Nighthawk Custom Reissue review by Epiphone

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  • Features: 10
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 7.9 (41 votes)
Epiphone: Nighthawk Custom Reissue

Purchased from: Sam Ash

Features — 10
This guitar is a hybrid between a Les Paul and a Stratocaster. It's an incredibly versatile instrument and the best bargain I've ever run across. 

First the Les Paul aspects. Mahogany body/neck with a flame Maple cherry top. Neck through body construction. Rosewood fretboard. Mine is so dark and dense it's almost like ebony, which the company initially released the first models with. It's a single cut-a-way Les Paul style body. Grover tuners, large crown shaped abalone fret markers, again ala Les Paul. 

Now the Stratocaster aspects of this guitar. It's got a 25 1/2" scale neck with 22 jumbo frets. I've heard some cry about it being 'neck heavy' whatever that means. The guitar's very light and if you don't care for a 'neck heavy' guitar, then you don't like Fenders. The 25 1/2" scale neck allows for your being able to get up very high on the fret board. The Mahogany neck is thin enough that it feels like a Maple neck (ala a Strat). It strings through the body for incredible sustain. It has three transducers, (which I'll get to in a minute). It only has one master volume/ tone like a Strat, and because of the three pickups it sports a 5 way selector switch.

Lastly, the body is contoured, like a Strat, so it's much more comfortable to hold because it hugs the body like a Strat hugs the body. The electronics are passive. It has a set bridge, again like a Start, so each string has it's own saddle. Unlike a Strat it has no whammy.

Sound — 10
I play just about every form of music except full jazz and thrash/shredding stuff. I usually just go through my Boss GT-8 directly into the board, but sometimes I'll add my Fender Champ. This guitar is capable of handling any form of music really. It's just as versatile as my PRS Custom 24. I wish it had a whammy, but it's tuning is impeccable. This guitar holds it tune very well.

This guitar is capable of 10 different tones! Who really needs more than that? This is where the instrument gets very interesting. The transducer configuration is HSH. It sports a mini-humbucker in the bridge which is good and hot. It's also brighter than your average humbucker which I like, (I prefer the tone of single coils). The single coil from the factory is also very, very good. It's bright, bell like, and very hot. The bridge humbucker from the factory is also very good. A friend put a Seymour Duncan slanted in his, but mine sounds plenty hot and plenty good as is.

The advantage to this is pretty obvious because you can be playing say "18 and Life" where the guitar goes from heavy to clean by just switching from the H to an S and back. Because of the 5 way, one also has the option of the extra positions in the selector switch. You can push your pick ups out of phase and give yourself 5 different tonal options.

Now here's the beauty. You can also coil tap the guitar for single coils and voila! Five more tonal variations, not to mention the total strat sound! I have to play a wide variety each gig. It doesn't matter if The Beatles "Standing There" comes up, to "Little Wing" to "Layla," to "I Hate Myself for Lovin' You," to "Remember When." You can achieve the tone you need with this one axe! And for a measly three hundred bucks! The PRS retails for $800 alone. With just one master volume/ tone, you not only have total control, but it's less confusing than having three or four knobs.

One last thing. Because of the string-through body construction, this guitar has the sustain of death! Mahogany does naturally sustain better than harder woods Fenders usually have. After all, that's why Fender pioneered string through body in the first place. But when you combine string-through with Mahogany... wow!

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This guitar was perfect from the box!!! The only thing I had done to it was; changed the strings to .010's and I had the pickup heights adjusted to my specifications. That's it! The guitar was/is beautiful to look at. Mine is cherry burst. My friend's is tobacco burst, and I have played the Amber burst. All three of these guitars are beautiful to look at, and quite frankly, all three were perfect out-of-the box set up wise. The tuners are Grovers and they do hold their tune. I have played this guitar all night, left it in it's case a week or two and by the next gig it's still in tune!

Reliability & Durability — 10
I have been using this guitar as my Go To for almost 6 months now and it still looks and sounds great. I have to have at least one extra guitar on hand, (because of the whammy, but sometimes a guitar set up for slide), But I know I can depend on this guitar if I had to. The construction is solid, smart, and very, very, well crafted. She's beautiful to look at and she's very light. The guitar is lighter than either a Les Paul (thank god!), or a Stratocaster. I can do a four set gig and not feel it wearing me down by the last set.

Overall Impression — 10
I've already talked about a lot of these things previously. There's no sense in rehashing it. I own several other guitars. Some of which I've reviewed her previously. If this guitar were stolen, I'd probably tracked the thief down and strangle him so he'd have to look at me while he died, lol. This guitar is really, really worth the money. My guitars range from Telecasters, Stratocasters, PRS, Godins, Ibanez, Jackson, and more. This guitar was purchased at a fraction what most of the other guitars can be purchased for. Yet it holds up to and surpasses many of them.

The action is great, it sounds great, and has such a wide variety of choices, yet maintains the simplicity to keep it all organized in the heat of a live gig. The factory pickups are very, very good so you really don't have to change them. There's nothing I can say that I dislike about the guitar. Yes, I like my whammy bars, but I'd probably have to compromise the great tuning stability or install a Floyd Rose. Why? The guitar sounds great, looks great, and plays great!

I've been told by the salesman that this guitar did not sell well and that's why it was priced so low. It was, I was told, also why it was hard to get. I'm still wondering how or why. If you ever run across one of these guitars... jump on it with BOTH hands! This guitar is a hybrid of a Strat and a Les Paul and it's the best bargain you could ever hope to get.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The original 2011 Epi reissue sports an ebony fingerboard, and I haven't seen anyone mention it's 2 way truss rod or genuine mother of pearl inlays. None of these were offered on Gibson's original Nighthawk. This is an epic Epiphone. As several have mentioned, it's extremely versatile. The whole enchilada, including the great pickups, is made overseas to very high standards, hence the relatively low price for such a quality instrument. I'm getting ready to buy back the one I bought for a client a couple years ago. He's too young (and desperate) to appreciate the gem I found for him. Very much looking forward to adding it to the stable. As for the hybrid looks, remember, you can't hear the paint.
    Anyone know of a good method to add a bigsby or other trem to the nighthawk? I am loving mine, just want to bump it up a notch with a trem and maybe a set of seymour duncan pups.