Will the budget version of the Les Paul Modern surprise me and outcompete a Gibson?
Overview & Final Score: 8.8
Honestly, this is the most beautiful Epiphone Les Paul I have ever seen or played. That Vintage Sparkling Burgundy gives this guitar a far more premium look than the Gibson Les Paul Studio. Based on the Gibson Les Paul Modern, the Epiphone variant still packs some crazy impressive features. A Mahogany body holds a plain Maple top with built-in weight relief underneath that Gloss finish. The neck is a slim taper with a modern, contoured heel where the Mahogany neck and Ebony fretboard are glued in. 22 medium jumbo frets sit atop this 24.75″ scale length Les Paul Modern with Trapezoid inlays and a NuBone nut from Graph Tech. A LockTone ABR bridge holds the strings on one end while Grover Locking Rotomatic tuners handle the other side of things.
The electronics certainly make things even more interesting if you ask me. First off, you’ve got ProBucker 2 and 3 pickups in the neck and bridge. Both of these are also coil-split enabled via the push-pull volume pots. One of the two tone pots is also push-pull which lets you run the pickups in or out of phase. That is a lot of tones in one little Les Paul. All these features at a price far below the Gibson Les Paul modern? Craziness, and a real steal as long as the build quality holds up to my high standards.
I am not only pleasantly surprised by how rich these pickups sound but also how versatile this guitar is. Packed within those ProBucker 2 and 3 pickups is coil splits and in phase/out of phase options. The ProBucker’s probably capture like 85% of that Gibson PAF sound that we all want, which is more than acceptable for me at this price. They’re still very articulate, warm, and the neck gets creamy as hell. Better yet, that coil split works wonders, not only dropping the volume like some cheap coil splits, but providing a bit more bright, top end and slap while cutting some bass. The in and out phase settings are a bit underwhelming, as you lose a ton of volume, but once you run it through a drive its pretty fun to mess around with as a rhythm tone.
For me, the bridge pickup does everything I’d want out of a Les Paul, which is why I’m giving it such a good score here. It’s loud, bright but still bass heavy, and cuts through a mix. I feel like I can do Led Zeppelin and The Clash with ease, which is important for me as rock fan to be able to cover a lot of ground. The single coil tones were actually a bit more impressive than the Gibson I previously reviewed, though that guitar certainly got closer to that “Holy Grail” LP sound. Overall, the Epiphone Les Paul Modern really barks through a cranked tube amp.
For Les Pauls, tuning instability is a known but accepted flaw. That’s why I was happy to see the addition of locking tuners here. While I still think I would prefer the more traditional Les Paul design for my own rig, this guitar is far superior in terms of modern playability than many competitors. It held tune great, and took quite a bit of abuse from bends and hard down strokes. The neck is a slim taper that I found comfortable but did feel sort of out of place on a Les Paul. The fret work was certainly good, but not perfect as premium things like rounded edges and jumbo frets would have pushed it over the edge. To Gibson’s and Epiphone’s credit, this Les Paul Modern’s playability is a big step up from their last decade of output or so.
Finish & Construction: 9
Epiphone’s Les Paul Modern really won me over here, with awesome features and strong build quality. This guitar looks phenomenal, it just looks like a premium instrument with the binding, trapezoid inlays, and eye popping burgundy color. The finish came out really good and I appreciate the super clear, glossy look of the exposed Mahogany back. A nitrocellulose finish would have been nice but I’m not sure Epiphone has ever offered that feature. I’m sure if they did, many more Gibson lovers would (rightfully) find this guitar as a direct competitor to their USA-models, not (wrongfully) just a budget alternative. Lastly, the hardware was installed really well, completely comparable to the Gibson I was sent. No tooling marks and surprisingly no high frets even though I heard that’s a common problem on 2020 Epi’s.
Like I said, the Les Paul Modern from Epiphone isn’t a perfect guitar, or a perfect LP for ’59 Burst enthusiasts. But it is a ton of guitar for a pretty nice price. And honestly, with no “Mexican Fender” option in the Gibson line, this is the closest thing to getting a new Gibson guitar at this price point. For under $700, this guitar is gig ready and could be a monster thanks to all the push-pull pots for players who explore a little more sonic space than Joe Bonamassa (no disrespect he has killer tone, just very in-the-box). I’m not usually a fan of Gibson (or other legacy brands) trying to reinvent the wheel, but the Les Paul Modern is a tasteful attempt. I assume the Gibson one is even more fun to plug in and play!
Good for: High Gain Rockers, Les Paul Enthusiasts, Gigging Musicians, Players Looking For Versatile LP, Broke Gibson Fans