Price paid: A$ 400
Features — 8
2009 Chinese Dot. If you're reading this review then you're probably aware they are a double cut semi hollow body electric. Don't mistake this for meaning semi acoustic - it isn't. The hollow wings add to the tone and resonance when plugged in - acoustically this isn't much louder than an unplugged solid body. Purchased new, sight unseen. Everything out of the box was standard and while looking good in ebony, it needed some setup work to sound good too. Finish was impeccable. No accessories included (unless you count a couple of Epiphone plectrums as accessories) and no case. $100 at the LGS sorted the case out though. Pickups are both Epiphone humbuckers.
Non locking Gotoh tuners, tune-o-matic bridge (where is the "matic" part of these bridges?) standard 3 way toggle down by the 2 volume & 2 tone pots. It comes with a "D" shaped neck which is fairly chunky and maybe not for someone to use as their first electric guitar - it may be off putting. For a first timer in this price range get an Epi Les Paul or a Fender Squire anything. The 22 jumbo frets are nice and silky though and with the right setup & strings this guitar plays magnificently.
Sound — 10
I play a base of blues rock moving into jazz and funk. I thought this would be the perfect guitar for this and after a little work I was right. From factory the pickups were garbage. I believe they're the same pickup as used in the neck of the Epi Les Paul Std. Not the neck and bridge, just the neck and the same pup is used in each cavity. A bit cheap and dodgy but an easy fix. I run it through a fender stage amp and run Seymour Duncan pickups and 1950's wiring through various effects when needed. This setup has a warm but bright tone for the rhythm setting and phenomenal sustain on bridge with the tone wound back and a bright setting on the amp.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Sounded ordinary out of the box. Muddy pickups and I just couldn't get it to play right. I have a Gibson ES-335 and this was purchased as a knockabout getting drunk while jamming guitar to save the Gibson from a potentially awful fate. To bring it closer to the Gibson I put on a Bigsby B7 tremolo and swapped out the pickups for a Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB combo. I also changed the wiring from "modern" to "'50s" style to brighten it up a little. After an hour or so resetting the neck, action and intonation I plugged in the guitar and almost wept. For well under $1000 I had a guitar that played and sounded better than my $3000 Gibson. The Epi is now my favourite for gigging and recording. The Gibson is just about a wall hanging now.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Tough? It's got a poly skin worthy if a Sherman tank. The overly long headstock concerns me but so far I haven't even scratched it. The hardware is Epi and Gotoh so you'll struggle to fault it, however I did chip the corner off the bass side of the nut by running some super heavy flat wound strings. With regular strings (Ernie Ball FTW) it's no issue - just cosmetic. It came with Epiphones lifetime warranty, although with the mods I've made I'm guessing that will only apply to the neck joint now, which is as solid as a rock. I use this at pub/bar gigs over my Gibson 7 days a week. I do use the gibbo, but most nights it stays in it's case behind the speakers.
Overall Impression — 8
As a factory guitar I would only rate this as a 6. The heavy neck took some time to bond with and it sounded s*** right out of the box. As a base for a brilliant guitar with very minor mods though I'd rate it a 10. The fit & finish of everything is excellent. I'll meet half way. I appreciate that not all people want to make their guitar their own through custom mods and if not, this guitar may not be for you. If you're new to playing buy a Les Paul - the heavy neck on this might put you off playing it for good. Taking that into account, along with how much I love the guitar post-mods, I'll rate it an 8. I really do love this guitar - almost as much as my daughter - but it took time and money to get it right.