Price paid: £ 499.99
Purchased from: DV247
Features: I'm not 100% on the specifics of when it was made, although I do know it was part of the first run of 'Tribute' Les Pauls that were made by Epiphone around 2009/2010, so anywhere in that range. It has all the standard Les Paul trimmings, which I will list here:
- Body Material: Mahogany
- Top Material: Carved Hard Maple with AAA Flame Maple veneer
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Neck Joint: Vintage "Deep-Set", Glued-In
- Truss Rod: Adjustable
- Scale Length: 24.75"
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood with mother-of-pearl Trapezoid inlays
- Neck Pickup: Gibson USA '57 Classic Humbucker (4-wire)
- Bridge Pickup: Gibson USA '57 Classic Plus Humbucker (4-wire)
- Controls: Switchcraft 3-way Pickup Selector, 2 x Volume, 2 x Tone (push/pull)
- Electronics: Mallory-150 tone capacitors
- Fingerboard Radius: 12"
- Frets: 22; medium-jumbo
- Bridge: LockTone Tune-o-matic/Stopbar
- Nut Width: 1-11/16"
- Hardware: Nickel
- Machine Heads: Grover Locking Tuners; 16:1
- Includes: Hard Case (940-ENLPCS)
All in all, a rather impressive spec list, especially for a guitar of this price; the real ace-in-the-hole being the Gibson '57 Classic Humbuckers, which I will come to later. The quality locking hard case was also a pleasant surprise. // 10
Sound: My style began as a fairly standard punk/alternative, but I have recently been branching out a little, into more classic rock and metal - put simply, this guitar can handle pretty much anything you want to throw at it, bar ultra-brutal death/extreme metal. I was impressed by the resonance it possessed unplugged, and this translated wonderfully to its amplified voice. The '57 Classics have that timeless Les Paul thickness in the mid-range, but not in an overtly nasal or unpleasant fashion. They are balanced just right - I upgraded to this guitar from an Epiphone Les Paul Special II, which had HOT Alnico V pickups, and I found that although the Tribute's pickups are certainly cleaner, I don't miss it - they have a resonance and power which the old guitar's units simply did not.
The bridge unit is a fantastic combination of clarity and punch; it's a tough muscular, juicy rock tone that makes you want to whack the strings hard and feel your amp shift the air. The neck produces a great rounded tone that works for blues soloing or more muted styles. Now, of course, coil-splits are never going to make a guitar of this construction sound like a Tele or Strat, but the extra voicing they add is undeniably excellent - it lowers the volume and output somewhat, which is to be expected, but delivers a noticeable addition of chime at the bridge and a sweeter tone at the neck.
Through my AC30VR, I can find an exceptionally broad depth of tones - from Jawbreaker/Fugazi riffs with the humbucker at the bridge to even a little R.E.M on the clean channel, and of course, fiddling with the tone and volume knobs produces yet more useable voices - the pickups clean up very well. My only small gripe is the neck humbucker's overdriven tone, which I don't find myself particularly enamoured by, but it definitely has its uses - at present, I keep it split and with the volume at about 2 or 3, to use as a quasi-clean channel to prevent having to fiddle with a footswitch when playing live, and it performs superbly, delivering a lush, gentle clean tone. The Tribute, in short, is a superbly versatile guitar. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: The set up from the factory was pretty hard to fault, although I did drop the action to facilitate easier bar chording, and now it plays excellently. I have had a small problem with the top nut - when I was stretching in a new set of.11s, a piece chipped off by the low E, but fortunately this has had no effect on the tone or playability. I am going to have the nut replaced as soon as possible, so it is for this reason I am awarding an 8 rather than a 9. // 8
Reliability & Durability: This guitar will definitely stand live playing, and I have complete Faith in the hardware, besides that minor irritation with the top nut, but this has had no effect apart from a small cosmetic flaw. The locking tuners make changing strings so much quicker and easier than before, and it holds its tuning even after a lengthy Session of ferocious chording. The finish is most likely a polyester lacquer, and so will most likely be rather hard-wearing. I would happily gig this guitar without a backup, and I feel my trust in it is well placed. // 9
Overall Impression: As I mentioned before, I mainly play alternative/rock/punk styles, and this guitar is pretty much perfect for me. Its tonal versatility means I never find myself wishing I'd bought something else, and although I find myself wanting other guitars to add to my collection, that is more out of want rather than need. This guitar covers all of my bases superbly. My other two guitars are virtually untouched ever since I bought the Tribute - I've been playing for about three years now, and I feel that this guitar is just the right step up in quality. I don't feel my current ability justifies the cost of a Gibson, and if I'm honest, I don't see myself actually needing another guitar for quite some time. I love pretty much everything about it - it is the sound I'd imagined in my head but hadn't been able to achieve with my old Special II, which quite simply didn't have the class that this fine guitar exudes in spades. If it was stolen, I would purchase the same model, without question - I think its price/performance ratio is pretty hard to beat. If you're looking for a Les Paul, but can't justify a Gibson, then look no further. // 10