Price paid: C$ 535
Purchased from: Long and McQuade
Sound — 10
I have a particularly eclectic taste in music, and I'll play just about anything from blues, to country, to rock, to metal. My technical acumen, however, dictates that I stick mainly to blues-rock, which I also seem to enjoy more than any other music style. I own a Line6 Spider III (you can turn your noses up to me if you like, but for my minimal gigging and relative volume restrictions, the Spider was truly the best amp for me), which gives me a fairly large selection of sound choices to apply to the Les Paul. Here's the deal, and I might as well get this out in the open first and foremost: the Les Paul has what is quite possibly the single most deep, layered, and complex range of sounds which I have ever obtained from a single musical instrument. The neck pickup produces rhythm and blues tones as if it were bred for that sole purpose. In contrast, the bridge pickup is capable of producing a deep, intimidating snarl and absolutely crushing leads. I've heard that Spider's tend to have a certain homogenizing effect upon the guitars which play out of them; I ardently disagree. The Les Paul has an actual presence... A sense of depth and power that seems to radiate from the instrument; it's menacing. This is the result of that enormous mahogany body. The best word that I can use to describe it is "full" because in comparison, all of my other guitars seem to sound decidedly "thin" when played after it. The aforementioned experience akin to drinking a glass of fruit juice after a particularly full-bodied glass of red wine. Perhaps that's a touch too indulgent with metaphor, but you certainly get the idea. When it comes to sound, there is absolutely no comparison; the Epiphone Les Paul is peerless in it's class.
Overall Impression — 8
Here's the part where I'm free to speak my mind without adhering to any particular review parameters. For the style of music that I play most often, this guitar is an excellent match. The sound it provides is better suited to blues and rock than any guitar I've ever played. As I've attested before, the Les Paul is absolutely without equal when it comes to tone variety and stage presence. Hence the only perfect "10" in my score. The shape of the neck was a factor which I didn't pay close enough attention to when I eventually purchased this guitar. Being far younger, far more ignorant of playability and far more fixated upon aesthetics and tone, I neglected to consider features such as the neck and the body. The neck is a touch slimmer than your average Les Paul, but that hardly deters from the fact that it still feels as if you're playing a baseball bat, and not a guitar neck. Big open chords and blues riffs? Yes yes. Shredding? You'd better look elsewhere. I suppose that if you're into shred guitar, however, you're not likely to consider the Les Paul as your weapon of choice to begin with. I'm not attempting to discriminate against all you lovable shred-heads out there, but I think that both you and I know that a Jackson or Ibanez would be far better suited to your needs. The neck is such that this guitar is better suited for what it is stereotypically associated with (blues, country, rock), despite it's tonal variety and versatility. The second deterrent which I'd like to mention here is the body. While it would be totally impossible to attain such sustain, depth, and complexity of tone without that 3" thick mahogany slab, said slab also places an equally enthusiastic pain in your neck. Honestly. This guitar is a tank, and weighs about as much as one. Invest in a wide, comfortable (and possibly orthopedic) guitar strap. I'm sure you can get a prescription for that. The weight also makes it such that it isn't just YOUR neck that wants to point toward the floor; the neck of the Les Paul as a similar weight issue. For one reason or another, the neck is perpetually wanting to point down, and it must be held to prevent this from happening. I believe I've heard others having a similar problem. I've attempted playing with the length of the strap to no avail. Suggestions are welcome. Finally, and for all you intermediate guitarists out there looking to pick up a solid axe during these rough economic times, I'd like to discuss the price. The other day, I happened to walk into the local Musicstop to purchase a set of strings for my guitar. While I was there, I decided, simply for the fun of it, to have a look at what these guitars were retailing for. My jaw practically hit the floor when I saw the (Canadian) $815 price tag for the identical model I bought six years ago, baking dinner rolls at the local bakery, for $535. I'm aware that inflation and the laughable state of our economy has a miserable effect upon the pricing of musical instruments, but I'm still no less in shock. You'd think that at this price point that they'd be bathing the guitars in crude oil and including a complimentary puppy-fur case to go with. To me, this would have an entirely different effect upon my overall impression. Would I pay $600 for this guitar all over again? It's likely. Would I pay nearly 1000 for this guitar all over again? Highly doubtful. Unless I managed to unearth some cash that I wouldn't have otherwise had to put toward another one one these models, I couldn't possibly justify spending $815, plus Harper tax, plus case for this guitar for the amount that I use it. You may feel entirely differently, but that's why it's your job to post a review. The moral of the story? It's big, it's beautiful, and it's expensive. Kind of like the Ford Mustang of the guitar world; timeless, powerful, and iconic. The Les Paul isn't all that expensive when you consider that you certainly get every penny that you're paying for in quality, which is more than what I can say about many other guitars out there. But the "lower price point" Epiphone marketing strategy seems a touch outdated these days, and only applies in comparison to other Gibsons on the market. If you're an intermediate guitarist serious about getting a reliable, versatile instrument with a lot of personality, consider investing in an Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus. Be sure however, you try extensively before you buy. As reputable, beautiful and powerful as these guitars are, they certainly aren't for everyone.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I've had this guitar for just under six years now, and I've yet to see a defect manifest itself. I know this may sound cliche, but if I were to give the guitar a routine polish and a string replacement, you'd have absolutely no idea that the guitar was even owned. This guitar, unlike many of my others, stays in tune over very prolonged periods of use. This is with the absence of a locking nut or any other assistance to keep it in tune. Yes, it lacks a whammy bar, which is likely a strong contributing factor to this trait, but the guitar is made incredibly well, and even resists temperature and humidity fluctuations with equal ease. If you're looking for a solid, dependable guitar which you could count on to perform, this is likely the single best priced model in it's class.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar was entirely well presented when I received it from the factory. The pickups were perfect, the top flawlessly book-matched. There were absolutely no defects at all. The sole bone I had to pick was the action; coming from years of playing Ibanez-style guitars, I'm a firm believer in low action, and I found that the action set to this model from the factory was rather high for my liking. This is nothing a few minutes and screwdriver couldn't fix.
Features — 8
This particular guitar was made in China (as per inspection of the serial number) in 2003. The scale is 24.75", and the neck has 22 frets featuring the hallmark trapezoid inlays. The fretboard is rosewood, which seems to showcase the inlays quite nicely. The body material is an enormous brick of mahogany, which is in all likelihood the single best overall feature I can mention here. The top of the body is book-matched flamed maple. The set neck also consists of mahogany as well. Wanting the "archetypal rock guitar," I purchased what appeared to be Epiphone's flagship model of the time, which was finished in "Heritage Cherry Sunburst." The color varies from deep cherry surrounding the exterior and progresses toward warm golden hues in the interior of the body. Regardless of the color variation, each hue of the stain highlights the grain of the maple top in it's entirety. The bridge is the archetypal "tune-o-matic" model, finished in chrome in the same fashion as the tuners. The pickups are a pair of Alnico classic humbuckers, which are passive. There are four controls, two for tone and two for volume. For the $535 dollars I paid at the time, the guitar was the only thing included int he overall price. I managed to talk the salesperson into giving me a break on the hardshell case, which ran me an additional $70. As a word to the wise, I strongly recommend purchasing the specific case to fit this model. This isn't a guitar that you're going to feel good about gigging around in a softshell.