The problem with buying a cheaper Les Paul copy is they tend to sound cheap too.
And what’s the point in getting something that looks like a Les Paul and sounds like a spade with strings nailed to it?
Here's our top five Les Paul copies on the market that are worth checking out...
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Les Paul Copies On The Market
ESP LTD EC-256 (Editor's Choice)
Agile AL-2000 (Budget Choice)
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What to look for when buying a Les Paul copy?
You don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, but you do want a guitar that sure as hell looks and sounds like it costs that way. The problem is that just because something is called a “Les Paul” doesn’t mean it’s going to compare to one that Slash has.
So, keep these things in mind when you’re buying yourself a Les Paul copy:
- A good set of humbucker pickups. Don’t skimp on this part, or you’ll never find a guitar that sounds close to the real thing! You want a nice fat tone, nothing too bright or shrill.
- You’ll also want to get something with the right look to it. The guitar should sit heavy on your lap and feel solid enough to knock out a rabid stage crasher in a pinch.
- The next thing to keep an eye on is the fingerboard. If the neck is too thin and flat, you won’t get the same feel as playing on an authentic Gibson LP. Likewise, if you don’t have the right wood then it’ll alter the tone from “Is that a Les Paul?” to “Is that a Les Paul knockoff?”
Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...
TOP 5 LES PAUL COPIES IN 2017
#1: ESP LTD EC-256 Black
One of the best Les Paul copies you can find, especially considering the massive price difference between this and a Gibson LP. It looks as good as it sounds, and apart from a few minor set up adjustments you’ll need to make, it’s a great sounding instrument that’s faithful to the Les Paul we all know and love.
- The stock pickups are adaptive to a lot of styles of music, and you can switch between single coil and humbucker at your leisure.
- The all black look is really powerful, and makes a really striking image with the Les Paul shape.
- Stays in tune for a very long time.
- The action is a little high at first and will need to be adjusted from stock.
- The neck is a little thin, so if you’re after the true Les Paul sound this will detract from it a little.
- If you’ve never played a guitar with jumbo frets before, you’ll need to give yourself some time to adjust to the feel of them.
#2: Johnson JH-100-S Delta Rose Electric Guitar
This guitar draws inspiration from the semi hollow Les Pauls, although it doesn’t quite manage to nail the right look and tone. That said, it’s still a decent guitar, but won’t be getting many oohs and ahs from envious guitarists around you.
- An affordable model, although extensive modification might be needed to get a great instrument.
- Very good for jazz thanks to the f-holes and good clean tone, but struggles with harder genres.
- Has a pleasing aesthetic (although not reminiscent of the more well known Les Pauls around)
- This is a hollowbody, which means that the tone and feel of the guitar in your hands will be very different from the better known solid body Les Pauls.
- Frets, tuners and intonation will need to be fixed before you can start playing earnestly.
- The iconic shape of a Les Paul is nowhere to be found here, and is in fact very plain and dull.
#3: Vintage V100 Electric Guitar
Another stellar example of a Les Paul copy that holds true faith to the real deal. The commitment to making this is reflected by a slightly higher price than some of the others on the list, and is more difficult to acquire outside of the UK without paying a little extra.
- The pickups and tone knobs are very responsive and work well together to produce the fat Les Paul sound you’re looking for in a copy.
- It holds sustain really well, comparable to a genuine Les Paul.
- Visually it’s very similar, although the cut off is ever so slightly different.
- Unfortunately it’s more expensive than most copies, easily running above $500.
- Chances are you’ll need to do some minor alterations, such as fixing the intonation and possibly adjusting the action. Despite this they are generally very well set up from the factory.
- Although the rest of the guitar is extremely sturdy, the headstock is a weak point and care must be taken to avoid breaking it off.
#4: Agile AL-2000 Electric Guitar
The AL 2000 is a great Les Paul copy, it’s well made with good choice of wood and the hardware performs reliably enough not to need a back up when gigging.
- Looks very much like a Les Paul should do.
- The cut off is really low down so you can shred on the high frets very easily (although it doesn’t have the iconic LP look).
- Ceramic pickups deliver beautiful tone with very little feedback issues.
- The neck is thin and flat in comparison to a Les Paul, and many other guitars besides! Unless you have very small hands it won’t suit you very well. Best try this one before you buy!
- It will definitely need a look over to fix some issues, common ones being action, intonation and filing down some frets.
- Prices can fluctuate wildly for some reason, so don’t pay more than a couple of hundred for it.
#5: Epiphone Les Paul STANDARD Electric Guitar
Epiphone have made a solid attempt at creating a Les Paul copy here. Although the hardware is inferior compared to a real Gibson, the massive price difference more than makes up for it. If you were to consider it as a guitar in its own right rather than simply comparing it to a real Les Paul, you’d be very pleased with the quality.
- Solid wood construction, set neck and the use of mahogany, maple and rosewood makes for a very warm, full sound.
- Sustain lasts for a lifetime, just like a good Les Paul should.
- Generally, these guitars come well set up straight from the factory, although if being sent across continents then you’ll have to take into account the effect the humidity changes will inevitably, so you may need to give it a little bit of love before playing it at its best!
- The paintwork is a little bland and uninspiring to look at.
- Although the humbucker pickups do a decent job, they don’t compare to what a true Gibson Les Paul produces.
- The mid-tones are weaker than they should be, which is one of the Les Paul’s best strengths, so unfortunately whilst this guitar does sound good, it’s noticeably different from what you probably had in mind.
So here we have it. Without a doubt some of these are better than others, but they are all excellent guitars for the price range. Are you still struggling to choose?
Here’s our top pick:
The ESP LTD EC-256 really stands out because of its excellent appearance, great hardware and the bargain price for something that hits as close to being a Les Paul as a copy can do. It’s one of the most faithful to the Les Paul, and the difference in quality is negligible.
Is there anything you would add to our list of the Top 5 Les Paul Copies in 2016? Leave us a comment, and don’t forget to subscribe for weekly reviews, tips and guides to help you become the best guitarist you can be.