Purchased from: Musiciansfriend.com
Sound — 9
When I first purchased this guitar I knew it wouldn't sound great out of the box. It had crappy 9 gauge factory strings on it and the pickups were weak, and since the strings were new (and apparently hadn't been stretched correctly) it would not stay in tune. I took it to my local guitar shop and had them set it up with good quality 10 gauge strings and intonate it and all that jazz. After it was set up there was a noticible increase in how good it sounded, though this is true of almost any guitar. I have the action set as low as humanly possible and it makes it easy to fly along the fretboard when shredding. I replaced the pickups after a couple weeks with EMG's. I put an EMG 85 in the neck and an EMG 81 in the bridge. After putting these new pickups in there was a MASSIVE improvement on the sound that I could get. Currently I am running it through a homemade pedalboard featuring a Boss Metal Zone MT-2, Dyanamic Wah AW-3, Compression sustainer CS-3, Digital Delay DD-3, Noise suppressor NS-2, and an MXR 10-band EQ. The whole thing is powered by a Dunlop DC-brick and I have it running into a 100-watt Marshall MG100HDFX. With this setup I could not ask for a more metal sound; the heavy mahoghany of the guitar carries deep tones well and the pickups output a searing tone; though I mostly just use the EMG-85, I just don't like the 81's tone as much, for lead or rhythm. The absolute best part of this guitar is the way it feels. Your hand feel completely comfortable and loose on the fretboard and it is extremely playable. Because of the Explorer body shape you will have to get used to the "fin" that sticks out the right side, it actually makes a useful forearm rest and whenever I play a different guitar now I miss it.
Overall Impression — 9
I play a power metal/thrash metal style of music and this guitar is simply amazing for it, the best I've played in my 4 years of experience. The feel of it is the best and with new pickups the sound is brought from good to amazing. It looks completely wicked of course, you can't play an Explorer and not look at least somewhat cool. If it were stolen or lost I may buy the Gibson version instead, but I'm not sure because the Gibson costs twice as much and I've been told the only differences are the hardware and the pickups. The hardware on this guitar is fine and I would always replace the pickups anyway, so a Gibson is not really "neccesay". This guitar is eons ahead of my old Squier of course, I won't bother making a comparison (though sometimes I miss having 24 frets). This guitar was designed more with rhythm in mind, but I use it for a lot more lead work and it really shines there too; though it's heavy palm muted sound is incomparable. Overall this guitar is frickin amazing for playing any kind of rock or metal, though it's clean sound leaves something to be desired. This thing was meant to shred, so don't bother unless you're planning on tearing up the boards.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar will stand up well to most anything you throw at it. I have used it for a few live gigs and I never had a backup available. As long as you replace your strings about a week before the show (usually a standard prqctice anyway) then you will not have to worry about a thing. The active pickups use a 9-volt battery and it lasts quite a long time, I have had the same one in there for nearly a year now and have not had to replace it, though I would before gigs anyway just to be sure.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The guitar setup at the factory was mediocre as explained in the previous section, but after a little modification it really starts to Shine. The stock pickups are not impressive, I highly recommend the EMG's. The floyd rose works very well on this guitar except for the short range it has for being "pulled up". When it arrived it already had a dent in one of it's corners, it was just small enough that I didn't care enough to send it back, though it was annoying. The satin balck finish is very nice, it doesnt't chip at all so if you knick this guitar there won't be any ugly wood colored spots to ruin the perfect black. The metal parts on the bridge will rust if they are exposed to water, which I did accidently one time while cleaning it, though that is just user error. Overall this guitar is very solid except the stock strings and pickups are bad.
Features — 10
The Epiphone goth Explorer features a solid mahoghany body, rosewood fretboard w/22 frets, dual humbuckers, 3-way pickup selector, and black chrome hardware. The most common version of this guitar is with a HardTail, but I purchased the version with the Floyd Rose tremolo system. The tremolo is good for most whammy bar applications, though it cannot be pulled up very far, which makes it difficult to really make those pinch harmonics scream. The guitar features 2 volume knobs and a tone knob. The knobs turn quite easily and seem to be of nice quality; though it is nearly impossible to reach even the first (neck) volume knob with your pinky while playing, making volume knob swells difficult to perform. One interesting thing about this guitar is that it does not have any dots marking the frets on the face of the fretboard, though they are still present along the side so that it is still easy to tell where you are while playing. The only marker on the face of the fretboard is a pearl inlay on the 12th fret with the number 12 written in roman numerals. The tuners are grovers, which are very fine quality, The fine tuners work well also. The locking nut is useful because it makes it so that this guitar virtually never goes out of tune, though the 1/8in hexheads on the screws themselves seem to strip out easily. The input jack is made of metal, aluminum I imagine, and will not break like the cheap plastic ones. One of the most mentioned quirks with this guitar is with the pickup selector. When only a single pickup is selected there is still some sound coming from the other pickup if the volume is up. This means if both knobs are set to 10 and then you turn the one you have selected to 0, you will still get some weak sound when you strum because of the other pickup. Another severe quirk is the strap button, not hard to remedy, but annoying. When the guitar is purchased the button will be located along the side and must be moved to the back for proper balance. The satin black finish is quite nice and will not chip very easily like the hard plastic finishes, it also feels very smooth to the touch and won't get "sticky". The pickguard does it's job. This guitar comes stock with 9 gauge strings, which are mediocre of course. The pickups that come with it are passive and not very impressive, more on this later.