Price paid: $ 699
Sound — 9
It was apparent to me when I first saw this guitar that Epiphone was directly combating the Gretsch 5120 Electromatic. Rather it was the other way around at first, I thought to myself, is Gretsch putting out a limited edition 5120?' Definitely not, this is Epiphone's answer to the market they have not been able to overtake. Epiphone over the years has earned not the greatest reputation in terms of what guitars they are putting out, the quality of them, and most importantly for us guitar players, a pretty lousy sound. I have always been skeptical myself, I owned an Epiphone Les Paul many years ago and once I was able to actually hear the differences in tone I had since not touched another. Well this one comes in and my friend Tyler at a Best Buy Music location tells me that I have to play this. I told him I already have my Gretsch 5120 that I am more than happy with, but I'll give it a whirl. I plugged into a Fender Blues Jr. and instantaneously knew that this was not the Epiphone of yesteryear. This was something new; this was the new direction of Epiphone. I could tell the guitar was crafted well but I was interested in the pickups as every Epiphone pickup I have ever played has made the amp sound as if it was under a foot of mud. Not this one! The SwingBuckers really sounded great, they were extremely clear, very bright, and had a rich and warm tone. Using the series parallel option was great and opened up a whole new plethora of tones. I preferred when it was in the humbucker position. It is not a high output humbucker whatsoever but it is extremely warm and coming through the Blues Jr. produced a very warm, rockabilly/bluesy tone. The nicest thing about it is that the tone was easy to achieve. I did not have to use my dial spinning wizardry on the amp to conjure this tone, merely everything at 5 across the board. The guitar responded well to both using a pick and finger picking. I never once was playing and thought that the notes were not ringing out. Overall I give the sound a 9 on this. I was very impressed with how the pickups reacted to the body of the guitar and especially how unlike the old Epiphone's, the tone and volume controls actually did something when you turned them.
Overall Impression — 10
My overall impression is a 10 and I will tell you why. I was shocked it was an Epiphone. This made me a believer again in a guitar brand with an amazing history. A company that once produced amazing hollowbody's and some of the most sought after guitars is back. The craftsmanship and tone of this guitar is something that really stood out to me. How well it was done and how good it sounded. I was shocked, that's why I am so impressed. If you are in the market for a Hollowbody guitar I would strongly encourage you to pick up this guitar and give it an equal comparison to the Gretsch. I know in my heart that Epiphone was targeting the market that Gretsch has and even more so that the Orange color is nearly identical. The fact that I am considering selling the Gretsch and gunning for this Epiphone should give you a clue which side of the fence I stand on.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Reliability and durability is generally an area where most haters of Epiphone say is just the worst. I have never had that experience with them and I cannot comment and how or if they were bad. From my feelings I really believe this guitar will be extremely reliable. If you take time to look at this guitar, from the binding to the special carving on where the neck meets the body, to the accuracy of the set neck, and to the setup and playability you will be thoroughly amazed at how this guitar is put together. As Epiphone as a company is turning the page and moving into the new direction of who they are I can see only strides in the right direction in everything that they do. Time will tell with the new Epiphone's. Until they prove themselves they earn a 7.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Breathtakingly beautiful. The binding, the headstock, the carving on the bottom of the fretboard all work towards making this a visually stimulating guitar. I am thoroughly impressed with how well they put this together. Unlike some Epiphone Custom Les Paul's I have seen with the binding mysteriously vanishing into the neck or other poor craftsmanship, the assemblers at Epiphone took their time and better yet had a good quality control team to ensure accuracy. The action on this guitar was stupid good. Best out of the box setup I have ever played. I was truly amazed by it. Everyone has a different action they prefer but I would say the overwhelming majority of guitar players would say this was just right! It is one of those things when you pick up a guitar in a store and everything about it just feels and looks right, this was it.
Features — 9
This guitar has the Bigsby wire arm tremolo which gives this thing serious playability, Epiphone SwingBucker pickups which are the best sounding Epiphone pickups I have ever heard, beautiful binding all throughout the guitar, and three fantastic finishes. Style: Single-cutaway archtop Body: Laminated maple/birch Top: Select spruce Neck: Set 3-piece hard maple Scale length: 24-3/4" Neck profile: Slim-tapered Fingerboard: Rosewood Fingerboard radius: 14" No. of frets: 20 Fingerboard inlays: Thumbnail Inlays Nut width: 1-11/16" Neck pickup: SwingBucker Bridge Pickup: SwingBucker Controls: 1-Neck Volume, 1-Neck Tone (push/pull series/parallel), 1-Bridge Volume, 1-Bridge Tone (push/pull series/parallel), 3-way toggle pickup selector Hardware: Chrome Tuners: Grover Imperial Style Bridge: Floating rosewood bridge (Pinned) Tailpiece: Bigsby vibrato with wire arm Finish: Polyurethane