Is the Epiphone Les Paul Special II really ‘a Les Paul at a price anyone can afford’? Is it truly a Les Paul substitute, at a lower cost, or have Epiphone cut too many corners in attempts to keep the price down?
Well, first of all, lets get our facts straight. This guitar, although called a ‘Les Paul’, actually resembles more the Les Paul Jnr, in both design and aesthetics. The most notable difference between this guitar and a Junior, is that The Les Paul Special II has two humbuckers in the body, instead of a single, singlecoil at the bridge.
The mahogany body is much flatter than your traditional Les Paul, and the headstock and tuning peg stylings are most definitely Epiphone! The Les Paul Special II features a nickel, tune-o-matic bridge (as you might find on a Les Paul Standard) twin hot open-coil Epiphone 700T and 650R humbucker pickups, and a single volume and tone control.
The neck has a “1960’s” slim taper ‘D’ profile, which is just as you’d expect on an acoustic- only thinner. On the other side of the neck is a 22 fret, rosewood fretboard, which feels almost just like a Standard Les Paul due to the same 24.75″ scale length.
The differences between the Epiphone Les Paul Special II, and a Gibson guitar mean that you may not quite look like Slash, but you can sure sound like him– or at least come very close on a budget!
- Mahogany body (according to their website)
- Bolt-on Mahogany neck with 1960s SlimTaper™ “D” Profile
- 12″ Radius Rosewood fretboard
- 24.75 inch Scale Length
- Nut Width: 1.68”
- Nickel hardware
- Covered, 14:1 ratio tuning pegs
- Neck Pickup: Epiphone 650R Humbucker
- Bridge Pickup: Epiphone 700T Humbucker
- 1-volume, 1-tone control
- 3-way Epiphone pickup selector
- LockTone™ Tune-o-matic Bridge and stopbar tailpiece
According to the Epiphone website, this guitar is made with a mahogany body, although some sources say it’s basswood, and yet others are saying it’s alder or maple.
Here is the official word from Epiphone on the Les Paul Special II (along with a demonstration):
Well, first of all, this is very obviously a Les Paul guitar. The Epiphone Les Paul Special II has the same pickups, tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece as you would find on a much more expensive Gibson model.
The pickups on a cheap electric guitar will usually sound muddy, and toneless, but not these! The tone is just as liquid and smooth as that of a true Gibson Les Paul, although I wouldn’t say that it as 100% as good. It can be a little ‘fizzy’ at times, and doesn’t seem to offer the same resonance as a Les Paul Standard- which may be due to the variation in body design (no air spaces to vibrate).
When playing this guitar, it definitely doesn’t feel like a cheap guitar, and the neck is fast and comfortable. Also, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II doesn’t weight quite as much as the Gibson Les Paul. Some would say that this is due to a lower quality instrument, although- after a long gig- we’re pretty sure your shoulder will thank you!
As with any lower cost instrument, there have been a few sacrifices. For example, the neck is a ‘bolt-on’, and not ‘set’ as with a Les Paul Standard. This can affect the tone slightly, and may dampen the sustain compared to a higher-end guitar. However, many higher-end guitars have bolt-on necks and sound just fine- the Stratocaster, for example!
Another area that has been cut back on is the plastic nut. I have to agree that a plastic nut will never sound as good as a bone nut- it just wont. You could get this replaced, if you know a good luthier, but again, this really isn’t that big of a deal if you’re looking for an electric guitar on a budget. We suggest that you’ll be fine with a plastic nut if you’re a beginner, or intermediate guitarist (in fact, you could be Pro and still use a plastic nut…).
There aren’t really any huge cons to this guitar, and the few faults that I can find are only minor, and probably wont affect your experience of the instrument.
Concluding the Epiphone Les Paul Special II Review
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II would be a great guitar for any beginner who loves the look, feel and sound of a Les Paul, but hasn’t got the budget for a more expensive guitar. This instrument would also be a great choice for any gigging musician who either doesn’t want to take his expensive Les Paul on the road, or doesn’t want to deal with the increased weight.
So, this guitar is lighter and less expensive than a regular Les Paul, and has a great sustain and tone to match! Just don’t expect it to beat a Les Paul Standard 1958 reissue on tone…