The Gibson Les Paul is an axe that requires no introduction. Thankfully, you don’t need to break the bank to get the playability and legendary tones of this guitar. There are many great options based on the original models and retaining all of the best aspects.
Of course, these copies of the Les Paul aren’t quite at the standard of the original, but they come very close. Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the best guitars that have been based on the iconic Gibson Les Paul.
Best Les Paul Style Guitars - Close to the Original
Table of Contents
- Best Les Paul Style Guitars - Close to the Original
- What to Look For in a Les Paul Copy
- Authentic Les Paul Features & Qualities
Epiphone began production of their Les Paul models with the intention of creating a more affordable option, while keeping the main attributes of Gibson’s version that are hailed guitarists all over the world. Due to Epiphone being a subsidiary of Gibson, they had the advantage of knowing what makes the Les Paul so great.
The Les Paul Studio LT provides you with the tone, feel and playability of the original. Dual Epiphone Zebra-coil humbucking pickups have been installed in order to produce that thick, full-bodied sound with no risk of unwanted noise. The inclusion of Cermanic-8 magnets beefs up the sound further, making it perfect for powerful rock guitar playing.
In terms of controls, the Studio LT features the standard tone controls and individual pickup volume controls, so you can blend the sound of the neck and bridge pickups. The guitar’s body is composed of mahogany, which improves its ability to sustain notes.
The solid mahogany neck uncannily resembles the original Gibson Les Paul neck. This is complemented by the rosewood fingerboard which lends itself to smooth chord transitions. Add to this an adjustable Tune-o-matic bridge and Stopbar tailpiece, and you have a high quality replica of the Les Paul which feels great and produces an abundance of rich tone.
It’s fair to say that Gibson and Epiphone have been pretty prolific at pumping out Les Paul models over the years. I think this is down to the fact that this guitar has never gone out of fashion, and is therefore associated to so many great artists or periods in music.
The Les Paul Standard 60’s model is, as you can guess, based on the Gibson guitar from the 1960’s. This is evident in its appearance, with an understated, solid design complemented by the retro black and white coloring. Sonically, the guitar is full of vintage character that is perfect for playing straight up rock n roll.
The solid-feeling mahogany body produces a rich and diverse array of tones. To counterbalance the smoothness, Epiphone have used a maple top that gives the sound a punchy clarity that was inherent in 60’s guitar sounds.
The Alnico ProBucker pickups give the Les Paul Standard 60’s a powerful trajectory and are similar to the vintage PAF humbuckers used in the 1960’s models.
The ESP LTD is another quality guitar similar in style to the Les Paul. Taking from their higher-end EC Series models, ESP have produced a more affordable option that is diverse in tonality and looks the part too.
The classy aesthetics of the EX-256 is complemented by the set-neck construction which allows you to easily access the higher frets.
A standout feature of this guitar is its sonic versatility. Featuring ESPs acclaimed LH-150 humbucker pickups, it produces warm tones when playing chords and has an impressive sharp articulation for playing lead guitar.
The mahogany body enhances its sustain, and the three-piece U-haped mahogany neck is thin and easy to navigate with your fretting hand.
The fingerboard is made of roasted jatoba and is joined by flag inlays and 22 extra-wide frets. The combination of these features gives the EX-256 an excellent playability level that is comparable to that of a Les Paul.
Another Epiphone addition to our list of the best Les Paul style guitars, the special VE is more eccentric than the previous entries. With a vintage worn cherry sunburst look, the guitar is sure to stand out on stage.
The tone of the VE is rough and ready. This is due mainly to the use of two open coil humbuckers that promote a fat overall tone. Add to this the poplar body, mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard, and you have a resonant and warm sound with great sustain.
This guitar can be used for multiple genres, from country, to blues rock. It has a three-way pickup selector control so you can further tweak the sound to your liking.
I’m a big fan of the worn vintage finish of this model. It makes you feel like you’re playing a guitar that’s been used for decades, and will continue to look better as time goes by.
Gretsch have fast become one of the leading manufacturers of affordable guitars and basses with their Electromatic series. The G5220 is a beautiful looking axe, with an understated black glossy design, silver controls and white scratch plate. You can see how the design has been inspired by the Les Paul’s appearance.
A pair of Broad’Tron pickups have been installed to produce a thick, humbucking tone. The neck is constructed from mahogany, which promotes the overall resonance.
For the fingerboard, Gretsch have used black walnut which plays as smoothly as it looks. The addition of a classic V Stoptail bridge adds to the vintage feel and improves the guitar’s ability to stay in tune.
The G5220 provides you with a great blend of rock n roll growl coupled with pristine clean tones. The pickup volume controls and master volume with a treble bleed circuit add to the guitars tonal capabilities.
The Schecter Solo II Custom is a classic single-cutaway styled guitar which features the classic shape of a Les Paul.
This guitar has a great attack thanks in part to the combination of mahogany and figured maple. This tonewood combo makes the sound warm, but with the potential to really bark if needed. The sharp cutaway and thin C neck profile adds to its playability.
Let’s get into the sound of the Solo II Custom. It’s full-bodied, to say the least. The Schecter USA Pasadena-series humbucking pickups are styled to produce a hot-rodded sound. You’ll have no trouble cutting through the mix when playing riffs, and the upper midrange clarity adds a nice touch.
Overall, the Solo II Custom pays homage to guitars like the Les Paul, but with a modern touch. You can coil split the pickups by using a push-pull tone pot and that provides access to a single coil as well as humbucker sound.
The next addition to our list of Les Paul style guitars is the ESP LTD SC-1000 QM. This solid body is ideal for aggressive rock playing. The sustain is brilliant, thanks to the set-neck design which enhances the resonance in comparison to bolt-on designs on other guitars.
Tonally, this ESP guitar is articulate and not lacking in power. The EMG humbucker pickups are full sounding. Add a classic tonewood blend of mahogany and quilted maple, and you have a guitar capable of clarity in the mid-high tones and growling in the low end.
The design of the EX-1000 QM is quite unusual (in a good way) because it combines a slightly arched top with a sharp cutaway. This allows you to easily access the higher frets and keeps you picking hand comfortable regardless of your playing style.
Ibanez have paid homage to the classic Les Paul style with the ART120QA. They have chosen figured maple for the top, due to its ability to produce a snappy tone. It also gives the guitar a modern, shiny look.
The maple neck is traditionally styled and is joined by a bound purple heart fingerboard. The fingerboard has a dual-action truss rod fitted to improve the overall playability.
As with all of the previous entries on this list, Ibanez have gone with humbucking pickups for the rich, thick tone they provide. The particular pickups installed are Classic Elite humbuckers. They can snarl or glide depending on where you position the pickup selector.
This guitar may be the ideal Les Paul styled choice if you play riff based, heavier styles of music.
The Indio 66 DLX by Monoprice is as interesting in sound as it is to look at. The flamed maple top certainly grabs your attention, and gives the guitar a rockabilly, country look. The body has been carved out of mahogany and isn’t too heavy.
Due to the neck being set in, the connection between the body and neck has been strengthened. This improves the sustain and makes the tone sound warmer. Overall, the guitar has a comfortable feel that could trick you into thinking it is much more expensive that it actually is.
Sonically, this guitar is nothing flash but it has a solid tone. Generic medium output ceramic humbuckers have been installed, so you get that thick sound. It is capable of full-sounding rung out chords, and can produce some interesting tones for soloing too, but doesn’t specifically have one defining sonic quality. This is a good thing if you like to use a lot of pedals, as the Indio 66 DLX provides you with a blank canvas so to speak.
What to Look For in a Les Paul Copy
Of course, the components and materials in a genuine Gibson Les Paul are going to be superior to those of a copy model. There are certain features you should look out for when looking for a Les Paul style guitar.
Pickups obviously play a huge part in getting that Les Paul sound. Humbucker pickups that promote depth are a must. Les Paul copies usually have veneer fitted and are constructed from a combination of woods.
If this is the case, the best option is a maple body combined with a mahogany neck and maple top as this will get you close to the authentic Les Paul sound and feel.
Authentic Les Paul Features & Qualities
Along with its powerful, gritty tone, the Les Paul is renowned for its long sustain of notes. Good quality copies should embody this quality, which makes the guitar ideal for playing solos and riffs or ringing out chords.
The sustain of a Les Paul copy is dependent both on the materials used to construct it, and the pickups which are installed by the manufacturer. If both of these are of high quality, you should be able to access the famous sustain offered by authentic Gibson models.
The Les Paul also produces notoriously strong mid-range frequencies, and this is an area of focus amongst manufacturers producing replicas and similar guitars.
Having such a prominent mid-range makes a Les Paul-style copy perfectly suited to being paired with a tube amplifier. When you dig into the strings, it doesn’t take much to access the inviting sound of tube saturation.
An aspect of the original Gibson Les Paul that will make a copy feel more authentic is the set neck. This means that the neck is secured into a space in the guitar’s body, rather than being bolted on.
The reason this is so essential for getting that Les Paul feel is that the set neck creates a solid and sturdy contact between itself and the guitar’s body.
Ideal for Blues
There’s nothing quite like the sound of a Les Paul plugged into a cranked tube amp, playing the blues. Guitarists like Cream’s Eric Clapton illustrated this in the late 1960s, and it’s been used for this purpose ever since.
Les Paul-style copies should also provide you with the powerful, thick tones that have made the original a favorite amongst blues guitarists for decades.
After reading through this detailed list of the best Les Paul copies available today, you should have a better idea of which option is right for you. I love Les Paul guitars for the way they look, but what’s more appealing to me is the way they feel to play.
If you still have doubts about which is the best option, it’s worth trying to get your hands on a similarly styled guitar because you never really know how it plays until you put it into action.