Purchased from: Rockshop
Features — 9
Chinese made 50th Anniversary (of SG) model produced in 2011 only. It's a replica of the early '60s Gibson SG Special, with Alnico P90 pick-ups and a "Lightning Bar" compensated wrap around bridge/tailpiece. The model has a Mahogany body and set Mahogany neck with a 1960's D-Profile. The neck is bound and it has period correct Wilkinson ivory button tuners. Mine is ebony in color, they were also available in white, cherry and TV yellow. It has the usual 2 volume and tone controls and pickup selector switch. Completely different guitar from the bolt-neck Specials Epi also sell.
Sound — 9
I mainly play blues hard rock style, punk, grunge sort of stuff. I don't use effects and play plugged straight in. At the moment I have a JTM 1 combo and a Vox Lil' Night Train. The JTM gives some great '60s crunch/distortion (e.g. Townshend), but dials back to some nice blues tones as well. The LNT has a lot more gain potential and will go from spangly cleans through great power pop crunch to '70s hard rock/metal (think early Sabbath) sounds. I find it makes the best distorted sounds on the LNT with the gain set between 10 and 2 o'clock. The JTM generally just sounds better the more it is turned up, whatever the guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
This guitar got rid of all my prejudices about Chinese made Epis. Played unplugged it resonates beautifully. I'd rate the factory setup about 7/10. Action, intonation was reasonably good. One of the vol pots is a little scratchy. Everything else was fine. I was pretty happy with it out of the box, but after a few months playing, I sent it for a basic set up. The luthier couldn't find much wrong with it, just lowered the action a bit more and fine tuned the intonation. I had tried two other of these guitars before I bought mine and they were consistent in the factory set up.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I don't gig but I don't see any reason why this guitar would not withstand being played live as long as the usual SG care points re. The neck and head stock joints are observed. The strap buttons are fine and everything else about it seems reasonably solid. One thing with SG's they can be a little neck heavy but you can get around that with a good quality leather strap. The finish is just black polyurethane I think. It has a good gloss and is a solid color unlike some of the translucent colored finishes Epi have today. I can't stand the matt finishes on some of the cheaper Gibsons these days.
Overall Impression — 8
Been playing on and off for 40 years. Previously had a Gibson SG, Rickenbacker 330, a couple of Strats and Mesa Boogie MK2 C. In recent years I only play at home so "downsized" and am having a lot of fun getting into small valve amps and have a few different Epiphones, mainly SG's but also a Firebird 5 and an Explorer. The '61 P90 and my '61 LP/SG Custom are my favorites and great for playing the types of music I want to play now. These guitars are great value for money and are way better quality than the "cheap" guitars that were available when I was young. If anything happened to this guitar I would definitely replace it. In fact I'm keeping my eye out for a white or TV Yellow example to keep it company.