Another triumph from the guitar maker on the rise…
For many years, Epiphone has been widely regarded by players for crafting affordable, great sounding and well-built guitars and basses. Now we check out the “Inspired By Gibson” range, which puts legendary models into the hands of a new generation of guitarists.
A brief history…
Established in 1873, Epiphone was founded in Smyrna by Anastasious Stathopoulos, the name Epiphone is derived from the founder’s nickname “Epi” and the Greek word for voice, “Phone” The result was of course, Epiphone. Epi moved to New York in 1903 to carry on making stringed instruments.
Following the First World War, Epiphone began to manufacture banjos in 1924 and subsequently became the Epiphone Banjo Company. The first guitars became available in 1928 with a handful of Archtop models.
Epi’s death in 1943 meant that the company was left to Epi’s brothers to take care of business matters. Following this, the company relocated to New York to Philadelphia.
In 1957, Gibson who at the time were rival brands in the arch-top guitar world, bought Epiphone and have owned it ever since.
The player’s guitar-maker of choice
The brand has been seen in the hands of many famous guitar players including Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Joe Pass, Slash, Steve Marriot, Noel Gallagher, John Lennon and many more.
As the decades went by, early Epiphone models became more and more popular and Gibson began to use the Epiphone name on some of their own classic designs to rival cheaper instruments made in the Far East during the 80’s to the present day.
“Inspired By Gibson”
Following the NAMM show 2020, Epiphone has unveiled a fine line of instruments called the “Inspired By Gibson” range.
We took a closer look at some of the specifications of these guitars to see what really sets them aside from previous models and even competitors.
- The Headstock: Now, as we are all well aware that aesthetics are paramount when choosing a guitar, Epiphone has decided to use the old Kalamazoo “open book” headstock design which is a great nod to the company’s heritage whilst retaining all the integrity of the brand.
- Build quality: The build of Epiphones has always been consistent across the board, these new Inspired By guitars are no different aside from the finishing and the overall quality of timbre used.
- Electrics: Having had issues in the past with cost-cutting methods on electrics, Epiphone have listened to players and added excellent quality electrics to this range, the guitars now feature CTS (Chicago Telephone Services) potentiometers which are the same pots you would find in any Gibson guitar at all price points. Epiphone has also included orange drop capacitors in all of the Inspired By range which adds better tonal clarity and range to all guitars.
- ProBucker pickups: These, all new pickups are designed to the same specifications as original Epiphone humbuckers with influences from the highly desirable PAF humbuckers. These pickups are reported to have fooled even the most discerning PAF enthusiast. Epiphone has recreated the units using 18% silver bases and covers, which all add up to “that” tone. Other models are fitted with P90 Pro pickups, which are a tasteful take on the famed “soapbar” P90 units that are still coveted to this day.
1. Epiphone Les Paul Special
A firm favourite with all Gibson Les Paul enthusiasts, the single-cutaway Les Paul Special has been included in the Inspired By range. Finished in the excellent TV Yellow finish, these guitars feature a solid mahogany body, bound rosewood fingerboard, Graphtech nut, P90 Pro pickups and a lightning wrap-around tailpiece.
This guitar features a 50’s rounded profile neck and a very playable 12” radius like all good Gibson and Epiphone guitars should have. The guitar also benefits from 18:1 ratio tuners that are designed like the original units used back in the late 1950s.
At this price point, this guitar is a worthy addition to the Epiphone range, when compared to the Gibson model at the same specification, it would appear that the guitar is practically a clone, albeit with different construction and finishing.
2. Epiphone Les Paul Junior
An instant classic guitar, the Les Paul Junior was originally intended as a “student” model for beginners back in 1954. Essentially it is a stripped back Les Paul with no binding on the body or neck, one pickup, one tone and a wraparound tailpiece. The guitars were popular with beginners and soon found their way into the hands of players such as Leslie West of Mountain.
The “Inspired By Gibson” model is an instant classic in its own right, showcasing a 50’s style sunburst finish and single cutaway design. The features are similar to the Les Paul Special however omitting the neck pickup and the need for a selector switch. The pickup fitted is a P90 Pro “dog ear” named so due to the way it is affixed to the front of the body. The guitar is guaranteed to inspire your playing with minimal distractions. If you’ve not played a junior before, it’s time you tried one.
3. Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn
This addition to the Inspired By range is an interesting mix of old and new, the range contains a number of Les Paul’s but this one is a curious addition. Named as a Classic Worn model, these guitars feature a wonderful purple sunburst effect on a worn body. The worn name comes from the lack of glossy lacquer on the body and neck. The finish is more like a stain which will naturally wear differently to the standard models.
The hardware and pickups are similar to the ones used on the other models in the range. However, the classic Les Paul’s incorporate “Zebra” pickups, which are seldom seen on other guitars in the Epiphone range. These are ProBucker’s without the covers on and, from first-hand experience in the store, they absolutely scream. The worn range is a great and interesting addition to the Inspired By range.
4. Epiphone Flying V 1958
Another fine addition to the Inspired By range is the return of the Epiphone 58’ Flying V. Modelled on the famous Korina Flying V’s from the late 1950’s, these guitars are an upgraded replacement to the Korina V’s made by Epiphone throughout the 1990’s.
These guitars feature the new LockTone bridges which allow the player to set the action and not have to worry about it after each string change. The ProBucker pickups are back in this guitar and have an incredible tone when pushed through a loud amplifier.
Get ‘Inspired By’
The Inspired By range is definitely worth checking out for Gibson players and Epiphone fans alike, they have captured all of the coolest vintage models and recreated them with great accuracy.
Sam Orr has an unhealthy interest in all things guitar-related. He began playing guitar at age 5 and has never stopped. Publishing his first book in 2009 on the Fender Stratocaster, Sam continues to write for Univibes The International Jimi Hendrix Magazine. He also plays guitar in a band named 1968 and has toured various parts of the globe. His encyclopaedic knowledge of guitars, effects and amplifiers is second to none.