In all of the years that the Les Paul has been in production, one year tends to stick out over the others – 1959. But why?
1959 is considered to be the very first year that the Les Paul had all of the attributes that make up what we know as standard for the model today. That is a mahogany body with a maple top cap, PAF humbucking pickups, the tune-o-matic bridge, and a burst finish.
With Gibson branded reissues of this special guitar selling for close to $7000, the Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard couldn’t have a more important place in the market. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be taking a look at this affordable homage to the iconic Gibson to see just how close Epiphone have managed to get. If you’re a Les Paul fan, you’re absolutely going to want to keep on reading.
Who Is This For?
The Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard might be more affordable than the Gibson equivalent, but it’s far from cheap. With a typical retail price of around $850, this ’59 edition is marketed towards intermediate to advanced guitarists, as well as working musicians looking for something they aren’t afraid to take out on the road.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The ’59 comes in a range of original burst finishes, including an Aged Honey Burst, Aged Heritage Cherry Fade, Aged Dark Cherry Burst, and the color we received to test, Aged Dark Burst.
The finish quality is a step above what we’ve seen on other recent Epiphone Les Pauls. It has an aged gloss clear coat that feels more like a satin finish, and thus closer to the nitro you’d find on a Gibson than the usual shiny poly finish on the Epiphone range. It won’t age and check like a real nitro lacquer would, but we still liked the way it looked.
Of course, being a ’59 model, it was made with a solid mahogany body, topped with a carved maple cap. As this is one of Epiphone’s higher end models, the maple cap was AAA flamed, and it really did look spectacular. Despite all of this, it was a relative lightweight for a Les Paul, weighing in at 9lb even.
The neck profile was a Rounded Medium C, which is a big departure from the baseball bat-like Vintage ‘50s necks. It played like an absolute dream, both fast and extremely comfortably. It’s not a reissue of the real ’59 neck, but it’s definitely close.
It had an Indian laurel fretboard, which isn’t our favorite wood, and given the price, it would have been nice to see rosewood in use. Despite this, it still felt OK, although a darker wood would have suited the aesthetic much better.
Like all Standards, the top of the body and the fretboard were both bound. The binding was an aged, off white color, and really suited the guitar well.
Unlike most Epiphones, even the more expensive models, this particular guitar featured a pair of US made Gibson Burstbucker pickups. On top of that, it was loaded with high end electronics, including CTS pots, Mallory 150 polyester film caps, and even a Switchcraft toggle switch.
For hardware it came with Kluson style Epiphone Deluxe vintage tuners, and a beautifully finished tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. This model even comes with an Epiphone hard sided case that typically retails for around $200 on its own.
Performance / Sound
Without giving it all away right at the beginning, this was without a doubt one of the best Epiphone Les Pauls we’ve had the opportunity to review. It was a real player’s guitar, smooth and comfortable, with enough weight to let us know we were playing a Les Paul, but not so heavy that it would cause fatigue with extended use.
We found that it was well set up right out of the box, with a fantastic low action that paired beautifully with the Medium C neck. It played fast, and we didn’t experience any noticeable fret buzz.
The Gibson Burstbucker pickups made a huge difference over the Epiphone pickups we’ve played on other models. From a sound perspective, it really was indistinguishable from a Gibson model. We found the lows and lower mids to be rich and velvety smooth, and when pushed hard in the mids and upper mids, they truly growled.
No matter how hard we pushed in any of the three pickup settings, we never found it to be muddy, something that can’t always be said about Epiphones equipped with the Epiphone version of the Burstbucker pickups.
When we wanted to keep things clean, it took no effort whatsoever. With the neck pickup selected, the tone rolled back to 7, and the clean channel active on the Katana 50, the blues tones were just magical.
Other Guitars to Consider
As much as we love the Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard, there are some killer alternatives on the market, too. If you’re thinking you’d like to take a look at some different options before making a decision, here are a couple that we highly recommend.
The Epiphone Slash Les Paul Standard is a faithful reproduction of Slash’s Appetite for Destruction era guitars. It features custom vintage voiced pickups and a Slash spec C profile neck. It’s a more contemporary take on the Les Paul than the 1959 Standard, and is definitely going to keep GNR fans happy.
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that almost $900 for an Epiphone seems a lot. This is a talking point that often comes up, and in this case, the most logical recommendation is the Entry Level Gibson Les Paul Tribute. For a small bump in price over the Epiphone you’ll get a US made Gibson with a genuine nitro finish. It offers similar playability and feel to the Epi, but of course the major advantage is increased resale value.
Final Thoughts on the Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard
The Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard is truly a phenomenal guitar. If, like most average players, you find that $7000 is a simply unattainable price for a guitar, this Epiphone will get you at least 75% of the way to the original Gibson.
Of course, when it comes to the feel and playability, the Gibson is the superior guitar, but this only applies if you’ve actually played the Gibson – if not, like us, you’ll probably be absolutely blown away by the tone and overall feel of this fantastic Epiphone.
So, as for whether Gibson are trying to make people second guess their purchases by authorizing such a high quality Epiphone – this probably isn’t the case, but if you do get the opportunity to own one of these Epi ’59 standards, we still recommend you jump at the chance.