REVIEW: Epiphone Les Paul PlusTop PRO/FX

For some players – traditionalists, if you will – a Les Paul with a Floyd Rose is an abomination. For others (Slash and Alex Lifeson spring immediately to mind) it’s a useful addition which expands the guitar’s already impressive capabilities. While Gibson offers a few Floyd-equipped Pauls (the Axcess and new Alex Lifeson Axcess), Epiphone is also doing their part to encourage a bit of wiggle-stickery amongst Les Paul players.

The PlusTop PRO/FX features a Floyd Rose Special bridge and an R4 nut. The body is the standard mahogany, with a flame maple top in a very attractive Desertburst finish. The neck is mahogany too, with a rosewood fretboard and mother-of-pearl Trapezoid inlays. The neck shape is a 1960s Slim Taper with a D profile, but it’s definitely not as thin as you’ll find on shred machines and the like. The back of the neck is finished in the matte black, a big change in feel compared to the glossy finish one usually expects. There are 22 jumbo frets on the flattish 14″ radius fretboard. Tuners are Grovers with a 14:1 ratio.

The neck pickup is an Epiphone Alnico Classic and the bridge unit is a hotter Alnico Classic Plus, designed to balance nicely with its neck position counterpart (pickups in the neck position tend to pick up more of the string’s vibration, so a little more oomph is often needed from the bridge pickup to compensate). Both pickups feature Alnico II magnets (The Alnico II magnet is integral to Slash’s classic sound, which might give you a bit of an idea of what to expect tonally) and enamel wire and are double vacuum waxed. They feature 4-wire output for coil splitting, which is achieved by pulling up on the push-pull volume pots. The pickup selector is a 3-way toggle, and a lot of sound combinations are available due to the ability to split each pickup separately.

Playability-wise, the Plus Top PRO/FX puts up just enough of a fight to really scream when you dig in with the pick. It has more body and attack than many Floyd Rose guitars, likely due to the additional wallop of the thick mahogany body and thick maple top. Sustain isn’t quite as long as you’d find on a fixed bridge Les Paul, but still quite decent. The note hangs in there for a while at more or less the same volume before tapering off neatly, rather than fading out slowly and consistently. This means you can pull great sustained notes out of the guitar, ‘end-of-Nothing-Else-Matters-style.’ The Floyd Rose cavity is back-routed so you can pull notes up in pitch (five semitones on the G string), and it returns to pitch admirably.

The pickups have a very present midrange voice and a nice chirp to the pick attack. The bridge unit has a strident honk when you dig in around the middle of the neck, and there’s a rounded chime around the higher notes, which blossoms into an all-out ring when you apply some vibrato or pitch bend with the bar. Open-position and power chords have a real kick to them too, making it a great guitar for chunky power chords with mild overdrive. The neck pickup has a fat, singing tone which works great with the particular character of sustain on offer, and it gets nice and juicy when you pick harder. Flipping to each pickup’s respective single coil mode, the sound toughens up and thins out, but never quite reaches the quacky, twangy end of the single coil spectrum. It certainly sounds like a single coil voicing of the same guitar, and that’s a good thing, as it ensures consistency riff to riff, tone to tone, while still allowing you to explore and mix humbucker and single coil textures.

The Les Paul Plus Top PRO/FX is a heck of a guitar for LP lovers. I couldn’t find a construction flaw anywhere, and the playability straight out of the box was flawless. The only downsides are the slight loss of sustain compared to a fixed bridge version, and the black powdery stuff that comes off the neck onto your hands when the guitar’s new (this should stop after a while but maybe don’t wear white the first few times you play your new Plus Top PRO/FX). The pickups sound great and the overall look is very classy. Combine that with the Floyd and the pickup splitting, and you have one sonically versatile and visually stageworthy axe.

LINK: Gibson.com

[geo-in country=”us” note=””]CLICK HERE to buy the Epiphone Les Paul Plustop PRO/FX Electric Guitar Desert Burst from Guitar Center.[/geo-in]

This is an alternate edit of a review which originally appeared in Mixdown magazine