Why I Hate Epiphone Guitars (review)

Consider this my blanket review of all Epiphone guitars in general. I go to Guitar Center a lot. Usually it’s just to check out a bunch of guitars through different amps. I bought one guitar there, and I buy them online sometimes too. About a year ago I found a cool deal on Musicians Friend on a Epiphone Dot Studio guitar. The Dot Studio is basically a budget version of the very expensive and legendary ES335 (several thousands of dollars). This guitar was awesome! It was black on black, and those humbuckers just screamed through my Marshall! It had lots of tone, and was very light (which is great on stage). I loved that guitar…for awhile.

After I gigged it out a few times, the bridge volume know fell inside the body cavity, held on by only the volume knob itself. The nut had come loose. I popped off the volume knob while holding on to the pot pliers, tightened up the nut, and that was that. I tightened up all the other volume and tone knobs too. This was the first time I began to feel like Epiphone was a really low quality guitar. I’d never seen a brand new guitar, direct from the factory with loose volume knobs. In fact, I’d never owned a guitar for years where the volume knobs got loose on their own.

So I gigged this black Dot Studio out like 6 or 7 times. I noticed one night that the input jack nut was coming loose. I tightened it up by hand and all was well for the night. But that made me take notice of the input jack from that point forward. I always checked at home and before gigs….and ended up hand tightening it all the time. It was as terrible pain, and I don’t know why they didn’t install a locknut or lock washer at the factory. Long story short, it had to be tightened so many times that it caused one of the wires attached internally to the input jack to start to short out, and eventually just fall off. I ended up buying an AllParts input jack new at Guitar Center and soldering it back in myself. The guitar was ok…..for awhile.

On stage I switch from bridge to neck pickup a lot depending on the song. I started to notice at first a crackle, and then sometimes just cutting out going from neck to bridge. I would have to switch it back once or twice before it kicked in. I’ve never had problems like that before on a new guitar – that told me it was a cheap input jack. I had already noticed when I soldered in the new input jack how thin the internal wiring of the guitar was (compared to others I had taken apart). Problems with the wiring, and the switch dragged on for months. When I installed the new input jack I had put a few dots of gorilla glue at the edge of the nut to keep it from coming loose again. Eventually I sold the guitar when I had owned it just under a year. I ended up buying the Ibanez Artcore I play as my main guitar now in it’s place.

I have not had a single problem with the Ibanez that I had with the Epiphone, and it has the input jack on the tail just like the Epiphone did. And I can see inside the F-holes of the guitar that the wiring is significantly thicker than it was on the Epiphone. My only complaint with the Artcore is that the pickups aren’t nearly as biting or clear as they were on that Dot Studio. I have a friend that loves Epiphones. He’s tried to tell me that maybe the one I had was just a lemon. I disagree. I have played dozens of Epiphones in 3 different guitar centers and various music shops. Each and ever one has had loose knobs and or input jack. Also, the setup and quality is very hit or miss.

Here’s a prime example. I went to Guitar Center today and played several instruments. I saw this one guitar that was stunning from afar. It has natual laquer and wood, beautiful finish, semi-hollow body 335 type guitar. As I got up on it I saw it was indeed an Epiphone Dot Studio. Being a glutton for punishment I picked it off the rack and plugged it in. It played nice. In face it screamed, and was full of tone. And in this newer model, the input jack had been moved from the tail to the top just right of the bridge. The input jack was tight. I tuned it up and played. Nice action, nice feeling neck, even the toggle switch for neck and bridge was a newer kind and seemed better. Then I switched from neck to bridge and went to turn the volume up for that pickup…and it turned around, and around, and around, and around. The nut had become loose and fallen off that volume. I check the others, and they were also indeed loose.

I played a flame top Epiphone Les Paul last weekend, and it’s input jack and volume knobs were loose (and the action was terrible). I played two Dot Studios that were on clearance and the action was way off the fingerboard, and one had a blemish on the headstock. Loose volume knobs as well. The wost was 2 months ago when I was very interested in getting an SG. SG’s are very expensive, so I of course checked out the Epiphone SG’s (I know – idiot, duh!). They had this one that was white with gold hardware, triple humbucker. Beautiful guitar…nice action, good setup – I liked it a lot. It was on clearance for $340 – a bargain (so I thought!). I plugged it in and tried the neck pickup – nice! I switched to bridge, and no sound! I turned every volume and tone knob on 10 – still no sound! The mid pickup switch was the same. This guitar only had volue on the neck pickup! I thought this guitar was so nice, that I was willing to get it fixed if need be. I took it over to the department manager looking for a deal. He said “no way – it’s already on clearance”. I said “but wait, it’s broken – the wiring is bad and you’re selling is as ‘new’!”. He wasn’t willing to budge one iota on the price. They also weren’t willing to fix it, I had to buy the guitar AND PAY FOR the repair! I was pissed and ended up not buying the guitar. I don’t care if it was clearance or not – they didn’t even know the wiring was bad until I brought it up to them! How can you sell something as brand new that’s broken, and not be willing to send it back to the factory?

See a pattern here? Every Epihpone I pick up in any store, any make or model has a problem or a blemish. The quality is so low, I would never again take one (without gutting it) as a stage guitar. If they can’t even make sure the hardware is tight and the electrical connections are good, and spend an extra $2.50 on a quality switch and input jack – I am not interested in buying an Epiphone guitar EVER AGAIN!! The ONLY way I would consider it would be if it were on extreme clearance (less than $300), and I was going to have it rewired with new knobs, switch, and input jack! If you are considering an Epiphone guitar – BUYER BEWARE!! Look for the things I have pointed out. You will get much more for your money if you take a look at other mid-range priced guitars from Fender, Ibanez, Jackson, Paul Reed Smith (the LTD line), ESP, Dean, or others. I will be reviewing many of these guitars in the future to give you as much information as possible!

Have a comment? Love or Hate Epiphones? Please – comment now and join the discussion!

17 thoughts on “Why I Hate Epiphone Guitars (review)”

  1. I could not agree more with this post. Although I find the overall tone to be pretty nice for the price, the hardware is always loose and the input always break. I have had a epi les paul plus and a dot. The quality on the les paul plus was a bit better, but still disappointing for what i paid. I had to create a hole in the back of my dot in order to reconnect some loose/broken parts; had to completely change the bridge setting for better action; and I have also had tons of trouble with the tuning keys staying in place.

  2. i have had my epi dot for about a year and had zero probs…i think you are expecting too much for any guitar right off the shelf. Any time i buy a guitar i “set it up”…as in make sure everything is tight and adjust neck, bridge and pickup height. i’ve owned all sorts of brands….and i have never…..ever…had one that was perfect right our of the box….with the exception of a cheap no name acoustic bass…it was perfect and still is.

  3. @shannon young – I think maybe you’ve not played enough epiphones off the rack to know exactly what you’re talking about. Re-read my article…when I can walk around guitar center (or any music store) and pick up an epiphone Les Paul, an epiphone SG, and epi Dot, an epi flying V – and have EVERY SINGLE ONE have loose input jacks, loose volume and tone knobs and pots, irregular fit and finish issues (cracks, blemish), and pickups mis-wired, loose tuners, bad nuts, and more – then there are SERIOUS QUALITY PROBLEMS at the factory. Why don’t Schecter, BC Rich, ESP, PRS, or Fender seem to have these exact same problems in their budget lines of instruments?

    You are disillusioned on guitar “set-up”, because setup is bridge intonation, nut and truss rod adjustement, string action, and possibly even polishing frets. It’s absolutely NOT factory problems such as WIRING, and shoddy workmanship such as loose or bad knobs, loose input jacks, loose tuners, etc. Perfect out of the box and piss poor quality assurance at the factory two different things.

    Look at it this way – would you tolerate this shit on a new car? What if knobs on your radio were loose and the turn signal wires were crossed with the brake? Would you put up with this kind of quality on a flat screen or even your iPod? Hell no!! That’s why I say F_U to Epiphone, because they don’t value their customers enough to give them decent instrument for the money and capitalize on the fact that they are the biggest brand with the most exposure and pull.

  4. I bought my Epi ebony dot on-line from a warehouse here in the UK in July 2009. I have been playing semi-professionally for over 20 years and I don’t usually buy a guitar without trying it, but there are no instrument dealers close to where I live that stock Epiphones. So, I was expecting the worst.
    The guitar arrived without a blemish on it and played great straight from the box. After playing the guitar for a while and getting a feel for it, I checked the set-up according to Epiphones specs and found it to spot on. The pick-ups were balanced and all electronics worked flawlessly. There was absolutely none of the problems encountered above.
    I checked the serial number with Epiphone and they confirmed that it had been built in the Qingdao Factory in China. All I can say is that I have either been very fortunate and bought the exception to the rule, or the QA problems have been ironed out. Great guitar.

  5. Loose hardware isn’t the end of the world. Wood shrinkage can occur and then the nuts have room to loosen up on the Tuners, Pots and jacks. Next time you tighten one up put some loctite on it and it’ll never come loose. The PU selector switches were never a good design to begin with and unless you buy switchcraft you’re not getting the best switch either. Usually they simply need cleaning though and if you ham hand them by smacking them from position to position them will screw up because of the way the switch is designed. Not a build issue again, more of a design issue as they are just not as rugged as other types of switches.
    I also wouldn’t judge guitar manufacturing based on floor models that have had the living shit beat out of them by god knows how many people.

  6. Look Ken, you’re missing the point – and it seems as though you didn’t read half of what I wrote. I worked within 2 miles of a guitar center for 5 years. I used to go there for lunch nearly everyday and play guitars. It didn’t matter if an Epiphone was on the floor for 1 day or 1 year – it still had the same problems. It didn’t matter if it was a Dot, an Epi LP, or Epi SG – they all had inferior wiring, poor electronics, bad fit and finish, blemishes – and who knows what else. Didn’t you read the part about the white Epi SG that was on the floor and completely wired wrong they were selling for clearance and refused to fix or send back? How’s that a problem created by having the shit beat out of it?

    The cold hard facts are Gibson has been betting on that big Guitar Center contract for years and they’re lazy. Their quality department lets things slip out that would be rejects for any other guitar maker. The Epiphone’s are far overpriced at $500-$1,000 US. Look how many other quality guitars you could by for that: Dean, Ibanez, Reverend, ESP, diPinto, Peavey, Musicman, Carvin, and the list goes on and on and on…prices for so called “American” Gibsons are a joke. Why the f(*k would you want a $3,000 Les Paul when you can a much better one from real craftsmen still working in the original Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan (now called “Heritage guitars” – google it). The only reason the big stars have them is for the $$ endorsements.

  7. I found this page while looking for a site to buy speed knobs for my Dot. Nice use of meta-tags and search engine placement to get your opinions heard! Hell hath no fury like a dissatisfied customer with internet access.

    It just sounds to me like you need to either stop shopping at Guitar Center, or lower your standards for floor models. There are half a million punk kids picking up those guitars day in and day out. They don’t give a shit if they bang up the guitars. Of course the floor models on popular brands are going to be beat up… they see the most abuse.

    I’ve had input jacks and pots loosen up on every guitar I’ve bought. That’s not a quality control issue… it’s maintenance. After a lot of use, I expect those things to loosen up. I’d be worried if it didn’t! I don’t want to find nuts cranked down and damaging the wood, or to find Loctite on all the serviceable components, preventing me from replacing things that I might want to change in the future.

  8. @Nick – I respect your opinion, but still cry bullshit! I’ve ordered several Epi from Musician’s Friend or other places online, and so have people I know – same problem. This is NOT a guitar center or “floor model” problem. Also – why can I go to the guitar center floor and play any Schecter, any Fender or Squire, any ESP or LTD, any BC Rich, any Dean, or any other make and not have a problem? You claim quality control isn’t a problem – maintenance is. What about the white Epiphone SG I wanted to buy that had 3 pickups, and 2 out of the 3 selections didn’t work – they were wired wrong? It was a mis-wired defective guitar ON THE FLOOR FOR SALE! It came that way from the factory not from “floor abuse”. GC wanted to cell it “clearance” and then charge $100 fee to wire it up the right way!! Sorry you can’t sell something on “clearance” as new that’s broken out of the box. Where’s the quality control for that?

  9. Maintain your shit dude! Things loosen and what do you expect for the price? Whine about loose nuts! Some peoples children.

  10. don’t be stupid or naive. First of all – we’re talking about “off the rack”. Should any guitar have loose nuts on the input jack and pots direct from the factory? Of course not. Second of all – do any of the other guitars off the rack have the same problem in the same price range. Does Dean, Schechter, Peavey, ESP LTD, PRS SE, Squier, or Ibanez?? No, of course not. I haven’t even seen the same issues on Daisy Rock guitars, LOL. What I expect is – for $699 an Epiphone Les Paul with decent electronics and quality fit and finish. A $500 Epiphone SG shouldn’t have a loose input jack or mis-wired pickups brand new on the shelf. This is not about maintenance, and quality mid-range guitars aren’t cheap.

  11. I agree with you on the Epiphone LP’s, I have had one good Epiphone LP out of several that I have played over nearly 30 years. I bought an Agile 3100 last year, and was totally blown away by the quality. I play in a band that includes 2 former Nashville guitarists, one of which plays a Gibson LP, and when he tried my Agile, he was totally impressed. The only thing I might change on mine is the switch, other than that perfect !

  12. This was a hilarious read. Admin, your point is missed in so many of these posts that its too disturbing to make me even laugh though! I agree with what you’re saying… Ordered an Epiphone LP from Musiciansfriend, returned it twice before I decided to let Epiphone eat shit. What bothers me is how little their employees care about the instruments they send out the door. I love your car metaphor, exact same logic, we don’t buy things for them to shit the bed within a week.

  13. So I happen to be strumming my Epiphone Dot and was curious as to the Tone controls as I wasn’t getting a whole lot of change out of them. I’m a ninth rate player at best (beginner really)and was just starting to figure it out and get some cool sounds out of the thing when the bridge tone control starts spinning endlessly! How’s that for weird? Right when I’m reading this post! Fortunately I found another site where someone gave the great suggestion to use two lengths of string underneath the knob, twist them and pull the knob off. I tightened and all seems to be well now. But even prior to this incident I have twice had to take the guitar to the shop to repair the jack which twice fell into the body of the guitar. Don’t get me completely wrong here…I love the look and sound of this guitar, I really do….but I am a little non-plussed as to what I have had to go through with it. Well here’s hoping that’s the last of my issues and I can enjoy it the rest of the way…

  14. ON ALL DOT STUDIOS: REPLACE THE STOCK JACK WITH A JACKPLATE MADE FOR A LES PAUL AND A REAL SWITCHCRAFT JACK. For less than 10 bucks, you will dramatically reduce your daily frustration.

  15. By the way, the jack problem is a design flaw. With the soft wood and laminate, you can’t apply enough pressure to the jack to make it retain, without damaging the laminate. If you aren’t having a problem with this unscrewing daily, you probably are not standing / moving while you play, and / or, someone coated the fastener with Loctite or some likewise technique. Fix this the right way: Les Paul curved jack plate.

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