Price paid: $ 300
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 8
The stock pickups sound really nice for the price. The guitar is quite heavy, so the sound it produces is a very deep variety. For metal and distorted blues it does the job very well. I've run it through a few amps in the 3 years I've had it. It sounds great, especially through the Mesa Boogie F-30 I once had. The pickups are a little noisy with high gain. I don't see that as a horrible thing though, in all cases.
Overall Impression — 9
I play a lot of SRV-inspired texas blues, 80s thrash, and alternative rock. This guitar handles all of them relatively well, especially the last two. As far as attaining a bright Fender-style tone: forget it. The guitar is just too heavy and thick to produce much treble. But it sounds so good playing metal, rock, and distorted blues. For the price, this Epi is a bargain, and a good investment for any beginner or an intermediate player who wants a new toy to fool around with. If it were lost or stolen, I would probably explore another guitar, just because I like to try out different gear as much as possible. However, this is the most respectable guitar for under $350.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've played it live many many times without a backup, and it's been a champ. I keep strap locks on every electric I own, so I can't comment on the original strap buttons. You should have strap locks anyway! It's a tank, and although I would never have to gig without a backup again, I still would if it were necessary for some reason.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action was decent from the factory. There's always been a little bit of fret buzz, however. Build quality is remarkable considering this guitar only costed me 300 bucks. The neck is set well, the bridge and controls are mounted perfectly. The satin black finish is attractive, and doesn't show fingerprints much. The paint is rather thin, though. And being black- it shows dust particles a lot. The pots and wiring are sturdy and well soldered, and I have no doubt the electronics will continue to hold up well.
Features — 7
Let me beg by saying my ratings are a relation between quality of the guitars vs. price of the guitars. My epi is a 2007 model made in Korea, purchased new in 2008. 22 frets and a smooth mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard make this guitar really fun to play. The body is solid mahogany as well. Typical Les Paul setup as far as the tun-o-matic bridge and 2 humbuckers. It did not come with a case/gig bag or any other things when I purchased it.