So I'm in the market for something with humbuckers that suits my styles of play. I had been looking at SGs originally which I thought were great, but I'm not sure I can handle the wide neck and topheavy issues. Then I moved onto Gibson Les Pauls. I was blown away by the 08 Standards and even the Traditional. The only bugbear is the price which I can't justify at the moment.

So I reckon I want to get a semi-hollow Epiphone with humbuckers. I used to own a Casino which was fantastic but I sold that last year to get a Jag. I've settled on an Epiphone Rivera.

I'm rambling but I'm basically troubled by this issue:

When I bought my Casino (Korean) I compared it to a new Chinese made one in the store, and they were worlds apart. They felt and sounded like totally different guitars, and the Korean was far better.

Now the options open to me are buying a used Korean Riviera Standard, or, buying a new Nick Valensi Sig Riviera. Aside from the humbuckers being different will I notice a massive difference in quality between the two instruments?

I read here in the forums that signature models tend to use slightly better wood etc, so if the Chinese aren't as well-built than their Korean older brothers will this be mitigated by the fact that it's been made of better grade stuff for being a signature model?

For reference I can get a used Korean (Peerless) Rivera with a case for about the same price as I can get a new Valensi one (perhaps even slightly less). This will not have P94s though which alone are worth a fair bit though.

Any advice, recommendations, information that might help me? Am I making a big deal about nothing? Is there anything else you maybe think I should take a look at (I'm in the UK)?

EG, I leave this for you to mull over... (and apologies for rambling, it's a nasty habit I have )
Are you set on Gibson/Epi models? The new Fender Blacktop series is out, so they might be something to look into.
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My first guitar still has residue from an unfortunate ranch dressing incident

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I played this guitar once. It unleashed the ****ing fury and I got kicked out of Guitar Center.
I'm looking for a guitar with humbuckers. I would prefer a semi-hollow because, well, i like them! I'm not too fussed about it though, and I'm not too shoehorned in terms of brands.

As for the Blacktop, looking at that I would rather just buy a Jazzmaster, but again that's not really what I'm looking for.
Sig models are made from the same woods as any other guitar made in the same factory.

Now, I have to agree that on average, MIK Epis are superior to MIC ones (coincidentally, I am picking up an MIK SG on thursday, for exactly that reason). But I have to say, the Chinese ones have been getting better and better since the Epi-production was moved to China. It's been some time since I've seen an MIC Epi that was as bad as some of the stuff back in '06 or so.
So try some of the current production ones and see what you think. It also depends on whether you'd upgrade the pups of an old MIK one or not (I don't know if the old ones come stock with the standard 'buckers Epiphone puts into basically anything or with something better; if it's the standard ones I'd replace them at some point).
You should be able to get a used MIK for a lot less than a new Valensi sig. Personally, I'd probably go the MIK route and swap the pups, unless I found a new one that was really good.

Also, maybe look at Japanese copies of LPs and SGs, if you like those types of guitars. Something along the lines of a Tokai or Burny.
Yeh cheers for the help man.

I played a few guitars today, including Chinese Epiphones, Ibanez Artcore and a Vox LP-style thing. I used to own a Korean Casino so as a point of reference I played two Chinese ones today. One was finished and set up just as well as the MIK I had, but didn't sound as good. The other didn't quite sound as good but was beautifully finished - the neck, its binding was perfect, the fretwork was good as was the body finish.

My problem is if I get a Valensi Riviera I'll have to order one into a store, and then have nothing to compare it to.

If I go for a used MIK Riviera (for which I'm in the negotiating stages) then I would probably look to upgrade the pickups. The guy has already upgraded the tuners to Grovers, changed the switch and input jack to Gibson ones, and changed the volume pots. It's also had a Plek fret dress. I'm thinking that this would probably put it a bit ahead of a new Chinese one, and it's cheaper. All that seems left is to change the pickups, which I would probs mull over for a while.

The whole problem remains though, is that these guitars are pretty uncommon on the used and new market. I've never seen one or more on a shop floor to compare which is making this purchase a pain in the ass. The only thing I can compare it to with regards to finish and quality is my MIK Casino and the MIC ones I've encountered.

If it's had a plek-setup and tuners swapped, I'd definitely look into that used one. Plekking is expensive but worth it, and every guitar I've played that had been plekked played great.

The problem is that with Epiphone, the stock humbuckers usually suck. Hard. But their P90s are very nice, so nice I wouldn't even bother upgrading them unless I won the lottery or something. Therefore, comparing the Casino and Riviera isn't that easy, since one has crappy pups that don't do it justice, while the other has very good ones. No Epi with stock humbuckers will ever sound as good as one with stock P90s, in my experience. Once the stock 'buckers are out, the guitar shines.

I'd seriously go with the used Riviera and swap the pups, if the guy will make you a reasonable price.
Yeh, pretty certain that if I got the Riviera I would upgrade the pickups. Then over time I might make some other mods.

This issue has gotten even more complicated, I can either buy the Riviera and have £200 lying around for pickup changes, or trade the Gretsch I'm selling + £200 for an SG standard. What to do?!