Are Epiphone guitars good? Yes. Are they worth it? Also yes, but it does depend on your wants and needs. Obviously if you are a guitar snob and only Gibson will work for you then you won’t be happy with an Epiphone, no matter how good they are. (And they are good!) But if you’re looking for a quality instrument at a good price? Yup, Epiphone’s got that!
Although Epiphone has guitars as cheap as this $111 Les Paul Melody Maker E1 they are not just a budget guitar line. Some of their models — like the Kirk Hammett “Greeny” 1959 Les Paul Standard — cost up to $1499. A decade ago this was unheard of for an Epiphone and that price was strictly for Epihone’s big brothers at Gibson.
So while you might know Epiphone as Gibson’s affordable guitar line it’s not that simple anymore. One thing is for sure, Epiphone has some of the best quality control I’ve found in any affordable guitar brand and I’ve already reviewed a few Epiphone guitars here and on the ArtOfShred YouTube channel.
Table of Contents
Epiphone guitars we’ve reviewed so far
- Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition
- Epiphone Les Paul Special I P-90 Limited Edition
- Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1
- Epiphone J-15 (formerly the AJ-100CE) acoustic-electric guitar (YouTube exclusive video)
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Which Epiphones Are Best?
It’s tough to say which Epiphone is best for a few obvious reasons. The biggest is that they run the gamut from ultra low budget to mid-range to what I would call expensive. You can’t compare a $150 SG Special to the $799 Epiphone Tony Iommi Signature SG Special. Obviously the more expensive guitar is going to have better components and general quality.
What I will say is this: from everything I’ve played and reviewed, buy whatever Epiphone you can afford and I think you’ll be happy with it.
But a better comparison might be to take the mid-range Epiphones and compare them to the mid-range Squiers. Which begs the question …
Are Epiphone Guitars Better Than Squier?
This is a tough question! It’s kind of like asking, “Is Gibson better than Fender?” Yes. No. Maybe. It depends!
I’ll put it this way: if you love Gibsons but can’t afford one, I think you’ll be happy with the related Epiphone model. And if you love Fenders but can’t afford one, I think you’ll be happy with the related Squier model.
But if you yearn for an SG will you be happy with a Telecaster? Or if you yearn for a Stratocaster will you be happy with a Les Paul? Most likely not.
The one thing I’ve found Epiphone to do a much better job with than Squier is quality control. Squier’s quality control is, unfortunately, iffy (at the time of this writing) whereas Epiphone’s quality control has been great.
That doesn’t mean Epiphone is better than Squier, it just means that you’ll likely get a guitar that doesn’t need a guitar tech out of the box.
Why Is Epiphone Cheaper Than Gibson?
It seems pretty obvious, but we need to say it anyway. Gibson makes their guitars in the USA where it is expensive to build.
Epiphones are generally made overseas, in both China and Indonesia. This immediately brings costs way down. So even when Epiphone uses high quality components they can price their guitars lower than if they were made in the USA. But they can also use lower quality components and price their guitars incredibly affordably if they need or want to.
Note: Epiphone has started building a select few guitars in the USA — their Original Made in the USA line — with prices to match.
Does that mean Gibson guitars are better than Epiphone?
Yes and no. It’s similar to what we’ve already been talking about. Epiphone makes good guitars in China and Indonesia with components of varying quality (some not so good and some really good) and exports them to the rest of the world. Gibson, on the other hand, makes good guitars in the United States with high quality components. If you’re a professional musician you will most likely choose Gibson for those two reasons alone. But you will pay the price for that.
Which Epiphone Model Should You Choose?
Another difficult question! Since I don’t know your personal financial situation I’ll put it like this. The mid-range SGs and Les Pauls (like the SG Standard or the Les Paul Standard) are all wonderful instruments and I think that’s a good start. The $400-$600 range is where you can find a lot of quality and still get closer to the professional level sound, feel, and build.
But if your budget is low? Well don’t fret! If you’re just a beginner and it’s your first guitar, all of the budget Epiphones I’ve played and reviewed have been quite good for the price. I particularly like the budget SG Special.
And if your budget is high? Well, Epiphone makes some really nice more expensive models (including quite a few signature models) that you’ll likely be happy with.
I know that’s an unsatisfying answer, but that’s the truth. Since Epiphone runs the gamut from affordable to expensive it all really depends on your budget.
About Epiphone’s Quality Control (why is it so good?)
This really baffles me. How does Epiphone have consistently good quality control when other budget lines don’t? I can only speculate that they keep a closer eye at their factories than other brands do. While it’s possible they have additional quality control checks after shipment and arrival in their new country, I don’t believe they do. Suffice to say I’ve found Epiphone’s quality control much better than Squier’s and I really appreciate that, particularly if you’re a beginning guitar player. (No hate to Squier because I am a fan of them too!)
Final Thoughts On Epiphone Guitars
Epiphone is no longer known as strictly a budget line, but it has a lot of budget options. It’s a well respected brand with good quality control, lots of history, and many great guitars. If you’re not ready for the Gibson price tag there is absolutely no shame in buying an Epiphone.
To put it most simply: if you end up purchasing an Epiphone I think you’ll be happy with it because they are good guitars.