Go ask any beginner electric guitar player which guitar do they wish to buy the most and you will hear the same cliche: “I want the Epiphone Les Paul.” Ask them why and you will hear a “just because.” I know. It doesn’t make any sense, but this is the case with most of these starters. They want a Les Paul ‘just because’ they want one. They saw a prominent guitar player use one and now they want one. But what makes it so special that both the beginners and the professionals adore them so much? This article will, hopefully, shed some light on the uniqueness of the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II.
First off, I want to give some more information about the specifications of this electric guitar. This is the full list from the Epiphone Website:
1960s SlimTaper™ “D” Profile
Covered; 14:1 ratio
Epiphone 650R Humbucker
Epiphone 700T Humbucker
3-way Epiphone toggle
Epiphone Limited Lifetime.
Typical Weight (+/- )
D’Addario® 10, 13, 17, 26, 36, 46
Epiphone’s number one selling model LP Special II is a great way for beginners to get started on guitar while getting the feel and tone of a Les Paul. Seasoned pros also love the Special II because it’s a great-sounding workhorse of a guitar that allows them to leave their more expensive axes at home.
Here are some commonly asked questions on the Les Paul from Amazon:
-Is it easier for people with small hands?
Any Gibson is going to be easier for those with small hands. The necks tend to be narrower, so the strings are a bit closer together, and they have a larger radius, meaning the fretboard is flatter. Both of these aspects make Gibsons easier for small hands. Also, Gibsons have a shorter scale length, meaning the distance from the nut to the bridge is shorter, and less tension is required to produce the same note.
This becomes important when using heavier strings or when practicing bends, because shorter strings are easier to bend. This is why guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan used to tune their guitars 1/2 step down, to relax the strings on their longer scale lengthed guitars (Fender Strats).
Two things that have a major impact on ease of playability: string size (smaller is easier, but thinner tone) and fret ACTION, which is how close the strings are to the fretboard, the closer the easier. Have your new guitar “set up” by a professional to make sure the neck isn’t bowed (which pulls the strings away from the frets, like an archer’s bow) or twisted, and lower the action so the strings are low but don’t buzz.
One thing about this particular guitar for smaller players: the body is mahogany, which is a dense hardwood, and very heavy. Great for tone, but not easy to sling around for a few hours. Hard on the shoulder if you’re standing up. It is a major drawback to Les Pauls, and one of the reasons they were in decline during the mid-60s, before being played by Clapton, Jimmy Page and other British rockers (Clapton plays a Strat now), and were being replaced by the much lighter SG (solid guitar) model.
–Does the guitar come strung, or do you have to string it yourself?
It’s already strung; may need a little tuning and it is ready to play. 🙂
–I have very large hands will this guitar a good one for me?
I think it will also be good for people with large hands. The action and neck width is great.
As far as buyer reviews on this Les Paul goes, they were mixed. You really can’t expect a shared despotism on one guitar, no matter how expensive, cheap, good, or bad it is. I fetched the reviews (both positive and negative) that would, perhaps, be the most useful in helping you make an evaluation on this guitar (from Amazon):
–The Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul Collection Electric Guitar is a GREAT GUITAR for $169.00 (The average selling price at the time of this review). The pickups, tune-o-matic bridge and stop piece are the same ones used in Epiphone’s more expensive guitars, and are similar to what’s used in much more expensive Gibsons. Although the tone adjustments have been simplified to a toggle between the three pickup combinations and an overall tone control for both pickups, this is not as big a deal as many might make of it. Given the vast array of other things that influence electric guitar sound — strings, amp choice and settings, effects pedals and so forth — the guitar sounds great as is.
The finish and general fit and balance of the guitar are great. There was a time when budget guitars screamed cheap and were quite obviously low class in a lot of areas. Those days are past with the Epiphone LP Special II.
All that said, there a few things to remember.
* The guitar comes with very light bendy strings. This is probably due to market data that tells Epiphone that the bulk of buyers for this guitar are teen Guitar Heros who think that string bending every note is an essential aspect of shredding and wailing. If you plan to put heavier strings on the guitar (like 12-51s for example) for jazz or other styles of music then you will probably need a truss rod adjustment to compensate for the added tension. If you don’t know how to do this, ask someone who does. You can ruin a guitar, permanently, by being too aggressive with a truss rod adjustment.
* The guitar has a mahogany neck, but a basswood body. Do not let anyone tell you this is a bad thing. Basswood is a completely acceptable wood for musical instruments. It is not worse or better than mahogany or maple. It is just different. Once again, the differences involved will probably be irrelevant when added into all the other things that players do with amps, strings and pedals to create tone and sound from an electric guitar.
* Epiphone has more than one factory making these guitars. One is in China, the other in is Indonesia. The guitars made by each are very close in every detail, but not exactly, perfectly the same.
* The Chinese examples of the sunburst model that I have seen have a slightly golden-orange tone to the sunburst pattern, more like the traditional sunburst color in American guitars. The Indonesian examples I have seen have a much more over all orange look. Basswood does not have a lot of visible grain. The example guitar shown in the official Epiphone product photos, the photos you see on most web sites like Amazon and Musician’s Friend and so forth, are probably a little optimistic when it comes to visible grain and the golden hued quality of the sunburst finish.
The Chinese examples I have seen tend to weigh more. One Indonesian model I saw weighed a full pound and half less than the Chinese model right next to it. There is not, unfortunately, any way to tell from the box or from the bar code or SKU number on the box what factory a given example inside the box came from. The system will deal out whatever is in stock at the moment.
The world is full of guys who will zero in on all the details they find inferior about this guitar by noting the rather obvious fact that this is not a Gibson Les Paul Standard costing $3,000.00. There are some people who will complain that this guitar has a bolt on neck. True, the set necks of the more expensive Epiphones and Gibsons are nicer. But, considering the fact that every Fender Stratocaster ever made had a bolt on neck, is this really a big deal? Would Jimi Hendrix have played “Purple Haze” better if his Strat had a set in neck? Probably not.
The guitar this model is probably closest to, in spirit and purpose, is not the Gibson Les Pauls but, rather, to the old Gibson Melody Maker guitars from the 60s. That said, this is a hell of lot more guitar for the money than any Melody Maker ever was, and adjusted for inflation, relative to what a Melody Maker would have cost you in 1968, for example, it is almost like Epiphone paying you to play it.
People listen to music, not guitars. Music is made by players, not by pickups and electronics. If you’re on a budget, this is an outstanding choice. If you’re not on a budget, it’s still a very good basic instrument. RECOMMENDED.
–When I received this Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst I discovered there are cracks in the wooden body, under the paint. I can tell that the wood was cracked before it was painted because the paint flows into the crack in one instance on the back, is visible up over the “shoulder” close to the strap peg and can be seen under the paint on the front.
In another instance the paint bridges a crack on back below the cutout shoulder and can be seen under the paint in the right light front and back. Is this normal? (There was no sign of shipping damage on either the outer carton or on the inner product box). Regarding playing, the bass strings buzz on the frets when fretted (not my fingers) which probably can be corrected by adjusting the bridge.
I was under the impression that Epiphone guitars were ready to use right out of the box, and have contacted Epiphone/Gibson company to advise on the cracks and the buzzing bass strings.
I am concerned that the cracks may get worse, and if this is this normal for a guitar in this low price range made in china,and I got a reply from Gibson Customer Service which said “We would need to see pictures, but it would be highly unusual if there actually were cracks in the wood. The set up on an instrument can shift during shipping and handling, so a new instrument may need to be set-up.” I will probably return this instrument and buy one in person from a music store where I can see and try the product before buying it.
Update:11-12-15. I discovered another crack in the vicinity off one of the screws that holds the neck on. I sent several pictures to Gibson Products/Epiphone a few days ago but have yet to receive a reply. It seems to be a pretty good guitar but I expected it to not be cracked. Guitar was made in China.
This guitar is not that expensive, relatively speaking. If you are on a budget, then this Les Paul is certainly a good pick. On Amazon, this guitar is for roughly $169.51.
Les Paul Family
As you all might know, the Les Paul Series is a huge family, and the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II is just a member of this family. And in case you’re interested, here’s a list of some of the other Les Paul’s:
Personally, I would give it a 4 out of 5 rating. For one, it doesn’t seem to be a poor pick for a starter. And it’s not that expensive.
Now, what is your rating of this Les Paul? Do you think it deserves the praise? Share with us in the comment section! And don’t forget to spread the word by sharing us on social media!