Price paid: $ 549.99
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 9
I have been itching for a guitar with P90s, and for a semi-hollow body, so this one killed two birds with one stone. I was looking for a nice open, warm tone that would get fat and fuzzy if I needed it to, and this guitar did exactly that. I play just the guitar into an Egnater Tweaker, and the clean is clear and articulate. The neck pickup is very midrange-y by itself, but gets warmer as the middle pickup in blended in. The options the 3 way toggle and 3 volume knobs give you is pretty awesome. The neck and middle, when overdriven, make a fat, fuzzed out sound that is actually very dynamic if you let off the gain. When cranked, those pickups sound huge, simply humongous. Great for Jack White-like spurts of fuzzed out craziness and thick, lush walls of overdrive or reverb. Definitely not a guitar for metal. Also a great guitar for jazz- the middle pickup is pretty great for that smoky Joe Pass tone or even a slightly hotter Scofield. I wish the tone knob was more dynamic, but that's to be expected with an Epi. Only negatives here are the pickup heights - the bridge p/u is dramatically higher than the others, and needs to be adjusted. I found the bridge pickup to be less toneful than the others overall, but it does have a bite that is useful for rock I suppose. New pickups would make this guitar sound as good or better than a Gibson, for sure.
Overall Impression — 9
I have been playing for ten years and play all kinds of things in an effort to understand as many styles of music as I can. I have been in several bands of wildly differing genres, and have owned all sorts of genre-specific gear. I now just seek to be as minimal as possible, and find guitars that can cover a lot of range. I own all kinds of guitars, such as an Epiphone SG Custom, a Vintage Harmony electric, Fender Strat, Gibson SG, etc. I have a great humbucking tone with the two SGs, and a great bluesy single coil tone with the Strat (thanks to some Lace Sensors). I was seeking for a guitar that could sound fat and soulful, yet articulate, and also enormous and fuzzy. This Riviera Custom does both and more. I suggest playing clean through a nice tube amp with a 12" speaker; a very sweet, soulful tone uncannily like that in "Reckoner" and "House Of Cards" by Radiohead. Introduce a high quality overdrive, like a Zvex box of rock, and the pickups yield a dynamically rich tone that covers a lot of bases, perfect for rock music. Finally, crank the neck and middle pickups together with a fat fuzz, like Way Huge Swollen Pickle or a green Muff, and you get purely saturated wall of sound bliss. There is no question this guitar is more than worth the money. It sounds like a guitar a thousand bucks more. The classy finish doesn't hurt, either. Trust me: put some new pickups to your liking, fix the action, and play it through a nice tube amp, and you will be hard pressed to find a better sounding and playing semi-hollow.
Reliability & Durability — 8
After making adjustments, this guitar is definitely gig-worthy. I mean, look at the finish; its practically made to be played on stage. At first it had trouble slipping out of tune. Fixing the nut, however, fixed that problem, and even when abusing the Bigsby, its rock solid. The bigger neck is actually more comfortable to play and reduces hand fatigue, and the solid construction gives you the confidence to rock out a little harder, play a little faster. I always bring several guitars to gigs for different sounds, but if I only needed this one, I would bring it alone for sure. I'm not worried at all about its ability to serve as a solid, great sounding and playing instrument. Time will tell if the hardware and finish will hold up.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action was high from the factory, but that's to be expected. I like it a little higher than normal, just so I can dig in a little bit, but not too high that I can't do fast improv runs. After some tweaking, its a joy to play. The neck is really big, and does take some getting used to if you play speedy electric guitars primarily. Thankfully, I have been playing acoustic more often lately and it wasn't too bad of an adaptation. The Bigsby works flawlessly, which is something that was a pleasant surprise. The guitar holds tune well; the only issue is the nut, which had slots that were slightly too small on some strings, so they needed some filing. No fret buzz and the stock tuners do their job, and look cool if you like that Vintage Kluson type of thing. The finish was near flawless (the binding on the neck was slightly off in one spot, and the insides of the F holes were a little rough) and looks great under the stagelights. Definitely a flashy show guitar.
Features — 9
This is a 2011 Limited Edition Epiphone Riviera P93, made in China. 22 frets, thick, chunky neck, rosewood fretboard. Laminated top, bigsby vibrato, 3 P90 pickups, Grover tuners, 3 volume controls, 1 tone, and a limited edition white finish with gold binding and hardware.