I'm considering buying a good Les Paul guitar, but as I'm limited by my budget (not willing to drop 4 of my monthly wages on a gibson les paul), I'm looking at the Epiphone Les Pauls.
I've found that there is an LP Tribute series of Epi guitars, which are supposed to be top-of-the-line Epiphone guitars, with true gibson pickups and other decent hardware that sound and feel really good, closely resembling the Gibsons.
There are not many shops around here that sell Epiphones, but luckily one of them is nearby, and is the biggest. I went there yesterday and saw three different Epi LP 60' Tribute Plus' hanging on the wall: a faded cherry burst, a vintage sunburst and a blacky-brownish-something-not-burst. They all looked pretty good from a glance. However on close inspection I saw that the faded cherry one had scratched fretboard and its strap buttons were screwed in at a disgustingly wrong angle. The strap buttons on the blacky-brownish one were off, too, but not as much. The vintage sunburst guitar had them at the most... straight angle of them all. So I asked the shop assistant to let me try the vintage sunburst model.
After playing it for a bit I noticed that playing at the 1st-to-4th frets was causing my bends to grind against the frets. It was mostly ok closer to the body, but those first 4 frets at the headstock were really annoying to play at.
Then I started messing around with the volume & tone knobs. Quickly I realised that they too, just like the strap buttons, were placed at a bad angle and made a noticeably crooked motion when turned, all four of them. The volume knob was not working as I knew it. It made no decrease in volume from 10 to 8, then suddenly made the volume drop from 8 and down, and shut off for good at 2-3.
The fretboard had some scratchy lines on it, too ("wood pores, totally normal", - said the salesman). Actually, the salesman parried all of my arguments and only acknowledged the awful placement of strap buttons on the cherry burst model. Well, I did not want to argue, but I knew he was bull****ting me.
He, however, wanted to sell me the Gibson LPJ, which costs around the same (~50 bucks more), and told me that I'd get much more value for my money that way. He handed the guitar to me, and it looked quite ugly and its body was rough to the touch, like it did not have any finish or wasn't properly polished. The knobs behaved better on it though, if I remember correctly, but I was not paying much attention at that point.
Loved the sound on both, though. I think I'm secretly a Les Paul guy.
But I left the shop in shock, and almost in a state of depression. I really wanted to buy a Les Paul, but the quality of those guitars presented was so off-putting. I have a Korean B.C. Rich guitar that is perfectly built. I did not expect anything less from the best models Epiphone can offer.
So I came here to ask the knowledgeable folk:
1. Is it normal for Epi LP Tribute Pluses, the top Epiphone guitars, which are not that cheap at all, to have such glaring assembly issues? I could not find absolutely anything about crooked knobs or scratched fretboard in the reviews.
2. The Epiphones are made in China, right? Could they be shipping second(third?)-grade products here? I live in Russia, by the way.
3. Am I too nitpicky?