What's the real difference between Gibson and Epiphone?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by PowerTube44, Dec 1, 2021.

  1. PowerTube44

    PowerTube44 Well-Known Member

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    This thread will draw some flames. That's fine. But it's a sincere question.

    If you take an Epiphone and upgrade the hardware, is the Gibson still "better?" And if so, why? Is the difference more than just hardware? Is the Gibson really built to a higher standard?

    Now personally, I'm not a fan of either, so keep that in mind. I'm more of a Jackson/Carvin/Kiesel, or Fender guy. So I really don't have an iron in this fire either way.
     
  2. TheToneDig

    TheToneDig Well-Known Member

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    I don't think this is a controversial subject. If you want a Gibson and don't want to pay that amount yet for several years, then you should probably get the Epiphone version, which will pretty much get you the sound you want at a 1/4 of the price. Epiphone uses some different quality components and materials. You will probably find a luthier needs to make some adjustments for you with the Epiphone to make it as best as it can be. That doesn't mean Gibson's don't need the same treatment though, however you do expect higher quality control, just maybe not that much higher except when you start paying custom prices. Are Epiphone worse? Not 3/4 worse. They win NAMM all the time. This tells you that the price jump is more branding and the reputation behind these guitars. However, it's the same across the board with nearly everything in guitar. Double the cost doesn't mean double the quality, double the tone, double your musical experience, or double anything. It's mostly what the market will pay for stuff, which is basically off the walls these days not to mention inflation.

    I would recommend Epiphone in a heartbeat to anyone with a budget that is around mid-range 3 figures.
     
  3. BlueX

    BlueX Well-Known Member Silver Supporting Member

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    When I bought my Epi LP Standard Pro Top Plus (I think in 2017) I compared it to a Gibson LP Standard in that shop. The unplugged tone from the Gibson was much clearer and richer, with more sustain. I can't tell which influence strings, or other factors, have. Neither does this tell anything about differences in general.

    Is the difference worth the higher price? I think that's up to each individual, and I bought the Epi.
     
  4. BlueX

    BlueX Well-Known Member Silver Supporting Member

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    I can add that Gibson's reputation wasn't the best when I bought this Epi. That was also a factor.
     
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  5. PaulHikeS2

    PaulHikeS2 Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Epiphone makes fine guitars, period. My understanding is that with the possible exception of the budget models, they are made in Epiphone factories, rather than contracted to Cort or Samick like Squiers are.

    I see two main differences. First, with an Epi you may feel the need to upgrade some components or pickups. I have a high end Epi Tony Iommi SG and the tuners have a bit of play that I don't care for. I had to swap out the switch and output jack in another Epi that I sold to a friend. With a Gibson, there is no "need" to upgrade or change anything. It's only if you are looking for something different in terms of sound or aesthetics that would make you want to change it. Second is resale value. With a fairly recent Gibson, you can reasonably expect to get 60-90% of what was paid new in a private party sale. With an Epi, you're probably looking at 40-60%. They just don't hold their value as well.

    Of course there's a few physical differences. Poly vs. Nitro finish is a personal preference, maple veneer vs. a cap on a Gibson Les Paul, and I believe the headstock angle on an Epi is not so severe, which might lead to less breakage.
     
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  6. Eric'45

    Eric'45 Well-Known Member

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    I have middle priced Epiphones and a Custom Shop Gibson. I have played quite a few 'standard' Gibsons.
    The Epi can be upgraded, after that you will have spend not much less than on a used Gibson.
    There are a few things you can't change:
    The Treble (or Bridge) Humbucker of an Epiphone is actually closer to the Neck than on the Gibson models. Even if you swap the Pickup, it will always sound different. (Your Neck and Bridge Pickups sound different, so you might know the placement of the PU has an Effect).
    At least a Custom Shop Guitar is made from better wood.
    The Body wood difference is there (don't even think of a f***ing endless tonewood debate), although it is marginal.
    The wood choice for the Neck, however can make a big difference.
    Think of an ultra- hard Maple Neck like the one you would find on a Fender. It is not very flexible, so when you pluck a String, it won't move that much. That's why every Guitar with a Maple Neck has it's distinctive characteristics.
    A good Custom Shop Gibson has a quarter- sawn Neck made from straight grown mahogany. This is a Hard wood, but it is nowhere near as hard as Maple. Also, it is more flexible. It will give in just a little bit if you play a String, that's why good Gibsons start that special kind of 'compression' if you play them really hard.
    Lower down the Price scale, an Epiphone has a Neck made from a similar wood, that is often falsely classified as mahogany. That will be a really soft wood, and you get all types of Grain, not just Quarter- sawn. Because it is so soft, it has to have a scarf joint at the Headstock, and it has to be thicker to be reasonably stable. It will always feel more 'spongy' and less articulated, because it is almost too soft.
    Sorry for the long winded post, but there are differences that can't be changed by a Hardware makeover.

    Epiphones are really good Guitars. Updated with the right components they can be great.
    Gibsons are a tiny bit better.
    Gibson Custom Shop shouldn't be compared to Epiphones.
     
  7. Eric'45

    Eric'45 Well-Known Member

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    ^^^This post will draw some flames. that's also fine :hippie:
     
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  8. fitz288

    fitz288 Well-Known Yinzer Gold Supporting Member

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    No flames from me, I agree with a lot of what you have stated.
    Is a Gibson at twice the price of an Epi twice as good? - NOPE!
    But I'd add that those subtle differences in the hands of a talented musician can be magnified exponentially, and worth every penny.
    Am I talented enough to extrapolate the subtle differences between my low-end guitars and my high-end guitars? - NOPE!
    Can I discern the differences, YES!
     
  9. Eric'45

    Eric'45 Well-Known Member

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    I always like to say, that music is all about emotions. playing Music is just a form of expressing one's emotions. Because of that the choice for a musical Instrument can never be rational. There have to be emotions involved. The Epi LP i posted recently cost me less than a tenth of my R8. Is it just that bad? HELL NO, it's also a playable Guitar that sounds and plays great.
    It's not on par with the R8, but the Gibson is not worth 10 times the price from a rational point of view.
    :shrug:
     
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  10. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Well-Known Member

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    Let's not forget wood types and grading. With some exceptions, an epiphone is not going to be using premium grade solid woods that Gibson would be using on the same model. Backs will be two or three piece rather than one piece. Flamed tops will be veneered instead of solid.

    The Korina Flying V is one example of an Epi that uses solid woods. It's real solid Korina. And probably one of the best guitars Epi has ever made.

    And the finish...epi finishes are designed to have low production costs. They use polyester or polyurethane finishes that are most likely UV cured so they cure in seconds. The finish lays flat enough, by design, that hand sanding and polishing isn't necessary.

    Gibson is still mostly doing nitro lacquer finishes. That's way more labor intensive and thus more expensive.

    The hardware and electronics have already been addressed.
     
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  11. GregM

    GregM Well-Known Member

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    Couldn't agree more with fitz.
    I bought my 89 Gibson lp standard ( God I love saying that) to mostly sit in a case, pull it out every other week and play it a Lil to remind me why I want to get better, then put it back in its case for another 2 or 3 weeks.
    It sounds bloody amazing , especially clean thru my vox ( can't get it to sound clean on either pup thru my SC20, although damn me that bridge sounds so good)
    Am I glad I bought it? Yes. Is it worth it? Probably only for inspiration, but it's damn good inspiration!
     
  12. pedecamp

    pedecamp Well-Known Member

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    My Gibsons feel and sound better than an Epi. What its really about is what inspires you to play, if its a Gibson great, if its an Epi great too!
     
  13. El Gringo

    El Gringo Well-Known Member

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    To those that ask this question may I refer them to a local shop that has Epi's in stock along with Gibson USA guitars and Gibson Custom Guitar's as the R series . There is an ocean of difference . Please don't believe me as listen with your ears and trust your ears and the proof is there and cannot be missed .
     
  14. anitoli

    anitoli Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Here is a major difference:

    Mahogany
    Mahogany. Just the mention of the name conjures a sense of refinement and quality. Although mahogany is a fine tone wood, there are variances and misrepresentations which need to be understood. What is considered to be true mahogany is South American Mahogany, notably form Honduras and other Central American countries. Due to international laws on harvesting and exporting, woods with similar (not the same!) charachteristics are unscrupulously marketed as Mahogany. These woods include African Mahogany, Cuban Mahogany, Phillipine Mahogany, Sipo, Sapele, and others.

    In guitar building, denser mahogany offers a rich tonal quality that enhances both treble and bass more than other woods. Mahogany is ideal for guitar tops, backs, sides and necks.

    Nato (Eastern Mahogany)
    Nato is a contemporary name for wood from the Mora tree. Because it can be finished to look like mahogany it is often sometimes marketed as “eastern mahogany”. Nato/Mora/Eastern Mahogany is not true mahogany. This wood has varying color shades and a straight to interlocked grain. The heartwood is a reddish brown while the sapwood is light brown to yellowish.
     
  15. Kutt

    Kutt Well-Known Member

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    It all starts with the quality of the wood. This is true of every manufacturer.
     
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  16. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Well-Known Member

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    On the subject of mahogany, true mahogany is what we call Honduran Mahogany, genus Swietenia Macrophylla.

    There is a second source of this species. It was planted in large plantations after WWII by the British. It grows very well in Fiji, and the crop is both mature and actively being sustained. Seedlings are planted for every tree that is cut, and the plantations are profitable and as I understand it, have even been expanded in recent years.

    This wood is called Fijian Mahogany but it is true Honduran Mahogany, Swietenia Macrophylla, just not grown in Honduras.

    It is available in limited quantities as the harvest is carefully managed by the Fijian Government, which wishes for this reliable sustainable source of revenue to be reliable and sustainable.

    It's hard to get it, because virtually all the harvest is spoken for by a small number of timber buyers.

    Gibson is one of the few companies that gets Fijian mahogany. Today, any Gibson guitar that is made with true mahogany is most likely to be made with Fijian mahogany.

    One of the great beautiful things about Fijian Mahogany is that it is exempt from the CITES treaty because of its fully controlled and sustainable business model. All the harvest is under Fijian government control. All the plantations are under Fijian government control. The species is in absolutely no danger or threat...on Fiji. But if the same species comes from anywhere else, it's CITES regulated due to a lower level of responsible forestry practices being used to manage it.

    As a very small time guitar builder, I'd love to get my hands on some Fijian mahogany for a few guitar bodies. Enough for ten guitars would probably last me 20 years. It might even end up being inherited by my next of kin!
     
  17. Eric'45

    Eric'45 Well-Known Member

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    ^^Excellent explanation on a subject that is not really well known @Matthews Guitars . Many Guitars from Epiphone upwards are labelled as 'Mahogany', but you will never get true Mahogany in the sense of the word. There are Wood species that are known as genuine Mahogany, and they are at least distantly related to the species swietenia.these come from africa and you would typically find them used for Guitars of the middle Price Range. Most of the stuff that is cheaper, although it may be marketed as mahogany is some mostly local wood species that is remotely similar to mahogany, but not botanically related.
    Epiphone sometimes uses Lauan, or however that stuff is called. My own Epi looks suspiciously like Meranti.
     
  18. PowerTube44

    PowerTube44 Well-Known Member

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    On the topic of resale, if I were into Gibson, I would never buy a used one unless I knew the owner personally and also knew that he bought the guitar firsthand brand new. That's because they've been counterfeited since at least as far back as the Seventies.

    The Chinese are also making some incredible knock-offs these days.
     
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  19. Crikey

    Crikey Well-Known Member

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    Epi for me is a gig ready guitar. High end Gibbie, not worth the stress of it getting knocked over or stolen
    Quality diff? Sure but Epi makes a great guitar
    For the price and bang for buck Epi has the win
     
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  20. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Well-Known Member

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    I'm willing to wager that you can't put a fake Gibson past me unless it is made by a master craftsman who knows the intricacies and details that are necessary to make it convincing to an expert appraiser. Certainly I would not expect to be fooled by any mass-produced replica.

    I myself COULD make a forgery that would pass most inspections, or so I believe, but my level of interest in doing that is exactly zero. And I don't want to work that hard and spend that much money to get all original hardware and electronics parts required to build out the replicated wood guitar components to make it a complete copy.

    As for mahogany types, I've used some African mahogany (often named Khaya) and it's good stuff. I have no issues with it. It's what I usually use, as a matter of fact. I can see nothing about it that makes it undesirable.

    I've worked with Honduran, too. Of course it's nice stuff. I have a 40 year old Honduran blank I'm saving for something more special than most of my work.
     
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