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2020: The Year Epiphone Killed Gibson 😌


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That's it. That's the whole entire post. 

2020 is Epiphone's best model year yet. Anyone who seems surprised by this reality hasn't been paying attention to the amazing quality Epiphone has been steadily putting out . Especially over the past five years or so.

This year we have all the incredible Les Pauls. Including the revamped Prophecy line. The Masterbilt Texan, along with the Frontier and Excellente models that were reissued. Same as the Coronet and the Wilshire.  Now the latest Inspired By Gibson Electrics: ES-335s and Figured ES-335s and the Acoustics: Hummingbird, SJ-200, and the J45. 

There's never been a better time to play Epiphone. And that's going to be the case for years to come. 

Because now there's literally no reason to burn thousands of dollars for a Gibson, just to have that brand on the headstock. Epiphone is literally doing it all. With quality that is just as good, if not consistently better.

I say all this as a proud Gibson Les Paul Studio (Faded, 2011) owner. I say this as someone who has tried various Gibson acoustics and electrics this year with persistent quality control issues and overall unimpressive feel and looks. I say this as a happy and proud Epi player of four years.

Epiphone has finally reclaimed its throne as the original brand that gave Gibson such a run for their money. Maybe they'll even be kind enough to bail out or acquire Gibson this time 😉

I'm sure there's still going to be those guitar snobs who still cling to their Gibson brand. Tearfully, hysterically insisting that Gibson must surely still be better. Even if the new Epiphones play, sound, and even look the exact same as their overpriced counter parts.

The best thing about 2020  is that Epiphone has shown that there's no justification for needlessly paying thousands for a quality instrument. It's always been this way if we're being honest with ourselves.

It's about time, too. 2020 Epiphone is perfect.

 

Edited by Viktorija Arsic
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I love my epiphone guitars, they represent 70% of my collection and span a build period of 12 years fro. Korea China and Indonesia. 

But let's be serious here, my gibson is far superior in every way. Granted it is a custom shop, but it was a little over twice the cost of my most expensive epiphone. It resonates in a way you only get from one peice bodys and one peice necks. Its just better and the feeling is a step up in class.

I also notice that the price of epiphones seems to be jumping higher, £800 for a j200, I paid £350 in 2010

I will never part with my union jack sheraton and am considering a new riviera when they become available. But to be honest if you've never played a gibson that was better than an epiphone, you've played the wrong gibsons.

Let's just appreciate them all for what they are, they all have there place in history and the future and don't forget its someone at gibson making the epiphone decisions nowadays.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to share your thoughts!

It’s wonderful that you appreciate Epiphone, with quite a collection yourself. And I totally understand where you’re coming from. 

But I stand behind my opinion. In fact, you’ve proved the point of my post: there’s always going to be someone who insists that Gibson is better–no matter how Epiphone manages to impress again and again, proving that thousands of dollars does not make a superior instrument.

 I am being very serious. I respectfully disagree that a Gibson is “just better and the feeling is a step up in class.” Please consider why you’re saying this: you admit that it’s a Custom Shop, something you’ve paid thousands of dollars for. In your mind of course it absolutely must sound better than it’s far more affordable counterpart.

Otherwise, if you admit that there isn’t such a substantial difference, then what’s the point of paying thousands? What’s the point of a brand name? How could you justify the price then? Didn’t you just waste all that money on something so frivolous when it’s far more affordable counterpart is just as good?

Of course, you wouldn’t admit that. Players who have money to burn and choose to spend it on the Gibson brand name never will admit that. Because it proves my point. 

Along these lines, Epiphone prices have gone up for sure. Why? Because demand for Epiphone has increased. Why? Because they’re putting out fantastic, high quality, phenomenal instruments. Epiphone is actually listening to their players. They’re implementing feedback. Continuing to innovate. And provide value that is simply unbeatable. 

Even with the price increase Epiphone remains affordable. And the price increase is justifiable for these reasons. 

Gibson is a production line guitar that Gibson charges hand-made prices for. That in and of itself is unjustifiable. Not to mention that a quick look around Glassdoor or Trustpilot will reveal just how disgruntled, unhappy, and resentful Gibson employees (and customers) are due to the awful hours, inadequate pay, and intractable management at Gibson, where they're forced to churn out half-assed guitars.

Nothing screams wage-slave capitalism quite like a bloated corporation paying its workers a pittance while selling snakeoil reputation to highly impressionable players (most with a terrible mid-life crisis) willing to pay thousands and thousands to stroke their fragile egos. 

Now lots of people like yourself want to whine that Epiphone products are made in China and under similarly sketchy circumstances. Epiphone guitars are largely made in Indonesian factories since late 2016 and this continues to be the case.  As for factory conditions, Epiphone factory tours show acceptable conditions, probably comparable to Gibson factories (all issues probably included) except with more self-discipline that's a hallmark of many Asian cultures.

“But to be honest if you've never played a gibson that was better than an epiphone, you've played the wrong gibsons.”

I don’t know how to wrap my mind around such a smug statement. I’ve  been playing for ten years. I’ve played plenty of Gibsons (and Epiphones, Taylors, and Martins) at Long and McQuade, which is the biggest music store franchise in Canada. It’s basically the equivalent of America’s Guitar Centre, where I’ve also played my fair share of these guitars. I’ve also played in some boutique guitar stores here and there. My impression of Gibson is the same: it’s overrated, inconsistent quality, and not possible to justify the insane prices. 

If the Gibsons in those places aren’t good enough, where on earth am I supposed to be playing to find the “right” Gibsons you hold in such high regard? What Gibsons should I be playing, before it’s good enough for you? I’m afraid they only exist in your mind. 

Like imagine walking up to a player who is just starting their guitar journey (or even if they’ve been playing for a long time) and declaring that their Epiphone isn’t a real instrument or it isn’t good enough until they’ve spent thousands and thousands on it. I hope you realize how ridiculous and condescending that is.  

And let’s not forget Gibson’s “Play Authentic” scandal last year. You exemplify the attitude. Gibson threatened to sue other (more successful) manufacturers like PRS and FGN and even Harley Benton for “copying”their single cut design. That’s absurd. They threatened to sue players that didn’t play Gibson. They publicly shamed them as well. 

The backlash was so bad that the Play Authentic video with Gibson CEO Mark Agnessi was taken down promptly. It’s still on the internet though, for people to remember and reference when they need a reminder why Gibson has earned resentment. 

Gibson literally marketed the same thing you’re saying to me: if you don’t pay thousands for a brand name, what you’re playing isn’t good enough. 

The irony is delicious. Because Gibson took over the Les Paul patent from Epiphone, who originally designed those single cut guitars with Les Paul himself. Epiphone is the Original Les Paul, played and endorsed by the man himself. That little fact seems to get lost in the mists of history. 

You mention the importance of history. Gibson is banking on its nostalgia and a history that prefers to smudge over the Epiphone chapter. 

In the 1930s Epiphone was innovating and delivering quality in every single way with its arch top designs. They became a serious threat to Gibson. Epiphone pre-dated Gibson, with an already stellar reputation of making acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, and arch tops. By 1935 Epiphone was regarded as the best guitar manufacturer in the world. They got a huge distribution deal with a London distributor and launched their first ever electric guitar series the same year. Epiphone was seemingly unstoppable and had achieved all this success before Gibson. 

Then WWII happened. Family feuds meddled with the future of the Epiphone company. Gibson wanted a share of Epiphone’s acclaimed upright bass line, and the remaining Epiphone brother sold the company to Gibson for $20,000. Gibson bought their biggest competition to stop them from overtaking Gibson. 

Epiphone then relaunched in 1958. It was Gibson who decided that Epiphone should now make “budget conscious” versions of Gibson designs, as well as reluctantly allowing them to make some of their own originals. That production philosophy still exists today, except as I said, 2020 is the year Epiphone has once again eclipsed Gibson. 

Similar things happened again to Gibson in the 1970s and Ibanez, with the infamous “lawsuit era.” Like Play Authentic, Gibson went after Ibanez for copying the aesthetic and delivering quality at very affordable prices. This is just a corporate bully tactic that Gibson has relied on to get ahead. That’s it’s place in history. 

Most importantly, this history lesson demonstrates that history is now repeating itself. Once again, Gibson has fallen from grace. Other manufacturers are doing the same thing (and/or better) at a price that is highly competitive. The direct example of this is Epiphone, which is literally stealing Gibson’s thunder in every way. 

You’re right to point out that the new Gibson CEO JC Curleigh is putting an emphasis on Epiphone and stepping up quality. It’s notable that he replaced Agnessi shortly after the Play Authentic scandal.  But it’s Jim Rosenberg who is the President of Epiphone. He’s the one actually calling the shots, not Gibson. Sterling Doak is the Director of Marketing and Don Mitchell is the Marketing Manager of Epiphone. All Epiphone folks who make executive decisions for Epiphone. 

All of this is to say, I think your ill-informed opinion and smugness towards Epiphone has no basis. 

I love and appreciate Epiphone in every single way. I love my Gibson Les Paul Studio, too. But let’s be serious, as you say: if you still maintain that Gibson is better than Epiphone (especially in 2020) you’re just choosing to be willfully blind and needing to justify the money you spent on a glorified headstock logo. 

Edited by Viktorija Arsic
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You read too much into a reply.

First let me correct some mistakes.

I didn't say my custom shop 'sounds better I said it feels better. Once plugged in, its all down to electrics which can come down to preferences and fitting a need.

Its a feel in the hand that if you haven't experienced you won't get, and frankly if your going looking at guitars with the mindset displayed, there's no point. You won't like something you set out to dislike.

From a price point I paid £750 for my most expensive epiphone, my gibson custom was £1600. Like I said a little over double and it truly is noticeable. That is not a slight on my epiphone, it is near faultless,its just made cheaper and it shows.

I also didn't say that an epiphone isn't a real instrument, I own 7 epiphones. One made in Korea, one Indonesia and five in China, all brilliant instruments. 

ALL manufacturers in every business have some bad QC, and unhappy staff. Believe it or not happy staff and happy customers rarely leave reviews.

I also don't particularly care where my guitars are made. I'm in the UK, I have no real preference, but if any I would lean toward Korea . However the majority of epiphone electric guitars are made in the epiphone factory in Quingdao China, not Indonesia.

Les paul made what is known as 'the log' at epiphones factory in New York, but it was dismissed by Gibson. It was reworked between 1950-51 in conjunction with les paul who was employed by Gibson at the time.

As for patent and trademarks, I assume someone as educated as yourself is aware of what your beloved epiphone is currently doing to smaller independent builders such as satellite, with regards to the coronet? How do you feel about that and your ridicule of the play authentic? I am interested in your thoughts on this particularly as you claim Gibson have little control over epiphones dealings.

Also you say when Gibson saved epiphone, they were pushed to make copies of Gibson models. This started a lot latter, don't disregard what many believe to be the glory days of epiphone the 60's, the casino and sheraton from this time period alone are some of the highest regarded instruments. 

 

I am very far from an epiphone hater or a Gibson fan boy. I am a realist. The instruments have they're place. I will buy epiphone again and am happy to hear people having good experiences. However one success does not automatically need to turn into a justification for why one is 'better' than the other. I would never offer my opinion in regards Gibson on an epiphone board unless I was asked, as you did.

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I wished I had jumped on the Hummingbird 12 string when they hit GC and Musician's Friend. They are now on back order. and at 48 months same as cash financing, That was a no brainer. Oh well, I just have to enjoy my Frontier until they restock and offer the 48 months again.

 

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I have been an Epiphone fan since I got my first one in 64. I have had a few of the early Epiphone solid bodies and loved them. The cost of guitars today is crazy when compared to what I paid in the early 60's. But if you dead set on owning a Gibson, Fender or Rick etc. you won't be happy till you get the right label, like owning a Gucci bag. In the US it seems we pay more for our products than anyone else does. If you travel to other countries this will become very apparent. 

I sold my Gibsons after moving to Hawaii because I found the Nitro wasn't holding up very well in the high humidity and started acquiring mid to upper level Epiphones with P90's, of which I have gone through several in my quest to find the best configuration for me.

Edited by mihcmac
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I bought a new 2017 Gibson LP Tribute, it was $800usd. It just didn't seem to be finished very good. I know it's their cheapest LP, but I wasn't impressed, just felt dull. I sold it and bought a used, mint 2015 Epiphone LP Traditional Pro Plus Top, it was $300. It instantly felt better, the action felt better, lively. To me it just feels like a much more refined guitar. So lately, I've been. looking at Epi instead of Gibson. I'm looking at an older acoustic.

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