Price paid: $ 120
Purchased from: eBay
Features — 9
I believe it was from Korea by the AU786 model name and serial N4D1000434. It's a Les Paul copy well made and finished and in at least 90-95% condition. Gloss finish is a cherry burst; nice felt washers inboard of strap buttons; all gold hardware and gold tone tulip buttons on the tuners. All mahogany; set neck with a sharp cutaway point. Body is several pieces joined together. 2 humbuckers and volume/tone pots for each. Rated "9" because of the price and quality and tone. It's 1/3 the price of a good Epiphone Tribute '60s with real Gibson '57s and is NOT 1/3 the guitar. The Austin is a nice guitar and I have a wine red transparent SG and a natural maple ES-335 copy. All 3 guitars are very nicely made and are cheap to buy when they appear.
Sound — 8
I'll try to be fair, but my pals are friends with Lindy Fralin and his shop is in my town. So few pickups can match some of the stuff in local guitars when Lindy is in town. But as factory, overseas pickups go, these Austin stock HBs are nice. What they need is better pots and to be adjusted (height, tilt, and polepieces) and then they really improve. The only noise is slight "scratchy" at the lower settings in the 2 volume pots, but spray cleaner will stop that. A versatile range... Bridge alone can play country or overdriven leads. The neck has that smooth and bluesy and strong LP sound and the middle position has that chirpy and sweet character once you dial in just enough of neck and bridge pickups to get it.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
No adjustment of pickups appears to have been done. The maple cap is a nice one... Lightly flamed. All workmanship is quite good; nice fret ends and smooth frets; good strap buttons and tuners. The action when tuned down 1/2 step is entirely playable. All it needs is a slight rise on the bass side of the bridge and slightly deepen and smooth nut slots to dial it in. I rate it "9" since it is as handsome as most any Epiphone and slightly lighter but with the feel and balance of a nice LP from Gibson.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is a fairly old guitar that was never used much... So it will literally last a lifetime if kept carefully. Hardware is starting to wear off at normal places, which is nice. Very nice gloss finish almost looks like a lacquer and is not very heavy. A set neck mahogany LP copy that is well made is solid, by definition. Gibsons are famous for a broken headstock, especially when handled by UPS. I had the seller let string tension off and pack it well and no damage at all. Reasonable care and this will last decades.
Overall Impression — 10
I have to rate it "10" because you cannot get anything like this in very good shape with "good everything" (color, feel, action, tone, build, weight, condition) for $120. It's an insane value and at $400, it would still have been an instant buy if you ran across it. There is nothing about it to object to... Good looks, feels great, nice frets and fretboard wood grain. Good tuners with cool buttons and that cherry burst color scheme with a nice flame maple top in nice light amber. Wow! This one look like something from the late 1980s or 1990s that might have been South Korean. Well fitted, good looks and pretty good pickups and hardware and general workmanship. The padded gig bag is plenty good enough with 3 pockets in black cordura. I'm stunned.