Epiphone has a really good reputation for the price busting quality of their guitars. We’ve taken a look at some mid-range Epiphone guitars, but what about the entry market? In this Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT review we’re going to take a look at one of Epiphone’s beginner guitars.
Overview of Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
The Studio LT is a solid body guitar made from mahogany with a plain maple veneer top. That means it’s not one solid piece of wood. It has a thin layer of maple stuck to the top. It can sometimes emphasize the effect of the grain, such as when flamed maple veneers is applied.
The top of the Studio LT is quite plain with a high gloss finish. Mahogany tends to be quite heavy, however it’s present in many Epiphone guitars, right up to the higher priced models. The neck is bolted onto the body, which can affect resonance. Most Epiphone guitars have a glued in set neck, which helps to compensate.
One nice feature is that the heel joint where the neck bolts into the body is slightly tapered in an attempt to make playing at the higher end easier. They’ve not quite refined it so it’s still a little difficult when playing at the higher frets. It’s a good attempt at a feature that you’d usually only find on higher end guitars, such as the Fender American Ultra series.
Having said that Fender tend to use bolt on construction for most of their guitars and it doesn’t impact resonance. The neck is made from mahogany in a 1960’s slim taper “D” type profile. Being slimmer, it makes it easier to play. Older 1950’s style necks are quite thick and can make playing more difficult, especially for beginners.
Unfortunately the neck has a gloss finish to the back. I much prefer a satin finish because it makes the neck much smoother and therefore easier to move around when playing. If you have slightly clammy hands it can make the neck feel sticky.
A poplar composite is used for the fingerboard material. That means it’s basically man made from Poplar composites. Composite fingerboards tend to be quite stable, but I think you’re much better off with real wood, even if it’s something cheap. The key frets are marked out by simple pearloid dots.
The fingerboard radius is 12″, which means it’s nice and flat towards the higher frets, making it easier for lead work. A 12″ radius is quite common, balancing the need for a slightly rounded profile towards the headstock to make it easier to play chords with the need for a flatter fingerboard at the higher frets.
There are 22 medium jumbo frets, again common on most contemporary guitars. Medium jumbo frets make string bending easier and you can usually lower the action of the strings further without encountering fret buzz.
Moving up towards the headstock we find a GraphTech NuBone nut. It’s basically a plastic nut, which is to be expected on a guitar at this price point. I still really dislike plastic being used for guitar nuts. The headstock has the classic dove-wing shape with the Epiphone emblem emblazoned across the top.
The truss rod adjustment is housed under the bell shaped truss rod cover with Studio LT stamped across it.
The Studio LT is full scale at 24.75″. Tuning is handled by a set of premium die-cast 14:1 tuning machines. They’re poor quality and when combined with the plastic nut this guitar slips out of tune far too easily. The bridge is the adjustable tune-o-matic type with a stop bar tailpiece.
Variants of this type of bridge are used on many Epiphone models, but it feels more problematic on the Studio LT. It feels difficult to make accurate intonation adjustments. The stock strings are trash too and I’d certainly want to swap them out immediately. Many guitarists do this anyway, favoring their preferred gauge and brand.
I always like it when a guitar arrives and is well set up right out of the box. The Studio LT isn’t such a guitar. If you buy this guitar the first thing you’ll want to do is take it to a music shop to be set up properly. Intonation and truss rod adjustments will likely be the minimum that needs to be altered. Perhaps get them to swap out the tuning machines whilst you’re there.
The Studio LT doesn’t have a pick guard, which is a cheap feature to leave out. That’ll lead to scratching of the finish, especially because it’s a high gloss finish. I don’t think it would have increased costs too much to fit a simple pick guard.
The guitar is made in China, which undoubtedly contributes to the low price point. However I feel like the Studio LT model is produced on quick production runs, where quality assurance isn’t at the forefront of thinking.
The Studio LT has two ceramic humbucker pickups, one at the bridge and one at the neck position. They’re noticeably cheap and I have to say I hate the ugly housing they’re mounted in. I also hate that they’re different colors, but that’s probably personal preference.
The bridge pickup is an Epiphone 650R and the Neck is an Epiphone 700T. Without wanting to modify too much you could swap the pickups for a dramatic improvement in performance. A metal pickup selector switch allows you to select three pickup configurations:
- Bridge Humbucker
- Bridge and Neck
- Neck Humbucker
There are 4 control knobs, each with premium top hat styling. Two of the control knobs allow you to adjust the tone on each humbucker. The other two control master tone and master volume. The electronics are pretty good, making it easier to swap the pickups to something better if desired.
So what about tone. How does the Studio LT sound? We’ve already mentioned the cheap pickups. These provide a lot of treble, too much in my opinion. However the humbuckers give plenty of push, great for heavier rock.
The bridge pickup is reasonably balanced when clean, with a bit of bite. When paired with a decent modelling amp voice or an amp geared more towards higher gain you can achieve some heavier tones.
The middle position is a decent combination of both pickups, better for cleaner styles with a good balance. With distortion there’s not too much difference from the bridge position. I’d expect at least some variation in tone, but it’s difficult to find.
The neck pickup is nice for classic rock styles. There isn’t much difference to the other positions when playing clean. Perhaps there’s less bite. It’d certainly suit funk styles. When distorted you can play classic rock styles, but it’s no where near warm enough for bluesy styles.
I’d expect much more variety of tones, but it feels a bit bland to me. Another thing is that there doesn’t seem to be much sustain when palm muting, probably due to the bolt on neck construction. It falls a little short for heavier styles where palm muting is rhythmically important.
The Studio LT is an unusual dip in quality from Epiphone. Usually Epiphone guitars represent a very convincing alternative to much more expensive Gibson guitars, however the Studio LT is a big let down. The materials used, the poor quality tuning machines and the cheap pickups not only make the guitar sound cheap, it’s also a pain having to constantly re-tune!
For a similar price you could get a Squier Affinity Telecaster, which is a much better guitar. Sure you don’t get humbuckers, but overall it’s a much better beginner’s guitar. Unless you’re a modifier looking for something to strip out and modify I’d steer well clear of the Studio LT.
If you’re a beginner but not sure which guitar to buy, check out my post where I look at the best guitars for beginners. I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page. If you want to find out more about the Studio LT, click the link below.
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