Price paid: C$ 700
Purchased from: Avenue Guitars
Sound — 6
In it's stock set-up, this is a good guitar with the potential to be better with a few small changes. I have owned the guitar for over 7 years, and have played it through a wide variety of amps, so my comments are more general than specific to one amp. Clean tones using the bridge pickup are balanced, a little tubby and fairly articulate. Chords have good balance and decent clarity, but can become muddled, especially when more complex chords are played. Lead lines have very good punch, and this pickup can cover a good array of clean sounds. It isn't the best clean tone, however, as the pickup has a tendency to sound a little dull or flat at times - almost as if it is lacking in harmonic content. The neck pickup, meanwhile, produces nice full and warm clean tones. Strummed chords can be too thick and ill-defined, but single note lines and arpeggiated chords ring with satisfying authority and a bell-like chime. Again, the pickup seems to sound a little lackluster. Together, the pickups produce a slightly more hollow sound, which lends itself to Chord work given that it retains brightness and clarity while sounding fuller. Using the tone controls delicately to round off the tone works well to produce jazz tones, but rolling off the tone too much results in flab. Using mild to moderate overdrive, the guitar is happy producing crunchy rock tones, dirty blues and gritty punk sounds. This guitar rocks pretty well, having no difficulty with moderate levels of gain. The neck pickup is definitely too fat sounding to play rhythm with more than an hair of gain, but it compensates by having a nice and vocal sounding lead tone. Higher gain settings are a little bit of a let-down. It isn't so much that the pickups cannot handle the gain, but they don't seem to have sufficient clarity to make the most of the situation. This coupled with the lack of harmonic content in the pickups makes the guitar sound a little bit sterile at times. It isn't a bad sounding guitar by any means, and it is most certainly a capable instrument. However, it does lack the finesse and broad capability of some of the other heavy single-cuts on the market. Generally, this guitar is, again, unremarkable in every single way. It never really sounds great, but it always seems to sound good. I certainly would not hesitate bringing a stock one to a gig- it's a decent sounding and tremendously versatile instrument- but I wish it were better. Having loaded mine with better quality pickups, I can certainly attest to the fact that this guitar is seriously held-up by its' pickups.
Overall Impression — 7
I have used this guitar for years for various styles of music, and it has been nothing if not consistent. It has rarely - if ever - been truly stellar, but it has never let me down. While the stock electronics were somewhat disappointing, they were hardly bad and should not be viewed as a detriment to the guitar. With good after market pickups, however, this guitar is a monster. I certainly will not be buying another one, as my playing (and budget) has progressed substantially, but I still think that the Epiphone Les Paul Custom is one of the better mid-range/ budget conscious choices around. It is a well built, easy to play and good sounding instrument. I would not hesitate to recommend this guitar to others, and I am very happy that I've owned one. Plus, the stock pickups give you an excuse to learn about modding guitar!
Reliability & Durability — 10
Having had 7+ years to abuse this guitar, I'm thoroughly convinced it is a durable instrument. The hardware has held up near perfectly- the tuners still work well, the bridge feels solid, and there is very little corrosion to speak of anywhere. Additionally, the finish has held up well and the frets lasted almost 7 years before needing to be replaced despite regular and heavy use. The guitar has had to, regrettably, withstand some significant blows over the course of its life. Some have left significant scars, cracks and dents. However, the guitar still plays and sets-up exactly as expected, which is a testament to the structural integrity of this instrument. I used this guitar as my main stage guitar for almost 5 years, and I still bring it as a backup, and I've never had an on-stage issue, so I'm quite happy. My only issues with the guitar have been the toggle switch and the input jack. Both have died at some point, and needed to be replaced. These are cheap parts, and they do wear out. While I do think that they wore out somewhat prematurely, I'm not going to suggest that this guitar is not durable because $6 parts blew-out.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
This is where the guitar starts to fight back a little bit. The factory set-up on the guitar was decent. However, the build quality was actually quite good- though I'm well aware that there is some variance within Epiphones in regard to quality. The fret-work is very good, there are a few flaws but they are minor and rather difficult to notice. As well, the finish is extremely well applied and looks stellar. This is a pretty good playing guitar, in general. The neck is chunky without being particularly fat, and should be appealing to a wide range of players regardless of style. Additionally, it is a fairly easy guitar to set-up, so it is very easy to get the most out of the guitar.
Features — 7
I bought my Les Paul in mid 2005, so it was presumably made sometime that year. Like most Epiphones, it is Korean made. The guitar features a mahogany neck and body, rosewood fingerboard, maple cap and a flame maple veneer. The guitar featured 2 Epiphone humbuckers (since replaced with an EMG ZW Set in my guitar), controlled with 2 sets of volume and tone controls and a standard 3-way toggle switch. The guitar has 22 medium-jumbo frets, trapezoid fret markers, and cream binding on the neck and body. The tuners are sealed non-locking Grover units, and the bridge/tailpiece is a standard Gibson-style tune-o-matic setup. Overall, it is a thoroughly unremarkable spec list. That being said, it is a well proven and generally well liked feature set, and offers generally good quality parts for reasonable money. I would have liked to see the guitar come with a gig bag at least, though a case would have been better, but it's hardly a deal-breaker.