It’s hard to imagine a cooler guitar than the Gibson SG, and it’s one of the most recognizable shapes in the guitar world. The SG Standard is actually Gibson’s highest-selling model and has been for many years. The sharp double-cutaway body style gives it a bit of an evil vibe which for obvious reasons has made this guitar a very popular choice for rock and heavy metal players.
First introduced in 1961, it was originally released as the Les Paul SG, and wasn’t actually named the SG until 1963. “SG” simply stood for solid guitar and was quite different from the Les Paul models of years before. The body was slimmer and lighter, and the neck was thinner and faster, making it easier to play.
There are some awesome alternatives available these days, and we’ve compiled a comprehensive list to show you what else is out there. Most of these models use the same key concepts we know and love the SG for:
- Double cutaway Mahogany body
- Dual Humbucker pickup configuration
- Rosewood (or alternative) fretboard
- 24.75” scale length
Keep reading to check out our picks for the best SG style copy guitars!
The Best Gibson SG Alternatives
- Epiphone SG Standard – Our Top Pick
- Epiphone SG Special – Budget Pick
- ESP LTD Viper-256 – Best for Intermediate Players
- ESP LTD Viper-1000 – Best for the Money
- Schecter S-1
- Guild S-100 Polara
- Vintage Guitars VS6
- Dean Gran Sport
- Harley Benton DC-Custom
- All in One Guitars ASG
Epiphone SG Standard – Overall Best SG Style Guitar
The Epiphone SG Standard is a shining example of how great a budget-friendly guitar can be, and it’s the closest model in this list to the actual Gibson SG. The body design is identical, but the price tag is quite different, coming in at less than a third of what the Gibson will run you.
If you’re not familiar with Epiphone, they’ve been making instruments since 1873. In the late 50’s Gibson purchased the company and began making them out of the Gibson factory. These days, Epiphone generally sells Gibson style instruments at a lower price point.
The average person probably won’t be able to spot the difference between the Gibson SG Standard and it’s Epiphone counterpart at first glance unless they were to read the headstock.
Here are the details:
- Mahogany body and neck
- 60’s style slim taper neck, giving this a vintage guitar feel that is very comfortable
- Epiphone’s Alnico PRO humbucker pickups have enhanced mids and highs which make this great for rock, but also capable of beautiful clean tones and warm jazzy sounds alike
- Upgraded deluxe Epiphone tuners, and CTS electronics
- 3 color options: Ebony, Cherry, and Alpine White
While this may qualify as a somewhat budget-friendly model, it has the look and feel of a much pricier guitar. Over the past couple of years Epiphone has really upped their game and started using higher quality components that you would normally only find in the Gibson line of guitars.
This guitar would be well suited for an intermediate guitarist looking to upgrade from their beginner gear, and works just fine for all styles of music.
- Excellent playability and sustain, due to the neck thru design
- Warm and resonant tone from the Mahogany
- Visually stunning looks
- Upgraded hardware and electronics
- Great value for a guitar at this price
- No case included
Epiphone SG Special – Best Budget SG Style Guitar
The Epiphone SG Special is perfect for that beginner who loves the SG body style. It’s the stripped-down, more affordable model of the Epiphone SG Standard we just discussed.
Let’s take a look at what this model offers:
- Body: Poplar, Mahogany Veneer
- Cherry, Ebony, and Walnut finishes, satin
- Neck: Okoume, Rosewood fretboard, bolt-on
- Epiphone ceramic humbuckers
- 1 volume, 1 tone, 3-way toggle
Using affordable woods and components allows this guitar to be priced in the lowest tier of Epiphone’s line, and still provide an instrument that plays and sounds great. It’s hardtail style construction holds tune well, and it’s simple control system makes this a great choice for any beginner guitarist.
- Warm and resonant tone from the Mahogany
- Very affordable
- Holds tune well
- Great guitar to try installing upgrades or modifications
- Bolt-on neck, less sustain
- Cheaper hardware and electronics
The ceramic humbucker pickups in these guitars are hot and bright; very well suited for someone looking to play rock or metal.
ESP LTD Viper-256 – Best SG Style Guitar for Intermediate Players
For those who like a more extreme take on the SG style, we’ve got just the thing for you: the ESP LTD Viper-256.
ESP guitars has been around since 1975, originally based in Tokyo. In 1995 they introduced the LTD line of guitars, which, similar to the Epiphone / Gibson or Squier / Fender relationship, allowed ESP to produce and sell guitars at a lower price point while still keeping the ESP line as the high-end custom shop brand. They are typically made in Indonesia these days.
You can tell right away that the contours and edges are a bit more extreme on this LTD than the traditional SG type guitar. You’ll also notice that it has 24 frets instead of 22 with unrestricted access to reach that upper fret area, great for those shreddy players. I love the offset contours here, when standing with this guitar it rests perfectly against your torso and balances really well.
- Mahogany body, neck thru construction
- Thin U shape neck, great for fast playing
- 24 frets – 24.75 scale length
- 2 EMG Designed LH-150 Humbuckers with coil splitting
- TonePros bridge and tailpiece
I love that they added the Tone Pros bridge and stop bar tailpiece. They make really high-quality stuff and are often used as an upgrade over even the standard Gibson hardware because they are really just that good.
There’s no mistaking that the Viper-256 is geared towards rock and metal players, but the addition of the coil-splitting does offer some extra tonal versatility for when you need that single-coil chime.
- Excellent value at this price
- Sleek and stylish design
- Tonal versatility because of the coil splitting options
- Comfortable to play whether sitting or standing
- May experience some neck dive while standing
Check out my guide on the Best Intermediate Electric Guitars
ESP LTD Viper-1000 – Best SG Style Guitar for the Money
This is such a gorgeous example of what SG style guitars are about. Coming in at the highest price point in this list, but still under $1k, this guitar is without a doubt, a pro-level instrument that offers a lot for the modern player.
Here are some specs to look over:
- Mahogany body, with a quilted Maple top
- Macassar Ebony fretboard, thin U neck shape
- 24 extra jumbo frets, 24.75” scale length
- Seymour Duncan Sentient / Pegasus pickups, with coil-splitting options
- TonePros bridge and stopbar tailpiece
- Locking tuners
As you can see, nearly everything is upgraded on this model when compared to the others we’ve reviewed above. The quilted Maple top is absolutely beautiful. The Ebony fretboard is a really nice touch, and has a bit of a brighter and crispier sound than Rosewood.
The Seymour Duncan Sentient neck, and Pegasus in the bridge are medium output, and really excellent for progressive players. Articulate but aggressive, these are an incredible set of pickups. Upgraded hardware options including the locking tuners and TonePros bridge and tailpiece really give the feeling that you’re playing a very high end axe.
This would be a great choice for any rock or metal guitarist looking for an option in the higher price tier without breaking the bank.
- Huge number of upgrades
- Beautiful look, the quilted Maple really stands out
- Tuning stability
- Aggressive and articulate tone
- No case included
This Schecter S-1 somehow has a look that’s very unique and classic all at the same time.
Schecter guitars have been around since the late 70’s and originally started out as a replacement parts manufacturer for Fender guitars. Later they began building their own guitars and amps, and they’ve been one of the larger guitar brands ever since.
- Solid Mahogany body and 3-piece Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fretboard, thin C shape neck, 22 extra-jumbo frets, 14” radius
- Schecter’s Diamond Plus passive humbucker pickups, with coil-splitting
- 2 volume, 1 master tone, 3 way selector
- Tune-o-matic bridge, Grover tuners
The unique shape and design of this guitar set this apart from others in the list. The contours and curves are a little softer and less sharp than the others. It almost resembles the Les Paul double cut model as much as it resembles the SG. The “Tempest” shape inlays on the neck are really rad, and I also love that the neck binding goes all the way up and around the headstock. This is one of the subtle touches that Schecter and LTD both typically do, that differs from the Gibson design.
Schecter’s Diamond Plus pickups are among the highest rated “stock” pickups that different manufacturers have been putting in their guitars. Well balanced and medium output, they should work just as well for rock and metal as they will for clean tones. I really like the 2 volume – 1 tone configuration on these. This gives you the option to set different volumes from each pickup and find the perfect tone when in the middle selector position. Plus, the addition of coil-splitting provides even more tonal flavors to choose from.
All in all, this guitar coming in well under $1k offers an excellent value in a versatile and stylish package.
- Great value at this price range
- Many tonal options
- Stylish and comfortable design
- No case included
Based on the original Guild S-100 from the 70’s, this thing has the old school vibe many of you will know and love.
Guild started off as an instrument shop in New York City in the 1940’s, but began producing acoustic and Jazz style guitars in the early 50’s. They had big success in the 60’s with the introduction of the Starfire, Thunderbird, and the S-100. These are some of the coolest guitar shapes ever made, and in recent years Guild has started recreating these classics.
This S-100 offers the following:
- Solid Mahogany body and neck
- Pau Ferro fretboard, 22 narrow jumbo frets
- Vintage soft-U neck shape, 12” radius
- Guild’s HB-1 humbuckers – 2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way selector
- Guild tune-o-matic bridge, and tailpiece
- Guild’s Sta-Tite tuners
Definitely a vintage voiced instrument, but capable of heavier down-tuned riffs as well. If you’re a fan of 90’s Seattle grunge you’ve probably seen Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil using his signature S-100 guitars and getting a wide range of tones from clean to super distorted.
This might be my personal favorite in the list, because of the vintage look. The block inlays and neck binding give this guitar a dressed up vibe. Guild’s Sta-Tite open-gear tuners even further that old school look and feel, but they also are known for the excellent tuning stability that they offer. We are a little on the higher end as far as price goes, but still well under $1k make this a good choice for any intermediate or professional player.
- Killer vintage looks and style
- Rich, and warm tones from the HB-1 pickups
- Excellent tuning stability
- No case included
Vintage guitars have been around for many years (no pun intended) but have really become increasingly popular in the past few years. They specialize in accessibly-priced, classic design inspired guitars that can easily compete with the larger brands for a fraction of the cost.
We can see all the usual SG suspects on this one:
- Mahogany body and neck, Rosewood fretboard
- 24.75” scale, 22 frets
- 2 Wilkinson branded humbucker pickups, traditional 2 volume 2 tone & 3-way selector
- Wilkinson Tune-o-Matic bridge
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Vintage guitars are designed by Trev Wilkinson, who also runs the Wilkinson replacement parts brand. They’ve been a popular choice for builders, and for players who are looking to upgrade the hardware/components. Naturally, these guitars come with the same high quality components that Wilkinson is known for.
For about 1/3rd of the cost of a Gibson, you can get your hands on one of these. They will work well for any style of music, but seem to shine for blues, rock, and metal.
- High quality Wilkinson parts
- Great value for this price range
- No neck binding, which may not be an issue for some but does make it feel a little less premium
Ok, here’s a wild one for you.
Typically, Dean guitars have been geared towards extreme shredders like Dimebag Darrel and Michael Angelo-Batio, or Slayer’s Kerry King. The Gran Sport goes the opposite direction, and pays tribute to the classic SG shape and feel. The curves and contours on this model are bigger and more round than most of the others in this list, it almost looks like a muscle car in a way, and judging by the name, that’s quite possibly what Dean was aiming for here.
Dean guitars have been making guitars and basses since 1977. They pride themselves on being musician-owned and musician-operated. If you’ve seen Dean guitars in the past, you likely noticed that they are usually extreme shapes, sometimes pointy even, and built for heavy metal.
This Gran Sport is no different, but likes check the specs out:
- Body: Mahogany
- Neck: Mahogany, Rosewood fretboard, 22 frets, 24.75” scale length
- Hardware: Dean Tune-o-matic bridge, Grover tuners
- Electronics: Dean USA DMT humbuckers, 2 volume 2 tone & 3-way selector
The DMT (Dean Magnetic Technologies) pickups in these are quite hot, and absolutely voiced for heavy music. This high output may deter some players who are looking for a more tame guitar tone.
- Loud and unique design, sure to standout in a crowd
- Tuning stability: the Grover tuners are a nice touch here
- Lack of tonal options: the high output pickups and lack of coil splitting may have players wishing they had more options
Harley Benton has really been changing the game on price-accessible gear for the past several years. They build anything from guitars and basses to speaker cabinets and amps, and nearly everything in-between.
This DC-Custom features most of the standard options we’ve seen, but I’ve gotta say these are some incredible specs for a guitar that costs less than $300 USD. Let’s dive into what this guitar offers:
- Body: Mahogany
- Neck: Mahogany, bound Jatoba fretboard, 24 frets, set neck construction (very few guitars in this price range are set-neck construction, most will be bolt-on)
- Grover tuners
- Tune-o-matic style bridge and tailpiece
- Vintage voiced Roswell LAF humbuckers, 1 tone 1 volume & 3-way selector
I can’t overstate how much guitar this is for such a small amount of money. I’ve personally worked on a few Harley Benton guitars in the past couple years and all of them feel like guitars well above their cost.
- Insane value for this price
- Sound: the LAF humbuckers are impressively full and rich, which isn’t always the case with budget guitars
- Neck profile is very comfortable for most players
- Tuning stability is a bit low
- Intonation and setup out of the box is not ideal, may need to take this to a luthier before you can fully enjoy this one
The AIO ASG is one of my favorites in this list!
I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of All In One guitars until very recently. What sets them apart from other brands is that every single guitar that leaves their shop is first inspected and put through a complete custom setup. I’ve owned a lot of guitars in my time and most new guitars come out of the box playing pretty poorly. It’s nice to see a shop determined to break that cycle.
The ASG has the standard features of SG style guitars:
- Mahogany body and neck
- Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece.
- 22 medium jumbo frets
- 2 passive humbucker pickups
There are a few notable differences in this guitar as well.
This is the only guitar on the list to have a 25” scale length which is great for anybody who is used to playing PRS guitars. That 25” scale falls somewhere in between the Fender 25.5 scale and the Gibson 24.75” scale. It doesn’t sound like much but that little bit of length can make a guitar feel quite different.
Another cool component is the addition of an Ebony fretboard which is traditionally a premium upgrade, really a great thing to see here. Ebony is a harder wood than Rosewood so it can add a bit more snap or brightness to your sound.
These guitars come in well under $500 USD and for $80 they will even throw in an SKB brand hard case. They also always provide free shipping to the continental US.
- Very high quality instruments providing an excellent value
- Perfect setup right out of the box
- Tuning stability is excellent
- The neck profile is fairly large, and may not be comfortable for those with smaller hands
What Are Gibson SG’s Good For?
The classic design and superb comfortability of the SG body style make these guitars some of the most enjoyable guitars out there. Combining the solid Mahogany body with those humbucker pickups provides a sound and feel of its own.
We recommend these guitars for any player, for any style of music, though they are known for being good for rock music.
How to Choose The Best Gibson SG Alternative – Buyer’s Guide
As you shop from an SG style guitar, you’ll want to take a handful of topics into consideration before making your decision:
Materials & Build Quality
If you only have a couple of hundred dollars to spend, I wouldn’t expect any jaw-dropping build quality from a guitar in that price range. If you’re going to drop up to a grand or more on an instrument, you should be sure that the build quality meets your standards. The best way to do this is to play the instrument in person whenever possible, and if you have to order a guitar online without touching it, make sure you read the return policy thoroughly.
In terms of the materials, all of the guitars in this list use Mahogany tonewoods for the neck and body. The cheaper material options we saw were mostly in the hardware/electronics department. Try to keep in mind that these components can almost always be upgraded and replaced if necessary, but the tonewoods cannot.
Style of Music
It’s no secret that these SG style guitars work for rock and roll and heavy metal, but they’ve also been a popular choice in nearly every other style of music. Don’t be fooled by the devilish horns of the SG, it’s a versatile and dynamic instrument.
When you think of the SG many of you will likely picture legendary guitarists like AC/DC’s Angus Young, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Frank Zappa, Derek Trucks, and many other big players known for playing them. It’s not just for rock and metal, the SG has also been a choice for players like Jerry Garcia, indie rocker Jeff Tweedy (one of my favorites), and gospel blues legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Traditionally the SG style guitars will almost always come with 2 humbuckers. Depending on the style of music you like to play, and how dynamic you like to sound, it can be important to choose the right pickup.
The biggest factor in what your pickups might sound like is the output level or how “hot” the pickups are. The hotter the pickup, the louder it will be, and the less dynamic it will be. High output pickups are great for heavy rock and metal where you don’t need much of a clean tone, or much dynamic range. Quieter pickups will allow you to be more touch-sensitive, and may make it easier to achieve a cleaner tone.
The vintage-inspired pickups listed in most of the models we just covered will have a low to medium output making them versatile and dynamic.
Playability equates to comfort and the first thing we look to for comfort is the neck.
Beyond the profile, you have to take into consideration fret materials and fretboard material. Ebony and rosewood are great for playability. Ebony is typically a little snappier and brighter, and Rosewood tends to be warmer and softer. Most frets are made of a steel alloy, and sometimes stainless steel.
The SG body shape is considered by many to be one of the more comfortable body shapes to play. The soft contours where your arm meets the body make it feel very natural, almost like an extension of your own body. Many Les Paul, or Telecasters shapes with hard edges where your arm meets the body can be a bit uncomfortable for some.
Next, you need to look at the nut, bridge, tremolo system, and tuners. Will the hardware on your SG copy keep your guitar in tune? Many manufacturers turn to third parties who have developed great hardware over the years that’s proven to offer great tonality. Every guitar in this list has a hardtail bridge configuration. That removes any worrying about tuning stability affected by tremolo systems like many other electric guitars.
We recommend finding a guitar with locking tuners, or at least good name-brand tuners to keep you sounding great.
Just about everything revolves around money, and guitar builders are no different. Some of the guitars we discussed come in around the $200 mark, and others around the $1000 mark. It becomes a bit of a balancing act to determine what features you need and finding a price point that meets your budget.
We live in a time where we have so many options, if you do some shopping around and research, you can find some absolutely incredible guitars for less than you think.
As you can see, there are some amazing options in the SG world these days. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to look like Angus Young.
If you’re comfortable dishing out $1500+ for the real deal Gibson SG, then more power to you. My goal was just to present to you some excellent alternatives, that may even in some cases be better than the Gibson for less money.
I hope this article has shown you some new brands and new models so you can find the right choice for you, so you can get to playing the guitar that inspires you to create!