I usually bash Gibson, but this is a big step in the right direction!
Now I have spent the better part of my journalism career criticizing Gibson here or at Ultimate-Guitar.com. And while their PR disasters don’t need any more bashing, I also was always struck by their misuse or mismanagement of their Epiphone line. In my opinion, one of the reasons Fender has been killing them in the past decade or more has always been Fender’s Mexican line of guitars. You could get quality guitars that were exact replicas of popular new and vintage Fender models, with Fender specs, and the Fender label on the headstock.
While many of us know that the label on the headstock shouldn’t matter, it still does to a lot of people in the guitar community. And being able to buy a “Fender” guitar for $400-$600 is a very appealing, very marketable product that Fender has long cashed in on. Gibson on the other hand, didn’t even make affordable models of their guitars that had the same headstock shape, let alone logo.
So for a lot of people, shallow as it may be, they simply would rather have a cheap Fender than a cheap Epiphone. And to top that off, they had so many weird inconsistencies between their Gibson and Epiphone lines. Why not just call the Epiphone Dot an Epiphone 335? Why was there no Les Paul Junior option despite the guitar’s huge rise in popularity? No SG with Maestro?
Also, why not make some of these Epiphone creations align more closely with these cheap, beloved Fender guitars? If you can release high quality Epiphone’s closer to $400 and $500, more people will see them as a genuine affordable alternative to a pricey Gibson. I’m ranting, but I just had so many issues with their marketing, design, and pricing. A MIM Strat is an awesome guitar, and can be had dirt cheap now a days, why would any beginner pick a weirdly priced Epiphone LP that was either cheaper and a far worse guitar, or more expensive and marginally better?
ANYWAYS, it seems Gibson finally figured some of this out! First off, they gave each guitar in the “Inspired by Gibson” collection a Kalamazoo headstock that is not only vintage correct, but looks far more elegant and Gibson “open book”-like than the previous design. This gives, in my opinion, each guitar a more Gibson feel and appearance, something you likely want if you’re buying an Epiphone.
Better yet, they introduced many of the models I listed above as missing from previous lines as well as just some awesome looking, new models that have been long time Gibson favorites. The Tobacco burst Les Paul Junior is gorgeous and will definitely be reviewed by GuitarsForIdiots this year. The Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird models provide vintage vibes thanks to their specs and no-frills, classic Gibson finish options. Dots are even called the Dot ES-335 now!
Better yet, they released a ton of amazing looking SG guitars, including this Pelham blue beauty with P90s that is sure to be a top seller.
Are these guitars high enough in quality to make me never buy a Gibson again? No shot, but they definitely have got my attention and will be thoroughly reviewed by me. Check out Trogly’s review of this SG in a worn cherry finish for more details on these eye catching guitars.