Price paid: $ 350
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 9
Epiphone's ProBucker 3 and Alnico Classic Pro pickups are Vintage voiced, but they can cover a wide variety of sounds and tones. The ProBucker 3 is inspired by Gibson's Burstbucker 3 pickup, but with 4-conductor wiring and wax potting; while the Alnico Classic Pro is a take on the '57 Classic, again with 4-conductor wiring and potting. I mostly play alternative hard rock (think Shinedown, Papa Roach, Three Days Grace, Alter Bridge, etc.) but also play all forms of classic rock from Zeppelin to Motley Crue, and I honestly believe this guitar can do most things. These pickups are bright but not thin and icepick-like, instead even, open, and airy, but still with plenty of warmth and girth. With a Line 6 PODXT set to a Mesa-inspired model, I was easily able to dial in a chunky Metallica "Black Album" tone, but at the same time, I can dial in a chimey single-coil clean tone a la RHCP's "Under the Bridge," using the coil taps on both pickups. Due to the fact that the pickups feature unevenly wound coils, the pickups can be give a hint of noise in the higher-gain settings, but they are still quieter than most single-coil pickups. All in all, the pickups really make this guitar shine.
Overall Impression — 8
This guitar really packs a punch for its $449 price tag (I got it for $350 after discounts) and can keep up with or beat most guitars double its price. For one, in addition to this guitar, I also tried out various other Epiphone Les Pauls, such as the Standard Pro and Custom Pro; a couple Gibson LP Studios; two PRS SE 245s; and two LTD Eclipse models; and this guitar beat them all to me. I've been playing for 12 years, and this is one of the better purchases I've made. It will join my two PRS SE Singlecuts, Fender Strat, and Tele for live use. If stolen, I would definitely seek a replacement. There is something special about these Limited Run Epiphones. I love the feel of this guitar. It feels like a Vintage LP, but has a hair more juice to the tone. The larger neck and weight suits me better than most guitars (I'm 6'4" and athletic, with large hands). I wish it had a tummy contour, but the lack of one doesn't bother me much. The satin on the neck and back makes the guitar feel more real and not plastic, like a lot of other Epiphones tend to feel. And the wine red color is just irresistible. Video from YouTube:
Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar is solid: well-built with quality hardware. I have not gigged with this guitar, however it feels more sturdy than a couple of my tested road warriors. I replaced the stock straplocks after filling the holes with Dunlop Straploks, and they feel solid. Tuning stability is solid after hard playing, with no slipping. The finish on the top appears to be thick enough to withstand a beating, but the back and neck's thin satin coats seems like it could wear down over time, but this isn't a concern with me as I feel this adds character. I would never gig any guitar without a backup, however I feel this guitar can withstand rigorous gigging better than most of its competition.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The guitar, upon bringing it home, was very playable, but the stock .010-.046 strings were too slinky-feeling for my needs. The action was OK, but could've been lower. After restringing with Ernie Ball .011-.054 strings (with a .022 wound G string), I had to readjust the truss rod and bridge to bring the action down and set the intonation. I was able to get the strings low to the frets with no dead spots (at the 12th fret, 3/64" at the high E and 5/64" at the low E, with .009" relief at the 7th fret), and the guitar intonated well in Drop-C# tuning. It's actually become the most playable guitar in my arsenal. The pickups were too close to the strings, and the polepieces were not adjusted at all (as in all at uniform height just barely above the bobbins). After backing the bridge pickup down to about 3/32" and the neck pickup to about 3/16" below the strings, and adjusting the polepieces to match the 14" string radius, the pickups opened up a lot and balanced each other out. The only real flaws with this guitar were merely cosmetic, mostly sloppy finish work around the binding, but the pickups do seem slightly misaligned, but not enough to affect tone or even be noticed. I do feel the factory setup could be better, but with any guitar, they should be set up after purchase regardless of how well it is set up in the factory.
Features — 8
My Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro was made in November 2012 in the Qingdao factory in China. It is finished in a beautiful transparent Wine Red, which is a high gloss on the top and a thin satin on the back and neck (in fact, it appears the pores of the wood aren't sealed!) which helps make for a more broken-in feel. The body is made from three pieces of non-chambered mahogany, which adds some sustain, but also some heft to the body. The carved top is listed as mahogany on the Epiphone website, but I'm not so sure about this, seeing how the grain is quite different than that on the rest of the body, and has more of a maple-like appearance (albeit plain maple). The set-in mahogany neck has a thick, round, almost baseball bat-like carve to it, and is fitted with a 24.75"-scale, 22-fret rosewood fretboard adorned with cream binding and pearloid trapezoid inlays. It is also fitted with a two-way adjustable truss rod that corrects bowing in both directions. The electronics and chrome hardware, however, is where this guitar shines. This was the first guitar to be loaded with Epiphone's relatively new ProBucker 3 bridge pickup and an Alnico Classic Pro in the neck. These pickups - with Alnico II magnets, nickel-silver baseplates, and unbalanced coils - are inspired by the airy, PAF-style tones from the late '50s and early '60s. These pickups are wired to individual push-pull volume controls (for coil tapping) and separate tone controls, into a 3-way selector switch. This combination is designed to provide this guitar with versatility to lend itself to numerous styles and sounds. The headstock is loaded stock with Grover tuners, which, along with Epiphone's LockTone tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece, is a measure to improve tuning stability. Epiphone-designed straplocks rounds out the many improvements in hardware. Overall, this guitar is packed with as many features as a swiss army knife, and makes a solid case for "most bang for the buck."