Sound — 8
This guitar is built for metal. I play mostly industrial and melodic death metal, but I often branch into other musical territories. With the right pickups this guitar could do anything. I'm running it through a Peavey Valveking 100 with a DigiTech Bad Monkey infront, and it gets one hell of a tone. The stock EMGs aren't my thing and don't do this guitar justice and sort of turn it into a one trick pony that does metal and only metal., I'm going to be picking up a DiMarzio D-Sonic for the bridge and Lace Sensor Dually Red/Silver for the neck tomorrow, and making it a 1 vol/coil split/pickup select setup (Lace Sensor Duallies are 2 hum-canceling single coils in one, awesome pickup for the neck and diversity) for more tonal variety. Gets an 8 here because the EMGs really aren't my thing but thats a simple fix if you know your stuff.
Overall Impression — 9
Great guitar with the right pickups. The EMGs really take away the amazing resonance and natural tone of the guitar. I love the shape vs a normal Explorer, so much that now a normal Explorer looks bulky to me. I've been playing guitar for 2 years now, played bass 2 years previous, and played keyboard for 2 years before that. I compared this to the Ibanez Xiphos they had there and as much as I liked the Xiphos it was somewhat off-balanced weight-wise and lacked the beautiful top+TOM (I already have 2 floyded guitars. No more please lol). I wish they had a version of the Futura with a Kahler hybrid, as I'd kill for that, but that might be asking too much from a 700 dollar guitar.. Though the FX has an original Floyd Rose for 850... If this was stolen/lost, I'd prolly buy another, but I'd need to try it beforehand since Epiphone can be such a hit and miss company.. Though I'd hope not for one of their expensive models.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This thing is, to my surprise, built like a brick for an indonesian made guitar. The guitar came with 2 knobs missing which I immediately replaced, and then ended up replacing every electronic except the output jack due to changing from EMGs, which will be replaced tomorrow with 1 500k ohm vol, 2 mini DPDT on/on/on switches, a new 3 way Gibson Switch, and aforementioned pickups. The strap buttons I replaced the second I got it with straplocks, since I didn't receive the stock locks. The screws on the stock strap buttons were rather small though, and didn't seem like they'd be able to handle much. The finish is flawless, and the only flaws I've caused myself (hit the corder of the guitar and put a 2mm diameter chip in it. I like battle scars regardless lol) Honestly, I'd gladly use this guitar without a backup. The whole thing is as stable as it gets, stays in tune, has a strong neck, and is straight up beautiful. It gets a 10 here because this thing is built like a tank for a guitar under a grand. I honestly don't believe that indonesian sticker, this thing is at least made in south korea.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The action from the factory on this guitar was HORRIBLE, and it had some really bad backbow and a touchy trussrod when I first got it after changing the strings to .48~.08 elixirs (bought the .48~.11 set, took out the G and put a .08 on the end), which was no big deal but then the trussrod didn't want to function right, so I oiled it and everything started working fine from there. Thats prolly not a factory problem but instead guitarcenter's fault for not maintaining it over the 3 or 4 years it was in there. Also the tuners were loose from the factory which is how I got it for 499.. because guitarcenter thought the tuners were broken. Again guitarcenter's fault likely for not maintaining it. I will be getting a new roller TOM and locking tuners in the mail next week, so the gotohs are coming out and going on craigslist. The guitar itself is extremely resonant and about as loud as it gets acoustically, not to mention the BEAUTIFUL finish. One of the deepest tops I've seen in a while, ALMOST looked as nice as the 1/2 inch quilted maple top on the PRS on the wall near it, but nothing tops some of PRS' tops if you ask me.. where do they get that stuff!? Also, the ebony board on mine is very unique, it's pitch black except for a string thin brown stripe going through it. That's actually why I picked this instead of the Futura FX, for the unique ebony fretboard. that and more sustain by means of stopbar+TOM. Anyways I'm only giving it an 8 because I received it in poor condition, but the high stock action (which I was able to drop down to about 2mm or so fret 12) was likely Epiphone's doing.
Features — 9
This particular I bought was made in 2005 and said Indonesia, but it plays better than my korean made C7. 24 fret slim U profile, Maple veneer top (according to what I see in the pickguard cavity), Mahogany body and neck, ebony bound fretboard (website says rosewood, thats BS. it's ebony as most sites suggest), the body is gloss transparent red and the neck is satin finished, slightly more angular Explorer shape, comes stock with EMG 81/85, 2 vol 1 tone, 3 way toggle, Gotoh 18:1 tuners, and comes with straplocks (which I didn't receive.) Gets a 9 for great specs for the cash. Even if I only paid 499, those are some Killer specs for under 1,000