Fun fact. The TV Yellow finish on this guitar is so that the guitar didn’t look completely washed out on black and white televisions. Now that interesting fact is out of the way, in this Epiphone Les Paul Special review we’ll take a look at another of the inspired by Gibson series. It may be a quarter of the price, but is it a quarter of the quality?
Overview of Epiphone Les Paul Special
The Les Paul Special is a classic slab like design. That is, it looks kind of like a shaped slab of rock. There isn’t much tapering at the edges of the body. Speaking of the body, it’s made of mahogany. In the original TV yellow finish you could see the grain of the wood. There’s some sort of gloss finish, which does obscure a lot of the grain from the wood. I don’t hate it though.
The neck, also made of mahogany, is glued into the body. The TV Yellow finish runs down the back of the neck, but you can just about see some of the wood grain. There’s white binding running the length of the neck adding to the vintage feel. The neck is pretty chunky, in a vintage 50’s style. Overall the guitar feels solid and is pretty weighty as you’d expect from a vintage guitar made from mahogany.
The guitar is full scale at 24.75″. There are 22 medium jumbo frets sitting on top of an Indian Laurel fingerboard. Medium jumbo frets are pretty sympathetic to most styles and Indian Laurel shares many of the characteristics of Rosewood, but is more sustainable. The fingerboard radius is a fairly flat at a standard 12″. Pearloid dot inlays mark out the key frets. There are also dots on top of the neck to help identify the key frets.
Moving towards the headstock we find a GraphTech Nubone nut. It’s a synthetic bone nut. Regular readers will know I prefer bone, but it’s not very common as a nut material. Indeed, even the top end Gibson Les Paul Special uses a GraphTech nut.
The headstock features the Epiphone logo set in pearloid along with the familiar Les Paul signature. A bell cover marks the position of the truss rod adjustment. Tuning is handled by a set of vintage style deluxe tuners with ivory buttons.
Heading back towards the body we find a delicious concoction of vintage flare. Let’s start with the pickups. Two single coil P-90 Pros are housed in a soap bar style housing. The P-90’s have black coverings, which contrast very well with the TV Yellow finish.
There’s a vintage special style black pickup guard along with black top hat controls. The classic Les Paul pickup selector switch takes it’s usual place on the top shoulder of the guitar and allows you to select three positions.
In custom with the special guitars, there’s a wrap around bridge, which can be adjusted used a flat head screw driver. It’s a pretty simple set up, but it works fine.
There are four control knobs, which are pretty simple. A volume and tone control knob for each of the pickups. We don’t need to worry about push and pull configurations here. The guitar ships with a set of .10’s. They’re generally not that good and should be swapped out to your preferred brand a gauge.
You’ll need to take them off anyway to give the guitar a good clean because there may well be some dirt build up against the frets. Such is the way when a guitar is made in relatively large numbers.
The guitar is made in China, which contributes to the cost savings. However that does mean that the quality assurance can be a bit variable. In general it’s much better than it used to be, however it’s still worth giving it a clean and having it set up properly. If you’re not sure about how to do that, your local guitar store will be able to help.
Let’s talk about those Epiphone Pro P-90’s. They’re not bad pickups for the price of the guitar. You get plenty of sweet tones when playing clean. As you’d expect with the bridge there’s a little grit. You can roll the tone and volume back for something a little less gritty, however I’d just switch to the middle position to save a little time.
The middle position is the sweet spot when playing clean for me. Very clean and clear. Great for lead work and styles that rely on picking. There are also lots of possibilities dialing the tone and volume up and down for either pickup. The neck is great for clean as you’d expect. You might need to adjust the tone to find the sweet spot for you.
If we throw in some overdrive or distortion the neck can get a little muddy. Roll back the tone a little and it’s good for blues styles. The middle position benefits from the myriad of combinations available from both pickups. You can play with a little grit whilst also being able to hear the nuances to you picking style. The bridge has a decent amount of push. It’s reminiscent of a Guns and Roses type tone.
The Epiphone Les Paul Special successfully harks back to the days of black and white televisions with it’s retro design and soap bar P90 pickups. The tones this classically styled guitar can produce are anything but old and musty, ranging from clean and clear to gritty to warm and bluesy.
Once again Epiphone shows it’s possible to get a great guitar at a reasonable price. Sure it’s lovely to have a Gibson, but when you can knock $1,000 off and get a very decent guitar in an Epiphone what’s not to love? If you’re a big fan of vintage style guitars then the Les Paul Special is one for you.
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