Price paid: C$ 100
Purchased from: Used
Sound — 6
The SG Special's sound is particularly lively and edgy considering it is equipped with humbuckers. The tone, however, isn't particularly bright and is typical of low-end humbuckers. The front pickup can be very muddy on it's own, but switching on both pickups at once results in a fairly smooth and pleasant sound. I find that the tone control has a considerable impact on the SG's tone, much more so than it does on a Telecaster. On some settings, it can sound warm, but on several others, it sounds tinny and metallic, but it's nothing less than should be expected of such an inexpensive guitar. With a few modifications, this can be an excellent player.
Overall Impression — 8
I've played a number of guitars, and the SG Special is neither worst nor the best. For it's price, it is definitely not a bad guitar. Because of it's surprising solidity, it is a perfect candidate for upgrades and is ideal to turn into a project guitar. The sound is very lively compared to other humbucker-equipped guitars, so right out of the box, it was suitable for the grunge/noise-rock I used to play, and is still appropriate for the ambient music I make now. As part of it's renovation, I'll be changing the tuning pegs for higher-quality ones, removing the pickups to put in either some p-90s or high-output humbuckers (I have yet to decide), and possibly change the pots. All in all, it's a very good buy for it's price, and it is a guitar you can easily upgrade and keep for a long time.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I cannot begin to explain the amount of abuse this guitar has suffered. It was the guitar on which both my brother and I learned and was therefore subject to the clumsiness of a beginner twice over. It has been dropped on it's face, on it's headstock, and on it's side, repeatedly. The neck has had a number of confrontations with doorways, with walls, and even with ceilings, yet I can't for the life of me find a scratch, dent, or blemish on the guitar. Surprising enough, the strap buttons are nice and solid; however, one button does have the immense flaw of being on the back of the guitar (a design flaw common to Gibsons & Epiphones in general), which means that the strap slides off much too easily. I would definitely recommend replacing the buttons with Dunlop StrapLoks. It is surprisingly light, and yet does not feel fragile at all (and years of unintentional tests have proven that it isn't). The output jack makes a habit of getting loose often, but it's nothing that can't be solved quickly. My real issue is with the tuning pegs, which are probably the cheapest pieces of metal you'll find on the market. They slide very easily and become loose very quickly; they definitely need replacement. The problem is that new holes need to be made, as the only tuners that fit in the original holes are the cheap ones.
Action, Fit & Finish — 5
The intonation was completely inaccurate when I obtained this guitar, but I suspect this was the original owner's fault, and not Epiphone's. The action was much too high as well, but once again, I'm not sure this can be blamed on the manufacturers. I receently decided to turn my old SG Special into a project and took the guitar apart. Overall, the workmanship is fair; however, I did find that a small piece of sandpaper was used as a shim and that some glue was used to stabilise the neck. I cleaned the glue and removed the sandpaper, and it plays none the worse. Now that it's all fixed up, it plays quite nicely.
Features — 7
The Epiphone SG is reminiscent of the Fender Telecaster in it's simplicity: one tone knob, one volume knob, and a three-way pickup selector. The pickups are uncovered 'no-name' humbuckers. This guitar is immediately distinguishable from other SGs by it's lack of a pickguard. There are 22 frets, which can be a little short for the hard-rock guitarists the SG is marketed towards. The SG Special features the typical Epiphone/Gibson tune-O-matic bridge. The tuners are also nameless. As I understand it, this guitar was part of a beginner pack of some sort, but I bought it used and cannot tell for sure. It's nothing complicated, but it's all a beginner needs to get started.