Epiphone vs Gibson Les Paul (7 Key Differences Explained!)

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  • Find out which Les Paul is superior and why
  • Learn more about what separates Epiphone’s Les Paul from Gibson’s Les Paul
  • Look at our FAQ section for all things Les Paul 
  • Also, check out our post on the best Les Paul style guitar copies

When you ask an average person what a Les Paul is, most will immediately tell you it’s a high-tier guitar.

In actuality, it’s the name of one of the most iconic guitar players and inventors that brought on the electric revolution in the world of six-stringed instruments.

Les has also collaborated with the Gibson team by providing specific instructions and guidance to create the iconic guitar bearing his name.

While thousands of musicians and collectors across the globe covet Gibson’s Les Paul model, many simply can’t afford it.

Today, Standard Gibson LPs cost thousands of dollars, while vintage ones in mint condition tend to cost significantly more. That’s where Epiphone’s Les Paul comes into play.

Epiphone is Gibson’s subsidiary; it never wanted to copy or imitate what is rightfully considered the ultimate electric guitar. Realizing that many guitarists on a budget want but can’t afford an “original” Les Paul, Epiphone created its own line of LP guitars. 

Today, I’ll take you through the specs, similarities, differences, benefits, and potential pitfalls of both, so let’s start from the top.

Epiphone Les Paul vs Gibson Les Paul

Gibson’s Les Paul can be described as the “real deal.” Les Paul himself and the best Gibson engineers collected highly specific tonewoods and used advanced electronic components to ensure the guitar withstands the test of time, which it certainly did.

Epiphone’s Les Pauls used to be crafted in Gibson factories (and by Gibson guitar makers), but it hasn’t been that way for decades.

Epiphones’ LPs are made of different materials, rock a different set of specifications, and have an incomparably more approachable price tag.


Aside from being made by different brands, Gibson and Epiphone LP guitars are also quite different in terms of aesthetics, construction, performance, sound, and price. Let’s explore the main differences between Epiphone and Gibson Les Pauls.


The unmatched beauty of a Les Paul guitar is one of the reasons why so many non-musicians have one at home.

If you’re a beginner guitar player or never paid too much attention to the minor details of Les Paul aesthetics, you probably couldn’t tell a Gibson apart from an Epiphone.

There is one huge difference that you couldn’t miss, though. By looking at the headstock of any Gibson or Epiphone guitar, you’ll see the brand name and logo stamped there.

I want to note that Gibson and Epiphone offer a variety of color styles for their Les Paul models. The main difference is that Gibson’s selection of “Burst” styles is far broader.

Les Paul and Gibson feature the “Modern” LP series in their respective catalogs. This is where Epiphone is a bit further ahead while Gibson was focused on developing its traditional guitar lines (and reissuing super-popular vintage ones).


Technical specifications for Les Paul guitars are significantly different for each model. Even though they were always two brands, Gibson and Epiphone used to share the same workspace; this means that the same people used almost the same materials to craft LP guitars, but that was only for a brief period. 

In the mid-70s, Epiphone moved its guitar-making facilities to Japan and, several years later, to Korea. Ever since then, the Epiphone and Gibson LP specs started to see a more drastic change.

One thing remained a constant, though – using maple and mahogany as prime tonewoods for both Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls. The way these woods are processed is what sets them apart the most.

Namely, Gibson uses a combination of top-of-the-line mahogany and hard maple. Since Epiphone’s mission was to produce less expensive Les Pauls, the company used thinner mahogany and maple, which is why you may notice Epiphone’s LPs are considerably lighter than Gibson’s.

Rosewood is the most popular material manufacturers use for their fretboards, and neither Gibson nor Epiphone are exceptions.


Pickups or magnets heavily influence the sonic signature of any guitar. Even though the iconic Les Paul sound is highly affected by premium tonewoods and the guitar’s unique shape (acoustics), the pickups are responsible for its electrifying pull.

Over time, both Epiphone and Gibson worked on upgrading the pickups which their LP guitars are outfitted with, although there weren’t that many changes.

Nearly all Les Paul Standard guitars are outfitted with a Burstbucker magnet. Famed for its outstandingly high output and almost unmatched controllability, this pickup changed the game for electric guitars worldwide.

Since it was designed to work in synergy with the characteristics of a Les Paul, it fits it the best.

Several versions of Burstbuckers exist; the Burstbucker 1 is still smashing today, even though it was launched almost three decades ago (in 1996). Burstbucker 2 pickups came out that same year, but they are only fitted to certain models produced in Japan.

Nowadays, they are as available as Burstbucker 1 and even more popular due to their even stronger output.

A similar thing happened with the Burstbucker 3, which is an improvement of the previous two and boasts better feedback tolerance and a slightly spruced-up output.

Epiphone Les Pauls are supplied with different magnets. On most Epiphone LP Standard models, you can see Probuckers, even though Gibson made them too.

Probucker is the equivalent of the Burstbucker, with the main difference being that the former rocks a mid-output magnet. 

Epiphone also uses its branded open-coil pickups, designed to compete with Burstbucker’s super-hot performance at the expense of controllability.


Many professional guitar players state that the “sound comes from the fingers.” That may be true in most cases, but when you’re playing a Les Paul, you both feel and hear the sonic difference.

Before diving deeper into this topic, I want to emphasize that both Gibson and Epiphone Les Paul’s guitars sound amazing.

There are a few minor and major differences between their sonic performance, which can be affected by the player’s amp, playing style, hardware, and other elements.

The tone of a Gibson-made LP can be described as full-bodied, remarkably rich, and robust. It grows bigger and bigger without breaking up at higher volumes, and best of all, it sounds incredible even on budget amps.

The same could be said about Epiphone Les Paul guitars unless you heard what a Gibson LP sounds like. In comparison, Epiphone LPs come with a slightly “thinner” sound, which becomes apparent in chunky, heavier riffs.

As far as cleans are concerned, both Epiphone and Gibson are virtually unbeatable.

I should also point out that it takes a seasoned professional to point out the tonal differences between a cheap Gibson LP (such as Les Paul Special Tribute with a price tag of around $999 USD) and a high-end Epiphone Les Paul (e.g., 1959 Les Paul Standard costing $899 USD).


It’s only fitting for some of the best guitars to be pricey, right? Gibson’s Les Paul factory models are exceptionally pricey, while custom ones tend to cost a small fortune.

Original Gibson LPs cost between $2,500 and $2,800 (USD), which is more than most people would invest in a single guitar.

There are a few exceptions in the Original series, though; Les Paul Special is about a thousand dollars cheaper, while Les Paul Junior has the most approachable price tag in Gibson’s catalog. 

There are a couple of models that Gibson offers that can be considered affordable compared to the aforementioned heavy hitters.

The two versions of the Les Paul Special Tribute are under $1,000; while expensive, they’re ten times cheaper than the most expensive model in its store, the Slash-signed ‘58 “Brazilian Dream,” priced at around $13,000.

That being said, some of the most expensive Epiphone LPs are still cheaper than an average Gibson Les Paul.

Epiphone-made LP Originals cost between $449 and $1,149, the latter being the signature version of Alice in Chains co-founder and guitarist Jerry Cantrell, the “Prophecy” priced at $1,149. 

Some of the most affordable Epiphone LPs are the Les Paul Junior ($429) and the Power Player Les Paul ($279).

Related: 5 Reasons Why Gibson Guitars Are So Expensive


Since Epiphone and Gibson clearly do not make the same Les Paul guitars, I think knowing how much value you can expect from investing in one is important. Regardless of which brand or model you choose, I’m confident it will be well spent.

Gibson LPs are in high demand among collectors and professional musicians with a highly specific tone they’ve mainly built around the tonal characteristics of a “true” Les Paul.

As I mentioned, these beauties will sound great even when plugged into a budget amplifier and played on rusty strings, so you can only imagine how they’ll shine on proper gear. 

Epiphone Les Paul guitars are better suited for casual guitarists and hobbyists.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to beginners, as all Les Paul guitars are a ‘different beast’ compared to more traditional guitars, but their unique sound and feel can make a significant difference for pub players and emerging touring acts.

Custom Les Pauls, Shops & Orders

All Les Paul guitars have high collection value; they’re beautiful to hang over a fireplace, even if you’ve never played the guitar once in your life.

However, the satisfaction of owning a Les Paul isn’t the same when you know that tens of thousands of other people have the same model as you. That’s not the case with custom guitars, though. 

Since Gibson invented the Les Paul guitar, they were also the first company to set up custom shops, first in Michigan, then across multiple states in the USA.

You can explore a range of exquisite custom Les Pauls at Gibson’s website; from Sergio Vallin ‘55 Goldtop and Adam Jones ‘79V2 to Paul Junior Vintage ‘57 and many others, there are dozens of gorgeous, extremely rare guitars, albeit they do cost a small fortune. 

Epiphone also has a custom shop, and just like its main guitar-making facilities, it’s based in Japan. Unlike Gibson, Epiphone only accepts custom Les Paul orders via Made to Measure program.

It’s inferior to Gibson’s Custom Shop, which not only offers more comprehensive shipping options but also features in-store custom Les Pauls and the acclaimed Gibson MOD Collection, which is a series of “rarities, exclusives, and customized one-offs.”

Related: 9 Best Places To Buy Guitars Online (That You Can Trust)


Is Epiphone Les Paul As Good As Gibson?

Between the ‘70s and ‘80s, Epiphone and Gibson operated in the same facilities and used the same materials and workforce.

This is when Gibson and Epiphone LP models were almost equal in terms of specs and performance.

Today, Epiphone guitar-makers rely on somewhat cheaper tonewoods and don’t have access to Gibson’s advanced facilities, meaning that Gibson LPs are objectively superior.

Is An Epiphone Les Paul A Real Les Paul?

Epiphone Les Pauls are “real” LP guitars in that they are modeled after Gibson Originals. They are neither replicas nor imitations, but they are structurally and tonally different from Gibson Les Paul guitars.

Who Makes The Best Les Paul?

Gibson made the first Les Paul with instructions and the blessing of the late great Mr. Les Paul. The company continued to work on improving its LP models while sticking to the tried & tested formula and is still making the best Les Pauls.

Epiphone also makes great Les Paul models, although they are better for amateurs and casual guitar players.

Wrapping Up

Even though Gibson Les Paul guitars are better than Epiphone’s on paper, it ultimately boils down to personal preferences and budget. Owning an Epiphone LP is better than not owning any, and they are considered among the better mid-range guitars in their own right.

Gibson made and still makes the best Les Paul guitars, mainly because they had the fortune of working with Mr. Paul on creating the prototype, which was refined and vastly improved over the years.

Before you go, check out our guide to Les Paul vs Strat (5 Key Differences And Which Is Better?)