I admit I have a thing for Les Paul guitars, but my reviews are always honest. This quick review isn’t a substitute for a hands-on demo of this fine example of Epiphone craftsmanship, but should simply help you learn a bit more about this guitar. By the end, you’ll probably agree it’s a solid choice for almost any player.
When I first started playing guitar, I had a budget off-brand Stratocaster model guitar ( you know one of those starter packages where all is included) that was recommended by the guy in the store. Terrible choice! It left a lot to be desired.
When I stepped up my game to an inexpensive Epiphone Les Paul, everything changed. My playing got better, I had more fun practicing, and a lot of that was due to the significant improvement in my axe!
Almost any player will enjoy fingering chords and jamming a bit with an Epiphone Les Paul Special II. For players looking to make a move from a novice set up to something more advanced, this guitar will over-deliver on your expectations.
At-a-Glance: The Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Epiphone’s Les Paul Special II is both accessible and affordable, and that appeals to all players. Anyone from a professional musician to a beginner can pick up one of these and recognize the build quality and the ease of playing made possible by the neck’s shape.
While it’s the extremely affordable price that will entice most players to purchase an Epiphone Les Paul Special II, it is also the Les Paul design, easy to play neck profile, and outstanding sonic range that makes it a standout model. This guitar delivers much more than one might expect, if you looked at the price alone.
But that’s not all there is to know about the Epiphone Les Paul Special II. Let’s see what else this guitar has to offer.
What Makes The Epiphone Les Paul Special II So Good?
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II has upgraded features that blow the competition off the stage, a few of which I am particularly fond of:
- Premium rosewood fretboard and mahogany body
- Easy to play D-shaped Les Paul neck
- High-end Tune-o-matic bridge system
- Great set of humbucker pickups
When picking up this guitar for the first time, I was impressed by it’s beautiful mahogany body and rosewood fretboard. Not only did they add an elegant finish to the guitar, but they created tones that were warm and rich without sacrificing the guitar’s dynamic response and bite. The SlimTaper D shape neck was easy to wrap my hand around, and made transitioning to higher frets smooth and easy.
Another thing I love about this guitar is the tune-o-matic bridge system. Adjusting the action is dead easy, and I was able to customize my strings to sit in the perfect position to avoid buzzing or difficulty pressing down. And high playability is always on my priority list.
In addition, you just gotta love these pickups that are catered to the gritty and distorted tone you’d expect from a true rock n’ roll guitar. Despite the obvious aim towards high gain sounds I still ended up with a clear definition which is is not always the case in all humbuckers.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II: An Overview
As early as 1957, Epiphone became known for its line of Gibson-style guitars. In cooperation with the premium guitar maker, Epiphone delivered guitars that were more budget-friendly than the Gibson models but with fine craftsmanship that appealed to many working musicians and artists who recognized their value.
Now, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II is carrying on that tradition. It’s fair to say that to most guitar players a Gibson Les Paul is the gold standard. But, for most of us, a guitar that costs thousands of dollars is unattainable. That’s where the Epiphone Les Paul Special II comes in.
You don’t need to take out a small loan to buy one. Once it’s in your hands, you can play along with the best of them, taking advantage of its dual humbucking pickups, mahogany body, famous Les Paul-inspired design, and other features that make this an unbeatable deal.
A Closer Look: Epiphone Les Paul Special II
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II has some features that make it a standout among budget-friendly guitars. When you’re playing it, you might think you were holding a much more expensive setup in your hands! When you push its sound through your favorite amplifier, you will feel like you’re playing a guitar that costs ten times as much.
A rosewood fingerboard is a mark of a quality guitar. Rosewood is prized for its resonance and tonal properties but has been the subject of much scrutiny from environmental activists. Its use was widely banned in 2017.
Though restrictions have now been lifted on using rosewood in musical instruments, it is still a bit of a hot-button issue. Rather than using inferior wood, Epiphone used rosewood on this model. You can expect great playability and excellent sound characteristics. However, on more recent models (2023) I see Indian Laurel being used for the fretboard, so it’s quite possible Epiphone is moving away from Rosewood.
Les Paul Neck
Les Paul guitar necks can come in a variety of shapes. Typically they fall into two broad categories, either D-shaped (1960’s style) or C-shaped (1950’s style). Even within those main profiles, there is great variation.
Epiphone’s Les Paul Special II features a D-shaped profile that tapers a bit, making it easy to play across all the positions of the neck. Choosing a neck profile is a matter of personal preference, but this neck is suitable for most players and any style of play. Love it!
Tune-o-matic Bridge System
The Tune-o-matic bridge was invented by Gibson in the 1950s. It allows precise adjustment of a guitar’s strings as they sit on the saddle. The adjustment capability ensures the instrument can maintain tune as well as the proper height of the strings over the fretboard.
This technology is often not found on cheaper guitars, making it more likely that they will have poor action. On the Epiphone Les Paul Special II, you won’t have that problem even if you change string gauges or playing styles. You can use the Tune-o-matic bridge to prevent strings from sitting too low and creating a buzzing or riding too high and becoming too hard to press down.
In short, this is a premium piece of kit that is not always included on guitars at the reasonably affordable end of the price spectrum.
As is expected on Les Paul guitars , the Epiphone Les Paul Special II has two humbucker pickups, a 650R in the neck and a 700T in the bridge. Switching between them or combining them allows you to blend the tones of the neck position and the bridge position, meeting the needs of players for almost any style of music.
These open-coil humbuckers are high-output pickups, so they work incredibly well on a high gain setting or with a distortion pedal. Clean sounds are pretty decent but not great, lacking a bit of range. Instead, these pickups are best suited for the gritty and distorted sound we all love from the Les Paul series. Despite their harsh tone, the hot 700T bridge pickup and less gritty 650R neck pickup balance to create bold lows, and clear highs with incredible anti-hum capabilities.
These pickups are a versatile and practical addition that makes the Epiphone Les Paul Special II an undeniably well-rounded and functional instrument, suitable for rockers, jazz players, and even metal enthusiasts.
Three Colors Available
When it comes to design, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II is available in three timeless colors. While the color doesn’t affect your playing, it might influence how you feel playing your guitar. For instance, if you’re trying to rock out to Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, you might prefer the all-black look as opposed to a colorful, jazzy sunburst.
So it’s nice to have a few options to choose from.
- Transparant Black
- Heritage Sunburst
- Transparent Blue
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II is backed by Epiphone’s limited lifetime warranty. Not every conceivable thing is covered, but it’s nice to know that the guitar’s electronics are warranted to be free from defects and poor workmanship.
You should be confident that any major issues with the quality of your instrument are addressable with the help of the manufacturer. Just remember to always buy from a legitimate retailer.
Pros and Cons
Like almost anything, there are pros and cons to the Epiphone Les Paul Special II. I think that you’ll agree there’s more here to love than not, but let’s lay it out there!
- Exceptional value, affordable pricing
- High-end, timeless design and features
- Quality construction from a well-respected manufacturer
- Powerful, punchy output, simple electronics
- Limited warranty
- Lacks some high-end electronics
- Humbucker switch is in a new position (not above the neck)
- You’ll need to purchase a case separately, only strings included
- Tuners are not as responsive as you might like
- The included nut is plastic and could be damaged easily
Epiphone Les Paul Special II:
Just like in a musical piece, it’s time for us to wrap up this review of the Special II. But let’s remember some of the same notes before we go. If you’re looking for a budget guitar that is playable, capable of powerful and robust sound, and accessible for almost any player, you don’t have to look any further than the Epiphone Les Paul Special II.
It’s a rare combination of classic style elements, premium materials, and craftsmanship, as well as a distinctively affordable price. Yes, there are some bones we could pick when it comes to the accessories included or the lack of higher-end tuners. But, you could easily replace the tuners and the plastic nut for a serious upgrade that puts this guitar in the realm of much higher-priced instruments. And if you’re like me, you won’t even miss having a case. Just keep this guitar hung up on the wall or out on its stand, so you can enjoy playing it every day!
When you’re ready, don’t hesitate to add an Epiphone Les Paul Special II to your guitar collection.