#1
I have been looking at buying a les paul style guitar for a while, and i think i have narrowed it down.

The first option is an Esp Ltd ec-500,

The second is an epiphone les paul custom.

MY budget probably tops out at around 700. One advantage to the epiphone is that i have seen "B stocks" that supposedly only have minor cosmetic flaws which i really dont car about and they go in the 400 range, so if anyone has purchased one of these tell me how they are. I have read that the epi stock pickups are below average, so i migth swich them out with duncans or mabey even EMGs.

As for style, i play a range from rock to metal, but i already have a metal guitar, so versitility may be a factor in this as well.
#3
If you want actives go ESP. There's a little extra work involved in swapping passives for actives.
American Deluxe maple board Strat
Hot Rod Deluxe
Fulltone Fulldrive II mosfet