Price paid: € 220
Purchased from: Star's Music, Paris, France
Sound — 6
I play mostly metal. Downtuned for most of the time. Some of my bands play modern metal (not that djent crap or metalcore/deathcore $h! 7) some are more in the vein of old school death metal. With factory configuration (e.g. pickups) it doesn't do well. Peavey 5150 as my main amp (Randall RH150 G3, Ibanez TBX150H as backups) paired with a Randall and a Marshall cab, with various Boss pedals sounds monstrous with my other guitars, but not with this one. Pickups are too muddy. Bridge pickup delivers some God low end, but 6th and 5th string just eat the rest. There is no way around them when played overdriven. Neck pickup is good only for arpeggios, occasionally clean chords.This guitar had to be tuned back in standard E. That is the moment when it redeemed it's lack of metal attitude. It just isn't made for it. Both pickups do so much better with lighter gauge strings and in higher range. You won't be able to get a good Slayer sound, but you can play decent blues and harder forms of rock. Two pickups are well paired. There is no difference in output and on an overdriven amp it cleans up very well with volume pots. Tone pots work well too. From crunchy rhythm to creamy lead, from solid clean themes to acoustic-like chords. Also, nice tapping. BUT! It does this only when tuned in E standard and with light strings plus my friend's Gibson SG destroyed it when compared. Let's say that is a one trick pony, and a mediocre one at best. Even that AC/DC riff doesn't sound right. I played "Thunderstruck" - both rhytm and lead (legato style) and it wasn't too good. Don't ask about the rest of their opus, or Black Sabbath's for that matter... I prepared new pickups for it (some Duncans ought to ameliorate the sound). So - it's look is deceiving - there isn't nothing metal about it (unlike Gibson SG), it's pickups aren't to the height of it's look (which promises thunders out of your amp), but if you are an before-nineties-guy - this can be for you. Too old-school, just needs a cleaner amp and a cable instead of metal monster with lots of effects. I hate EMGs (I own them in two of my guitars), but Epi pickups just don't cut it compared to the rest (JB and '59 are Alnico too, and they slay these, and I don't want to speak about A ceramic pickup in bridge position). Wasn't expecting Gibson, but wasn't expecting crap sound either... Still satisfied with wood and construction and the way it sound on simpler, lighter setting.
Overall Impression — 7
So - I like this guitar. It is a solid copy of a far better guitar, but it is still usable. No fancy stuff, just straight-on rock, you won't be ashamed (too much, considered that it is nearly free). You can play it live a few days a week without any fear, as long as you know what you need it for and how to get the best of it. If someone stole it.. I'd buy either a German made (old ones) or look at some other manufacturers SG models. The point is that I like SG, but look a bit past it's looks. I have 8 other guitars with lots of other pieces of equipment, I play semi-pro (or amateur + a few opening acts and festivals per year, how people feel about it) and I can permit myself to have this one. Beginners can also permit themselves to have an Epi G-400. The rest are the people who want to have one or two great guitars or are snobs. It is nice to see Zakk Wylde who has 40+ guitars, but he got them an account that he is a good, popular musician who gets sponsorships and endorsements. The rest of us mortals doesn't have to have 40+ pro guitars. Try this one, maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't... Maybe you will even fall in love and play it to the rest of your days (with stock pickups).
Reliability & Durability — 9
It withstood live playing. TOM bridge usually assures you that the string won't break since you don't have to cut it before you put it through a machine head. The hardware hasn't corroded yet (year and a half of usage). Strap buttons were changed the very first day for straplocks. Finish is standard black - lots of fingerprints, but more bada-s than that gay cherry one... I can depend on this guitar... If I wanted to. For the moment it is a beginner's guitar that needs lots of love to Shine through. One day it will, or it will be exchanged for a Gibson SG. They look alike, but there are more than few steps between them. Even Gibson's way of setting that neck in body is different and more comfortable. Still, a regular metalhead can put few EMGs in this one and rock out for at least two years without that fear of breaking anything (I don't count the fact that it will snap it's head off when let to fall on it's front because that is what happens to Gibsons all the time.. Epis are even more solid at that point than Gibsons). I deliberately said "metalhead" because blues/jazz/rock players don't move that much on stage compared to a raging 14 years old kid (I am 26, but I do the same - also, this guitar isn't intended for pros, but for beginners, but I am a bit special - I don't think that a good guitar has to be 1000+ euros as long as it suits my needs). Almost box-like shape isn't as fragile as horns of a V, Explorer or a Dean ML.
Action, Fit & Finish — 5
Well... The one I tried was VERY good. The guy from the shop then brought me another one in the box. I was not happy, but he assured me that it was the same thing (even though I've been playing for 10 years now, and know to make a difference - more or less - bottom line is that I liked THE ONE THAT I TRIED and I wanted THAT ONE), and proceeded to set it up before I got out of the store with it. So, I can't say what was the factory setting... But I can say that the guy has just set the intonation - he didn't even look for the neck warp, or if the pickups were too high... He didn't even pay attention on my complain about the string gauge I wanted to set. From the store - mediocre. 20th fret on fifth string is dead. I saw the guy stumble on it, but he kept quiet. It isn't a big flaw, it costs 10 euros to fix that, but he could try to give me another instrument when he wasn't gonna sell me the one that I tried in store. One thing that is a plus is that finish was flawless. No line in the middle of guitar (since it is a doublecut - two planks glued together). No rust on hardware, no wear and tear. (Fairly) fresh strings. Neck (to that guy's relief) wasn't warped so the action was OK. Still, far from perfect. I had to do everything at home, but I (usually) don't consider poor setup as a flaw (I always do a setup when I bring an instrument home). In this case, I will consider it as a flaw because the guitar in the shop was nearly perfect, and they sold me something that wasn't that way... Plus dead fret. On the other hand - 200 euros brand new set-neck, mahogany body, Grovers... In STORE. In my country people sell these guitars used at 300 euros. f--king dicks, but that is the problem when you live in a third world country (purchase in Paris was just a coincidence, I live in Belgrade, Serbia).
Features — 7
Epi G-400, made in April of 2010, Chinese, set-neck. Mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets, 24.75" scale, rosewood binding on fretboard (it was a surprise to me too). Two passive Epiphone AlNiCo humbuckers, three-way switch, two tone and two volume pots, TOM bridge, Grover non-locking tuners. Ebony finish. Got an allen wrench with it. Cheap Gibson SG Copy made by Gibson's sub-firm. I wasn't expecting to get an instrument in the line of American made instruments. It covers all the basics set by it's more expensive counterparts and isn't made out of basswood or plywood. I am aware that it isn't the same grade mahogany as used in more expensive guitars, but I'm satisfied. For the money, it is a very nice guitar that blows GIO Ibanez, Deans, LTDs, Jacksons and the rest of the similarly priced beginner's guitars out of the water (wood is crucial to me, and I can't believe that this guitar isn't made out of basswood like aforementioned guitars or that it isn't a bolt-on). On the other hand, it isn't a high end or a boutique guitar... Not even a middle of the road model, but for the price it can't be beat.