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Epiphone or Gibson? The Art of Choosing Your Les Paul Icon

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For music fans and guitarists, the  legendary Gibson Les Paul is probably as recognisable as Superman’s logo, Michael Jordan or any other icon from the pop culture of the westernised world. It’s no surprise that millions of guitar lovers, collectors and musicians around the world covet this marvel of an instrument with an almost obsessive passion.


First appearing on the stage in 1952, the Les Paul family of electric guitars has helped shape the sound of popular music for more than 70 years. With its rich, thick tones, midrange-focus and its unrivalled ability to sustain notes, the original opened up a significantly richer playing and listening experience... which took a little while for guitarists to understand and take advantage of! It wasn't until Eric Clapton (and an almost accidental combination of guitar and amp) hit the fans ears with John Mayall and the Blues Breakers album "Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton" aka the "Beano Album", in 1966 with a  1960 Les Paul Sunburst suddenly found their niche and expanded their habitat from there. The Le Paul's musical attributes have had a huge impact on the sound of rock, metal, blues and virtually every other genre offshoot we know today. If you’re trying to decide whether to go Gibson or Epiphone, to buy your very first Les Paul, then you’re in the right place. Here’s a quick comparison to help with that decision; on which Les Paul guitar to choose:

The Brands – When it comes to Les Paul brands, you only have two choices: Epiphone or Gibson. What you need to know, though, is the fact that Epiphone is wholly owned by Gibson—meaning that the guitars they carry can indeed follow the same specs as the origanal Gibson offerings. When it comes to sound (the foremost metric in this comparison), however, an Epiphone Les Paul isn’t really on a par with its Gibson counterpart.

Choosing between an Epiphone and a Gibson Les Paul is hugely affected by your own circumstances. There is a huge price differential between the two cousins! If you’re a hobby guitarist who plays purely for personal enjoyment, a beginner; or if you can’t justify the price of a Gibson, then go for an Epiphone. On the other hand, you'll probably go for a Gibson if you’re a professional musician, you're looking to upgrade, or you're looking for something that’ll last. Maybe you’ve just wanted one for so long and you finally have the cash to spare.

The Offerings – There are several recognised Les Paul models, with each type catering to a specific audience. The Junior is intended as an affordable, entry-level offering; the Standard is meant for more experienced and advanced players,with the  renowned Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus being a pretty popular one; the Traditional is meant for those who admire the vintage, original look, feel and full weight resonance!

There's also a whole stable of special variants of the Les Paul available. Most well known are the Signature line, which feature guitars with inputs and specifications that mirror the tweaks made by famous artists. Recent models include the Gibson Custom Shop Ronnie Wood (http://www.rainbowmusic.co.uk/gibson-custom-ronnie-wood-l5-s-electric-guitar/ ) Epiphone's Zakk Wylde Bull’s Eye (http://www.rainbowmusic.co.uk/epiphone-les-paul-zakk-wylde-signature-bullseye-custom-plus/), or our Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Standard Outfit in Pelham Blue, amongst a galaxy of other star specials. When it comes to choosing which way to go, you must have a clear idea what you want from your next axe!.

Still struggling to make up your mind?, come and visit us at Rainbow Music, in Carlisle if you are near enough and you might even find yourself in our YouTube hall of fame! One thing we do promise thoughis that we won't pus you intoo buying the unsuitable guitar, Kevin will simply lend you his expert advice and leave it to you to choose the guitar of your dreams.

(Source: The Les Paul Buying Guide, The Hub, January 8, 2014)