Epiphone Les Paul SL Review (2019) – Good Budget Electric Guitar?

Quick Review:Epiphone Les Paul SL is an entry-level guitar packed with exciting features. It’s a solid guitar with maple neck offering great playability. Equipped with ceramic single-coil pickups to deliver that well-balanced overdrive tone. Its alder body is lightweight with eye-catching finish, probably among the stunning low-priced guitars in the market.

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Epiphone has been a brand producing a wide range of guitar products, most of them are budget-friendly. Its Les Paul Junior and Melody Maker guitars are among stripped-down models often called by many as “student models.” Yet, they’re more than just beginner’s guitars, but rather, used by musicians like Johnny Thunders and others.

epiphone les paul sl guitar sweetwater
credits: sweetwater.com

Last 2017, Epiphone released the Epiphone Les Paul SL which is a combination of these “student models.” It’s slim, lightweight and playable, so you can master your skills. There are two ceramic single-coil pickups and a few controls onboard. Everything is thoroughly discussed in my review below.

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Pros
  • With simple controls for straightforward operations
  • Has medium-low action that eliminates buzzing on bends and big-grip chords
  • Cool and versatile sounding guitar at an unbeatable price

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Cons
  • Needs a few more tweaks to get the right intonation
  • Has a few sharp fret edges that need polishing
  • Comes with cheaper tuning heads, though work pretty fine

Design & Construction

To give you a slim and lightweight electric guitar, Epiphone made this one with solid Alder body and hard maple neck. A single-cut Les Paul with no binding, it has the 1960s SlimTaper™-D profile. It’s available in six vibrant colors including Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Pacific Blue, Sunset Yellow, Turquoise, and Vintage Sunburst. I have the Heritage Cherry Sunburst for this review.

You may find that the controls are simple and straightforward, that even a newbie can easily understand. One noticeable feature that catches your attention right away is the single-ply pickguard that surrounds the neck and bridge pickups. Then, you can easily find the volume and tone knobs, as well as the three-way toggle switch.

epiphone les paul sl bridge
credits: epiphone.com

Weighing around 15.75lbs, it’s a full-sized guitar with 25.75-inch overall length and 24.75-inch scale length. It’s kind of handy and a good guitar to start playing with. It comes with black “Top Hat” knobs similar to those found in Gibson guitars.

I find the neck and the fretboard interesting. The fretboard is made of Granadillo tonewood with a 12-inch radius and 22 medium jumbo frets. You can find Pearloid dot inlays on the fretboard, primarily as a guide on what fret you’re at.

Just a quick background on the fretboard material. Granadillo isn’t a common tonewood in American guitars, but manufacturers began to produce products using this material. It shares the same characteristics of the popular rosewood in terms of sustain and a broader frequency range. But, it’s denser and harder, so, you’ll expect extra ringing in the sound it produces.

The headstock has premium die-cast machine heads with 14:1 ratio, Epiphone logo in silver and “Les Paul Model” in gold. The tuners work together with the adjustable guitar bridge system (Epiphone’s Adjustable/Intonated “Wrap Around” Stopbar Combo bridge) to offer faster and more accurate tuning. However, for professionals, I recommend upgrading the tuning machines to more reliable ones.

One of the aspects that sets this entry-level electric guitar apart from the rest are 650SCR Ceramic single-coil neck pickup and 700SCT Ceramic single-coil bridge pickup. Both pickups provide clarity and quality sound, very versatile to jump from one genre to another without any distortion. With the volume and tone controls and the three-way 3-way pickup selector, you can play around this interesting guitar to achieve the sound want to play.

Playability & Performance

Les Paul SL appears to be very simple. And, with its bright colors, it’s a playful “student model,” that’s what I also thought. However, after holding it and playing a few chords, it surprises me in a lot of different ways.

epiphone les paul sl headstock
credits: epiphone.com

The slim D-neck profile is just perfect doing fast plays without discomfort on my left hand. It’s straight while the fretboard is decent. However, you might need to check the fret edges first before getting high on playing the guitar. After polishing the edges, it’ll be very easy for you to surf up and down the fretboard naturally and flawlessly.

If you get to be pretty aggressive when playing, this entry-level electric guitar got you covered. The action, particularly on the 12th fret is medium-low, just right to easily bend and barre chords without buzzing.

The six strings are attached at one end to the adjustable, intonated “Wrap Around” Stopbar combo tailpiece and to the tuning heads at the other end. Straight from the factory, the setup is fine and the strings are pretty well tuned for most times. However, my advice is to change the strings and the tuners, especially if you play with it often during the day.

Upgrading the strings and the tuners will not only give you confidence, but it’ll also keep the guitar in tune even for rigorous playing, especially if get Grovers tuners. This is just my personal take on this, as I always change the strings and tuners of the guitar whenever I buy one.

Sound

Right out of the box, you can tell that Epiphone is putting a lot of effort to give this fella an interesting sound of its own. The slim ceramic single-coil pickups allow you to access the sound quality like the ‘60s Gibson Melody Maker.

The neck pickup gives you bright and round sound, while the bridge offers a bright, twangy and more like jazzier sound. Sensitive  volume and tone controls (though not as sensitive as high-end guitars) are very accessible for more tonal variety. The guitar also works well with a great pedal and everything turns out magical when you connect it to an amp.

Just a little gain to your amp and you’ll get a Tele-like sound at the bridge pickup, great for string bending and single-note solos. Just in the middle position using the three-way toggle and you’ll engage both the neck and bridge that will give you a dead quiet guitar.

Value for Money

A cheaper guitar, but it’s never an ordinary one. The Epiphone Les Paul SL offers upgradability and decent sound tonality. Though a tone-down guitar, everything works fine out of the box. The craftsmanship, though not very excellent, it’s made with durable and quality materials.

The design is simple and straightforward, giving you more ease when playing. Lightweight with flat fretboard to allow you fast play without problems. Though it doesn’t come with the highly sensitive top hat knobs, the volume and tone controls are pretty much reliable.

epiphone les paul sl knobs
credits: epiphone.com

The single-coil pickups won’t fail you even when you’re gigging. At its price, given its playability, I’m getting more value from the guitar by upgrading its strings and tuners.

You don’t necessarily need to do it, but my point is, with a guitar priced this low, you can still do more to make it a great guitar. Getting value from your guitar doesn’t always mean you’re getting more for its price, it also means you can do more out of it.

Verdict

As a low-cost guitar, Epiphone Les Paul SL provides you decent playability and good sound quality. Everything is fine out of the box, tuners are reliable, the action is low and the controls are quite okay. The ceramic single-coil pickups are unbelievably amazing in producing unique sound quality, especially when connected to an amp.

If you are looking for a playable guitar, Les Paul is more than enough. However, if you want to level up with this guitar, you might need a few adjustments, particularly on the tuners and the strings. It’s indeed a versatile guitar with more to offer!

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