3-way toggle switch. 
  • The electronics on both sound great, but the Gibson seems to edge out the Epiphone regarding quality.

The pickups are by far the most significant difference between the two guitars. The Gibson SG features a 490R in the neck position and a 490T in the bridge position. These are full, warm, and articulate. They have a bold sound while maintaining their clarity at high volumes. They still can get dirty when played through an amp with some gain. 

The Epiphone is equipped with two Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. These also give you a warm sound but have a little less output than their Gibson counterparts. The sound isn’t quite as full, but is completely usable and sounds good. They’re great for blues and rock, just like the Gibson pickups, but they aren’t quite as loud.

Sound Comparison

  • Both guitars have pickups that feature Alnico magnets. 

These magnets provide a warm sound with excellent bass response and sparkling highs. However, the Gibson models sound louder. This probably means they have more windings on the coils, giving them higher output. 

From a tonal perspective, there is more bass response from the Gibson humbuckers, and some added clarity. The Epiphone humbuckers sound ever so slightly duller than the Gibson pickups – and I mean VERY slightly. 

Both models lend themselves well to heavy rock tones. You can also get some great blues tones out of these models. If you plan on doing extremely heavy metal, then you may not care too much for the tone. You would want a pickup with a higher output and ceramic magnets. 

The Gibson pickups just sound better and are hotter. They have more presence than the Epiphone pickups. They both sound great, though choosing which is better is a close call. 

They are versatile guitars for rock, blues, reggae, and pop. They really like it when you plug them into an amp with a little (or a lot of) gain and crank it up! 

Pricing And Available Models

If you want to save money, the Epiphone gives you the best bang for your buck. If you want a guitar that will hold its value well, the Gibson SG will be the guitar for you. Even used Gibson SGs in excellent shape (Standard) command prices at or above the $1k mark.

Epiphone SGs, however, can be had brand new for around $500 at the time of this article (SG Standard models). That means you can get a brand-new guitar with a warranty for less than a third of the price of a new Gibson SG. They can also be found for around $349 in excellent condition on the used market – making them an even better value.

This is important to remember when you’re looking to buy a new Epiphone or a used Gibson. The Epiphone will give you the best value because you will get a guitar similar to the Gibson model for around half the cost of a used Gibson. You could upgrade the pickups to the Gibson 490T/R combo and still be well under the $1k limit. 

The Gibson SG is one of the more affordable Gibson guitars on the market, making it a great entry point for anyone looking to get an authentic Gibson. 

The Epiphone guitars can be found priced new from $199 – $999. The Gibson SG models are priced from $1,599 – $2,499 new. 

Gibson SG vs. Epiphone SG – Pros and Cons

Gibson SG Pros & Cons

ProsCons
They hold their value very well.Suffers from neck “dive.”
Made in the USA from top-quality tonewoods.It can be too expensive for many players.
Hot pickups sound great for rock or blues music.
The neck profile feels fantastic in the hand. 

Epiphone SG Pros & Cons

ProsCons
They are more affordable than Gibson SGs. Do not hold their value well.
A slim neck profile is great for beginners and players with small hands.Suffers from neck “dive.” 
Constructed of quality materials and hardware.
Pickups sound great for rock or blues music.

Conclusion

The Gibson SG is one of the most iconic guitars ever made. Les Paul may not have cared for the design, but it became Gibson’s top-selling model. Thousands of rock guitarists have connected with the SG over the years, inspiring countless people to pick up the guitar and start rocking.

Epiphone guitars were once known to be low-quality versions of Gibson designs. However, this has changed recently as quality control standards have improved. Right now, Epiphone has closed the gap in a big way by providing guitarists with a very high-quality guitar at a price that is less than a third of the cost of a genuine Gibson. 

You can’t argue with quality. It would be hard to distinguish between the two in a blind comparison simply because they have gotten so close. While there will always be differences, they are becoming increasingly subtle. This means players who can’t afford a Gibson can still get an axe worthy of playing on stage. 

The SG will always be a rock icon, whether made by Epiphone or by Gibson. These days, you don’t have to own a genuine Gibson to get a great quality guitar. Give them both a try and experience them for yourself! 


FAQs

Is The Epiphone SG As Good As The Gibson SG?

The quality is incredibly close. The only thing lacking in the Epiphone model is the quality of the pickups. 

What Does The SG Stand For In The Epiphone SG?

SG stands for “solid guitar”.

What Genre Is The Gibson SG Good For?

The SG is suitable for rock, heavy rock, and blues. 

Did Jimi Hendrix Use A Gibson SG?

Yes, Jimi Hendrix played a Gibson SG Custom for about a year, around 1968.

Can A Gibson SG Play Blues?

Yes, it sounds great for the blues. 

Are SG Guitars Good For Small Hands?

Gibson SGs would be fine for small hands. Angus Young has played one for decades, and his hands are small. 

Is Gibson SG Good For Rock?

Yes, the Gibson SG is great for rock.

Is Gibson SG Standard Or Modern Better?

The Gibson SG Modern is more versatile since it has push/pull pots that allow you to split the coils of the humbuckers to give you single-coil-like tones. This would make it a better choice. 

What Amps Sound Best With A Gibson SG?

Marshall amps are great when paired with a Gibson SG. A high-gain amp such as a Mesa Dual Rectifier is also a great choice. 

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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