Make no mistakes, the Epiphone Casino was no Gibson copy. While it may appear similar to an ES, it had a tone all of its own, and was most famously played by George Harrison and John Lennon, although other big names like Keith Richards, the Edge, and Noel Gallagher have all been known to play this model.
The Epiphone Casino Coupe that we tested in this KillerGuitarRigs Review is a trimmed down version of the full size original. We set out to find out whether or not the size reduction equaled a reduction in character. Keep on reading to see what we learned.
Who Is This For?
Epiphone is Gibson’s entry level brand, who offer imported guitars, primarily manufactured in China. Gibson’s rebranding of Epiphone over the last 2 to 3 years, however, has seen certain elements of the Epiphone line up elevated. The Epiphone Casino Coupe, for example, is an extremely well made guitar that is as suitable for working musicians on a tight budget as it is for outright beginners.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The test model we received was finished in a beautiful Vintage Sunburst. The overall finish quality was astounding, especially given the relatively low price of the guitar. Being a Casino, it had a full hollow body (not semi hollow like an ES-339), and had a maple top, maple back, and maple sides. The wood grain that showed through the sunburst tint was extremely pretty, and we found it made the guitar look much more expensive than it really was.
It had a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard with 22 medium jumbo frets. While the rosewood itself felt great under the fingers, there were some dark grain streaks that felt detracted from the sleek look a little. Of course, rosewood is a natural product, so every individual guitar will vary in this respect.
The neck itself had the incredible Epiphone SlimTaper D profile. We’ve tried guitars with this neck a few times before, and every time we walk away happy. The Casino Coupe’s neck played just like the others, fast, and very comfortable. As for electronics, it had a pair of Epiphone P90R dogear pickups with chrome covers. The potentiometers performed well, but not quite as well as we’ve seen on the Epiphone “Inspired by Gibson” models.
We spent quite some time getting to know the Casino Coupe, and we were overall very happy. The most notable thing about this guitar was the weight, or lack thereof. It weighed in at just 5.9lb, which made it easily one of the lightest electric guitars we’ve ever tested. The light weight also made it one of the most comfortable we’ve ever played, too.
Playability was good, although a slightly lower action would have turned good into great. Despite the action, we found that it was accurately intonated and had strong tuning stability right out of the box. The fretwork, aided by the bound neck, was good. We found no sharp edges, and everything was properly leveled.
The coupe sized body also added to the playability factor. A lot of guitarists find the 335 size body of the original Casino a little unwieldy, but the coupe size, which is closer to a 339, was much more manageable.
Unplugged, we found it to be quite sweet sounding, while remaining snappy and responsive – this combo of attributes was no doubt down to the full maple body construction. Of course, acoustic performance wasn’t as strong as a true acoustic – the shallow body depth keeps the volume relatively low, and there isn’t much of any low end response – but it’s unlikely that anyone is considering this guitar as an acoustic alternative!
When plugged in, the Casino Coupe became a different guitar altogether. As we pushed them hard, the pickups had the unmistakable growl you’d expect from a pair of P90s. As we dialed it back, we found that it retained excellent clarity and responsiveness.
In the neck position we found nothing but pure bluesy warmth – tones were incredibly sweet, and almost worth the price of entry by itself. In the bridge position with the volume rolled back we got some fantastic trebly lead tones that paired perfectly with a Boss Blues Driver. Even in the middle position with both pickups selected, the sound retained its clarity, which was especially impressive.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Epiphone Casino Coupe is a genuinely great guitar with a lot to offer gigging musicians and bedroom players alike, but if you’d like to compare it against some other hollow body options, these are the guitars we’d recommend taking a look at.
Ibanez Artcore AF75
The Ibanez Artcore AF75 is a great choice at the budget end when it comes to hollow body electric guitars. It features classic styling, with the art nouveaux bridge tail piece being a particular highlight. It differs from the Casino Coupe in that it’s loaded with a pair of humbuckers rather than P90s, which results in a fatter sound.
Gretsch G2420 Streamliner
Like the Casino Coupe, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner is made with a maple body, which lends a similar snappy tone, but the use of humbucking pickups in the Gretsch warms up the tones somewhat. The pickups in this Streamliner aren’t as hot as the Ibanez, but still offer a range of tones from crystal clear cleans, to a wonderful gritty crunch.
Epiphone Emperor Swingster
If you’re happy to spend a little more, the Epiphone Emperor Swingster is a great alternative to the Casino Coupe. It’s also a fully hollow bodied model, and also made with maple on the top, back, and sides, but that’s where the similarities end. It features a Bigsby trem system, and it has a pair of low output humbuckers that deliver gorgeous warm jazz tones, and it also has a deeper body, which improves acoustic performance if you’re planning to play unplugged.
Final Thoughts on the Epiphone Casino Coupe
The Epiphone Casino Coupe is an effortlessly cool hollow body guitar that delivers classic looks and surprisingly dynamic tones. It offers fantastic feel and playability, and it’s accessibly priced, too. For beginners, a Casino Coupe will grow with them as they unlock new skills, making it a solid investment compared with traditional starter guitars. It’s built well enough to be a reliable stage performer, and if looked after, should last a lifetime. These guitars do tend to sell out quickly, so we highly recommend jumping on one if you get the chance.
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