Gibson Guitars is one of the leading guitar and other music instruments manufacturers in the world. This manufacturer has survived the test of time and its guitars still remains a favorite among many players.
But to remain attractive and relevant to guitarists of all budgets, Gibson manufacturers affordable guitars and other musical instruments through its subsidiary electric guitar brand Epiphone.
In this article, we will give you a brief history of these two guitars, compare the specifications and qualities of the two, and suggest which one of the two is best for you.
Quick History Of The Gibson
The history and origins of the Gibson Les Paul guitar is quite interesting. Its origin started in the early 1950s when they wanted a well-designed, expensive guitar that fit their reputation as a manufacturer of high-end musical instruments. They approached Les Paul in late 1951 with a prototype and a request they be allowed to imprint the Les’ name on the guitar’s headstock to boost sales.
It is still not clear how much contribution Les Paul made on the guitar’s design at this stage, but employees claim that the instrument they presented was basically the first production model. On the other hand, he claimed that he was given the right to decide what should and what should not be included in the instrument’s design.
It was until the following year, 1952, that the first electric guitar was launched at a live performance at Paramount theater in New York. The guitar featured the iconic Gold Top color scheme, mahogany body, and distinctive shape that we now associate with the Les Paul. Some of the features the first ones had that differ from later models include a trapeze tailpiece that was similar to that on earlier models of hollow bodies and it also had P90 pick-ups.
The trapeze tailpiece was abandoned in 1954 after Les Paul’s protests, and the tune-o-matic bridge was introduced. The P90 pick-ups were replaced by humbuckers in 1957.
Quick History Of The Epiphone
If you thought Gibson was old, then you will be surprised to learn that Epiphone was founded decades before they were born. Epiphone acoustic and electric guitars was founded in Turkey in 1873 and later moved to the United States in the beginning of the century. The company mainly manufactured mandolins.
Each were arch rivals in the guitar market throughout the 1930s and 1940s, however, this came to an end when Gibson acquired Epiphone in 1957. After being acquired, Epiphone begun manufacturing budget-friendly instruments for Gibson, and is to-date the only company in the world that is officially licensed to manufacturer Gibson designs.
Among Gibson designs that Epiphone produces is the Les Paul. Early versions of Epiphone Les Paul Standard featured multiple pick-up configurations similar to a superstar style guitar, flat bodies with a studdy horn, and bolted on necks. In 1989, Epiphone introduced the Gibson Les Paul Standard, which closely resembles the original version.
Comparison of the Specs Between The Two
At a quick glance, both guitars look very identical. In fact, someone who’s not experienced won’t be able to tell the difference between the two guitars. Other than experience, the only other thing that can help you tell the difference between the two is the name written on the headstock of these instruments.
Therefore, unless you are a person who cares most about the brand of the product, you aren’t going to care which you get.
With that said, if you happen to look close enough at the Gibson Les Paul and the Epiphone Les Paul, you’ll notice a number of aesthetic difference. The first one is in the headstock. The shape of the headstock is a bit different compared to that of the Epiphone Les Paul. The Gibson Les Paul has sunburst finish, and the Epiphone one has a thinner body.
A similar combination of wood tone is used in producing both. Both manufacturers use mahogany in making the neck set and a combination of mahogany and maple to make the body and top of the guitar. The main difference between the two companies here is in terms of quality. Epiphone Les Pauls are made using wood of a lower quality. Other than that, while Gibson uses a solid sheet of maple on the guitar’s top, Epiphone uses sheets that are thinker and often combine them with veneer.
Gibson also uses higher quality hardware and electronics on their Les Pauls. This means that their chances of wearing down over time are low. Also, the pick-ups used by both companies in their Les Pauls are different. Burstbucker pick-ups are used by Gibson, while Epiphone uses a different type of pickup that is also of high-quality. However, this pickup does not match the overall depth, tonal quality, and clarity that the Burstbucker produces.
The quality of hardware on an electric guitar determines the price of the instrument. So, the lower the quality of the hardware, the cheaper the guitar and vice versa. Gibson uses titanium in making the saddles of many of its high-end guitars. This manufacturer mainly uses hardware from TonePros, Ping, Gotoh, and other high-end manufacturers.
Other than titanium, Gibson also experiments with other metals. They make their bridges using Zamak, but in the past, it used aluminum. The process of manufacturing hardware for guitars used by Epiphone is similar to that of Gibson, however, Epi mostly uses materials that are less expensive.
Even though Gibson’s hardware are made of better quality material when compared to Epiphone, some cheaper guitar models manufactured by the company have been made with extremely low-quality material. For instance, the M2’s low-quality bridge makes it extremely hard to set it with the neck angle.
There have been a lot of complaints that the Lightning Bar bridge that Gibson uses on its guitars has issues. Most of those complaining about it couldn’t bear using it anymore, to a point that they had to install aftermarket locket studs on their instruments.
Comparison Of The Quality Between The Two
As we mentioned earlier, Gibson owns Epiphone. This means that Epiphone is licensed to use the name Les Paul and design other products. This also means that Les Pauls made by Epiphone are the best copy of the guitar on the market, and also they are as legitimate as the real Les Pauls. However, this doesn’t mean that an Epiphone Les Paul is exactly the same as the Gibson one.
Gibson designs and manufactures its musical instruments, including the Les Paul in the United States. There products are also of a much higher quality when it comes to the materials used and the construction process.
In comparison, Epiphone Les Pauls are built overseas. This is why this guitar has a number of differences when compared, one of them being the price.
As we mentioned earlier, both options look pretty much the same at first glance. In fact, they can be mistaken to be the same product unless someone is close enough that he or she can see the name written on the headstock, or they are an experienced guitar enthusiast who know the smallest detail about them.
It is important to know this from the beginning except if you are a guitar nerd or musician who really cares about which product you are using. However, for most people, it doesn’t matter if it is an Epiphone LP or a Gibson LP as long as it can play the tune.
In terms of quality and aesthetic, the two guitars are different and you can notice this if you are keen enough. The Epiphone Les Paul’s body is not quite as thick, its headstock has a different shape, and the wood underneath guitars with a sunburst finish is not as pretty as the one on Gibson LPs.
When it comes to the hardware that each uses, Gibson uses Corian-like composite for nuts, while plastic nuts are used by Epiphone. Those who own Epiphone Les Pauls may have noticed that the nuts don’t fit the guitar as well. The reason is simply because the plastic nuts are not as custom to the guitar as the ones used by Gibson on the Les Paul.
When it comes to tuners, both companies use different varieties. Gibson mostly uses self-branded tuners from leading manufactures such as Grover’s. Epiphone, on the other hand, uses unbranded tuners that in some cases negatively affect performance. You can easily notice the issue with performance on their cheaper guitars.
There is a wide variety of hardware that both use on their guitars. One of the reasons why Gibson can afford to use high-quality hardware on its guitars is because their pricing allows them to do so.
The quality of materials used to make these two guitars also affects their playability. Because Gibson fingerboards comprise of high-quality rosewood or ebony, their Les Pauls tend to be heavier than the Epiphone ones, even though both guitars have some weight to them.
Which One Is Best For You?
The debate has been raging for years and is most likely the hottest topic on online guitar forums. Some of the frequently asked questions include: Which one among the two is the best? What is the difference between a the two? Should I save for a Gibson or just buy an Epiphone?
If you are plagued with such questions, here is our advise on which one among the two is best for you.
But before we get to that, here is a little preface to get us started. There is no correct answer to the Gibson Les Paul vs. Epiphone Les Paul debate. On one side, we have the Gibson LP die hards who wouldn’t dare buy or use an Epiphone LP.
Then on the other side are Epiphone funs who are content with playing a guitar that is decent in its own rights. To them, they don’t get what all these fuss on choosing between the two Les Pauls is about. But for those who haven’t picked a side, getting an honest answer to this age-old debate can help in choosing the right guitar.
It’s not wrong to choose a side, but it is always a good idea to be open minded. We’ve been in the guitar industry for a long time and have enjoyed playing both LPs. As a matter of fact, many Les Paul enthusiasts own both brands. Both guitars are great instruments and each has its own advantages.
The decision on whether to choose a one or the other comes down to a number of factors. These factors include, your budget, your ideal style of music, and your personal preferences.
Whether to purchase an Epiphone or a Gibson is your personal decision to make. The features that appeal to you should be the ones to inform your choice between the two. If you aren’t still sure about which Les Paul to purchase, the guide below will help you do so:
Go for the Gibson LP if:
- You’ve played the Epiphone LP for quite some time and you are now considering to upgrade it.
- You are a professional musician or guitarist.
- You have a great obsession with tone that only these can satisfy.
- You’ve always dreamed of owning one and you’ve finally raised enough money to buy your dream guitar.
- You are looking for a guitar that you can pass down to your kids, grand kids, and generations to come.
Choose the Epiphone Les Paul if:
- You are an inexperienced or young guitarist who is just starting to play guitar. Whether you are learning music or playing in a band, the Epi Les Paul is perfect for you.
- You play guitar as a hobby and you do it for you personal entertainment.
- Your dream has always been to own a Gibson Les Paul, but you can’t do it at the moment due to budget constraints.
As we mentioned earlier, the choice on whether to purchase one comes down to you.
In this article, we did our best to ignore any emotions or preconceptions that many people express when comparing both. We did this to focus on the most important aspects, which are the overall values, components, and price of each guitar.
When looking for which Les Paul to buy between the models, follow you gut, ears, and hands. Regardless of which brand name you choose, always know that a Les Paul never disappoints!