Is the original worth its money? Epiphone vs. Gibson comparison

08 Nov Is the original worth its money? Epiphone vs. Gibson comparison

Hello Guys,
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.

Cracked Epiphone neck

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.

Franz Farklas

I'm born 1970, a big AC/DC fan since 1982, when I got the "Back in Black" cassette tape together with a little cassette player from my grandpa. Fully classic rock addicted, don't like "modern" music styles like HipHop. 2009 I got a Gibson SG standard ebony, learning to play AC/DC songs from tabs and videos since then. Beside that, I'm a totally computer addicted guy and Linux Server specialist. Working as internet server and network admin and part-time IT consultant. So, when I'm not behind my guitar, I'm behind the keyboard :-) Feel free to contact me at ICQ 71095781 or MSN banane@exception.at or skype ffarklas@exception.at.

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:58h, 03 June

    I would definitely say the Epiphone Custom’s are a very good guitar, iv got a Zakk Wylde Bullseye and its beautiful to play. I also tested one of those Slash Customs aswell, and that played even better!!! (I actually regret not buying it now seeing as though their were only 3,000 made) But i really don’t like those cheap SG G400’s, i really do think they are terrible. I had the same issues as you Franz, what with buying an expensive guitar when your not very experienced. I visited a local guitar shop called PMT, and in there was a Gibson Angus Young VOS for £3,000!!!! So i asked if i could play it and it was FANTASTIC……….. But i didn’t feel i was worthy of a guitar so superior so i just ended up going with the Gibson SG Standard. But i always regret not buying that Angus VOS… Its the same VOS the James (THESARGE994) owns now lol I went to his house a few weeks back and got to play it again for a little while 🙂 One of them will come my way one day im sure of it….. Hopefully

    • avatar
      Posted at 20:08h, 03 June

      Yeah well, 3000 pounds is really just too much for the first guitar, thats right. But an SG standard is fine, after one decided to really go into learning to play.
      For the Epiphone SG G 400, it seems that their quality varies a lot. For example, member rjofig says his one plays just fine. I also found other people who are just satisfied with them. And I found people like you and me who had bad experiences with it.
      Probably its the best to try them before buying. But this just leads to the next problem when you are a beginner: What should you play in the shop when you actually cant play? 🙂 Either you rely on the shop sales guy or you need a player with you. I chewed a lot on this topic and came (with my limited experiences as an owner of only 2 guitars) to the conclusion that:
      a) a more expensive original is probably better than a cheaper rebuild, the chances to get a good guitar are higher. but you can archive good results with cheaper rebuilds too. But its difficult to find a good crafted one. You have to try them.

      b) very likely the first guitar will never be the best one. Thats ok too, it just needs to be good enough to bringt you to your first few successes.

      I can feel your regrets for not buying the Angus VOS, but well…if you want one, you’ll get one later. And then you know that you are worth it 🙂 I really would have done it the same way like you.

      • avatar
        Posted at 03:52h, 04 June

        Yeh i also know people who are satisfied with the Epiphone SG’s aswell…. But maybe these people have never experienced a Gibson 😉 I know il never look back my friend, and i very much doubt you will either.

        • avatar
          Posted at 23:36h, 18 February

          Jase is this a Slash Appetite for Destruction Les Paul you have as your profile picture. Just curious

  • avatar
    Posted at 15:57h, 27 February

    Hi all,

    Just got to share my Epiphone SG 400 experience with anyone considering buying one.
    Got mine 2 months ago along with a VOX DA15 Amp and Marshall Headphones.
    Don´t have much experience in guitar playing other than listening…(which is a huge strength to learn in fact)
    Therefore no real other references to compare or judge it with, but !
    It´s a great budget compromise, and it´s actually a very very nice guitar, again consider the budget , my thoughts were, learn on it get some results, progress, and work your way up to a Gibson and a serious amp.
    (what´s the point of amplifying crap made on great gear?)

    I feel I am progressing rapidly on it.

    I really like my set-up, would highly recommend this combination as a discovery/first guitar budget package to anyone thinking of getting started without having to spend a fortune. and play his/her way up to better gear.

    The sound is lovely, sure it´s light years away from Angus, but close enough to taste it, stays in tune decently (I tune about twice a week, I play every day).
    The Amp is an excellent first practice Amp.
    The guitar looks well finished, though I´m a little allergic to “Made in China” labels…still lovely finish,looks gorgeous.
    In fact considering the price/quality ratio, I can´t think of anything bad to say about it….yet.

    Lots of guitar for the money !

    Ciao !

    On my list of gear to get once I feel my playing deserves it:
    -Gibson SG
    -Marshall Amp
    -Silvertone Amp
    -New wife

  • avatar
    Posted at 22:41h, 23 February

    both of mine are epiphones and they’re great quality, the only thing is depending on the model if you dont like something they’re customizable quite easily i switched out the epiphone humbucker in my Les Paul junior with a bridge filtertron (not the 90’s they’ve gone back to making them like they did in the 50’s) and i changed out the JIN-HO tuners with Gibson deluxe junior tuners (from an actual Gibson lp junior) the SG however i took the pickup apart and rebuilt it to MY own specifications and requirements (P.S it’s FINALLY ALMOST DONE, the SG i mean) i’ll have sound samples and a photo gallery if i cant post a photo gallery here i’ll put one on my photobucket

    • avatar
      Posted at 08:18h, 24 February

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it seems that their quality level varied a lot. Mine was worse (as you have read above), other people are just satisfied. One thing I noticed was the wood. The Gibson is really “alive” when you play it, you feel the whole guitar vibrating. My Epi SG was heavier and the wood seems to have a much higher density, so it didnt vibrate very much when playing it.

      But well, maybe it would have been better if I spent some work on it, just like you. But as a beginner, you don’t know this. I often read this in guitar magazines when they are testing cheaper guitars like Epi or Squier. “Basically good, but needs a setup”.

      Yes, I would like to see your pictures, can you post a link to the gallery here in the comments?

  • avatar
    Posted at 17:30h, 09 December

    Well, I make my humble contribution to this report, I have more than two years a sg ephipone G400 and a marshall MG15CD, I can tell you about my experience with such gear. First principal, which is what will interest most is the sound of AC / DC that can get through this. Obviously not the same, but it comes pretty close. We needed more definition to the sound, you can not get as clean and powerful as Angus. For a beginner is more than enough. With respect to the clean sound is very good. The crunch obtained interesting. Also noteworthy is that for home use sound enough. It plays loud if you will. Also if you want to play live microphones can be put to the amplifier and will not have any problem. The amplifier has a button which would change the sound emulating a valve system, I honestly do not find more difference a little less volume. Maybe I did not give importance and has a higher meaning that button. With regard to equalization is decent, you can do something good clean blues to trash metal. The guitar has the odd problem with Grover, adjusting them forget those problems, the well-calibrated Epiphone sounds great. Do not forget that there are several professional musicians who have access to and use Gibson Epiphone, at least in Argentina happens. I paid for it two years ago about 700 u $ s for the guitar and 200 u $ s by the amplifier. Here are some economic crisis so the prices are distorted relative to the rest of the world, and at this time everything is more expensive. if they ask and answer any questions.

    I hope my opinion is useful.


    • avatar
      Posted at 17:55h, 09 December

      Thanks for your opinion, which is useful indeed. Well, I started with the same combination, Epi SG G400 and Marshall MG 15 CDR. It seems that I got a bad manufactured Epi. Sound was ok and close to the Gibson SG after adjusting the string action and hubbucker height, but my one was hard to play. Seems that it got a bad fretboard. The Gibson SG plays almost by itself while its harder to play the Epiphone. And the MG 15 CDR has a nice clean tone but was far away from a real tube amp, even with the tube emulation activated.
      However, I agree with you: Epi SG G 400 and Marshall MG 15 CD/CDR is a fine combination for beginners.
      And it’s very important to try out a guitar with an experienced person before buying it.
      I buyed both my Epi and my Gibson over the internet, and while the Gibson was a lucky purchase, buying this Epi was a mistake because it’s hard to play. But even if I would have trying it out in a guitar store , without an experienced person I wouldn’t take notice of the problems it has.

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