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2020: The Year Epiphone Killed Gibson 😌


Viktorija Arsic

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I just got an Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard in Aged Dark Burst and this thing is phenomenal. Right out of the box it’s perfect in every way and i have yet to find even the smallest flaw. Maybe i’ll find one eventually but for $849 how can I complain? The neck and frets are fantastic. The electronics are solid and sound amazing. The finish is gorgeous. I love my Gibson Les Paul Special with P90s, and it plays better than any guitar i’ve ever owned, but my new Epiphone LP is right there with it for a lot less money. Hell it may even play better once i get better strings on it (I haven’t even taken off the stock factory strings yet).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I played an Epiphone Les Paul Special in a shop last week and it was stunningly good. Faultless finish and palyed beautifully. It costs 359 euro... The Gibson version costs 4 times the price and to me was practically the same. I have Gibsons, Custom Shop Fenders, Mex Fenders, Epiphone Lucille, Gretsch 5420TG and a Martin acoustic and this guitar will join the stable very soon.

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So I have spent some time with new Gibsons and Epiphones,  I have the Epi 50's Standard, Gibson 50's Standard, Epi 59, Gibson 60's Standard, Gibson 61 SG, and a Gibson LP Jr.

All are 2021 or 2022 guitars, head to head the 50's Standards are both incredible guitars the Gibson has a little more sparkle to it in the clean tones, but the Epi has the long neck tenon, there are trade offs between them, but there is no doubt that the new Epis are serious contenders and the best bang for the buck.

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I was excited to see the reissue Crestwood when it was announced and bought one last month, in cherry. This is my first Epiphone electric after 50+ years of playing almost  nothing but Gibson and Fender, and I have been very pleasantly surprised by the build quality; good component choice too-GraphTech and CTS. There is nothing 'cheap' or substandard about the guitar, and I was impressed to see how well the frets had been crowned and polished, with nicely rounded and smooth ends on the rolled edge fretboard. I also have the excellent Masterbilt Texan, but that's another story.

Edited by AndrewG
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  • 7 months later...

Other than no fret nibs on the neck edge binding( USA Casino aside)  the current Epis are almost as nice as Gibsons. Depending on the model, some have USA electronics too.

Gibson hit their golden years in the 90s with the historic and Artist series of guitars, but they did not sell as well as anticipated.   Epiphone followed with some very nice archtops and their version of a poor mans L-5, the Emperor Regent.  Today, both Epi and Gibson have curtailed and in many cases ceased production altogether of some of their more iconic guitars, but both companies still make  many versions of the Les Paul.  But how ironic is it that both Gibson, and Epiphone, who vied for the archtop acoustic guitar market in the 1930s-40S, both no longer produce acoustic archtops.    The acoustic archtop is what made both Epipnone and Gibson famous, and yet they have even dropped the  budget ES-175.  Times and peoples tastes change things but who would have ever though that we would see the day that Epiphone and Gibson  quit making their signature archtop acoustic , and acoustic electric guitars.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/31/2023 at 6:47 PM, Ceptorman said:

New Vox AC10C1 arrived late today. It looks better than I thought it would.

I have Gibson Les Pauls.. One with P90’s, one with, MHS & one 490R & 498T Pups.. All great sounding Guitars.. I have a few Fender & Vox Amps.. All great..

But, they’re big, bulky & more than I need most of the time.. My main go to Amps are a Fender 65 PRRI & a recent Vox AC10C1 that I modded.. It was a Special run from Sweetwater that came a Celestion Greenback Speaker which sounded good. I upgraded the Tubes to JJ’s which a big improvement in Sound. Then I read about about a Special design Weber speaker for AC10’s that sounds like a Celestion Alnico Blue.. I bought & installed it. It almost sounds as good as my AC-15 with UK Celestion Alnico Blue.. which is a really great sounding Amp..

The AC-10C1’s being closed back won’t accommodate some Speakers & Celestion doesn’t make a 10” Alnico Blue.. It is a very simple Amp to work on.. And only uses 4 Tubes. Not too expensive to replace & amazing considering these Amps have Reverb. So it was an inexpensive Mod job.. I think Tubes & Speaker cost $150.00. Plus 45 minutes of simple labor… But, turned it into a top notch Amp…

Congrats on your new Les Paul & AC-10C1! Enjoy.. BTW P90’s sound really good thru these Amps too!

Edited by Larsongs
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11 hours ago, Larsongs said:

I have Gibson Les Pauls.. One with P90’s, one with, MHS & one 490R & 498T Pups.. All great sounding Guitars.. I have a few Fender & Vox Amps.. All great..

But, they’re big, bulky & more than I need most of the time.. My main go to Amps are a Fender 65 PRRI & a recent Vox AC10C1 that I modded.. It was a Special run from Sweetwater that came a Celestion Greenback Speaker which sounded good. I upgraded the Tubes to JJ’s which a big improvement in Sound. Then I read about about a Special design Weber speaker for AC10’s that sounds like a Celestion Alnico Blue.. I bought & installed it. It almost sounds as good as my AC-15 with UK Celestion Alnico Blue.. which is a really great sounding Amp..

The AC-10C1’s being closed back won’t accommodate some Speakers & Celestion doesn’t make a 10” Alnico Blue.. It is a very simple Amp to work on.. And only uses 4 Tubes. Not too expensive to replace & amazing considering these Amps have Reverb. So it was an inexpensive Mod job.. I think Tubes & Speaker cost $150.00. Plus 45 minutes of simple labor… But, turned it into a top notch Amp…

Congrats on your new Les Paul & AC-10C1! Enjoy.. BTW P90’s sound really good thru these Amps too!

Thanks for the info. I've read some articles about replacing the speaker, and/or the tubes. Opinions were on both sides. Is there any break in time on this speaker? Many home speakers benefit from a break in. This is my first new amp purchase, everything else was used. I'll probably play with it for a while before I do any mods, then I'll do one mod at a time.

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20 minutes ago, Ceptorman said:

Thanks for the info. I've read some articles about replacing the speaker, and/or the tubes. Opinions were on both sides. Is there any break in time on this speaker? Many home speakers benefit from a break in. This is my first new amp purchase, everything else was used. I'll probably play with it for a while before I do any mods, then I'll do one mod at a time.

Yes, most Speakers require breaking periods… There are lots of opinions on this.. I just play a couple hours everyday & in a month or so it should be broken in.. IMO…

I own a great sounding Vox AC15CC1X with 12” Celestion Alnico Blue speaker.. It’s fairly big, heavy & loud! Great for medium & large gigs..

I wanted a smaller Vox. Similar in size to my Fender Princeton Reverb.. Small, light, great for most applications & easy to travel with.. Perfect sized all around Amp..

I played the stock AC10C1 & liked everything about it but wasn’t overly impressed with the stock Speaker.. Then I saw Sweetwater’s Special Run AC10C1 with the Celestion Greenback, which I’m familiar with & like, for a few $$ more & bought it..

Then I did the Tube mod.. A short while later I heard about the Special design AC10C1 speaker from Weber which is their version of a Celestion Alnico Blue.. Celestion doesn’t offer a 10” Alnico Blue..

It’s really close in Sound to my AC15CC1X just in a smaller package which I really like.. I play it & my Princeton more than my other medium & large  Vox & Fender Amps…

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  • 5 months later...

In business, there are many ways to increase market share/boost sales numbers in crowded and competitive markets.

1. Make an extremely high quality product with unmatched product consistency/uniformity, that meets the exact needs of your customer base, AND that unquestionably out performs all market competition. (This is the expensive option that may well "price" the product out of significant market segments/demographics, and actually reduce market share.)

2.  Make a good product that only just exceeds the quality and consistency of the competitors products , price it just above the competitors price, and ruthlessly advertise it's better quality with slogans like, "You get what you pay for." (Through advertising, imply competitors lower priced, lower quality products are "cheap".)

3. Make a product with production costs that are low enough so it can be sold at a significantly lower price than market competitors products. Keep quality standards below but somewhat near competitors levels, (except in regards to purely aesthetic product attributes like color/finish quality and color/finish options, which must exceed the competition's, at least visually.), and make a select few "high quality" product samples that are specifically given to paid celebrity endorsers, who are contractually obligated to only use/play the product publicly/professionally, all while they extol the products virtues.  (This "Lipstick on a pig" option solely relies upon marketing/advertising/celebrity endorsement driven product sales with "perceived value" replacing  product quality.)

But what if a company had always striven to follow the edicts of option #1, and had demonstrably created solid brand/name recognition that consumers already associated with quality, reliability, and innovation? What if celebrities and professionals already actually paid for, freely chose to use, and honestly loved the company's products, with more and more of them offering to pay exceedingly higher sums for custom versions of the company's products each year?  But what if this company's main competitor operated in the exact same, high quality manner, AND had been in business for far longer, (and that arguably had better name recognition.)?  What if this competitor had highly desirable and unique product lines that were, for a multitude of legal, logistical, and perceptual reasons, too complicated for the company to copy/emulate?  And, what if the year over year sales volume from those specific competitor product lines were keeping the company from increasing their market share/sales volume? 

Interestingly in business, when it becomes obvious that traditional "head to head" market competition methodology's won't work, (methodology's which are predicated on the basic premise of increasingly "out selling your competition year after year until they fail"), thinking outside the box may be the only option remaining.  It takes serious smarts combined with cunning and subtle psychological manipulation to create a way to generate profit for your company each and every time your competition sells their products, without adding cost to your business' bottom line while doing it. If your successful business has an extensive distribution network, but multiple new, small upstart businesses, (without their own distribution networks due to their lack of capitol), begin to eat away at your company's market share, your company could offer to distribute the "upstart companies" products for a fee. Rather than spend any money fighting these competitors for market share, your company could make essentially a small amount of pure profit from every unit of product their competitor sells.  As the saying goes, "If you can't beat them, join them".  In 1957, Gibson changed that adage into, "If you can't beat them, acquire them, assimilate their best selling products into your product line, and then market them as a cheap, low quality, foreign made version of Gibson." The stigma Gibson imposed on Epiphone continues to this day. 

Nearly every market segment of the global economy is comprised of many individual companies competing with each other for a percentage of that market's total consumer sales. When that competition causes one of those business to fail, the failed business' percent of market share becomes divided amongst the remaining businesses in that market, as the consumers of the failed business choose which of the remaining businesses most closely meet their consumer needs. In the guitar market, it would be highly unlikely that every single former customer of a failed business would decided to migrate to just one of the other remaining guitar companies. In reality, many of the remaining guitar companies would gain some customers, with some guitar companies gaining more customers than others. Gibson's acquisition of Epiphone, however, was purposefully designed to retain nearly 100% of Epiphone's market share, and not allow Epiphone's market share to go anywhere other than Gibson.  By allowing the Epiphone brand to continue to exist, rather than simply eliminating the name Epiphone and turning it in Gibson, the brand strength of both "companies"  could continue to be leveraged.

Gibson now owned and controlled every item in the Epiphone catalog. Gibson now had the tooling, expertise, specs, factory space, and patents to make which ever Epiphone models they wanted, and could label them Gibson or Epiphone. Gibson could also begin to create Epiphone versions of Gibson guitars. Although every Gibson guitar is still made in the USA, Epiphone still makes plenty of guitars in the US as well. Yes, Gibson's decision to acquire Epiphone, in part, was to provide consumers an affordable line of Gibson signature guitars without the multi thousand dollar Gibson price tag. Epiphone would have multiple overseas factories, (primarily in Asia, including China), that would build Gibson series guitars, using Gibson specs as a guide, but utilize less costly raw materials, lesser electronic components, employing more mass production/less hand built production methods, all in an attempt to make these Epiphone labeled guitars kind of look and sound like their Gibson cousins. Consistent quality still tends to be an issue. Although US made Epiphones seemed to exhibit Gibson like quality, especially regarding the Epiphone models NOT offered by Gibson, US made Epiphones are far more expensive than Asian Epi's, with some US made offerings near Gibson prices. 

2020 changed things, especially for Asian Epi's, when Epiphone introduced the "Inspired by Gibson" models. By using pickups designed to be as close as possible to Gibson PU's, with more consistent windings, better magnets, etc., Epi's got their tone back. Despite the differences in materials and build methods, as compared to a 2023 Gibson ES-335, the Chinees built 2023 "Inspired by Gibson" Epiphone ES-335 Traditional Pro is an incredible guitar for under $600.00, vs. the $4,000 or so dollars for the Gibson.  As a guy who owns two quite valuable early to mid '80's Gibsons, I have no complaints or issues with my new Epi ES-335. I still can't believe that it cost me just a bit more than the case for my '83 CSE Explorer did! Inexpensive doesn't always mean cheap.

 

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