welcome to my second posting here. As I’m still a beginner, this will be again a posting from a beginners point of view, this time about guitars. Cheaper Epihone Guitar versus original Gibson, things to look for, mistakes I did. Maybe other beginners can benefit of this.
After watching Fils Back in Black tutorial on youtube , I thought myself “Ok, you’re dreaming of playing AC/DC riffs for so long, so why you just don’t go out, buy a guitar and start learning this?”.
I looked around at several online dealers and was a bit shocked of the price of a new Gibson SG. Depending on the model, a new GIbson SG costs between 1000 and 2500 Euros.
What, if I am just too unskilled? Maybe I’m paying a lot of money for a guitar I would never use again.
So I looked around for cheaper SG-like guitars and found the Epiphones. Epiphone was an independent guitar manufacturer that was baught by Gibson back in 1957.
They have cheaper versions from almost all Gibson models. While a Gibson SG standard ebony black costs about 1000 Euros, the Epiphone SG G-400 ebony costs about 250 Euros. That was ok for me. If I’m finding out that I’m too unskilled for playing a guitar, losing 250 Euros is much better than spending 1000 Euros for a guitar I wouldn’t use anymore.
At this time, the Epiphone SG G-400 ebony wasn’t available, so I ordered the SG G-400 cherry. This one is Epiphones version of the Gibson SG 1962 reissue.
At the same time, I saw Marshall MG 15 CDR in a music shop here in vienna, price reduced from 200 to 150 Euros. So I had a beginners guitar and a beginners amp together for less than 500 euros. Seems to be a very good start.
Of course, there were “Guitar starter packages” in the music stores, guitar and amp together for 100 or maybe 200 euros. But concerning that these really cheap packages can’t be quite good material-wise and sound-wise, I didnt even look at them. There has to be a minimum quality standard for a beginners equipment, otherwise it would’nt be fun to play with it. And you can’t build an acceptable guitar or amp for 100 Euros.
The Epiphone SG G-400 cherry arrives and I was quite impressed by its sound. The first thing I found out was that the Back in Black chords were too hard to learn for an absolute beginner 🙂 But Fil had another tutorial online, for You shook me all night long. My second favourite song right after Back in Black. So I started with this one.
(Pictures Epiphone alone and with Marshall MG 15 CDR here)
While getting more familiar with the Epiphone and guitar playing in general, I became more and more unhappy with it. At this time I worked on the solo of “You shook me all night long” and it was very hard to perform on the Epiphone.
While the sound was not as close to Angus as I wanted, it was ok anyway, but It was hard work to play with. And I was a bit disappointed by its manufacturing quality.
One time, it nearly fell down from its stand and its neck hit the edge of a table, causing a big crack in the back of neck just where the 2 parts of the neck were glued together. Yes, the neck was made out of two parts of wood glued lengthwise together.
Picture: cracked Epiphone neck. Head is on the right side. The crack goes halfway through the whole neck. Its typical for wood cracks to happen right beside glueing connections. The glued connection is stronger that the wood, so the wood itself cracks apart right beside the connection. The guitar was on its stand, tilted over ca. 50 cm and hit a table edge with the fretboard side. It did not fell on the ground. I would expect a dent, but not a deep crack from this. However, I was able to repair this, but it disappointed me a bit. Should not happen. But the repair went fine and it sounded as good as before, so i just continued playing on it but thought about buying a real Gibson.
Of course it could be that I just got a very bad one. Maybe they have normally a better quality. Could be so, don’t know.
After playing some more months on the Epiphone, I decided to buy a real Gibson. Thought that playing the original would make more fun. I went out and buyed one.
After playing the first chords, I was very impressed. The Gibson was very easy to play, it almost played by itself. And it was so light. Playing the Epiphone was really hard work, compared to the Gibson. The Gibson weights a lot less than the Epiphone and the body has a much better shape. There are so many details that sums up to a big advantage over the Epiphone. See pictures of some of them below.
Technical specs of the guitars:
Epiphone SG G-400
Pickups: 2 Alnico-V (no further specification available)
Neck and body material: Mahogany
Fretboard material: Rosewood
Weight: 3,3 Kilos
Gibson SG Standard
Pickups: 490R Alnico neck pickup, 498T bridge pickup
Fretboard material: Rosewood
Weight: 2,7 Kilos
Below, some detailed pictures of both guitars. Epiphone red, Gibson black.
The curves of the Gibson are more ergonomic, it fits better when playing while sitting on a chair.
The slots on the Gibson nut at the left fits exactly to the strings. The slots on the Epiphone nut at the right are much deeper.
Same goes for the Saddles:
The saddles of the Gibson fits the string gauge, the saddles of the Epiphone seems to be just in two different sizes. Also, the different heigths of the saddles represent the the fretboard rounding, the Gibson has a rather flat fretboard, the Epiphone fretboard is more rounded. The Epiphone has its adjusting screws for the saddle positions at the inside, bad to reach.
The Gibson sounds cleaner, brighter, bigger. You can see the better manufacturing quality at the first view. And you can hear it clearly. The neck of the Epiphone is made out of two pieces of wood, glued together. The Gibson neck is made out of one single piece of wood. So the Epiphone went into its bag and to the lumber-room.
Later I decided to sell the Epiphone to a co-worker, also a beginner. I took her out of the bag, put new strings on it and played around a bit. Again, it was very uncomfortable to play. But what was the reason for this?
When comparing the Gibson and the Epiphone I found out that the Gibson has a much lower action. The strings are much closer to the fretboard. So I put the strings and the pickups lower on the Epiphone, and it was much better to play. Next thing was the relative rough fretboard. When bending, the strings scratched over the fretboard. Putting the strings off again and applying a lot fretboard oil in several passes got it much smoother. Seems the the fretboard wood has been dried out. Fretboard scratching almost gone.
Now the Epiphone plays a bit closer to the Gibson and even sounds a bit better than before because it was better to play. The Gibson is still better, but not as much as before.
However, I learned several things from this story:
- Avoid cheap guitars. Good work and good material costs good money. Go for a middle priced guitar or for the original. I buyed a guitar at the lower middle price segment and even there were still several problems.
- Learning to play with a guitar you dont like doesn’t work out. It’s hard work learning to play, so you have to love your instrument.
- When you experience problems at playing your guitar, try to adjust it. Most guitars can be adjusted in several ways to fit your way in playing it. Get familiar with your guitar.
- Setting the strings lower results in less work for the fingers and better playability, which results in more fun at playing
- If you want to sound exactly like the original, buy the original.
- I would buy the Epiphone again as my first guitar but instead of buying the Gibson after experiencing problems with it I would try to fix the problems first.
- None of the above mentioned differences makes the Epiphone being a bad guitar. It’s a fine guitar. It’s worth its money, it just needed a better setup than I was able to do when I got it.
Now at the end, i have some sound examples for you to compare the sound of the Epiphone and the Gibson by yourself. Both guitars have new Ernie Ball 009-042 strings and were recorded with the same settings over my Marshall JMP 2204: Presence 0, Bass 6, Middle 8, Treble 8, Preamp 6.
While playing, I found out, that the Epiphone is very unfamiliar again, it plays and feels much different to the Gibson. I did my best in this short time to get more familiar with it, however, it didnt get that special feeling now that lets me rock my bottom off. Sorry. Caution: worse playing here, but you will get the idea 🙂
Final statement: Yes, the original is worth its money. However, as a beginner, you can get very far at playing and close to the original with a cheaper copy.
And the Epiphone is a good beginners guitar.