Product Type: Epiphone guitars and bass guitars
Newest Review: ... Tommi Iommi of Black Sabbath. Even Santana's picked one up from time to time. So where did it all go wrong? Gibson guitars tend to h... more
Devil's horns and a bark to match
Epiphone SG G-400
Member Name: Danscomp
Epiphone SG G-400
Advantages: Great for shorter players, or those with smaller hands. Looks fantastic.
Disadvantages: Cramped for those with large hands. 4th Fret likes a good buzz, even if you don't.
Having recently posted a glowing review of my Squier Stratocaster, I thought it would be a good idea to review my other guitar. One I'm not so happy with. This is less to do with a lack of product quality and more to do with the type of Guitar player I am.
When you get into playing Guitar, you'll want more than one. Ideally you will want a Guitar that's fairly different from the one you already have, or you want a similar but much higher quality instrument. At the time, I decided to go down the fairly different route.
Already having been impressed by Fender's entry level brand, Squier, I decided to opt for Epiphone. Gibson's entry level brand. The guitar still cost more than my Strat, but the reviews looked good, the fingerboard felt comfortable in the shop and the pickups certainly had a great deal of grunt in them. Oh, and it looked like the dog's ah - teeth.
The Epiphone G400 is the only Gibson authorised copy of the SG. A guitar that will be familiar to many. Angus Young uses one. Eric Clapton used one in cream before opting for the Stratocaster. The Edge uses one. Tommi Iommi of Black Sabbath. Even Santana's picked one up from time to time.
So where did it all go wrong?
Gibson guitars tend to have a shorter scale length than I'm used to. This is how long the neck is. The result is a tiny bit less room between the frets, the metal strips running across the top of the neck next to where you place your fingers.
Their necks also flatter and wider than the Strat. All great news for stretching your fingers across multiple frets, which helps with the opening riff to Gold on the ceiling by the Black Keys or Message in a bottle by The Police. General navigation is just that bit quicker. String bending is a breeze, thanks in part to the stop-tail bridge.
But all this comes at a price. When forming barre chords from the 8th fret upwards, my fingers are crowded. Positioning becomes awkward. Sounds can be dulled and muted. Why? Mainly because I have fairly large hands. They're not oven mitts, but they're not delicate little things either. A guitarist with smaller hands may well find a Stratocaster or Telecaster scale too wide and awkward to navigate.
There are other things that are more subjective. The shorter scale length plus the lack of a strung-through body means that the instrument feels less alive for me. The Guitar is also very light, so it doesn't sit as well against my body. The front strap button is actually on the back of the Guitar, something else that some players might find an adjustment too far.
Buzzy, buzz buzz
Lastly, there is some fret buzz on the low E (that's the top string) around the fourth fret (that's about a handspan in from the headstock). Fret buzz is when a string is plucked open or with finger pressed down and the string vibrates harshly against the fret. I've performed all the adjustments that should remove the buzz, but it remains.
It's entirely possible that spending £25 on a setup by a Luthier will resolve it, but many Gibson enthusiasts are of the opinion that this is a design flaw. In any case, when playing through an amp, you can't hear the buzz through the amp. Anyone more than 5 feet away won't hear it on the guitar either, but it still irritates me.
Hey, Mr Bright side
So, what's good? The Guitar looks amazing in cherry red. The trapezoid inlays on the dark rosewood neck make it look far more expensive than it is (£219). The two humbucking pickups are very powerful, yet have their own character. The neck pickup is sweeter, with more warmth. The bridge pickup feels like the volume switch should go up to 11.
There is a "pro" version out for £40 more than the £219 I paid for this. It gives the option to "split" the coils of the Humbuckers to give a greater range of available tones.
The sustain of the mahogany body is great. Held notes seem to last forever. The control knobs are of a high quality. For a Guitarist who loves the shorter scale, but finds the weight of a traditional Les Paul crippling, this is a no-brainer.
Can I play this guitar? Sure. I can. I even find some things easier on this. But it just doesn't feel like part of me when I'm playing it. The Strat does. I will be selling this Guitar to help fund my Fender modern player Telecaster plus (the one in my member picture).
It's not a Strat, but it does have a similar weight and heft, the same scale length and neck radius and a strung-through body. I know what kind of player I am, and that feels like a milestone to me.
Summary: Great value, but make sure it suits you.