Consider this my blanket review of all Epiphone guitars in general. At least it was in 2007. Maybe things have changed, but I still don’t like Epiphone. I used to go to Guitar Center a lot to check out the guitars they had on hand. I liked to check out a bunch of guitars through different amps. I bought one guitar there (in those days), but now I mainly buy them online. In 2007 I found a cool deal on Musicians Friend on a Epiphone Dot Studio guitar. The Dot Studio is basically a budget version of the very expensive and legendary ES335 (several thousands of dollars). This guitar was awesome! It was black on black, and those humbuckers just screamed through my Marshall! It had lots of tone, and was very light (which is great on stage). I loved that guitar…for awhile.
After I gigged it out a few times, the bridge volume know fell inside the body cavity, held on by only the volume knob itself. The nut had come loose. I popped off the volume knob while holding on to the pot pliers, tightened up the nut, and that was that. I tightened up all the other volume and tone knobs too. This was the first time I began to feel like Epiphone was a really low quality guitar. I’d never seen a brand new guitar, direct from the factory with loose volume knobs. In fact, I’d never owned a guitar for years where the volume knobs got loose on their own.
So I gigged this black Dot Studio out like 6 or 7 times. I noticed one night that the input jack nut was coming loose. I tightened it up by hand and all was well for the night. But that made me take notice of the input jack from that point forward. I always checked at home and before gigs….and ended up hand tightening it all the time. It was as terrible pain, and I don’t know why they didn’t install a locknut or lock washer at the factory. Long story short, it had to be tightened so many times that it caused one of the wires attached internally to the input jack to start to short out, and eventually just fall off. I ended up buying an AllParts input jack new at Guitar Center and soldering it back in myself. The guitar was ok…..for awhile.
On stage I switch from bridge to neck pickup a lot depending on the song. I started to notice at first a crackle, and then sometimes just cutting out going from neck to bridge. I would have to switch it back once or twice before it kicked in. I’ve never had problems like that before on a new guitar – that told me it was a cheap input jack. I had already noticed when I soldered in the new input jack how thin the internal wiring of the guitar was (compared to others I had taken apart). Problems with the wiring, and the switch dragged on for months. When I installed the new input jack I had put a few dots of gorilla glue at the edge of the nut to keep it from coming loose again. Eventually I sold the guitar when I had owned it just under a year. I ended up buying the Ibanez Artcore I play as my main guitar now in it’s place.
I have not had a single problem with the Ibanez that I had with the Epiphone, and it has the input jack on the tail just like the Epiphone did. And I can see inside the F-holes of the guitar that the wiring is significantly thicker than it was on the Epiphone. My only complaint with the Artcore is that the pickups aren’t nearly as biting or clear as they were on that Dot Studio. I have a friend that loves Epiphones. He’s tried to tell me that maybe the one I had was just a lemon. I disagree because I’ve seen it with my own eyes in person. I have played dozens of Epiphones in 3 different guitar centers and various music shops. Each and ever one has had loose knobs and or input jack. Also, the setup and quality is very hit or miss.
Here’s a prime example. I went to Guitar Center and played several instruments. I saw this one guitar that was stunning from afar. It has natual laquer and wood, beautiful finish, semi-hollow body 335 type guitar. As I got up on it I saw it was indeed an Epiphone Dot Studio. Being a glutton for punishment I picked it off the rack and plugged it in. It played nice. In face it screamed, and was full of tone. And in this newer model, the input jack had been moved from the tail to the top just right of the bridge. The input jack was tight. I tuned it up and played. Nice action, nice feeling neck, even the toggle switch for neck and bridge was a newer kind and seemed better. Then I switched from neck to bridge and went to turn the volume up for that pickup…and it turned around, and around, and around, and around. The nut had become loose and fallen off that volume. I check the others, and they were also indeed loose.
I played a flame top Epiphone Les Paul last weekend, and it’s input jack and volume knobs were loose (and the action was terrible). I played two Dot Studios that were on clearance and the action was way off the fingerboard, and one had a blemish on the headstock. Loose volume knobs as well. The wost was 2 months ago when I was very interested in getting an SG. SG’s are very expensive, so I of course checked out the Epiphone SG’s (I know – idiot, duh!). They had this one that was white with gold hardware, triple humbucker. Beautiful guitar…nice action, good setup – I liked it a lot. It was on clearance for $340 – a bargain (so I thought!). I plugged it in and tried the neck pickup – nice! I switched to bridge, and no sound! I turned every volume and tone knob on 10 – still no sound! The mid pickup switch was the same. This guitar only had volume on the neck pickup! I thought this guitar was so nice, that I was willing to get it fixed if need be. I took it over to the department manager looking for a deal. He said “no way – it’s already on clearance”. I said “but wait, it’s broken – the wiring is bad and you’re selling is as ‘new’!”. He wasn’t willing to budge one iota on the price. They also weren’t willing to fix it, I had to buy the guitar AND PAY FOR the repair! I was pissed and ended up not buying the guitar. I don’t care if it was clearance or not – they didn’t even know the wiring was bad until I brought it up to them! It’s not like it had been labeled “as-is”. How can you sell something as brand new that’s broken, and not be willing to send it back to the factory?
See a pattern here? Every Epihpone I pick up in any store, any make or model has a problem or a blemish. The quality is so low, I would never again take one (without gutting it) as a stage guitar. If they can’t even make sure the hardware is tight and the electrical connections are good, and spend an extra $2.50 on a quality switch and input jack – I am not interested in buying an Epiphone guitar EVER AGAIN!! The ONLY way I would consider it would be if it were on extreme clearance (less than $300), and I was going to have it rewired with new knobs, switch, and input jack! If you are considering an Epiphone guitar – BUYER BEWARE!! Look for the things I have pointed out. You will get much more for your money if you take a look at other mid-range priced guitars from Fender, Ibanez, Jackson, Paul Reed Smith (the LTD line), ESP, Dean, or others. I will be reviewing many of these guitars in the future to give you as much information as possible!
Have a comment? Love or Hate Epiphones? Please – comment now and join the discussion!