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  #1  
Old 09-05-2017, 02:20 PM
SouthpawJeff SouthpawJeff is offline
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Default Need Gibson guitar education....

I've always loved the Gibson Les Paul, likely from seeing so many great guitarist using them when growing up. However when I bought my first electric guitar several decades ago they were out of reach for my budget. I ended up with a new Charvel that pretty well fit some of the 80's hard rock I was into at the time. Well time has passed and I'm into playing again, just not all that into the Charvel anymore. So a couple years ago I picked up a used DeArmond for short money to try and fill the role, nice guitar but just not bonding with it. Lately the urge has hit and thinking about the Les Paul's again. Which leads to my question, why are Gibsons sooooo much more than the Epiphone version?

It's my understanding that they're made to the same specifications using for the most part the same woods? I understand paying a bit more for the "name" on the headstock, but why so much more? The models for lefties are somewhat limited, but comparing two I found that are very similar models, color, etc the Gibson is 3x as much!

So for the experts out there.... what don't I know? What would the Gibson offer that the Epiphone won't? What makes it worth several times more? I'll also add FWIW, I own an Epiphone Joe Pass hollow body that is IMHO a fantastic guitar. So I have no concerns on Epiphones quality.

Thanks for any light you can shed!
Jeff
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Old 09-05-2017, 03:07 PM
moon moon is offline
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Prices are set according to what the market will bear not what a thing is "worth" in any objective sense. The idea that there is a link between the two is irresistable. We want to believe it; we want to believe that the world is rational and sane but it just isn't true. The world is full of salesmen who know what you are primed to believe and who know how to hit all of your buttons without you even being aware of it.
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Old 09-05-2017, 03:12 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Epiphones are made in China, where it costs almost nothing to make a fine guitar. No labor or environmental protections means more to the bottom line means more competitive. The opposite applies to the made in USA Gibsons. Plus, Gibson charges more because its name has intrinsic perceived value, so you're paying something for the name.

If the finish/build quality of my new Gibson hollow body is any indication, and you don't apply a moral yardstick to the country of manufacturer, you're better off with the Epiphone. I hear that the Gibson plays better, from some, but who knows (mine plays great - no complaints). Many of Gibson's workers feel they're being mistreated, as well, which may impact how they do their jobs.

When I wanted a Gibson LP, I bought a '93 Studio, used. It's perfect, and it cost me $600. They're all over the place - you don't need to buy a new Gibson for lots of $$.
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Old 09-05-2017, 03:15 PM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SouthpawJeff View Post
I've always loved the Gibson Les Paul, likely from seeing so many great guitarist using them when growing up. However when I bought my first electric guitar several decades ago they were out of reach for my budget. I ended up with a new Charvel that pretty well fit some of the 80's hard rock I was into at the time. Well time has passed and I'm into playing again, just not all that into the Charvel anymore. So a couple years ago I picked up a used DeArmond for short money to try and fill the role, nice guitar but just not bonding with it. Lately the urge has hit and thinking about the Les Paul's again. Which leads to my question, why are Gibsons sooooo much more than the Epiphone version?

It's my understanding that they're made to the same specifications using for the most part the same woods? I understand paying a bit more for the "name" on the headstock, but why so much more? The models for lefties are somewhat limited, but comparing two I found that are very similar models, color, etc the Gibson is 3x as much!

So for the experts out there.... what don't I know? What would the Gibson offer that the Epiphone won't? What makes it worth several times more? I'll also add FWIW, I own an Epiphone Joe Pass hollow body that is IMHO a fantastic guitar. So I have no concerns on Epiphones quality.

Thanks for any light you can shed!
Jeff
Epiphone doesn't use the same grade woods, cheaper hardware, thinner tops, cheaper electronics, poly finish instead of lacquer. Is that to say that you couldn't get an Epiphone that sounds good? Nope, a guitar is a sum of too many variables to call that. Go play a bunch of Epiphones and see if one floats your boat.
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Old 09-05-2017, 04:10 PM
clintj clintj is offline
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Go play a few back to back and see what you think. I prefer the feel of the classic Gibson bound neck, where the binding is shaped to the fret profile and covers the ends. The labor to do that binding is significant.

The fretboard leveling and fret work is usually better on a Gibson, too. My experience is that to get a great setup on an Epiphone I'll need to level the frets by hand. My Firebird was excellent out of the box, but my 335 needed some help due to being well used by the first owner. (Normal wear)
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Old 09-05-2017, 06:34 PM
Dru Edwards Dru Edwards is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockabilly69 View Post
Epiphone doesn't use the same grade woods, cheaper hardware, thinner tops, cheaper electronics, poly finish instead of lacquer. Is that to say that you couldn't get an Epiphone that sounds good? Nope, a guitar is a sum of too many variables to call that. Go play a bunch of Epiphones and see if one floats your boat.
Summed up well.

I find the biggest issue with the Epiphone are the electronics. Many people swap them out for some American made pickups but you definitely want to play it first before deciding to swap them out.
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Old 09-05-2017, 09:07 PM
SouthpawJeff SouthpawJeff is offline
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Good stuff guys!

So as far as moral dilemmas go.... I'm typing these posts on a pretty expensive phone that was made in China! If you had told me I'd be doing that ten years ago I'd have thought you were crazy. But running your own business these days pretty much requires one. So I'm kinda neutral, certainly don't mind buying American made IF it's within reason. But 3x the price makes me think twice. And I know I'm not alone as most people have phones, computers, tv's etc made in Asia.

I will certainly test drive before buying, though again options will be limited for lefty stock. I just like to do my homework first so I know a little something before I go in. I have played around with both in the past.... though it's been a few years. My recollection from then was that the Epiphone quality was impressive for the price, and the Gibson.... not so much, but of course things change over time so will have to have another go🙂

Oh and I will say I love the neck on my JP Epiphone. It's the nice thick solid maple ones that feel great.....at least to me! I know the Les Paul's have the mahogany necks with rosewood or ebony fretboards, but if I remember right they're a good size as well. The Charvel is just too skinny for me these days🙁

Jeff
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:57 PM
clintj clintj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dru Edwards View Post
Summed up well.

I find the biggest issue with the Epiphone are the electronics. Many people swap them out for some American made pickups but you definitely want to play it first before deciding to swap them out.
I've got a set of custom PAF style with quality electronics in my Epiphone LP. That really opened up the sound a lot, to where it's one of my favorite guitars to play. Coupled with the setup work I've done, it's a first rate guitar now.
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  #9  
Old 09-06-2017, 12:43 AM
DesolationAngel DesolationAngel is offline
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Originally Posted by Dru Edwards View Post
Many people swap them out for some American made pickups...
Or British... I put British-made PAFs (Bare Knuckle "The Mule") in my Korean-made Epiphone 335 and it is one sweet sounding (and playing) guitar.
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  #10  
Old 09-06-2017, 06:43 AM
ghostnote ghostnote is offline
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I have Gibsons and I have Epiphones. I like them all - or I wouldn't still have and play them. The differences have been summed up pretty well here already, so I won't go into it too much. I will say that the Epiphones are by far the better deal from a player's fiscal point of view - if you're a collector, perhaps not. I've only swapped pickups on one of my Epiphones, and it really didn't need it; I was just experimenting. Did it sound better? Yes. But generally I find that a good amp makes a bigger difference to your tone than a good guitar. And, unless you're buying a bottom-of-the-barrel model, Epiphones are pretty good guitars IMO. FYI, some of the Epi LP models come standard with American-made pickups already installed.
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Old 09-06-2017, 02:51 PM
Marley Marley is offline
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Originally Posted by moon View Post
Prices are set according to what the market will bear not what a thing is "worth" in any objective sense. The idea that there is a link between the two is irresistable. We want to believe it; we want to believe that the world is rational and sane but it just isn't true. The world is full of salesmen who know what you are primed to believe and who know how to hit all of your buttons without you even being aware of it.
Isn't what it's worth and what the market will bear the same thing?

Any item or service is worth what someone will pay for it. What someone will pay for it is what the market will bear.
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Old 09-06-2017, 03:58 PM
nkatsonis nkatsonis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dru Edwards View Post
Summed up well.

I find the biggest issue with the Epiphone are the electronics. Many people swap them out for some American made pickups but you definitely want to play it first before deciding to swap them out.
Agreed, the biggest issue is the electronics. That's probably why the Epiphone LP Tribute Plus, with Gibson '57 humbuckers, is so well-liked. But the guitars also have a different feel, both finish and contours. They might look alike, but they are not quite alike. And for that reason, if I were looking for a bargain LP, I would start with a Gibson LP Studio, which can be had for only a few hundred dollars more than the Epiphone. A Studio Faded Series T, which I've not tried, is actually about the same price as the Epiphone. I'm not saying that the Epiphone is not a nice guitar. It certainly looks nicer that the Faded Series in my opinion. But, again, my choice would be the standard LP Studio.
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Old 09-06-2017, 04:49 PM
moon moon is offline
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"The market price is always correct because it's always exactly equal to the market price".

This is literally the foundation of prevailing economic "thinking". It's a glib way of deflecting any serious analysis of value, of cost, or of the ways in which wealth is created.

You could almost say it's deliberately designed to conceal our true, interconnected, co-operative nature and isolate us one from each other. Predators always find it harder to tackle a tightly-knit group and the amoral ideology of the market is nothing if not a licence for predation which concentrates huge amounts of unearned wealth and unaccountable, undemocratic power in fewer and fewer hands.

But OK let's stick to guitars..

First we'd have to define what we mean by value. A musical instrument has to play well and sound good. Also look good if you often stand in front of an audience, or a mirror.

There's no single formula. Just look at all the Tele threads for example. One person's favourite Tele with bright, low-output pickups, fat neck and brass saddles could be another person's nightmare. There are guitars with long, bell-like sustain, eg many neck-through designs, and then there are guitars like the Jaguar with a more punchy, staccato sound which are prized exactly because they don't have good sustain. Guitarists won't even agree on frets. How tall? How fat?

It's hard to pin down exactly what we mean by a good guitar and even when you do, it's even harder to pin down what specific construction methods or materials make it so good. A lot of instrument makers will tell you they are never 100% sure how an instrument will turn out. Ultimately the tonal characteristics of the plank of wood are defined by a complex and subtly balanced series of resonance modes which can be altered by something as simple as changing tuners to a new design with a different mass.

Wood is a living material. No two pieces are ever exactly the same and so no two guitars can ever be exactly the same. Who's to say the cheaper piece of wood in the cheaper guitar will not sound better than the expensive piece of wood in the expensive guitar? Usually wood is graded on its appearance. No-one is taking any measurements of resonance characteristics or euphonic potential. Subject to some minimum manufacturing standards, I think cheap guitars can sound every bit as good as more expensive instruments.

If you don't believe me read up about Leo Fender whose genius, you might say, was in knowing when to stop.

OK a finely-crafted instrument from Collings is probably going to have a gorgeous depth of finish and aura of quality which a cheaper guitar cannot match. If money was no object, I'd own a few. They won't necessarily be better musical instruments though.

Another thing people often forget about the electric guitar is just how limited an impact the plank of wood actually has on the final sound.

The physical construction and components such as the bridge define how energy bleeds out of the strings and hence the volume envelope - attack, decay, sustain, release. Part of the reason Teles have such a twang-tastic reputation is the big break angle of the string-through bridge and the massive traditional saddle pieces.

However, the timbre and harmonic content of the sound you hear pumping out of a guitar speaker has many other influences. Pickups tend to have well-defined resonant peaks which boost certain frequencies. After that the response drops off a cliff like a low-pass filter. Guitar speaker drivers similarly have a dramatic low-pass cut-off. The amp will add its own ideas about dynamics and timbre, as will the speaker cone.

The guitar, pickups, amp, cab and speaker are really all separate parts of a single instrument and it could be argued that these are listed in reverse order of importance to the final sound.

That's not to say that the plank of wood has no effect at all on the sound - of course not - but I do think that any reasonably well-made guitar, even from some of the budget manufacturers, has a good shot at sounding fantastic if it's paired up with good quality pickups, amp, cab & speaker. The sound may begin with a vibrating string but the final view of that pristine tone is very heavily filtered and processed.

Even a diddley bow or a cigar box guitar can rock the house. As a musician, I guess your job is to listen to the sound and figure out how it wants to be used. Everything has a place, somewhere.

Last edited by moon; 09-06-2017 at 05:10 PM.
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  #14  
Old 09-06-2017, 05:21 PM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Another thing people often forget about the electric guitar is just how limited an impact the plank of wood actually has on the final sound.
This is mostly the case when the pickups used on the guitar are potted, but in the case of the somewhat microphonic nature of unpotted (no wax on the coils) pickups, the pickup hears the wood. For a few years, every Monday and Tuesday, I did guitar electronic repair/upgrades for people, and I noticed time and time again that if you wanted to hear more of the various wood and metal characters in Les Paul type guitars, the humbucking pickups need to have slightly unbalanced coils which allowed a bit more a high end from less humbucking effect (although a little more noise may be present), and the pickups needed to be un-potted. It's what makes the Gibson PAF so desired. For high gain situations though, the microphonic unpotted pickups can sometimes cause undesirable squealing, but in my case, I don't play that high gain, so I never use a potted pickup in my personal Les Paul or Les Paul type guitars as I love all those extra tones the metals and wood bring to the table.


Here they are with some of those microphonic tones I speak of...











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Old 09-06-2017, 06:32 PM
moon moon is offline
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Yeah all of the (small number of) pickups I've made have been to that unpotted, slightly unbalanced PAF formula.

Humbucker players often seem to be looking for a little more brightness and dynamics. Conversely, single-coil players are often looking for a "fatter" sound, trying to take the edge off.

That's another huge part of what makes a guitar sound good: tuning it in to do what you what either by tweaking controls or by amp, pickup & speaker choices.

PS: nice playing and vocals
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