Sound — 9
Does it stack up to a Gibson? Yes, not all the way, but for $400-$600? The difference is not a bother. Some people have told me that the Epi Les Paul sound is a tad darker than a Gibson, and not so much high end treble. It's still a Les Paul, no matter how you slice it, and you can cover and replicate all the good Les Paul sounds we are all familiar with. That said, I'd advise a pickup change to enhance the guitar's tone and versatility. Drop in a set of Burstbuckers, and you'll swear it's a $2000 Les Paul! I wanted something slightly different, so I dropped in a Diarzio Evolution in the bridge and a Burstbucker Pro in the neck position. The sound is full, rich, good overtones, and I can use her for anything from blues to instumental rock to country and it suits them all. At this point, a reason why you should spend the extra money on this instead of a cheap Squire Strat: no noise whatsoever, even on high gain settings!
Overall Impression — 10
This is the best all around guitar you will find for $400. It's a Les Paul through and through. I've had her for almost two years and have been playing for four, and I only wish I bought this one first and not the ol Squire. If it were stolen, I would not go buy another, only because I'd want mine back! Lesson to all: never try to steal a guitar that is owned by a lycanthrope.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It's a very hardy guitar! I would neve take a Squier Strat out to play with, but this feels very sturdy and very reliable. I've gigged with her before and it's always been there for me. Course gigging without a backup? Well, no matter how reliable, never gig without a backup, because you never know when the theory of spontaneous and unprovoked cumbustion can try to prove itself.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
There's one thing about Epi's that bugs me, but it's a do-it-yourself fix: The input jacks tend to come loose. Some of the soldering there was shoddy too, but it's a simple fix, thoguh an annoying one. The other issue is the strap button screws which come loose on occasion, but a simple upgrade (snap-in buttons or go the EVH way and screw in a hook) can fix that. Other than that, everything is set up well, itonation is set up well, rarely a tuning problem. The tuning pegs are very well installed, though I still plan to replace them with Kluson tuners later. Neck action is pretty good, it was'nt made with shredding in mind with a little chunkier neck profile than most wide and flat necks, but it still feels good.
Features — 10
Up for review is my Epi Les Paul Standard plain top. I purchased her from Guitar Center in August of 2006, and was probably made earlier that year. The body is listed as mahogany with a maple veneer, which is not visible because of the finish which I got in a plain gloss black finish. Ultimately, you get in an Epi almost all of what you get in a Gibson Les Paul, save for the higher end cosmetic differences (nitrocellulose finish, gold/nickel hardware, pots, pickups, high grade flame or quilt top) but for the price all that is almost incosequential and can be upgraded over time. This guitar is heavy as hell! I think moreso than it's pricier counterparts, so I'd invest in very wide and padded straps for this one. The pickups are a pair of Alnico Classic humbuckers, chrome plated, very good for factory installed pickups. I suppose in the end one could say you are really saving about a thousand dollars on a Les Paul by swapping the name on the headstock.