Can I be honest with you? The Gibson SG body shape is one of my favorites and Epiphone has rarely disappointed me with their guitars. But I’m always a little hesitant with a brand’s most budget guitars. This is the most definitive & unbiased review of the Epiphone SG Special I (Limited Edition because it’s exclusive to Guitar Center / Musician’s Friend) that you will find and includes a full video review and sound demo.
I bought this beginners electric guitar with my own money from Musician’s Friend for $149.99+tax. The regular price is $199, but it is fairly regularly on sale for between $150 and $180.
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Table of Contents
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 SG Special I Limited Edition 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 SG Special I Limited Edition
Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition in ebony finish
Weight: 6.4 lbs
Made in: China
Looks cool! Even if not as nice as a better SG
Epiphone's quality control is good
Good first guitar
Pickups lack clarity
Odd fretboard coloring
Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition Video Review
Don’t want to read? 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.
The Basics of this Affordable SG Special
The Gibson SG was the successor to the Les Paul. But the man himself, Les Paul, was not a fan of the guitar. Oops! But hey that’s okay, not every guitar is for everyone.
As for this cheap Epiphone SG? Well let’s be honest, it’s not going to compete with a Gibson! And that’s okay because it’s 10% of the cost of a Gibson SG.
The regular price of this guitar is $199.99, but I do often see it on sale for between $150 and $180.
And while this is a budget guitar it does have a lot of the same features of a “real” SG. It’s actually an amalgamation of an SG Standard and an SG Special. Epiphone calls this an SG Special but Gibson SG Specials have two P90 pickups instead of 2 humbuckers.
The spec breakdown:
- 24.75″ scale length
- ’60s Slim Taper D bolt on neck (the same neck on all of the very budget Epiphone guitars)
- 22 medium jumbo frets
- 12″ fretboard radius
- Plastic nut
- Gloss finish (also comes in Pelham Blue and Cherry)
- Cheap 15:1 gear ratio tuners
- 2 Epiphone humbuckers: 650R in the neck, 700T in the bridge
- Wraparound SG Special style bridge (more on this soon)
- 1 volume and 1 tone control
- 3 way pickup switch
- Mahogany body and neck
- Made in China
I’ve had a lifetime with Epiphones and something that has always impressed me: their quality control. That’s not to say they’re perfect because no company is, but their guitars consistently arrive without major quality control issues. This is a must for a beginner or someone who doesn’t yet know how to do a guitar setup.
So you won’t be shocked when I say this guitar came without any major issues! No fret buzz or fret sprout. The only thing I needed to adjust was the intonation and that’s where a little bit of annoyance & frustration came to pass. Please watch the ArtOfShred Epiphone SG Special YouTube video for details because it’s difficult to explain in text.
This guitar did come with 2 allen wrenches to adjust the truss rod (unnecessary in my case) and the bridge (necessary in my case).
Another thing you might notice with these is how light the fretboard looks. It’s a light reddish brown that not everybody is a fan of. Personally, I don’t love it, but it doesn’t bother me.
Differences with the Epiphone SG Special Satin E1
You’ll notice most retailers sell a different SG Special than this Musician’s Friend / Guitar Center exclusive. So what’s the difference? Well, the E1 (beyond having a satin finish) has a TOM (tune-o-matic) bridge with a stopbar tailpiece. This is more akin to an SG Standard. The TOM bridge is easier to intonate and it’s my favorite bridge style, but there that doesn’t make a wraparound bridge bad.
Other than that the E1 is also not on sale as often, but it does have the same $199.99 regular price.
There are not many cons with this guitar. The biggest issue I had is a little bit of trouble adjusting the intonation on the wraparound bridge (as explained in the video review).
The most common complaints with these guitars (common amongst most super low budget guitars) is that it has ceramic pickups that lack clarity, it has a cheap plastic nut, and the tuners are cheap. Generally the guitar does stay in tune so it’s not the end of the world with that nut and those tuners.
I should also note that the ’60s Slim Taper D neck is more akin to a baseball bat style neck. It’s fatter than what some people like. I don’t think you’ll have issues playing it unless you have the smallest of hands. I find it perfectly comfortable.
Lots to like about this cheap $200 guitar!
- It’s an SG! SGs look so fun
- Great for heavy metal (not just because of the look, but also because it has humbucking pickups)
- Sounds good enough even if the pickups aren’t great
What Kind of Setup Did I Do?
This guitar didn’t need much setup. Of course I removed the strings, polished the frets and fretboard, replaced the strings, lowered the string height, and set the intonation. But those are standard things for me on any guitar. (And if you’re a beginning guitar player I wouldn’t worry about any of them, tbh. Just play!)
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 what this SG Special I has, but that video will still help you.
How Does An Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition Sound?
Again, these are not world class pickups and they lack some clarity, but guess what? That’s okay! This isn’t a guitar meant for a professional studio or live tour. It’s meant to get you playing and it sounds good enough for that. You’ll have to watch the video review for the full sound demo where I put this guitar through its paces with distorted and clean tones.
What Would I Upgrade?
If you’re just a beginner: nothing
But if you want to keep this guitar for the long haul?
In that order. I actually bought a DiMarzio Super Distortion to replace the bridge pickup and I will update this review with the video/sound demo when I’ve completed that upgrade.
I’d replace the tuners with locking tuners (both for ease of string change and for better tuning stability from these cheap tuners). And I’d upgrade the nut to a GraphTech nut.
The bridge is a “maybe” type mod. There are nice wraparound bridges with individual string adjustments that make intonation a lot easier. The Epiphone Tony Iommi Signature SG Special actually has one of those types of bridges. (Of course, it costs $799 new.)
Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition Photo Gallery
Final Thoughts on the Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition
This is a decent choice for a budget guitar, but it’s not my first choice. It’s not even my first choice for a cheap SG, but if you like the wraparound style bridge then it’s your only option in this price range. If you make the choice to buy it I think you’ll be pretty happy with it. Remember, preferences and opinions are all unique, this might be the guitar for you!
Overall: 7.6 / 10. Nice for beginners and modders and maybe nice for you too.
Do you own a Epiphone SG Special I Limited Edition? Please let me know below what you like and dislike about it.