In this Epiphone SG Special review, we’re going to take a look at one of the “Inspired by Gibson” guitars produced by Epiphone. We’re looking at the Special version, which includes two P90 pickups.
Epiphone guitars are traditionally classed with Fender Squier guitars. A Squier isn’t a full throttle Fender experience, but how does the SG Special measure up? At just under $400, is it worth stretching your budget for an Epiphone SG Sepcial? Let’s find out!
Overview of the SG Special
Epiphone guitars have always been very good. I’ve known for a long time that most Epiphone guitars are a way to get a good deal of Gibson quality without spending over $1000. Now we have the “Inspired by Gibson” collection. If you know anything about Epiphone guitars, you’ll now they already inherit a lot from their more expensive cousins. However the Inspired by collection focuses on the classic Gibson design of the 50’s and 60’s.
The SG Special is full scale, solid body guitar made from mahogany. The mahogany gives it a punchy sound that picks up the low and high end frequencies very well. It does make the guitar heavier than others. The neck is also made if mahogany with an Indian Laurel fingerboard. Indian Laurel has many of the same qualities of Rosewood, such as warmth, but is much more sustainable.
The neck is designed in the SlimTaper 60’s profile. That means it’s very slim-line and more comfortable to play, great for beginners. 22 medium jumbo frets make it more appealing to the beginner, with plenty of room to fret. Dot inlays mark out the key fret intervals. A 12 inch fretboard radius makes the fingerboard slightly flatter, which I think makes playing easier and more comfortable.
The neck is glued in rather than bolted, which overall helps with resonance. It’s another nod to quality of the guitar. I think it would have been easy to save on costs by bolting the neck to the body. Good job Epiphone!
The bridge is a nod to the classic Gibson design of the 60’s featuring the lightening bolt wrap around bridge. This compensates for different intonations per string to produce an authentic sound . There was always a question mark over this type of bridge, however modern versions are much better.
The thing that puts the “special” into this guitar’s name is the two P90 pickups. One at the bridge and the other at the neck position. P90 pickups gravitate towards crisp and clean as well as warm tones. For that reason they’re very popular with blues players.
The P90 pickup seems to blend single coil and humbucker pickups allowing the nuances of your picking to be observed. Combined with higher gain they can deliver a bite suited for rockier styles. However when the gain knob is pushed too far the tone can sound a bit delicate. For that reason they’re not suited for metal enthusiasts. As you’d expect from a guitar designed to hark back to the 50’s and 60’s, the SG Special excels at classic, rocky tones.
There are two volume and two tone control knobs along with a three way pickup selector. This will allow you to select either the bridge or neck P90 or a combination of both in the middle position. Along with the tone controls you get a good deal of tonal flexibility.
The tuning gear seems to be good and the guitar holds it’s tune well. Perhaps this biggest let down is the nut. It’s made from NuBone, which is a plastic type material. It does affect the sound somewhat and I’d advise replacing it. Preferably with bone.
SG’s always have a decent action, but if you wanted to make adjustments you can thanks to the adjustable truss rod. The stock strings are a set of .10’s. You might want to replace them to something more suitable to your personal preference, but they’re reasonable quality.
The SG is an iconic guitar, but the fully fledged Gibson SG is often out of people’s price range. There are quite a few producers making SG copies, most of which are trash. Epiphone benefits directly from Gibson giving them a big advantage. If you want the SG experience but can’t afford the $1000 plus price point of a Gibson, the Epiphone is the best choice. Here are a few of the best bits.
- Outstanding value for money
- Two P90 pickups
- Easy to play
There are, however, a few drawbacks. I have to say there isn’t much the Epiphone SG Special does badly. Some of these drawbacks are a matter of preference, but here’s some areas to consider.
- Nut is Cheap – Will Need Replacing
- Heavier than other guitars
- Not suitable for metal
The Epiphone SG Special is, well, special in my opinion. For all those who have stared in awe at the brash style and tonal attack of the Gibson SG then had their dreams smashed by the price, this is one for you. A comfortable playing experience awaits thanks to it’s considered design. The SG Special could easily suit a beginner guitarist, albeit one with a little more budget.
If I wasn’t looking to play metal, I’d definitely choose the SG over a Squier. The two P90s in the Epiphone provide a range of tonal potential. Although slightly heavier than other guitars, the SG is iconic in the way it looks, feels and sounds.
The SG is outstanding value for money and a way to get the Gibson SG experience without dropping a ton of cash. I’d definitely recommend having the nut replaced, which is an inexpensive task. An impressive guitar at a very good price point!
If the Epiphone SG Special is a little out of your price range, be sure to check out my post on the best electric guitars for beginners.
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