Price paid: C$ 976
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Sound — 8
I want to start this by making one thing clear. The Casino is not a semi-hollow guitar. It is a thin line hollow guitar. This is important, as it means that the guitar has no way to counter act feedback. If you play with tons of distortion, you will find it hard to control this guitar. However, for some, the ability to easily conjure feedback can indeed be beneficial. Anyways, to continue, this guitar sounds really good when used in the right situation. The P-90's are very good pickups, and ideal for those that tend to enjoy the clarity of true single coils, but feel they want a fuller sound. Unfortunately, this slight more gain and fullness seems to make it so that when you turn the volume down, you won't clean up as well as a Strat or something similar does. That doesn't mean that it doesn't contain clean tones, but it's not the kind of guitar where you can simply crank the amp, then use the volume on the guitar to change your tone settings. I've ran this guitar through a variety of amps, and they include: L&M's Fender Twin I used to test the guitar, my own Mesa Stiletto Ace, my Marshall valve state, and my home built Leslie. It sounds good through all the amps, and especially beautiful through the Leslie, in combination with the stiletto. My pedal board includes fuzz, which I use for lead tones, and some rhythm work, and while I did mention that it's easy to cause the guitar to feedback, I found that the fuzz didn't really cause it unless I aimed the guitar directly at the amp. However, compressed metal guitar levels of distortion seemed to cause the guitar to go off like a fire alarm as soon as I stopped muting the strings. For clean sounds you can get some very nice "Chiming" qualities that don't tear your ears off with treble, to a very mellow jazz sound a la Grant Green (Green used a Gibson ES-330, which is basically the same as the casino, so there's no real surprise there). Overall, fairly good guitar for variety, excluding any style that needs large amounts of distortion or gain. I should mention that since the guitar has no block down the center like most ES style guitars, it is acoustically loud.
Overall Impression — 8
As I mentioned above, I actually decided to purchase the guitar based on it's playability, not on who endorsed it. I only found out when I check the price tag for the guitar. I've found I'm usually disappointed with most of epiphone's guitars, but I'm incredibly pleased with this guitar. In fact, considering how well it plays and sounds, I'm amazed they decided to put it out for under $1000. In terms of other guitars, it joins my stable that includes a Godin Montreal, and two Fender strats (both modded). To end with, I would like to give a hearty thanks to whoever decided when they built this guitar to actually put in the effort to make sure the instrument plays and sounds good. I really appreciate it.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I feel that this guitar will be fine for live playing, but I would try to be careful, since it is hollow, so a misplaced foot and there goes the guitar. Hardware is solid, mostly all high quality appointments you normally don't see on most guitars under $1000. The strap buttons are solid, and as I mentioned the crack in the veneer doesn't seem to have affected the strap button nearest it. I feel I could depend on this guitar, but like most people I would always have a back up since the world can always through a curve ball at you. The finish will last, since it is really non-existent, being a "stripped natural" finish.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Now, I don't know if I got really lucky or not, but here I really need to gush. I can't get over how well this guitar plays. In fact, The only reason I got it was that it played so well. I didn't realize that this was a Lennon model until I looked at the price tag. I don't know if this was the factory set up, as L&M rents guitars (meaning someone else could have set it up if they rented it). Either way, it's perfectly intonated and set up, so I can't complain. The pickups are directly mounted, so the distance is good, no magnetic pull on the strings to throw them out of tune. The tuners are very nice, nothing loose, and stay in tune even when I slightly bumped them on various objects, similar to what might happen at a gig. Neck is fine, no fretwire sticking out, and the nut seems cut well. I had a slight crack in the veneer on the back, near one of the strap buttons, but it hasn't affected the button, and is nearly invisible, but it helped knock $100 off the price, so I can't really complain.
Features — 10
This guitar is one of the newest editions to Epiphone's thin line Casino series, and was designed as a lower price (Read: Made in China) version of the John Lennon Revolution Casino. The body is laminated maple, and the finish is "stripped natural" but they've coated it with a thin layer of satin, so there's no real sheen or glare to it. The neck is mahogany, and glued at the 16th fret. Because of the double cut, this doesn't present a problem when you need to play on the upper frets. The guitar comes with Gibson P-90 pickups, gold grover tuners, a tune-a-matic Bridge with a trapeze tail piece, a three way pickup selector, and two volume and tone knobs. It came with a great Epiphone hard case, which included the pick guard, as Lennon had removed his when he sanded off the sunburst finish. All in all a good deal for under $1000.