Cheap & weird: Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 electric guitar review

This budget electric guitar is also sometimes known as the Epiphone Les Paul SL, it just depends on the retailer. Being confused is fun, right? haha

Anyway, this is the most comprehensive unbiased review of this Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 you will find. I played it for over 10 hours before filming the review which I try to do for every guitar I review. There is a lot to dislike about this guitar, but there are things to like as well!

As always I bought it with my own money and I got it at a phenomenal discount.

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Why You Should Trust Us

Hey, I’m Karol (like Karl not Carol). I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years, but I’m still an amateur and learning every day. In my younger years I played in a band, but nowadays it’s for fun. I’m not a guitar snob, and I think everybody should just have fun with it.

Why should you listen to this Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 review? Because I don’t care about selling you anything and I want to help you make an informed choice about this and every other guitar I review. I started Art Of Shred because I was unimpressed with the obviously biased paid for guitar and musical equipment reviews online. I only get paid if you use one of my referral links to buy a guitar. Everything I write here is unbiased. Keep in mind, of course, that these are just my views. I don’t know everything and my opinions are my opinions.

Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 (Les Paul SL)

6 out of 10
$159$111.3
Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1

Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 in ebony finish

Weight: very light 5.0 lbs

Made in: China

Looks
3 out of 10
Setup (out of box)
9 out of 10
No issues with the setup, nice!
Feel
5 out of 10
It feels cheap
Sound
5 out of 10
It doesn’t sound particularly good
Price
8 out of 10
$159 for a functioning playable guitar is good

Pros

It's a cheap Les Paul

Epiphone's quality control is good

It's the lightest budget guitar you can buy

Cons

It feels cheap

It doesn't sound all that good

It doesn't look all that good

Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 (Les Paul SL) Video Review

This 8 minute video review of the SG Special I on ArtOfShred’s YouTube channel covers most of what you need to know, including an extensive sound demo. The sound demo includes a semi-produced track with drums as well as guitar-only segments with clean and dirty sounds using the various pickup options.

If you want to watch my initial thoughts about this Les Paul Melody Maker I filmed that as well:

The Basics of this Cheap Les Paul Melody Maker E1

The Gibson Melody Maker has a long and convoluted history and the Melody Maker name was used for multiple body styles including a double cut away. So who knows what Gibson was up to. What’s up? What’s down? What’s sideways? Sometimes you just don’t know. We do know it’s generally know as a budget line.

As for this budget Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1? Well, I have thoughts. So many thoughts. Good and bad and indifferent thoughts. My first thought is that I don’t know why this one is called the Melody Maker E1 when it’s also available at other retailers as the Epiphone Les Paul SL. Is everyone’s goal to just confuse us with Melody Makers?

Let’s just get onto the specs before our brains explode.

The Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 spec breakdown:

  • 24.75″ scale length
  • Poplar body (it’s so light it feels like balsa haha)
  • 1960s Slim Taper D neck profile (same as the other budget Epiphones like the SG Special and Les Paul Special P-90)
  • 22 medium jumbo frets
  • 12 inch fretboard radius
  • Plastic nut
  • Cheap tuners
  • Epiphone 650SCR™ Ceramic Single-Coil in the neck
  • Epiphone 700SCT™ Ceramic Single-Coil in the bridge
  • 1 volume, 1 tone, 3 way pickup switch
  • Comes with Epiphone stickers and bridge adjustment allen wrench
  • Made in China

First Impressions

A lot of things to like about this affordable Epiphone Les Paul. Even though you already saw the low rating I gave it above I can still recommend this particular cheap electric guitar to beginners. Why?!

Well, no fret issues! No fret sprout or sharp frets and the neck was straight. It’s playable out of the box. And although it doesn’t sound great, it’s not terrible.

But this is definitely the cheapest feeling guitar I’ve ever played from any major brand. It also does not sound as good as the other budget Epiphones.

Honestly the biggest surprise for me with this guitar is how light it is. It’s just 5 pounds and it feels so light. It you’ve got back issues or need a very light guitar there is nothing in this price range that beats the weight of this guitar so it might be perfect for you.

Cons

The biggest issues with this guitar is just how incredibly cheap it feels to me. Yes, I know it is incredibly cheap, but still. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad guitar, don’t get me wrong. It’s not a terrible guitar or anything. And I can even recommend it to beginners since the out of box experience was good. But there are other better guitars (including from Epiphone) in this price range. That said, if you’re looking for this very specific style then this is your choice.

This Melody Maker E1 also the same ’60s Slim Taper D neck as the other cheap Epiphone electric guitars in its price range. The 60s Slim Taper D neck is fatter than what some people like. I don’t think you’ll have issues playing it unless you have the smallest of hands. I don’t have an issue with fat necks, even if they’re not my favorite.

Maybe the biggest con for me: I don’t particularly like how it sounds. It sounds okay but most guitars in its price range sound better to me. I will say it has a sort of unique sound and if that’s what you’re looking for then this might be the budget guitar for you.

Pros

I know I seem like I’m being very negative about this guitar but there are some things to like about it.

  • It’s a cheap Les Paul!
  • It’s light!
  • As expected, Epiphone’s quality control didn’t miss on this one. It was playable out of the box.

Maybe I’m grasping for straws a little bit there, but I want to make it clear I do not hate this electric guitar. Any guitar that comes playable out of the box is immediately okay in my book. This Les Paul SL / Melody Maker E1 is just odd to me. haha

What Kind of Setup Did I Do?

As mentioned this guitar didn’t need much of a setup. The string height was high out of the box so I dropped it to below 2mm with a regular screwdriver. And then I set the intonation with the included allen wrench. I didn’t even bother polishing the frets or oiling the fretboard on this one because even though that would make it play a little better these frets were clean enough and the fretboard wasn’t egregiously dry.

If you need a refresher on how to set intonation, it’s essentially the same with any guitar:

There is some quirkiness with setting intonation on a wraparound bridge like this, but that video will still help you.

How Does An Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 (Les Paul SL) Sound?

I don’t particularly like how this guitar sounds. It’s not that is sounds bad, but I also don’t think it sounds good. I did get some decent sounds out of it for the demo, but it was more of a struggle than it is with a lot of guitars. Watch the full Melody Maker E1 review for more sounds.

What Would I Upgrade?

I’m going to be completely honest with you. If you’re a beginner you probably don’t need to upgrade anything, but also if you’re a beginner I’d recommend a different Les Paul style guitar if that’s what you’re after. Even the Epiphone Les Paul Special I P-90 that I generally don’t recommend for beginners? Yeah, I’d recommend that over this.

But if you’re buying this to mod and upgrade? Well I think you can have a LOT of fun. A great cheap guitar to learn how to do mods on, if nothing else. Swap out the pickups with good single coils or stacked humbuckers. Swap out the bridge with something better. Swap out the tuners with locking tuners. Swap out the pots and switch.

Yeah you’d be spending 2x what you spent on the guitar in the first place, but you’d learn a lot and have a lot of fun. And have a pretty great Les Paul at that point, for still under $400.

Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 (Les Paul SL) Photo Gallery

Final Thoughts on the Les Paul Melody Maker E1 (Les Paul SL)

I feel like I’m just repeating myself now, but this isn’t a bad guitar. I just don’t think it’s an electric guitar I would recommend for most guitar players. But you’re you and you know yourself better than me. Read this whole review and watched my videos and still want this cheapest of Epiphones? If so, I actually think you’ll like it!

Overall: 6.0 / 10. Mostly a pass, but it might be right for you in certain situations.

Do you own a Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 (Les Paul SL)? Please let me know below what you like and dislike about it.

1 thought on “Cheap & weird: Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 electric guitar review”

  1. Pingback: Are Epiphone Guitars Worth It? (YES! But know this …) – Art Of Shred Guitar & Gear Reviews

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