The debate between Epiphone vs Gibson may seem a lot like the one between Squier vs Fender. It’s not. it’s less clear than that.
Squier guitars are largely less expensive versions of Fender models. However, Epiphone offers less expensive versions of Gibson models but also many models not found in the Gibson catalog.
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History of Epiphone and Gibson
Back in the 1930s Epiphone and Gibson were rivals. They competed in the archtop guitar market and early electric guitars. By the late 1950s Epiphone was giving Gibson so much competition that Gibson purchased Epiphone in 1957.
- Epiphone's original semi-acoustic, the Casino has changed little over the years. The combination of the hollow body and twin P90 pickups deliver a warm yet bright sound that sparkles.
- As is the '61 ReIssue Casino. Made in China with Gibson p/ups and good electronics, a grownups neck, and wonderful tone woods. The top is thin altho its said to be 5 laminations. This guitar I picked up at GC used, is just wonderful.
- Epiphone SGs Like the Les Pauls, Epiphone makes the SG electric guitar available in traditional and contemporary flavors for 2020. The Original Collection features an LP Custom-inspired SG Custom, SG Special P-90, SG Standard, and ‘61 SG Standard with ‘60s-style Maestro Vibrola tailpiece, all with vintage wiring, CTS pots, new vintage tuning keys, and era-correct neck profiles.
If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em! (it’s a time-tested business tactic.)
Price difference between Epiphone vs Gibson
In the years that followed the acquisition Epiphone became known for low-end versions of Gibson models. Not long ago many viewed Epiphone as only a discount Gibson brand. The supposed reason for Epiphone’s existence was to make cheap Les Pauls and SGs. This line of thinking held that these cheaper models would compete with the counterfeit versions coming out of China.
This has changed dramatically in recent years. Gibson has started offering low cost (for Gibson) guitars that bear the Gibson name. For example, the Gibson M2 Melody Maker sells for $400, which is well within the price range for an Epiphone guitar. At the same time, Epiphone has started making more expensive models.
For instance, the Epiphone 1965 Elitist Casino sells for $2,000. That sits right in the Gibson sweet spot of pricing yet proudly bears the Epiphone logo. Clearly the companies are trying to blend the images of these two brands.
Time will tell if it’s a winning strategy, or another bungle like Gibson’s robot-tuner enabled mistakes of 2015.
The final aspect of price is retained value. Gibson guitars retain more of their original value in the used market than Epiphones, generally speaking.
Epiphone quality vs Gibson quality
After price, the most important difference in most hobbyists minds is that of quality.
Which is better quality – Gibson or Epiphone?
Gibson guitars offer better quality parts and wood but the differences go beyond base materials. Epiphone has a reputation for using a variety of wood types in a single guitar body. Gibson typically sticks to one type. For example, Epiphone might make a body out of less expensive poplar and put a thin maple veneer over it.
The question for the player is whether this makes any difference top the quality of the guitar as a whole. Most players don’t notice the difference between tone woods in an electric guitar they way they would in an acoustic guitar. This is especially true for hobbyists.
One other difference between Epiphone and Gibson construction is in the number of pieces of wood used in the body. Both use multiple segments, but Gibson is usually no more than 2 or 3 pieces glued together, where Epiphone can be many more. This leads to the use of a solid veneer to disguise the connection points for a better aesthetic.
Pickups and hardware differences
It’s a good rule of thumb that the cheaper the guitar, the lower quality the hardware it will have. This rule hold true in our comparison of Epiphone vs Gibson as well. Gibson guitars typically have higher quality components.
In fact, the more affordable Gibson models (think the M2 Melody Maker) even use Epiphone ProBucker pickups!
Another rule of thumb is that Gibson guitars come with better stock pickups than Epiphones. This isn’t a big deal though because pickups are easy to swap. Besides, those better pickups are baked into the higher price of the Gibsons. It’s hardly a mark against Epiphones.
Bottom Line: Epiphone vs Gibson
Epiphone gets a bad rap as being a poor quality Gibson, but that’s really no longer true. What is true is that you get better quality with a Gibson guitar, but better value with an Epiphone guitar. If you’re a professional musician or a collector/investor then Gibson is the way to go. But for the other 99%, Epiphone is a fine choice.
Popular Epiphone Guitars
The G-310 is styled after the Gibson SG, but sells as a fraction of the cost.
The SG is a signature guitar for the likes of Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Paul Weller, Angus Young and Derek Trucks. The Epiphone G-310 is your chance to own a comparable guitar at an affordable price.
The Epiphone G-310 is built to the same dimensions as the vintage Gibson SGs or the 1960s, and with the same techniques as those used in the original Kalamazoo factory. It’s a well balanced guitar, unlike many cheaper clones that tend to be neck-heavy.
The Epiphone Dot is capable of producing a wide range of tone that makes it a very versatile electric guitar that’s great for beginners. It’s also a Semi-hollowbody, which means it has an acoustic element to it as well as electric, and has more resonance than a solid body electric guitar.
The Epiphone Dot is well suited to classic rock, country, blues and jazz styles.
The Epiphone Dot is Epiphone’s version of the Gibson ES 335 “Dot” (made famous by the likes of Eric Clapton, BB King, Albert Lee, Chuck Berry, Larry Carlton, Dave Grohl and Roy Orbison) and is one of the best deals today for guitar players who want the classic sound of an ES 335 at an affordable price.
Popular Gibson Guitars
The CM features a mahogany body, topped with carved maple. The neck is a comfortable, rounded C profile made of maple. It also features Gibson’s controversial “G force” tuning system, which basically tunes the guitar for you in a variety of tunings (Standard, DADGAD, Dropped-D, etc….)
So why is it so cheap?
At less than $1000, the Les Paul CM is a budget Gibson to be sure. The reason you can buy a Gibson so “cheap” is because the quality of wood is considered “C” grade, as opposed to the higher “A” range. All this means is that the wood grain is not as pleasing to the eye. Some people would argue that it affects the sound, but this is debatable on a guitar selling in the sub-thousand dollar price point.
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Having a single pickup also helps keep production costs down.
Gibson Les Paul Tribute, Faded Honey Burst
The Les Paul Tribute is more of what you expect from Gibson. Traditional A-grade mahogany-maple woods. Vintage Keystone style tuners and finish give this guitar the look and feel you expect from a Gibson.
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The tone is vintage Gibson as well. The Tribute comes with 2 humbucking pickups : a 490R and a 490T, both with a bit more bite than a standard PAF style pickup.
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The Gibson Les Paul Tribute is made in the USA, which also contributes to its price.
Here’s a Les Paul standard in beautiful Blueberry Burst finish. The standard is made using AAA-grade flame top maple for that classic “burst” finish, with a blueberry twist. The look may be classic but the electronics are modern. All four of the volume and tone knobs are push-pull, meaning you get even more versatility in pickup tone.
Speaking of pickups.. The Les Paul Standard is decked out in dual upgraded PAF style Burstbucker Pro pickups in the neck and bridge positions.
Upgraded hardware puts the finishing touches on the beauty.