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Best Epiphone Les Pauls 2021: 10 Wallet-Friendly Single-Cuts That Give Gibson A Run For Its Money

Best Epiphone Les Pauls 2021: 10 Wallet-Friendly Single-Cuts That Give Gibson A Run For Its Money
(Image credit: Future)
Epiphone vs Gibson

The Les Paul is a tonal powerhouse. From its seemingly endless sustain, powerful mid-range, and creamy warm tone, it's the go-to guitar for many players who want to melt faces. While most players aspire to own a Gibson Les Paul one day, the rather sizable price tag can make them unobtainable. We believe, with Epiphone following closely in Gibson's footsteps - literally - in the last few years, they are now producing the best Epiphone Les Pauls they ever have done and are offering some unique takes on the famed single-cut.

It can seem like a daunting task to find the best Epiphone Les Paul for you, considering there are so many variations on offer - not to mention they all look very similar and have a lot of features in common. Well, not to worry, that's what we are here for. 

No matter your personal style and playing technique, you'll be sure to find an Epiphone Les Paul that will suit you. So, whether you're playing away at the blues, bringing the house down with technical-shred, or donning a top hat for your best Slash impression, we're pretty sure we can find your next axe among this list. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Our top picks

If we had to recommend one guitar, it would be the Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s. At the end of the day, this is the guitar all the others on the list are measured against and is what we think about as the quintessential affordable Les Paul. Featuring the surprisingly great-sounding ProBucker humbuckers, as well as CTS potentiometers - which is a nice touch - this Les Paul just rocks. So if you're looking for a straightforward LP that won't break the bank, then this has to be it. 

For the player seeking something a little different, then the Epiphone Jared James Nichols Les Paul radiates cool, and frankly, sounds and plays better than its price point would have you believe.

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Product guide

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s

(Image credit: Epiphone )

1. Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s

The ideal option for vintage tone seekers

Price: $599/£491 | Body: Mahogany with maple veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Indian laurel | Frets: 22 medium-jumbo | Pickups: 2 x ProBucker humbuckers | Controls: Two volume, two-tone, one three-way selector switch | Hardware: LockTone ABR Tune-o-Matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece, Vintage Deluxe tuners | Left-handed?: Yes | Finish: Ebony, Bourbon Burst, Iced Tea

Great sounding pickups
Nice finish options 
Easy to play neck   
Would prefer a rosewood fingerboard  

Getting your hands on an original 1960s Les Paul is practically impossible at this point, not to mention incredibly expensive - even a Gibson reissue is massively costly right now. With that being said, it's no surprise the Les Paul Standard 60s tops our list of best Epiphone Les Pauls. Epiphone is offering a delightful slice of history - albeit taking some liberties with spec - at a much more affordable price. 

This stunning guitar certainly punches above its weight and delivers all that LP tone you'd want. Featuring the classic mahogany body and neck with a maple veneer, this guitar looks like the real deal - and feels like it, too, thanks to the slim-taper neck profile. Bringing the rock is a set of ProBucker humbuckers that do a surprisingly great job capturing that mythical PAF tone, the inclusion of CTS potentiometers, is a classy touch from Epiphone. 

It has to be said that the quality of the instrument is streets ahead of where it was, even just a few years ago. There is an attention to detail here that simply makes us smile. Okay, this may not be a Gibson, but for the price, you'd be hard-pressed to find much fault with this truly stunning guitar.  

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Junior

(Image credit: Epiphone )

2. Epiphone Les Paul Junior

Sometimes one pickup is all you need

Price: $379/£318 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Indian laurel | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Dog-ear P-90 | Controls: Volume, Tone | Left-handed?: Yes | Finish: Sunburst

Who doesn’t love a P-90?
Classic look
Lightning Bar wrap bridge  
One pickup isn’t for everyone 

There is something so elegantly simple about a Les Paul Junior. Conceived initially as a student model and later picked up by countless punk and rock players, the Les Paul Junior is famed for its no-nonsense playability and spikey tone. Unlike the other guitars on this list, the Junior isn't concerned with a fancy carved top, binding, or even two pickups, for that matter. All it cares about is tone - and boy, does it have it in spades! This 1950s classic is certainly one to try if you haven't heard the aggressively mid-focused sound of the P-90. Like the punks that made the Junior their own, this pickup has bags of attitude. 

The Epiphone Les Paul Junior has all the DNA that made the original so beloved. Featuring a sturdy mahogany body, and chunky 50s profile neck - which is not for the faint of heart - and a single dog-ear P-90 pickup. Epiphone has also included the Deluxe Vintage tuners, which completes the retro vibe. 

So if you're looking for a no-nonsense guitar that you can just plug in, turn up and let rip, then this has to be the best option for you. However, if you find yourself craving the second pickup, you're in luck as Epiphone offers the Les Paul Special, as well. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard

(Image credit: Epiphone )

3. Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard

A first for Epiphone

Price: $799/£629 | Body: Mahogany with maple veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Indian laurel | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Gibson USA BurstBucker 2 & 3 | Controls: Two volume, two-tone, one three-way selector switch | Left-handed?: No | Finish: Tobacco Burst

Made in collaboration with the Gibson Custom Shop
Gibson Pickups
Plenty of mojo 
Expensive for an Epiphone  

You don't need us to tell you how valuable an original '59 burst is - considering every time Joe Bonamassa buys one, someone somewhere writes about it - but even the Gibson reissues are a pretty penny, fetching upwards of $6,000. Luckily for us mere mortals, Epiphone has teamed up with the folks over at the Gibson Custom Shop to produce the Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard, giving us the chance of owning a vintage reissue without remortgaging the house. 

This special guitar marks the first collaboration between these two Gibson offshoots, and long may it continue. This will come up a lot in this guide, but the level of detail here is remarkable. The AAA-figured maple top is stunning, and while not exactly as thick as on the Gibson, it still looks the part, resulting in a gorgeous-looking instrument. The stunning look is helped along by the aged finish, which is somewhere between a gloss and matte finish not too dissimilar from a VOS. The '59 neck profile is exactly as comfortable as you'd expect it to be, and the long neck tenon adds another level of vintage detail, which is something we can certainly appreciate.

What kicks this guitar up a gear is the addition of the Gibson USA BurstBucker 2 & 3 pickups. This, coupled with the CTS pots, 50s era wiring, Mallory capacitors, and non-beveled pickguard, add a whole extra level of authenticity to this quality guitar. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy

(Image credit: Epiphone )

4. Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy

The best Epiphone Les Paul for aggressive playing

Price: $899/£799 | Body: Mahogany with AAA Flame Maple Veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Fishman Fluence Epiphone Prophecy | Controls: Volume (push/pull coil splits); 2 Tone (push/pull Vintage/Modern pickup) | Left-handed?: No | Finish: Red Tiger Aged Gloss, Olive Tiger Aged Gloss, Black Aged Gloss

Fishman Fluence Pickups are incredible
Cool finishes
24 frets  
Not for the traditionalist 

It's not all vintage reissues and Gibson copy-cats on this list, we also have something for the more aggressive player. On the surface, the Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy may look like a metalhead's dream - and it is - but it's also a lot more than that. 

At the heart of this demonic-looking LP is a set of Fishman Fluence pickups; these high-tech active pickups offer a range of sonic possibilities that even the most traditional among you will love. With just a pull of the volume or tone control, you'll have access to a warm PAF vintage humbucker, a searingly hot modern active humbucker, as well as shimmering single-coil tones - that's all the major food groups right there! 

This guitar has been optimized for the budding shredder, with the inclusion of an Asymmetrical SlimTaper neck that is super comfortable no matter where you are on the fingerboard. At the same time, the modern contoured heel gives you unparalleled access to the upper frets. This guitar is unapologetically a shredder, with a few classic sounds under the hood for when you want to calm things down a bit - and we love it! 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Custom

(Image credit: Epiphone )

5. Epiphone Les Paul Custom

The Epiphone Les Paul with a touch of class

Price: 389/£538 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Epiphone ProBucker 2/3 | Controls: 2 Volume, 2 Tone - CTS potentiometers | Left-handed?: No | Finish: Alpine White, Ebony

Everyone loves the Les Paul Custom, right?
Ebony fingerboard   
Gold hardware will tarnish quickly  

There has always been something so classy about the Les Paul Custom - especially in ebony. The striking contrast of the dazzling gold hardware against the jet-black body makes many player's hearts beat that little bit faster. The multi-ply Custom white binding helps define the Les Paul shape, while the mother of pearl diamond headstock inlay lets the world know you're holding something special. 

Again Epiphone has done a great job of bringing this icon to life - I'm sure Les himself would have been proud. In addition, the inclusion of a genuine ebony fingerboard is a welcome relief from the usual laurel or rosewood affair found on the earlier incarnations of this guitar - because, let's face it, it needs to be ebony to be a Custom! 

As far as pickups are concerned, it's the usual Epiphone ProBucker humbuckers found on many of these guitars, but this time with gold covers. The Les Paul Custom also features the 60s style Kalamazoo headstock and rolled neck edges for a super satisfying playing experience. So if you're looking for a high-class, sophisticated LP, then this has to be the best Epiphone Les Paul for you. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Modern

(Image credit: Epiphone )

6. Epiphone Les Paul Modern

Not your Grandads Les Paul

Price: $499/£455 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: ProBucker 2/3 humbucker w/coil-splitting | Controls: 2 Volumes (w/2 Push/Pull Coil-Tap), 2 Tones (1 Push/Pull Phase) | Left-handed?: No | Finish: Faded Pelham Blue, Vintage Sparkling Burgundy, Graphite Black

Massive range of tones
Nice and light 
Beautiful finish options  
May have too much going on for some players  

For many players, the Les Paul shouldn't be messed with - I mean, they nailed it on the first go, right? Well, no, they didn't. The truth is, Gibson has made many significant changes to the Les Paul over the years in a quest for better playability and to keep up with the demands of the modern guitarist. Gibson's latest ultra-contemporary offering is the aptly named Les Paul Modern, and the Epiphone version here is a direct copy. 

The stylish LP's mahogany body features the Ultra Modern Weight Relief, meaning it's a damn sight lighter than a standard Les Paul, making it the perfect option for a long setlist, an all-nighter jam session, or simply if you have back problems. The pairing of a vivid colored top against the natural mahogany body is rather striking and is quite the sight to behold in person - the Pelham Blue has to be our favorite!

It's not just stunningly good looks this Les Paul has going for it. The Asymmetrical neck provides a lightning-fast playing area, which coupled with the contoured heel, means this is the virtuoso's, Les Paul. If you're on the hunt for a modern take on the standard Les Paul formula, then this designer six-string may be the best Epiphone Les Paul for the job.

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Jared James Nichols "Old Glory" Les Paul

(Image credit: Epiphone )

7. Epiphone Jared James Nichols "Old Glory" Les Paul

Blues power!

Price: £699/£532 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Seymour Duncan P-90 | Controls: Volume, Tone | Left-handed?: no | Finish: Aged Gloss Ebony

A unique take on a classic
Aged gloss finish
Seymour Duncan P-90  
 Wrap bridge isn't great for drop tunings  

Well, this guitar definitely lives up to the name blazoned across the front - blues power! This rising, hard-hitting blues guitarist has teamed up with Epiphone and created an incredibly unique take on the Les Paul, and one that more than deserves a place on this list.

Old Glory combines the basic outline of a '55 style Custom - black aged gloss finish, white multi-ply binding, ebony fingerboard, and Pearloid block inlays - with the Junior's simplistic electronics and wrap tailpiece. Resulting in a handsome guitar that is equal parts traditional and ground-breaking. 

The tonal generator comes in the form of a single Seymour Duncan P-90, which kicks out enough power to satisfy the most discerning rock fan, while also being delicate enough to handle low-gain soulful blues lines. Whether you're a fan of Jared James Nichols or not, it doesn't matter, this is an incredible guitar that manages to perfectly blend two classics together to create a guitar that is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Studio

(Image credit: Epiphone )

8. Epiphone Les Paul Studio

The budget option that's a classic in its own right

Price: $289/£379 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Indian laurel | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO Humbucker | Controls: 2 Volume with Coil Split, 2 Tone with CTS Potentiometers | Left-handed?: Yes | Finish: Wine Red, Alpine White, Smokehouse Burst, Ebony

Affordable
Nice finish options   
Too basic for some players 

The Les Paul Studio has gone on to develop an identity all of its own. Originally released in '83 as a stripped-down alternative to the flashy Les Paul Standard, the Studio offered the same great tone, without all the bells and whistles. 

This Epiphone version has the exact same mission statement, offering players the thunderous LP tone they're searching for in a no-nonsense, affordable package. Straying slightly from the other models on this list, the Studio is equipped with the Alnico Classic PRO pickup set, which offers a somewhat different flavor from the standard ProBucker found on the other models. The coil-split option also means the Studio lives up to its name as the perfect recording partner.

It's great to see a few new colors available, with the Alpine White giving you the option of channeling your inner Frank Iero or Jade Puget. The other options are Smokehouse Burst, Wine Red, and Ebony. So if you’re looking for a pure Les Paul tone, with none of the flashy extras, then the Studio is the perfect choice for you. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard

(Image credit: Epiphone )

9. Epiphone Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard

Step into the limelight with this progressive Les Paul

Price: $899/£769 | Body: Mahogany, Carved Maple with AAA Flame Maple veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Indian laurel | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Epiphone Ceramic Pro/Epiphone ProBucker 3 | Controls: Neck Volume, Bridge Volume - each with push/pull coil split, Piezo Volume with push/pull on/off, Master Tone | Left-handed?: No | Finish: Viceroy Brown

A must-have for any Rush fan
Heel and belly contours are a welcome feature
Piezo pickup is a nice touch   
Floyd Rose style bridge is not for everyone 

This is the newest of the Epiphone offerings on this list, although it's been a long time coming. Rush fans have been begging for an Alex Lifeson model for years, and it's finally here! Epiphone has worked very closely with the prog guitar god to recreate his Gibson signature in an affordable, more accessible format - and we have to say, we're mighty impressed with how it turned out. 

The most obvious thing you'll notice about this guitar is the Floyd Rose bridge. While some of you out there will think a floating bridge on a Les Paul is sacrilege, it is definitely necessary to achieve those classic Lifeson tones. The bridge here is solid and feels sturdy, exactly what you'd expect. What you may not expect is the Graph Tech Ghost piezo system hidden in the saddles. This nifty device allows you to get acoustic guitar sounds that can be either blended in with the humbucker tone or played on its own via its separate output jack. 

The range of tones on offer here is unlike any other Epiphone Les Paul and is truly staggering. For us, this might just be the most versatile Epiphone guitar in the catalog - never mind the most versatile Les Paul. So, whether you're a Rush fan or not, we urge you to give this one a go. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Epiphone Les Paul Muse

(Image credit: Epiphone )

10. Epiphone Les Paul Muse

Plug in baby

Price: $499/£374 | Body: Mahogany (chambered, thin, belly scarf), Maple Cap | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75”/62.8cm | Fingerboard: Indian laurel | Frets: 22 medium-jumbo | Pickups: Alnico Classic Pro | Controls: 2 Volume with coil-splitting, 2 Tone with phase switch | Left-handed?: Yes | Finish: Pearl White Metallic, Wanderlust Metallic Green, Radio Blue Metallic, Purple Passion Metallic, Jet Black Metallic, Scarlet Red Metallic, Smoked Almond

Thinner body
Phase switch
Plenty of color options  
Chamber body delivers a different tone 

It's fair to say the Les Paul is a fairly chunky guitar. With its thick slab of mahogany and carved maple top, it can be uncomfortable - not to mention heavy - for many players. Well, the Muse takes care of this issue with its slimmed-down chambered body. This routing is a lot more extreme than the modern weight relief found in the Les Paul Modern, and the new belly contour offers an extra comfort level. These features not only give the Muse a totally different feel but also changes the sound, giving this elegant guitar a completely unique identity.  

Those looking to invoke the magical tone of the late, great, Peter Green can do so with a pull of the tone control. When both pickups are activated, this engages the out-of-phase setting, giving you that honky quack we all love. 

Epiphone has also supplied an impressive range of finish options, with seven metallic colors to choose from. The marketing department clearly had an excellent time naming these stunning finishes, with Pearl White, Wanderlust Green, Radio Blue, Purple Passion, Jet Black, Scarlet Red, and Smoked Almond. Each option brings its own character, and frankly, it's difficult to choose a favorite among them - although if you made us, then Wanderlust Green may just edge out the rest. 

Best Epiphone Les Pauls: Buying advice

New Epiphone Kalamazoo headstock

(Image credit: Future)

Like their bigger sibling, the Epiphone lineup has gone through a massive shake-up over the last few years. Following in Gibson's footsteps, Epiphone has gone back to basics, producing guitars that have their roots firmly in tried and true formulas - with the odd experimental guitar here and there to keep things interesting.

Believe us when we say Epiphone is currently producing the best guitars they have made in over a decade.

We must say, this new - or old, depending on your perspective - approach is a welcome change, and one we have been hoping would happen for some time. Epiphone seems to finally be listening to the fans and giving them precisely what they want. Nothing signifies this change in mindset more than the shift to the old Kalamazoo headstock design - something fans have been screaming out for. 

It's not only the lineup that has changed, but the overall quality has also seen a vast improvement. We're seeing fewer reports of fret issues, broken plastics, and dead pickups that unfortunately had become commonplace on Epiphones of the past. Believe us when we say Epiphone is currently producing the best guitars they have made in over a decade, and it's exciting to see what they will bring out next. 

Choosing the Best Epiphone Les Paul for you  

The Epiphone catalog is now split into categories. These are Original and Inspired By Gibson. As you'd expect, the Original collection is where you'll find the Epiphone guitars that don't have a Gibson counterpart, such as the Casino, Riviera, and Sheraton. This is also where you'll find the fantastic new American-made models, such as the USA Casino, Frontier, and Texan. 

The Inspired By Gibson collection is exactly that, guitars based on current Gibson models. This is further broken down into the subcategories of Original and Modern to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. 

The Inspired By Gibson Original collection is purely focused on vintage reissue guitars, aimed squarely at the traditional player, looking for a classic take on an iconic instrument. This is where you'll find the likes of the 50s and 60's Standard, Les Paul Junior, and '59 reissue. 

Choosing the right instrument really boils down to taste and personal style. Epiphone has a guitar to cater to every player right now.

If you’re looking for a guitar that strays away from the basic formula a little, then you'll be looking at the Inspired By Gibson Modern collection. It's clear that Epiphone has more creative freedom over this assembly of guitars. Offering more unique finish options and present-day features modern guitarists crave. This is where you'll find the likes of the Les Paul Muse, Modern, and the new fan favorite, the updated Les Paul Prophecy.

Choosing the right instrument really boils down to taste and personal style. Epiphone has a guitar to cater to every player right now. So, whether you're a vintage purist looking for a grassroots blues guitar, a modern virtuoso on the hunt for an awe-inspiring speed demon, or a metalhead looking to bring the doom, one of these Epiphone Les Pauls will most definitely do the job.

First and foremost, I'm a guitar enthusiast – a fanatic, some might say. I'm a firm believer that most of the world's problems can be solved with a Gibson SG and a catastrophically loud amp. Before writing about guitars for a living as a Junior Deals Writer on Guitar Player, I worked in music retail for 7 years, giving advice on guitars, basses, drums, pianos, and PA systems. I also have a passion for live sound; I'm a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland.