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Epiphone & Gibson - whats the difference?


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Originally posted by guitar?:

I am struggling to find any major differences between the two apart from the price. can anyone plz help? cheers

Epiphone is the budget subsidary of Gibson, mostly made in Korea and other foreign nations, while Gibsons are made here in the states in Michigan and Tennessee, I believe. While Gibsons are a sure bet, Epiphones are of not necessarily lower quality, but are less consistent in their workmanship. Play a bunch and surely you'll find a gem.


I've found that Epiphones often have lesser quality electronics, and pretty shotty wiring, and are generally bolt-on necks instead of set-necks or neck-throughs. But I'm itching to get my hands on an Alpine White Epiphone Les Paul Custom to drop some 496R/500T (Explorer/Flying V) pickups in.

\m/ Timothy Lyons
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gibson- choice woods and all american hardware

ephiphone - usually several pieces instead of two for the body, and a veneer cap of maple on top of alder for the arch top, the epi and gibson both use set necks, unless you buy the ultra cheap epi's. the hardware is similar but not 100% exchangable between the two brands. if i owned an epi i would install some seymour duncans and sperzel tuners and some quality pots and switches to get it up to spec. some epi's are very nice ie: the japanese made epiphone elite series. top notch guitars check them out on the epiphone website. :thu:

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There is some information and some mis-information on this thread.


  1. Gibson electric guitars are indeed made in the U.S., but in Nashville and Memphis. (Acoustics built in Bozeman, Montana and OAI {Original Acoustic Instruments} and Custom Shop models made in Nashville, as well.) Epiphone guitars are currently made in Korea, with a few USA models assembled in Nashville. {edit} I forgot to mention that Epi Elites, as was previously mentioned, are of Japanese manufacture. {end edit}
  2. Epiphone bodies are not made of the same quality wood as "identical" Gibson models. The veneer someone described in a previous post is, actually, a thinner version of the same type of maple cap that is used on Gibson models. No "photo-flame" tops on Epi's.
  3. Hardware is different on most models. But Gibson does not use U.S. hardware on most guitars. The leading hardware companies are German, and Gibson uses Gotoh vintage style tuners (albeit under their own name) and Grover modern style tuners. I don't know who manufactures Gibson bridges, but I'm unaware of the Elgin plant's involvement.
  4. Most Epi's have "Gibson designed" pickups, built overseas. Gibson is one of the few manufacturers who still wind their own pickups. Unless otherwise stated, all Gibson's use pickups manufactured by their Elgin, Il plant. 16 models from 10 category types are available as aftermarket replacement pickups.
  5. FINISH! Epiphone products, by and large, use modern acrylic type finishes, while Gibson guitars are finished in nitrocelulose materials. This is the finish that's been used on Gibson guitars for over 5 decades. They still believe it allows more character in timbre from the body and neck wood, but it's also used for it's ability to connect a new Gibson to heralded vintage instruments of the past. $$$-drenched collectors want their "new-vintage" intruments to be manufactured as closely as possible to the way they were made in "the good ole' days". ;)
  6. There are exceptions to these rules that deliberately blur the lines of what an Epi is vs. what a Gibson is. The Epi Elitest line incorporates USA made pickups, but they're different than those actually used on Gibson models. The Elitest Standard Plus has Grover tuners, as well. It also includes a bone nut. Most Epi's have cheap plastic nuts, and Gibson uses Delrin. The same Delrin plastic used by some pic manufacturers.

As you can see, there are several distinct differences between the two, but as many people have opined on this forum, if you like the feel and sound of an Epi version, and aren't buying for investment, they are fine instruments.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman




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true, true fantasticsound. i mentioned the veneer. the actual wood underneath the "flametop" is alder, which is carved to the arch and a thin laver of atractive flame maple applied. which is quite different then a full thickness maple top. sorry about the confusion on the hardware, my main point is they are not only different manufacturers but different spec as well. i believe the bridge pieces are non exchangable. as long as the pieces are a good quality metal and attached solidly i wouldn't sweat the hardware, but i would upgrade all pots, switches and pickups. epi,s are lightyears ahead of guitars when i was a teen. a young player has so many more options now.
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i have heard stories of the extra work involved in retrofitting epi's with gibson spec parts. on the note of the bolt on epi's ..epiphone states the body wood of the series as alder/ mahogany laminate, is this a clever way of saying PLYWOOD? on the subject of the elite series, guitar player did a bench test of them in a recent mag and the parts are suposed to be solid , so i don't think an elite would require much for mods. except for dual seymour duncan 59's. i am anxiously waitng for the elite series to hit my local store, up here (canada) a gibson les paul goes for 3 grand. more than i will ever spend on one guitar. :(
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I'm not a collector, I just like an axe that inspires me with the way it plays and sounds.

I recently picked up an older Joe Pass Epi that has opened up my creative juices like no guitar has for a long time. She does everything I want her to. After all , that's what it's all about. I have always had a penchant for hollow bodies, but I find this particular JP much mor einspiring than my buddy's L5.

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