Epiphone offers many different takes on the Les Paul, from simple single-pickup Juniors to Floyd Rose-loaded shred machines and metal-blasting beasts stocked with active EMGs and an attitude. But the Les Paul Standard is, obviously, the standard upon which all others are judged, and in the PlusTop PRO Epiphone have sought to make a truly classic Les Paul. First of all, the name of this model refers to the beautiful AAA flame Maple veneer top (presumably sitting atop a more plain-looking maple cap. There are plenty of different colours available, but the Trans Black of the review model is probably the most eye-catching, bringing together a bit of a ‘silver burst’ vibe combined with the beautiful flamed maple.
The body is Mahogany, as is the neck, and the fretboard is Rosewood. There are 22 Medium Jumbo frets with trapezoid inlays, and the body and neck are both finished in 1-ply binding. The floating pick guard is a little roughly cut, and the gold control knobs look a little out of place against the rest of the hardware – everything else is black (including the LockTone tune-o-magic bridge and stop bar tailpiece), so the gold stands out in a weird way. But that’s no biggie. The routing for the inlays is also a little rough and augmented with filler but you’d have to look pretty close to spot it. The pickups are a specially-designed set of Epiphone ProBuckers: a ProBucker 2 in the neck position and ProBucker 3 in the bridge. These pickups are voiced like Gibson PAFs but with four-conductor wiring which is hooked up to coil splits on the volume pots.
“These ProBucker pickups are not just slight improvements over previously produced pickups,” says Richard Akers, Epiphone’s Director of Research and Development. “They were completely designed here in Nashville and tooled from the ground-up at a new factory dedicated to high end pickup production. These pickups use only the highest quality components and are based on the most sought after humbuckers of Gibson’s history. I spent many, many hours making sure these came out great and I am really happy with the results.” So there ya go.
This guitar feels in every way like a Les Paul – well, maybe a little lighter than the usual back-hurtingly heavy Les Paul weight, but the playability and balance are there, as is the legendary Les Paul sustain. And the tone is the perfect balance of clarity and power. The pickups are articulate and bright without being too brittle, and the bridge pickup is warm and chunky without being too dark. And it responds very well to changes in volume or tone control setting. The neck pickup has that great hollow, ‘tubular’ kind of sound, as opposed to the more thick, smooth Les Paul neck pickup sound associated with more modern Les Paul variants. And the single coil tones sound just right, veering surprisingly close to a Stratty voicing for a set-neck, Mahogany/Maple instrument. The neck pickup, in particular, really rocks in single coil mode. The only problem here is that the push-pull pots are a little tricky to operate because of the lack of grip on the knobs.
This is probably Epiphone’s finest Les Paul to date. The AAA grade flame Maple veneer is beautiful and the pickups are voiced very nicely indeed, and that’s even before you pop the coil splits and realise there’s a whole other world of tone lurking there. Aside from a few small finishing issues which will remind you that this isn’t a US-made Gibson Custom instrument, this guitar really embodies everything we all love about Les Pauls.