Gibson is one of the best guitar brands in the whole world. Their guitars, especially the Les Paul have been responsible of some of the most important moment in music history, however, these guitars are by far expensive, and not everyone can always afford a Gibson guitar, especially if you are not in the US.
If you are on a budget or maybe about to buy your first guitar and you do not feel like spending thousands of dollars, the next brand they are going to offer you is the Epiphone (Or Squier if you were browsing Fenders).
Epiphone is the economy brand from Gibson, they were merged more than three decades ago, and they have both been in the music news almost on a daily base.
Buying an “economy” guitar versus a main-brand guitar will have it obvious perks especially in sound quality. However the question is, how big is this gap?
Is there a difference?
Yes, yes and yes, unfortunately, there is no one in the world that will tell you that there is no difference, and if they are, they are either lying or wrong.
When comparing the model to model, there will be no physical difference; they will have the same materials, the same mics, the same fretboard, etc.
However, the quality of those materials will make a huge difference. It is like on any other matter in life, when you are buying food, when you are buying an economy class ticket versus a first-class ticket on a plane, sure they will both get you there, but the difference is the how!
The main quality difference will be in the mics and the wood of the fret.
With the mics you will find that the sound is much easier to understand, it does not feel pushed, you do not need to turn all the knobs up to 100% to get the sound out of it.
It will be the opposite, the mics will respond to almost any impulse, and you will see that the sound and the quality will be much more define by your playing than from the instrument.
And, like I have said a lot throughout these articles when you are pushing the sound chain, then you will see the final difference, this will be inarguable.
When you have to put distortion, a Wah, delay, etc. Then, if you do not have quality mics, you won’t be able to play anything that anyone will understand.
Regarding the wood of the fret, even if they are both made from the same material. When you put the quality on the table you will feel that high-quality frets are easy to play on, the feel is very loose, and that you have no “obstacles” while moving up and down the fret.
On the other hand, when you are playing on a low-quality guitar, the fret is more of your enemy than your friend. It is not easy to bend, to play fast or to make nice transition effects in between notes.
Maybe you can’t tell the difference if you haven’t played on the high-quality guitar, but when you do, you will know what I am talking about.
If you are playing on an Epiphone and you want to feel the difference, just go to your local store and ask to try one, then you know that I haven’t been lying to you.
The conclusion, in this case, is simple, there is no musician on earth that will defend hand to hand, head to head, an Epiphone versus a Gibson, but for sure what you will hear is “well, given the price…”
This can be a valid argument, given the price you are getting a lot when you are buying an Epiphone.
You are still getting the classical sound alike of Gibson, you are getting the humbuckers if you are choosing a Les Paul, but in the end, you are always losing the quality of sound.
I think the biggest difference is when you start to push the guitar to the limit with a highly complex sound.
Maybe clean to clean comparison is not as bad as you may think (There is still a difference), but when you start adding to your signal chain some overdrive or distortion, things will start to feel different.
If when adding distortion, things start to feel the difference, imagine when you also add a Wah, a delay, a chorus, an octave pedal, etc. Then I can assure you no matter which notes you will play on your Epi they will all sound the same, something similar will happen with chords, they will be impossible to understand.
On the other hand, when playing a Gibson, it will be the exact opposite. When playing clean you may feel like, ok I spend so much money and it sounds the same, but go ahead and try to push the Gibson to the limit!
Look for videos online of the best rock shows in history (I recommend Comfortably Numb Solo in Roger Waters the Wall Live from Berlin).
You will see a number of effects on that guitar and just look at the musician’s hand and then listen to the sound; you will see that each note is different, that each bending is understandable and more!
Gibson’s are Gibson’s and by far superior from Epiphone, however the only time I would recommend buying an Epiphone even if you do not have any money issues is if you are just starting to play guitar.
This may be the only time in which you should focus on learning instead of sound quality, no offense but, you will still don’t realize the difference.
Once you are going at it for real, go to your local shop and buy the Gibson!
Hope to see you again for our next post. If there is anything you would like us to know, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will gladly answer all your questions and comments.