Price paid: $ 150
Sound — 7
When played with high distortion and high volume, this guitar has a nice humbucker crunch. It is well suited to playing hard rock like Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam, as well as more classic rock such as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. However, the sound suffers once you back off on the distortion, with the thinness of the pickups showing through more clearly than when played with distortion. On higher frets and a cleaner tone, the sound warbles slightly, and sounds cheap as a result. The sound CAN be improved though; I swapped the nut out for a GraphTech TUSQ nut, and surprised at how much the tone improved, as it removed some of the excess noise which had plagued my tone. Upgrading the nut is cheap and highly recommended on this guitar, as the stock nut is made of cheap plastic and cracked on me twice before I finally swapped it out. Also, this guitar is a good base for upgrades. I am planning to exchange the pickups, after seeing such good results with a simple nut change, and the low price of the guitar encourages experimentation with upgrades. The guitar shines when it rocks, but it doesn't clean up well.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, this is a very good beginner guitar, for a good price. It has a low action and a thin neck that is perfect for a player just learning how to fret and finger, and is well suited to rock music. Also, the guitar lends itself well to upgrading, and can be made into a solid axe. However, the stock pickups do suffer from a bit of warble, and the hardware is prone to rusting after a few years of ownership. All in all, this axe is not suitable for most experienced players, but for someone looking to learn, it is a cheap choice that plays well.
Reliability & Durability — 5
I am a fairly novice guitar player, and I have yet to try this guitar out in a live environment. However, having this guitar for four years, I am starting to notice some rust around and on the screws of the pickups, as well as around the pickup selector. As well as a rusting problem, on my guitar, the input jack is starting to become loose, and has a tendency to cut out if the cord moves around too much. Despite these flaws, I have never had a serious problem with this guitar, and with proper care, it may be possible to keep it in better shape than mine is in.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I received this guitar as a birthday present, and was informed that it was previously owned. I do not know if the previous owner had the guitar set up in anyway, but when I got my hands on it, I found it to be a very easy guitar to play. The action is low, which makes this a great guitar for beginners to fret. The neck is also fairly thin, which allows the player to move about the fretboard with ease and speed. I give this section an 8 because as the beginner advances, the low action will need to be adjusted, as it is not conducive to building finger strength. On another note, the guitar's finish holds up well, because despite it being on it's second owner, it does not show much wear, and it still shines.
Features — 6
The Epiphone Special Model features 22 frets, a mahogany neck, two humbucker pickups, and a tune-o-matic bridge. It has one volume and one tone knob, as well as a three-way selector switch. The neck itself is a bolt-on, and is fairly thin. This is not a guitar high on features, scraping by with only the bare minimum of options. For a beginner this will not be a problem, but anyone else will have a difficult time with it's lack of features.