Did Gibson Actually Get This New Epiphone Line Right?

I usually bash Gibson, but this is a big step in the right direction!

Credit: Epiphone.com

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.

How pretty is that?

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.

Eastman SB59 Electric Guitar Review

We’re not playing authentic anymore…

Credit: Eastman Guitars

Cost: $1915.00, find one on Reverb.com!

Thanks to Alex from Eastman Guitars for making this review possible!

Overview & Final Score: 8.9

As someone who has never been a fan of traditional Gibson Les Pauls, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this Eastman SB59. This guitar is a vintage LP through and through and even felt surprisingly familiar the minute I picked it up. The Eastman SB59 is, as the name implies, a ’59 Les Paul remake with a vintage Nitrocellulose finish. A 1-piece Mahogany body is matched to a Flame Maple Top and 1-piece Mahogany neck as well. That’s matched to an Ebony fingerboard that holds gorgeous Pearl Crown inlays and Ivoroid binding around the body and neck.

When it comes to the engine that drives this beast, you’ve got two Seymour Duncan Classic 59 humbuckers that don’t disappoint. CTS 500K pots are matched to the stereotypical LP set up with a 3-way switch and two volume and two tone controls. When it comes to the tuners, Gotoh SD90 are responsible for keeping this 24.75″ scale length guitar in tune.

Fits right into my rig!

Sound: 9.5

Eastman’s SB59 is closer to a vintage Gibson Les Paul in tone than a lot of the real Gibson’s I’ve played. The Seymour Duncan humbuckers are creamy, rich, and really PAF-like. I used to hear players like Joe Bonamassa say that they could get a huge variety of tones from just their volume and tone controls and never believed it. However, this SB59’s controls are incredibly sensitive and I was able to get a huge variety of sounds out of it. Everything from Led Zeppelin to Cream to The Clash in terms of rock tones and even plenty of crystal clean and clear tones for pop, jazz, and fusion.

The best sounds by far are the neck pickup with the volume and tone cranked. It’s bluesy, smooth, and sounds like the ’60s and ’70s to my ears. Usually LP clean sounds don’t do it for me, as I feel the miss the percussive and punchy sounds of a Fender guitars, but this guitar was different. The SB59 doesn’t have any of those percussive tones I love, but the clean sounds are incredibly rich, almost chimey, thanks to these Seymour Duncan’s and the guitar’s huge natural sustain. I have to stop asking companies to review guitars that are awesome, because it’s hard to find bad things to say about this SB59.

Playability: 9

The feel of the neck is just phenomenal, slim as you approach the nut and getting just a bit bigger as you move to higher frets. It’s a far cry from the baseball bat necks that some people prefer on LP’s that I dislike. Now, it’s not a super slim, fast neck that will appease shredders, but it feels far more comfortable for any player’s hands than some of those old Gibson’s. The tuning stability was overall pretty good, it did not go out of tune until you really started bending the strings. Leaving it in the case overnight or out on my guitar rack didn’t have the strings slipping at all. Like a lot of Gibson’s though, the break angle of the string into the nut isn’t as bend/heavy pick attack friendly as some other classic guitar brands.

Finish & Construction: 10

The SB59 is wonderfully build, from a structural perspective, it’s flawless. The vintage Nitro finish is gorgeous, feels amazing, and arrived with no dings, dents, scratches, or smudges. All the hardware was adjusted wonderfully and the action was perfect out of the box. Anytime a guitar shows up from UPS feeling that nice out of the box and barely out of tune is a testament to the craftsmanship. This is a beautiful archtop with QA/QC that clearly has a step up on Gibson (even though they are improving). I see a lot of the appeal with this guitar, it’s essentially a Gibson copy with a few tweaks (slimmer neck, Seymour Duncans) and more trustworthy build quality.

Value: 7

Okay, time for a few critical statements. I love the SB59, it’s incredible sounding and beautifully built. BUT, for closer to $2000, I don’t see why most LP lovers wouldn’t go for a top end Gibson. As you move closer to that $2000 price point, you start to move away from some of the cheaper production model Gibson’s that have all those build quality issues in the first place. So while the guitar is phenomenal, I feel that as a buyer, you need to want an Eastman instead of a Gibson to buy this, as opposed to wanting the best LP you can find. For the $2000 price tag though, you are getting a hell of a guitar and it does not disappoint at all. It’s not overpriced based on quality and I cannot recommend trying one of these out enough. The SB59 is an excellent guitar, even if I’m unsure of the market share they are trying to attract.

Good for: Blues, Classic Rock, Les Paul Lovers

Ultimate-Guitar.com review on the way and some quick clips of this paired with the JHS PG-14 Distortion should be up today!

Sadly I have to return this gorgeous LP