Which Epiphone Les Paul guitars are really quite good?


Gold Supporting Member
Given (at least to many) that an Epiphone Les Paul is not in the same league as it's older American brother, Gibson, can you give me an idea of which Epiphone Les Pauls are of good quality? In your comparisons, which have measured up nicely?

Thanks! :bow

P.S...please refrain from the obvious comments of..."save a few more hundred dollars and get a Gibson Studio..." etc...


The '56 Goldtop RI is pretty good in that it does not require a pickup swap.


Les Paul Classics from a few years ago come IMMEDIATELY to mind. if you can find one in good shape these days. they're fairly cheap.

any Elitist series is top notch, but you're gonna pay a premium (used Gibson Les Paul Studio territory) for one.

Les Paul Limited Edition Studio Deluxe is really good for the coin.

i have no complaints about Epi quality overall, but- if you're buying new - for your money there are other brands available that give you more for the same guitar.


The elitist series is more than good. You can get them used for around $800, maybe less if your patient. I'm about to upgrade pups but the stock ones are fine. After the SD 59's are in it should be a killer guitar. Plays great and sustains as well as any of my better and much more expensive guitars.


epiphone elitists!!!

I have a regular old epiphone les paul custom that I've owned for years and years now and I still use it all the time, even tough I've got a gibson lp standard now. there's a bunch of good ones, you just have to play through a bunch of duds to find one.


I'm quite fond of my Epi Les Paul Ultra II. It has '57 classic 'buckers installed AND a Shadow Nanomag pup installed in the 22nd fret. It's billed as an acoustic pup, but rather produces very authentic Strat tones. I like the fact that I can blend the two together and get a ton of compliments on my tone wherever I play.
This is a Korean made Epi. The build is very good except for where the nut sits in the neck. It is correct, but you can tell where the stain on the neck got on the nut a bit. A minor aesthetic flaw that others I have seen did not have.


Silver Supporting Member
I'm VERY happy with my (Korean made) '04 Epi LP Standard honeyburst which I put Gibson '57 Classic pups in. I owned a '92 Gibson LP at one time, and still have a bought-new 1981 Ibanez Artist. In comparison, the Epi really stands up.


I don't know the years but here is the serial info from wikipedia:

In the early 1970s, Epiphone began to manufacture instruments in Japan. From the 1980s, Epiphones were manufactured mainly in Korea but also in Japan by contractors licensed by Gibson. One of these contractors was Samick, which also built instruments under license for other brands and in its own name. Thus, a Korean-era solidbody Epiphone would have been built under license. The brand was primarily used to issue less expensive versions of classic Gibson models, in a manner similar to that of the Squier brand by Fender. These Epiphones were thought to have sometimes been built with different species of woods from the original Gibson versions; some players speculated that this resulted in the instruments bearing a visual and ergonomic similarity to the Gibson originals but having a slightly different tone; however this has always been suspected to be based on prejudice more than empirical fact. Samick has stopped manufacturing guitars in Korea. In 2002, Gibson opened a factory in Qingdao, China, which manufactures Epiphone guitars exclusively. With few exceptions, Epiphones are now built only in the Qingdao factory.
Unique Epiphone models, including the Emperor, Zephyr, Riviera and Sheraton, are built to higher quality standards than the company's "Gibson copy" line. Epiphone also produces a range of higher quality instruments under the "Elitist Series" moniker, which are built in Japan. The "Masterbilt" acoustics are manufactured in Qingdao.
According to several forum entries, current Epiphone serial numbers give the following information:
  • I = Saein
  • U = Unsung
  • S = Samick
  • P or R = Peerless
  • K = Korea
  • DW = DeaWon
  • EA = Gibson/QingDao
  • EE = Gibson/QingDao
  • MC = Muse
  • SJ = SaeJung
  • Z = Zaozhuang Saehan
  • BW = China
  • No letter or F = FujiGen
  • J or T = Terada
Czech Republic
  • B = Bohêmia Musico-Delicia
  • SI = Samick Indonesia
Example: SI09034853 SI = Samick Indonesia, 09 = 2009, 03 = March, 4853 = manufacturing number.
Several Epiphone guitars have been produced in the United States since 1971. The Epiphone Spirit and Special were produced in the early 1980s in Kalamazoo. In 1993, three historic Epiphone acoustic guitars, the Texan, Frontier, and Excellente, were produced by Gibson Acoustic in Montana. The Paul McCartney Texan was produced in 2005, and in 2009, the Epiphone Historic Collection was created, beginning with the 1962 Wilshire, built by Gibson Custom. Several other models, such as the Sheraton and John Lennon Casinos, were built in Japan and assembled and finished by Gibson USA.


I got a goldtop with humbuckers. It's not an elitist. I think they offered the goldtop in standard I guess. it's an 03' I put Burstbuckers and it's my go to jazz guitar. it sounds lovely. Would love a real gibson. But for now it get's me what I need :)


the japanese ones sound like les pauls.

elites,elitists,limiteds..not many out there and getting more
expensive by the minute.

i really wanted to like the korean ones but i don't.
same goes for their chinese ones.


I've got a Korean from 94 with a thinnish neck that is wonderful and a special edition Birdseye top model from China a few years old that is great as well. That one had the "made in the USA" pickups in it. The neck is much thicker and both guitars are superbly made and great sounding. I think if you are interested in getting one just look around until you fall in love with one.

I really think the new Chinese factory can be quite good but it's like any large output plant. You need to look through a few to find one that really speaks to you. I got lucky with both of mine and bought them before I had a chance to play them.


Gold Supporting Member
Would love a real gibson. But for now it get's me what I need :)

Well, when you do get a "real Gibson," don't discount the Studio models. I recently bought a 2007 Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany (brown) just on a whim to see if I really liked it....paid about $600 for it.

Do I like it? I just sold my 2010 Custom Shop '58 Les Paul Plaintop Historic Reissue, my Custom Shop '57 Les Paul Historic Reissue, and I am currently selling a 2001 USA Premium Plus LP in the Emporium. Now granted, I was only going to keep one of those guitars, but the Studio HONESTLY put the other three guitars to flight...better resonance, brighter articulation, awesome sustain.

What I've learned is that you can find gems even in the bargain guitars, some that will out-perform others costing thousands more...just gotta know what you're looking for tonally.
Given (at least to many) that an Epiphone Les Paul is not in the same league as it's older American brother, Gibson, can you give me an idea of which Epiphone Les Pauls are of good quality? In your comparisons, which have measured up nicely?

Thanks! :bow

P.S...please refrain from the obvious comments of..."save a few more hundred dollars and get a Gibson Studio..." etc...
er...elitist les pauls can and sometimes do blow their gibson brothers out of the water...

I have a 2005-6 epi les paul standard...pups and electronics upgraded...and it plays and sounds as good as any gibson Ive ever tried...granted I dont own a gibson and I am an intermediate player...i might not be putting my guitars through the rigerous workout others do...

point is the best way to figure this out is to go to guitar center and find a gibson les paul you like...then compare it to the epiphones...


+1 on the 90s MIK Epis. Those are actually pretty good. I have a '94 Standard made in the Unsung factor. It was my first guitar! Unlike the Epis I've played recently, the feel and sound of it actually resembles a Les Paul. Definately a veneer top, but I'm pretty sure the body is a 3 or 4 piece and is actually made of some type of mahogany.


Senior Member
I've played some Epi LP Stds that were real dogs- crappy playing/sounding and poorly finished with excess glue on the fretboard from the inlays. This was a batch of fifteen in a music store a while back (geez, maybe ten years ago!). I played a batch of about ten in 2006 and they had issues like fret buzz and dead spots. I picked up one and ended up buying it- I also played a few Gibsons that the store had- there was a real good one that was better than the Epi I bought, but they wanted roughly fifteen hundred more and it wasn't that much better. It had minor finish issues as well.


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