Are you interested in picking out your first Epiphone guitar, but don’t know where to start?
Maybe you’re interested in a Gibson-style electric guitar but can’t afford a USA Gibson-made instrument yet.
Or maybe you’re just wondering if Epiphones are worth your time at all.
Whatever your reasons for buying an Epiphone, I’m here to guide you through their best models by price, experience level, and genre.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing our picks for the Best Epiphone Guitars to help you decide which one is the best fit for you. We’ll also walk you through what key factors you should be looking for when considering an Epiphone guitar including the body shape, build quality, playability, price, sound, and more.
About Epiphone Guitars
Epiphone has been making instruments for nearly 150 years. In the beginning, they were famous for making mandolins, upright bass, and archtop guitars.
However, WWII changed the company’s fortunes as both economic and ownership strifes sent Epiphone’s reputation into its darkest and least fortuitous period.
Thankfully, Les Paul was a massive fan of Epiphone and suggested to Gibson President Ted McCarty that he reach out. What started off as possible ownership of Epiphones upright bass line turned into a completely new line of guitars.
One perk of this new ownership was that Gibson could send Gibson-style guitars to new dealers that didn’t yet have the reputation or business to carry Gibson guitars. These dealers could sell the cheaper instruments until they proved themselves worthy of selling Gibson brand guitar, essentially.
Today, Epiphone guitars are more influenced by vintage Gibson guitars than ever before and are an incredible value. Even though they are less expensive than Gibson guitars, they have great quality and are used by professionals and amateurs alike.
The Best Epiphone Guitars Reviewed:
- Epiphone Les Paul Custom – Best Overall
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard – Best for the Money
- Epiphone Les Paul Special-I – Best for Beginners
- Epiphone ES-335 – Best for Blues
- Epiphone SG Standard – Best for Rock
- Epiphone Extura Prophecy – Best for Metal
- Epiphone ES-339 – Best for Jazz
- Epiphone SG Prophecy – Best for Small Hands
- Epiphone USA Casino – Best with P90s
- Epiphone USA Texan – Best Acoustic
Epiphone Les Paul Custom – Overall Best Epiphone Guitar
Choosing a “Best Overall” Epiphone is a challenging decision to make, as Epiphone guitars of all models offer something for a wide range of players. I decided to go with the Epiphone Les Paul Custom because it not only offers a great guitar for the money, but the newest model is unique in that it comes closer to the highly sought-after Gibson Les Paul Custom than any other Epiphone before it.
- Ebony Fingerboard
- All mahogany body
- SlimTaper neck
- Multi-ply binding
The Epiphone Les Paul Custom gives you all the versatility of a standard Les Paul, but it looks like it’s dressed to go out to a massive banquet in its finest tuxedo. The combination of binding, gold hardware and that stunning piece of ebony on the fingerboard really elevates this guitar to another level.
While it isn’t a spec for a spec copy of Gibson Les Paul Customs, it’s an awesome substitute at about 15% of the cost.
- Ebony fingerboard looks better than Rosewood used on previous models
- Elevated aesthetics
- Great value
- Useful in any genre
- Poly finish feels plastic compared to Nitro
Epiphone Les Paul Standard – Best Epiphone Guitar for the Money
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard captures the same look, feel, and sound like an original Gibson Les Paul at a fraction of the price.
Read our full Epiphone Les Paul Standard Review
If you enjoy a more traditional-looking Les Paul, then the Epiphone Les Paul Standard is definitely the choice for you. This model costs $100 less than the Custom but offers many of the same features sonically.
- Mahogany body with maple cap
- Mahogany neck with laurel fingerboard
- 60’s C-shape neck
- Bourbon burst
These days people talk about “Burst” Les Pauls that came out of Gibson between 1958-1960. This guitar is about as close as you can come to the 1960 model on as tight a budget as possible. It has the slim C neck profile that is common on the last year of bursts, making it one of the quickest feeling models of its kind.
The Bourbon burst is dark and lush over the flamed maple top, giving you some much-needed flair in this price range.
The pickups and electronics are traditional, loaded with two ProBucker humbucking pickups that call back the PAF.
Overall, this is a great Burst-inspired design that brings the most highly sought-after solid-body design into the hands of players with any budget.
- Burst-spec guitar on a budget
- Beautiful finish
- Slim, fast neck shape
- Laurel fingerboard
- Pickups lack clarity
Check out my guide on the Best Gibson Les Paul Style Copy Guitars
Epiphone Les Paul Special-I – Best Epiphone Guitar for Beginners
Choosing a good electric guitar for beginners is easier said than done… until you find a guitar like the Epiphone Les Paul Special-I. This guitar offers incredible quality and playability for its insanely low price point, making it an ideal choice for those getting started/exploring the instrument.
- Basswood body
- Bolt-on, D-shape neck
- Single Volume/Tone Control
- Poly finish
The Chinese-made Les Paul Special is similar to the Les Paul Jr. line from Gibson, with simpler electronics and stripped-down construction including a flat top and bolt-on neck. What makes the LP Special-I cool is the new worn finish, which makes it look like it’s been played for years and years.
The simplified electronics, with just a single tone and volume control, make this an easy-to-use guitar. It only has 21 frets as well, so you have less to work with, and that makes this a great guitar for beginners to learn on.
- As good as a guitar can get for under $200
- Aged appearance
- Simple design great to learn on
- Slim, D-shape neck comfortable
- Bolt-on neck non-traditional for Gibson style guitars
Epiphone ES-335 – Best Epiphone Guitar for Blues
So many different kinds of guitars can work for the blues, but one type that is guaranteed to be a good choice is a semi-hollow body guitar. This is where the Epiphone ES-335 becomes the ideal blues guitar on a budget.
- Layered maple top, back, and sides.
- C shaped neck with 12”, Indian laurel fingerboard radius
- New Epiphone Crown headstock
- Alnico Classic PRO bucker pickups
ES-335 style guitars have stood the test of time when it comes to playing the Blues. They were a step forward from fully hollow-body guitars, as they prevented feedback while still creating an airy, warm, and resonant tone. This will sound great plugged into a small, clean amp as the humbuckers work the tubes into a slight overdrive that’s perfect for blues rhythm and lead.
The Epiphone ES-335 gives you this style of guitar at an affordable price while keeping many vintage specs and aesthetics present. The cherry red finish is the most noticeable, as you may think this guitar came straight from the Back to the Future series.
The laurel fingerboard is bound and accentuated by the open-book style headstock that Epiphone has switched to as a nod to vintage Gibson guitars.
- Vintage, 50’s specs
- Good build quality for the price point
- 12” radius good for rhythm or lead
- Semi-hollow prevents feedback issues
- Maple top not as detailed as more expensive models
Check out my guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Blues
Epiphone SG Standard – Best Epiphone Guitar for Rock
If you’re looking for a guitar that works for all the different tonal changes you’ll need in modern AND classic rock sounds, it’s hard to go wrong with the Epiphone SG Standard. Even compared to a modern Gibson SG Standard, these guitars punch way above their price point and sound absolutely amazing.
- All mahogany body
- Slim, D shaped neck is fast
- High Output Alnico PROBucker pickups
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
The SG Standard is often overlooked and overshadowed by the Les Paul, but the SG was in fact called the Les Paul at one point in time. Check out this video to learn more about the history of the SG. Whether it be Frank Zappa, Angus Young (AC/DC), Pete Townsend (The Who), or Eric Clapton, the SG Standard has been a staple of Rock n Roll for decades.
The Epiphone SG Standard is a throwback to the Gibson models of the 60’s, giving you vintage specs at an affordable price.
The pickups are slightly higher output, perfect for plugging straight into a Marshall on the edge of breakup. The neck is a slim-D, making it comfortable and easy to play fast solos on.
While the pickups, hardware, and some of the tonewoods are not the same as the more expensive Gibson SG Standards, I would argue that this guitar is more worth having. The Gibson sounds better, but not 3 times better than the Epiphone. This is the ideal guitar to thrash around on a stage as you’re rocking out.
- Versatile and simple design
- High-output pickups
- Looks like a vintage guitar
- Paint/finish looks uneven on body vs neck
Check out my guide on the Best Gibson SG Style Copy Guitars
Epiphone Extura Prophecy – Best Epiphone Guitar for Metal
Is there a guitar more iconically metal than the Explorer? I don’t think so.
- AAA Flame maple top w/ aged gloss finish
- 24 jumbo frets
- Fluence humbuckers
- Mahogany body/neck
- Locking grover tuners
This is an Epiphone guitar that is slightly more pricey, but you get what you pay for. The neck has a great cutout so that accessing the 24th fret is easy. It comes with jumbo frets that make for fast runs and comfortable playing. The AAA maple top adds some much-needed flair.
But what is most important are the Fishman Fluence Humbuckers, which are active pickups with a twist. Depending on how you set up the push/pull knobs, you can get Hot Rodded Active pickups, PAF-sounding pickups, or Hum-free single-coil sounds. This makes the Extura extremely versatile for modern metal tones.
- Most versatile instrument on this list
- Great sounding pickups
- Modern touches to classic guitar design
- Beautiful maple top and finish options
- More expensive than other Epiphones, but still affordable
Check out my guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Metal
Epiphone ES-339 – Best Epiphone Guitar for Jazz
Semi-hollowbody electric guitars are not only great for Blues and Rock, but they are perfect for jazz too. If you’re looking for the warm, airy voice of a 335, but aren’t a fan of the big body shape, then the Epiphone ES-339 is the ideal choice for your next jazz gig.
- Reduced body size compared to 335
- Layered maple
- Alnico Classic Pro Humbuckers
- Hand rolled C Neck
- 12” radius
The ES-339 shares many of the same specs as its big brother the ES-335, but in a smaller and easier to play package.
The Epiphone ES-339 is perfect for jazz, as the C shape neck is bulky enough to feel comfortable, but is paired with a 12” fingerboard radius for the option for quick chord comps. The semi-hollow construction gives you a bell-like, warm sound that still sounds clear when you roll off some of the tone controls.
I’m especially a fan of the side input jack, as opposed to the face input jack on the 335. It is more discrete and keeps everything tidy.
The frets are medium jumbo, as you would find on a guitar from the 50’s. If you like to feel the laurel fingerboard under your fingers, then you’ll love the way this neck feels.
- Great semi-hollow guitar for under $500
- Smaller construction easier to play, but still sounds the way you want it to
- Side jack
- Pickups lack clarity
- Laurel fingerboard
Epiphone SG Prophecy – Best Epiphone Guitar Small Hands
Finding a guitar that works well in small hands can be a challenge. So many guitars have big necks for “big tone”. What really boils down to personal preference can create a need for smaller neck profiles.
Enter the Epiphone SG Prophecy – the ideal guitar for those with small hands or that just prefer a small neck shape.
- Asymmetrical SlimTaper neck
- 24 jumbo frets
- Mahogany body with maple top
- Ebony fretboard
The ergonomic, asymmetrical slim-taper neck starts off with a slim C-shape, then fans out as you move closer to the 24th fret. It’s a small neck all around, but it does make playing fast higher up on the neck that much easier. It also has a nice contour at the heel so that accessing the 24th fret is easy.
The body is a thick, modern SG shape and sports a flamed maple top (that is rather hard to see under the black finish). The fingerboard is the most stunning of any of this list, with the pearloid block/abalone triangle design absolutely perfect against the ebony fingerboard.
This guitar features the same Fishman Fluence humbuckers you see on the Extura prophecy, making it an incredibly versatile instrument.
Though it may be a bit too pricey for beginners with small hands, it is sure to feel right at home for someone!
- The most beautiful Epiphone in my opinion
- Built for speed and small hands
- Versatile, but simple pickups/electronics
- More expensive than other Epiphone guitars
Check out my guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Small Hands
Epiphone USA Casino – Best Epiphone Guitar with P90s
Gibson has revamped Epiphone to have USA-made instruments, and there is hardly a model more highly anticipated than the Epiphone USA Casino. Made famous by the Beatles, the Casino is an Epiphone-original design that is known for its thinline hollow body shape.
- Laminated maple/poplar/maple body
- Made in USA
- Vintage style Nitro finish
- Gibson USA P-90 Dogear single-coil pickups
Up until last year, if you wanted an Epiphone Casino, you had to get a vintage instrument (which could cost tens of thousands) or a cheaper import model. These USA models are somewhere in the middle, cosing just under $3000.
One of the specs that is most sought after is the dog-ear, vintage-sounding p-90 pickups that almost define the sound of this guitar as it is paired with a fully hollow body. There are a number of different bridges available, but the vintage trapeze bridge is stock.
Unlike other Epiphones, this is 100% made by Gibson USA – which means you are getting a top-notch, hand-wired instrument. This is why the instrument is more expensive than you might expect from an Epiphone.
This is about as close to a vintage Casino as you can possibly get.
- Top-notch instrument
- Handwired electronics
- Makes a previously vintage-only instrument accessible again
- Unique, identifiable tone
- Fully hollow body can cause feedback
Check out my full guide on the Best Electric Guitars with P90 Pickups
Epiphone USA Texan – Best Epiphone Acoustic Guitar
Did you ever think that Epiphone would make a top-tier acoustic guitar? In their first line of USA-made acoustic guitars since the ’70s, the Epiphone USA Texan is an incredible breath of fresh air.
- Solid wood construction
- 25.5” scale length
- Spruce top/mahogany back and sides
- LR Baggs Electronics
- Handcrafted in USA
The new Epiphone USA Texan is based entirely around the original 1958 Epiphone Texan guitars, bringing a classic design back to the present day. As you would expect from Gibson USA, the Texan is all handcrafted using solid wood construction, making it a resonant guitar that will last a lifetime. It is also the reason for the hike in price.
Unlike most Gibson-style guitars that have a 24.75” scale length, the Texan has a 25.5” scale length. This means that the guitar has more string tension, and as a result has a brighter high-end.
The classic combination of the Spruce top with mahogany back/sides makes this guitar sound balanced and rich – perfect for Flatpicking or fingerstyle. The Dreadnought body shape lends plenty of volumes, with the scale length and wood choice offering note-to-note clarity.
It comes with LR Baggs Electronics, so this is a great guitar for gigging.
- Handcrafted in USA
- Professional electronics
- Top tier wood selection
- Previously rare guitar now accessible
How to Choose The Epiphone Guitar (Buyer’s Guide)
While Epiphone was once its own company with its own designs, the company has been owned by Gibson for so long that I am going to focus on post-Gibson ownership Epiphone guitars for this buyer’s guide.
For every Gibson body shape, there is an Epiphone equivalent somewhere.
This means that Epiphones come in solid body, semi-hollow body, and fully hollow body designs as well as acoustic guitars. This is one of the first things you should consider when buying an Epiphone, as it will impact the sound and the comfort of playing.
No body shape is objectively “better” than the other when it comes to Epiphones. It is a personal preference.
The good news with the 2020/2021 line of Epiphone guitars is that they are inspired by Gibson USA designs. This means that if you know your Gibson guitars, you know your Epiphones as well.
They almost all come with a 24.75” scale length that is common with Gibson guitars.
Just like every company that has existed for a century, the build quality of Epiphone guitars have changed over time. That being said, since they became a part of Gibson, they have always been a budget-friendly version of Gibson-style guitars that offer surprising quality.
This has never been truer than with the 2020/2021 models. The tonewoods and electronics used in Epiphones are certainly more cost-effective than those used in Gibsons. However, the results are so close in comparison that many consider Epiphone to be a better value.
Playability seems to go hand-in-hand with Build Quality when it comes to Epiphone.
On paper, Epiphones and Gibson seem very similar. I think the deciding factor for many (other than price) will be playability.
Epiphones will feel different than Gibson (not always for better or worse). Overall, they are very playable, but you should try them out and make up your own mind on whether you like the way they feel.
Gosh, these guitars sound good. As I mentioned with the Epiphone SG Standard, there are differences in tone between Epiphones and Gibsons, but it’s hard to justify the price jump unless you are a real Gibson fanatic.
These guitars sound woody, classic, and bold. They are perfect for a wide array of styles including blues, rock, jazz, metal and more.
Once upon a time, the only appealing aspect of the Epiphone was the price.
However, these days Epiphones sound great, look incredible, and harken back to the golden age of Gibson guitars… all while maintaining that attractive price point.
These days, even vintage Epiphones can be worth thousands of dollars. But that’s okay, because new models are better than ever, while still saving you cash.
With the exception of the Epiphone original designs like the Casino and the Texan, Epiphones are accessible for just about anyone and are the best value guitars around.
Recap of the Best Epiphone Guitars
|Best Epiphone Guitars||Award|
|Epiphone Les Paul Custom||Best Overall|
|Epiphone Les Paul Standard||Best for the Money|
|Epiphone Les Paul Special-I||Best for Beginners|
|Epiphone ES-335||Best for Blues|
|Epiphone SG Standard||Best for Rock|
|Epiphone Extura Prophecy||Best for Metal|
|Epiphone ES-339||Best for Jazz|
|Epiphone SG Prophecy||Best for Small Hands|
|Epiphone USA Casino||Best with P90s|
|Epiphone USA Texan||Best Acoustic Guitar|
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Epiphone guitars good quality?
Absolutely. I stand by my claim that Epiphones (at least the newest ones) are the best quality guitar for the money.
Is the Epiphone owned by Gibson?
Though Epiphone started making instruments in 1873, Epiphone has been owned by Gibson since 1957.
Do professionals use Epiphone?
Here are just a few of the professional guitarists that play Epiphone Guitars through the years:
– The Beatles
– James Bay
– Bob Dylan
– The Edge
– Alex Lifeson
– Les Paul
– Brian Aubert
– Gary Clark Jr.
– Dwight Yoakam
– Nancy Wilson
– Vivian Campbell
– Emily Wolfe
– Emily Wolfe Sheration
– Joe Bonamassa