Sound — 7
True Zakk buffs will immediately want to ditch the pickups for a set of active EMGs, like what he has on his Gibsons. However, the EMG-HZs are an excellent alternative that also serve to keep the price down. The bridge pickup is fat and crisp, and the neck pickup is smooth and buttery. A wide range of rock, metal, or even bluesy tones are possible with this guitar. Country, funk, and jazz players stay away! The mahogany body and rosewood fretboard contribute to the warm Les Paul sound.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, I liked this one. I play primarily rock and metal, so I don't really miss the lack of a single coil pickup. If you want a guitar that is meant to rock morning to night, this is your guitar. Whether or not you want to parade around on stage proclaiming your love for Zakk Wylde is another thing, the Bullseye is tough to miss, and is certainly associated with him. I think the Epiphone is a great buy, with it's combination of features, playability and tone with an affordable price tag of $800 or so. Even if you have to drop another $200 for the set of active EMGs, you have a guitar that is very nearly as good as the Gibson for $3200 less.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Epiphone has stepped up their quality in recent years, and the current crop of Korean-made guitars like this has fared very well in the long term. The craftsmanship is good, the tolerances are tight and the quality of materials is very good for this price range. I see no reason why this guitar shouldn't last for years and years.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
My test model was set up very well, and I saw no flaws in the finish. I took a point off because the frets were not polished as well as they should have been, giving vibrato and bends a somewhat gritty feel. I was able to clean them up with some 0000 steel wool and a bit of elbow grease, but I don't feel I should have to put this kind of time into an $800 guitar. Other than that, playability was excellent. It responded well whether I really dug in for chunky rhythms or finessed it through leads. It's easy to see why the Les Paul has been such an enduring design.
Features — 8
This solid-body electric is the brainchild of Ozzy/Black Label Society guitarist Zakk Wylde, who has dominated the rock and metal scene for years with his "Alvin Lee on crack" Precision soloing style. His Les Paul is very traditional, with some stylistic touches that make it his own. The mahogany body has the familiar Les Paul shape with an arched top and seven-layer binding top and bottom. You'll either love the bullseye paint job or you'll hate it, and this guitar makes no apologies about it's looks. The hardware is gold throughout (even the truss rod cover - a nice touch), and features the Standard Tune-O-Matic bridge, stop tailpiece and sealed Grover tuners. The scale length is 24.75", just like any Les Paul. Pickups are two EMG-HZ passive humbuckers, and there is one volume and tone knob for each. Pickup switching is done with a three-way Switch. The hard rock maple neck is finished with clear satin rather than the glossy creme on the rest of the guitar, and the rosewood fretboard sports block inlays.