From bluesy bends to scorching solos, sixties-inspired jangle and sophisticated jazz runs, the best Epiphone guitars have been delivering stellar tones for over a century. Nowadays, this legendary brand can often play second fiddle to its more extravagant parent company, Gibson, but that's something we'd like to see change. Whether you're a seasoned shredder or a budding beginner, Epiphone has a guitar for you.
So, fire up your tube amp, and warm up those digits as we guide you through the cream of the crop, featuring legendary models such as the gorgeous Les Paul, the fierce SG, and elegant Casino, as well as a few models you may not be expecting.
We strongly believe that Epiphone offers more than just cut-price alternatives to their American brethren, with their extensive catalogue featuring stunning finishes, exceptional playability, and drool-worthy sound. These beauties are sure to set your fingers on fire, so get ready to ignite your passion for guitar with the best Epiphone guitars available today.
Best Epiphone guitars: Our top picks
If there's one guitar that perfectly encapsulates the essence of Epiphone, it's the legendary Casino. This tasteful hollowbody has more than stood the test of time, becoming a firm favourite of everyone from John Lennon to Gary Clark Jr. So if you're looking for a timeless tone and excellent playability, look no further than the outstanding Epiphone Casino.
For those seeking a tonal powerhouse, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard '60s will certainly fit the bill. Featuring everything you love about this famed singlecut, from the firey flame top, articulate pickups and a neck that begs to be played, this is more than just a cheap Gibson alternative.
For youngsters at the beginning of their guitar journey, the Epiphone Power Players SG is a brilliant choice. This miniature six-string delivers a mammoth tone and, thankfully, has the feel to match. While most short-scale electric guitars can underdeliver, Epiphone has paid careful attention to the crucial details, resulting in one of the best guitars for kids on the market right now.
Best Epiphone guitars: Product guide
Epiphone state that the beloved Casino is the brand's best-selling archtop, and for those who have played one, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Hitting the scene in 1961, this guitar would go on to garner legendary status among guitar enthusiasts.
This is thanks in part to the Casino's long list of famous fans, including John Lennon, Keith Richards and Howlin' Wolf. That said, it isn't just old-school players who appreciate the crisp tone of the Casino, with modern guitar pioneers Gary Clark Jr and John Mayer also using this hollowbody to great effect.
Featuring the much respected Dogear P-90T Classic pickups and a 5-ply maple body with basswood top bracing, this guitar delivers the same great tone you'd expect from a vintage example - but at a much more manageable price.
The striking beauty and the sonic presence of the Les Paul has captured the hearts of many guitarists over the years, but most can do without the eye-watering price tag. Luckily, Epiphone is here with the Inspired by Gibson collection. A range of guitars that recreate what their brothers in the USA are producing, but in a much more wallet-friendly manner.
As you can probably tell from its name, this Les Paul attempts to pay homage to the singlecut of the sixties - and we can report that it more than delivers. Featuring the winning formula of a mahogany body with a flame maple cap, Grover tuners, and a duo of ProBucker humbuckers - with CTS potentiometers - this Epiphone feels, sounds and looks the part!
So, whether you are seeking a budget alternative to the Gibson, a reliable gigging axe or a guitar to learn on, this Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s is a perfect choice.
Okay, the Wilshire may not be a household name like the Casino, but we believe this retro throwback is most definitely worth your time. The history of this odd-ball Epi dates all the way back to 1959, and while it did go through some major changes - namely a body redesign - this modern version returns back to the square symmetrical format of the original.
It also features the striking Kalamazoo headstock with Epiphone "Bikini" badge and butterfly tortoiseshell pickguard with foil E logo, completing the vintage aesthetic.
Now, the Wilshire is a pretty simple animal, and that's exactly what we love about it. With a slimline mahogany body, medium C profile neck and a duo of P-90 pickups, this guitar delivers a gnarly tone that simply rocks - fans of huge riffs will be glad to know that it pairs particularly well with some octave fuzz!
Read our full Epiphone Wilshire P-90 review
Epiphone has had a long history with guitars aimed squarely at the metalheads out there, with the Gothic series and the EMG loaded '84 Explorer EX to name a few, but we believe the new and improved Les Paul Prophecy is the best so far.
At the heart of the Prophecy are a set of Fishman Fluence pickups that deliver a trio of very useable tones. Producing everything from the warm and vintage sound of a PAF to the face-melting properties of an active humbucker and even the shimmering, high-end of a single-coil, this guitar can do it all.
To top it off, this LP is equipped with Grover locking Rotomatic tuners, a Graph Tech NuBone nut and a jet-black ebony fretboard.
This SG is dressed to impress with its rich ebony finish, sparkling gold hardware and pure white accents - really, SGs don't come much better looking than this. Luckily, the Epiphone SG Custom has a tone to match its drop-dead gorgeous stylings.
Inspired by the Customs of the '60s, this Solid Guitar features an ebony fingerboard, LP Custom style inlays, gold hardware, and a set of Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers with CTS electronics - everything you need for a stylish guitar that rocks.
So, if you're looking to stand out from the cherry SG crowd - and you're on the hunt for an authentic PAF tone on a budget - this SG Custom is worth a try.
There are few guitars with as memorable a silhouette as the Explorer. This angular axe is the weapon of choice for many rock icons and can be seen draped around the necks of down-picking legend James Hetfield and chief Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, as well as the Edge, Gary Moore and Claudio Sanchez - cementing its place in the rock 'n' roll history books.
Now, it's not all style over substance with this pointy guitar - it has a tone every bit as powerful as its strong look. The large mahogany body delivers plenty of mid-range punch, while the Epiphone ProBucker humbuckers ensure you can crank the gain without fear of unwanted noise.
The playing surface is optimised for speedy playing, with a Slim Taper neck profile and the Medium Jumbo frets mean you can bend away freely with no chance of choking out.
It's only fair that a contemporary rock pioneer such as Emily Wolfe landed herself an Epiphone signature guitar. With her fearless playing and serious chops, this modern guitar hero deserves an instrument that does her outstanding playing justice and she certainly found it in this stunning Sheraton model.
On the surface, it may look like a standard Sheraton, but on closer inspection, you'll see the personal touches Wolfe has added to make it her own. Deciding to forgo the traditional F-style sound holes, the Emily Wolfe version features diamonds - much like the Gibson Trini Lopez - and the fingerboard is adorned with 22 medium jumbo frets and mother-of-pearl block inlays with abalone lightning bolts.
Like many other Epiphone models, this Sheraton depends on the Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers to deliver its full and balanced tone, while the CTS potentiometers offer smooth control over individual pickup volume and tone.
Read our full Epiphone Emily Wolfe Sheraton Stealth review
Now, if you're a newbie guitarist on the hunt for your first six-string, you'll be all too aware of how crowded the mini-guitar space is. That said, that didn't stop Epiphone from launching a bold new miniature axe that offers magnificent playability and a powerful, versatile tone.
Of course, with this package being aimed at beginner guitarists, it comes bundled with plenty of extras such as a gig bag, strap, plectrums, and a guitar cable - but you do still need to grab yourself a practice amp.
So, if you are seeking a solid first instrument with an exciting finish and the ability to recreate the legendary tones of classic rock, blues or even metal, the new Power Players SG is the perfect instrument to begin your guitar career.
Read our full Epiphone Power Players SG review
Green Day frontman and chief songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong has inspired countless musicians to pick up the guitar, so it's a fitting tribute for Epiphone to release a beginner-focused Player Pack in the style of his iconic Les Paul Junior.
Welcome to beginner guitar paradise, as this pack comes with everything you need to get started. As well as a highly playable bolt-on neck LP, you also get a 15-watt two-channel Epiphone 15G amplifier, a branded gig bag, strap, cable, electronic clip-on tuner and three Epiphone picks.
If you're looking to follow in the footsteps of your pop punk hero, this is definitely the best Epiphone guitar for you.
Joining forces with the folks over at the Gibson Custom Shop, Epiphone seeks to faithfully recreate the magic of one of the most sought-after and rare guitars of all time, the 1958 Korina Flying V.
Like those unobtainable guitars, this Epiphone version features a solid Korina body and neck - with a long neck tenon for historical accuracy. However, it does stray from vintage specs slightly, with the inclusion of an Indian laurel fretboard.
Delivering the open and punchy tone you'd expect for this mythical guitar is a set of Gibson Burstbucker humbuckers, CTS pots and a Mallory capacitor. Better yet, you also get a period correct hardshell case to complete the package - mind you, at this price, we'd certainly be expecting a case!
Best Epiphone guitars: Buying advice
A brief history of Epiphone guitars
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Epiphone's history dates way further back than some guitarists realise. In fact, the now legendary guitar brand can trace its roots back to 1873, making them one of America's oldest instrument manufacturers. Before being branded with the widely known Epiphone moniker, the company was known as 'The House of Stathopoulo,' and it specialised in building lutes, violins, and other stringed instruments in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire - now modern-day Izmir, Turkey.
In the early 1900s, the company went through a transformative stage. Not only would original owner Anastasios Stathopoulos pass over the reigns to his son Epaminondas - Epi for short - the company would also make the move to the Big Apple, taking up roots in the bustling city of New York. With a change in location, new owner Epi thought it would be wise to rebrand, choosing to call the company Epiphone, a name he got from combining his own nickname and the Greek root word 'phon' - meaning sound. Now branded with a new identity, Epiphone would begin to focus on building guitars and banjos.
By the 1920s, Epiphone was producing archtop guitars to critical acclaim from local jazz musicians. These handcrafted guitars were known for their high-quality artisanship and unique designs, which set them apart from other guitar brands of the day. However, by 1945 Epiphone's favours were starting to turn. Not only did they lose their guiding force when Epi sadly died of leukaemia, but the tastes of guitarists in a post-war world were changing and this traditional brand simply couldn't keep up.
In 1957, Gibson would come knocking at Epiphone's door, looking to purchase the company. Once the deal was done, Gibson would relocate Epiphone from their original factory in Queens, moving the production to its own facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Despite the change in ownership, Epiphone continued to produce guitars with unique designs and high-quality craftsmanship, with models running alongside their new owner's guitars.
Over the coming years, Epiphone would dip in and out of popularity. However, they did see a healthy spike in sales once a certain Liverpudlian quartet hit the scene. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to sustain the company and by 1970, the US Epiphone factory would close and relocate once again, this time overseas to Japan.
Finally, that brings us to the Epiphone most of us know - and love - today. In 1986, Gibson would be bought over by Henry Juszkiewicz, David Berryman and Gary Zebrowski. Gibson's new owners saw a gap in the market and took the decision to move Epiphone to Korea after seeing how successful other brands, such as Kramer and Charvel, had become since making the move. Over the years, this new Epiphone would build out their catalogue, starting with acoustics and branching out to reissues of the Riviera and Sheraton and eventually to producing budget-friendly versions of Gibson classics such as the Les Paul, SG and ES-335. This saw Epiphone go from a company on the brink to hugely successful, going from strength to strength throughout the 90s into the early 2000s.
By 2004, Epiphone was riding high and needed its own space. This led to them launching their own dedicated factory in Qingdao, China - where the guitars are still made today.
The Epiphone range explained
Now, the Epiphone range can be broken down into four main categories - Inspired By Gibson, Original, Player Packs and Inspired By Gibson Custom Shop.
Inspired By Gibson
As you'd expect, the Inspired By Gibson line is where you'll find the guitars based on their American sibling's classic instruments. In this range, you'll find everything from reissues of the '59 Les Paul to the Firebird, SG, ES-335, Explorer and many more.
The Original line is where you'll find all of Epiphone's classic non-Gibson designs. Guitars such as the Casino, Sheraton and Riviera are all found under the Original banner. It's worth noting that Epiphone also currently offers USA-made versions of the Frontier, Casino and Texan within this collection.
These guitars are designed with budding players in mind. These beginner-friendly instruments offer newbie guitarists a low-cost option to get started. Each guitar in this category comes with a wealth of extras, some it's a gig bag, strap and picks and others come with a small amplifier as well.
Inspired By Gibson Custom Shop
Designed in partnership with the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville, these guitars set out to make the wonderful world of handcrafted, authentically spec'd vintage reissues accessible to the masses. While they are still built in the standard Epiphone factory, they are typically crafted with superior materials - such as solid Korina for the Flying V and Explorer - and even include Gibson pickups and a hard case.
Do famous players use Epiphone guitars?
It’s fair to say that Epiphone has its fair share of famous fans - whether that’s players who love their American-made originals or their modern counterparts.
Throughout the sixties, many of the guitar icons of the day depended on the sweet sound of Epiphone in the studio and on stage, with the likes of John Lennon and Keith Richards often seen with their beloved Casinos around their necks. In the modern day, we aren’t short of contemporary players to choose from, with blues trailblazer Gary Clark Jr, Oasis axe man Noel Gallagher and Nick Valensi of The Strokes all using Epiphone guitars to achieve their influential tones.
Epiphone has also been embraced by the heavier side of music, with many of the biggest names in the genre turning to this legacy brand to deliver earth-shattering riffs. The likes of Lee Malia, Matt Heafy and Bjorn Gelotte of In Flames are often spotted rocking out with their favourite Epiphones at festivals worldwide.