Price paid: £ 280
Features: This is a Chinese-made, very ornate Les Paul copy from Rally (who apparently use some of the same factories as Epiphone and ESP, though I can't confirm this). Impossible to tell what year this was made as there is no serial number and no websites say when these guitars were produced. Other Rally's which apparently came in at around the same time were made in early '07 though, so I would guess this was probably made around then too. Allegedly this was/is a limited run guitar, with every UK store advertising there being 'very few' available in the UK, though no specific numbers are given. It's got all of the typical Les Paul features: single cutaway body (the horn on this one is a little 'sharper' than on most LPs). solid mahogany body with a AA flame maple cap (though I suspect this maple cap can't be more than a couple of mm thick. Still definitely better than an Ultra-thin veneer though), 24.75" scale, 22 frets. Neck profile is somewhere around a Fender Strat or Epiphone Les Paul, frets are medium about the same as found on new Fenders and Squiers (a little taller than Epiphone frets, lower than Ibanez/ESP/Jackson frets). Neck is a set maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. Very ornate 'Tree Of Life' mother of pearl inlay along the whole of the fretboard. On close inspection this does seem to be real mother of pearl (not a plastic immitation), but it's only a very very thin slice, I suppose to cut costs. There's a slightly larger 'knot' on the 12th fret, but other than that there are no specific markings for 5th, 7th, 9th frets, etc. Usual Dot markers on the side in the binding though. Very similar to what lots of Ibanez JEM guitars have. Tune-O-Matic and stopbar bridge. All hardware is gold plated (pretty cheaply done). Grover-style tuners, not stamped with any brand, but they're holding tune just fine. Basic plastic nut, but well cut and isn't causing any problems. Usual LP 3-way pickup switch, usual two volume and two tone controls. Control knobs are gold with mother of pearl tops. Two generic passive humbucker pickups. Actually sound pretty good, I've got another LP with USA Gibson BurstBuckers in and this doesn't sound much worse than that one does. Binding on the front and back of the body, along the neck and around the front of the headstock. The binding appears to be a fake 6-ply style, alternating black/cream/black/cream/black/cream. I'm pretty sure it's really just single-ply cream binding with the black lines imposed over the top. Poly finish, typical for guitars like this. Finish is a very rich cherry sunburst (the only finish these guitars are made in at all). Not experienced any stickiness with this finish yet. All-in-all, above average for a guitar of this price from China, but nothing really special apart from the looks. // 7
Sound: Incredible pickups for a stock guitar. Usually I find myself changing a guitar's pickups right away, but this one doesn't really need it. Good body for tone too. You can feel it vibrating for a long time after any note is plucked, and this guitar has sustain for miles. I timed an open G chord fading out completely after just over 16 seconds, incredible, you don't even usually get that kind of sustain on Vintage Gibsons (which yes, I have played, so no I'm not just guessing). There's no excess noise, and this guitar seems very resilient to feedback. The only problem is, there's not a huge amount of variety with this guitar. It's a Standard LP configuration: two medium output humbuckers, no frills. They're very good humbuckers (as far as stock pickups go), but there's nothing fancy. I've got it handling a good range of sounds from the cleanest jazz to full-on black metal, but that is more down to my amp and pedals (I use a custom stack powered by an old Fender head plus a range of Boss and DigiTech pedals. For practise I use a Fender Super Champ XD which is basically the same kind of deal). This guitar is only going to sound as good as the amp you plug it into; if you plug it into a good amp, prepare to be amazed. Plug it into a bad one, and you're not going to like the results. This guitar is not the sort of guitar that can make a Line 6 Spider or a Marshall MG sound good. For me though, playing most classic and hard rock with a little bit of blues and metal thrown in at either end, it's pretty much perfect. I would advise though perhaps changing the bridge pickup to a slightly hotter one and the neck pickup to a slightly cooler one so there's just a little more variation. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: This guitar came setup very well, though I do not know if that was a factory setup or the store setup. Everything was adjusted and set exactly right, though the action could do with being a tiny bit higher I think (there's no fretbuzz, I just like high action). All the construction is flawless. There's not a single fret out of place, everything's cut and fit correctly. Finish is flawless except from a few little marks most likely caused by people trying this in the store. The gold plating on the tuners has started to discolour very slightly, which is the only real downer, as it means the gold hardware on the rest of the guitar will probably do that too soon. For now though, it's holding up okay. The only real major problem is the volume and tone controls are a bit 'all-or-nothing'. They do very little for half a turn and then suddenly at the end they basically just kill the volume/tone entirely. This is pretty annoying, but very Standard for these Chinese guitars. Volume and tone pots are easy enough to change anyway (and shoudl be, when/if you change pickups). Wood and all other materials seems far above average quality for a Chinese guitar. I would estimate the general quality of this is actually somewhere around one of the better Korean copies or a typical Japanese copy. // 8
Reliability & Durability: This seems pretty tough, but I'm not sure I would say it seems 100% reliable. The strap buttons are okay but nothing great (but you should always replace strap buttons with proper strap locks anyway). The rest of the hardware seems like it will last okay, just the gold plating is very likely going to fade and discolour within the first couple of years (since this guitar is probably a little over a year old now, and the tuners are just starting to discolour but the rest is still holding up okay). The finish seems like it will last decently enough, as all thick Poly-based finishes do. I think this guitar would withstand most Live playing, though I'm not sure how it would hold up if it was fully thrashed around in some heavy gothic death metal dive bar. I would never play any gig without a backup around, that said I've yet to have this guitar fail on me so I would like to think that a backup wasn't completely required. All-in-all, I think this is a fairly solid guitar, just remember that it's not intended to have anvils dropped on it. // 9
Overall Impression: I've been playing for a little over two years now. I play mostly classic and older hard rock (including stuff like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Cream, etc), but I also on occasion dip into a little blues or heavy metal too. This guitar suits that pretty much perfectly. It's clearly built for straight-up rock music, it can also handle blues just fine, and I think it can be okay for metal too so long as you're not trying to play Ultra-heavy blackdeathgothdoommetalcorewhatever. I also currently own a Korean-made Epiphone Joe Perry Boneyard signature Les Paul with USA Gibson BurstBuckers, which cost a little over twice what this guitar did, and this guitar easily lives up to that quality. In the past I've also owned an American Fender Stratocaster, a Squier Strat, an Epiphone SG, an Epiphone LP Jr, an Epi Dot Studio, a Gibson LP Studio, and an Ibanez RG321MH. Of all of those, I think this is probably the second best guitar I've owned (the best being the Epi Joe Perry Boneyard, which is only a touch better than this one). All those other guitars always had at least one major problem like bad frets (most of the Epis), poor hardware (Squier), bad materials (Ibanez), or all-round low quality (Gibson and Fender). This guitar though is just pretty much flawless, considering the cost. The only problems it has are the gold hardware will discolour (easy enough to replace or ignore, doesn't effect the tone or how you play), and the stock pickups are a little boring (not 'bad', just 'boring'). Those can easily be changed too though.
I love the look, I love how it feels and plays, and for a stock guitar, I'm amazed at how it sounds. Before I bought this, I was looking at Epiphone Elitist LPs, Gibson Standard LPs, Fender American Deluxe Strats (spot the odd one out), ESP LPs, and a variety of other 'no name brand' LP copies. This guitar was clearly the best with the most potential. If I didn't want to ever bother with modding anything then the Epi Elitist or ESP LPs possibly might have been a better buy, but since I'm always so keen on modding guitars anyway and using my own specific pickups, this was the best way to go. A basically flawless base and the only downsides are very minor and easy/common to fix anyway. Only things it's missing that I wish it had are the same basic things I always upgrade on all guitars anyway; my own personal choice of pickups, better pots and a graphite nut. If this was stolen, lost or damaged beyond repair, I would definitely buy another one if I could find one. Considering the rarity though, I'd still probably be happy to settle for another Rally if they're all as good as this. Definitely recommend this guitar to any beginner with money to burn, or any intermediate rock player who wants something a little special to show off with. With a couple of comon easy upgrades I'm sure this would hold up as a solid backup guitar for a more advanced player as well. // 8