The Les Paul is one of the most iconic and fun to play guitars on the market. Its gorgeous looks and unmistakable sound make it the dream instrument for many players, at all levels. No wonder six string wielding legends such as Jimmy Page, Slash, and Ace Frehley made it their primary axe throughout most of their careers. Epiphone’s Les Paul Speciall II Plus Top is an affordable Les Paul guitar, designed and made by luthiers under Gibson’s wing. It shares many of the same features and offers an excellent bang for your buck.
I recorded some sound samples and put them in a video to give you an idea of the guitar in different contexts. It also includes my impressions of the instrument.
Les Paul beauty and class, without the price tag
The designation “Plus Top” refers to the fact that the Les Paul Special is fitted with an extra layer of maple on top of its mahogany body. This is a piece of the traditional aesthetic that Gibson installs on its most popular model. These Epiphone guitars are all fitted with such a top, and, thanks to their transparent finishes, you can see all the details. Coupled with this type of finish, you get a somewhat mesmerizing three-dimensional effect. This is a really enjoyable feature, and, even after decades of being involved with the instrument, I still catch myself being fascinated by such models.
In addition to a maple top and mahogany body, the guitar has a traditional combination of rosewood and mahogany for the fretboard and neck. The neck used is thin, with a slim taper profile, helping with playability. The 22 fret fretboard has single dot inlays, making for a rather streamlined visual result.
The electronics are comprised of a pair of humbuckers—the 700T and 650R. These high output pickups are designed in the USA. The controls include a pickup selector with a single volume and tone knob. This is a bit different from the 4 knob traditional Les Paul that lets you control each pickup’s volume and tone independently. As expected, the bridge is a fixed model with a stopbar tailpiece.
Beautiful, transparent finishes
The Les Paul Special II Plus Top is available in three different finishes. The Heritage Sunburst option is a traditional variant that will inspire Led Zeppelin riffs for years to come. If you are like me and have a soft spot for this colour, it’s the way to go. For a stealthier look, the black alternative is interesting. It’s classy, versatile, and the bonus is that if you look close enough, you can still see all the maple’s details. Last, but not least, is the transparent blue. This will definitely stand out of the pack, as its eye-catching colour is rather unusual, but very well done. I suspect that this one will speak more to the fashion conscious guitar players out there.
Beautiful design and classic tones
Even before you pick up the guitar, you will probably stop and simply look at it. The flamed maple top will definitely catch your eye. It particularly pops out in the heritage burst. While it’s not a book matched, premium specimen, there’s something captivating in the random quality of these natural formations. The transparent finish also means that you’ll be able to enjoy the particularities of the mahogany of the body and neck. While these aren’t as prized as the figured maple variants, I always enjoyed its beautiful tight grain, and it really feels like home to me.
Out of the box, the setup seems to be aimed towards modern players. With a low action, the Les Paul Special is shipped with a user-friendly playing experience in mind. As I mentioned earlier, the neck is on the thinner side, especially compared to some of the vintage Les Pauls. This is great for first timers, as they will have an easier time learning and progressing. It’s also good news for more experienced guitarists who are looking to incorporate modern techniques. This will add a certain amount of fluidity up and down the fretboard.
The guitar also sounds fantastic, with a noticeable honky bark and undeniable personality on distorted or crunchy settings. When you roll the volume knob down or lower the amp’s gain, it really reacts well and enables you to play beautiful accompaniments. Chords, ringing arpeggios, or single notes bloom majestically. All three pickup positions provide convincing, Les Paul-like tones.
Although you can’t control each pickup individually, it’s not much of an issue. The guitar sounds authentic nevertheless. With a bit of pedalboard planning, it’s possible to cover every sonic territory without longing for independent control knobs.
Great at all levels
Thanks to its affordable price tag, this instrument is obviously ideal for beginners. Its playability is really a highlight and will offer an inviting introduction to the electric guitar. The simple design of a fixed bridge reduces maintenance headaches and lets you focus on playing. This also means that alternate tunings are easy to achieve. Also, the tones and elegant appearance will make you feel like you’re playing a way more expensive instrument. Such a strong source of inspiration will help you to break out of a rut.
That being said, it’s not only ideal for beginners. More experienced players will definitely appreciate Epiphone’s quality of craftsmanship. This is a great entry point into the world of Les Paul style guitars, without breaking the bank. If you own another type of guitar, such as a Strat or Tele, this might be the perfect complement. The guitar’s simple construction is also a great canvas for modifications. Customization such as pickup, bridge, and tuning peg changes comes to mind.
No matter where you are on your playing journey, there is something to like about the Les Paul Special II Plus Top. Make sure you take it for a test drive.
If you are looking for an even more affordable Les Paul (or for something that doesn’t distract with aesthetics) without sacrificing mojo, you can read my review of the Epiphone Les Paul Limited Edition Special I here.
Make sure to check out the Epiphone Les Paul Special II on Best Buy’s website.