Originally Posted by Jeffy
For the Les Paul's the biggest difference is that Epiphone uses a thin maple veneer on the cap instead of a solid maple cap. I think it's about 1 mm thick on a "mahogany" (Nato) cap. The body is also Nato/Eastern Mahogany instead of Honduran Mahogany. Some Elite models do have a maple cap though. I'm pretty sure they source their maple in Asia as well. The body is more often multi-piece as well as the neck's. Usually 3-6 pieces. The head and neck are separate pieces on an Epi. So you have 2 and sometimes 3 pieces not including the fingerboard. The other big difference is finish. Epi's use a polyurethane instead of the labor intensive nitrocellulose lacquer.
Here's a tour of the Epiphone Qing Dao factory.
Here's the veneer.
Thanks for those links.
I've got a red Epihone Dot that I really like. I think it was around $400 out the door with a bag. I'm not good enough to warrant a $2500 guitar, and the Dot plays very nicely. I did do the set up myself, and someday I'll file the nut down a little more, but I feel that it is a great value. Way more valuable to me than a $3000 335.
Now, there were two other Dots in the store that I would not have purchased. One had a pretty pronounced twist/warpage in the neck. The employee looked at it and pretty much said "I dunno. Our $75 set up might fix it, or else it would have to go back under warranty. But you have to buy it first."
The other one didn't feel right, I think the neck felt thicker, or the action was just really high, or there was maybe a warp in the neck that I could feel but not see? So my anecdote corroborates the notion that low end guitars can be good but need to be carefully selected.
I'd be pissed as hell if I spent $4000 on a guitar and it wasn't immaculate. I'm mainly a bass player, and I think I'm pretty good at it, but unless it was my livelihood, I'd have a hard time dropping that kind of money on a guitar of any flavor. I've played some expensive basses that felt lousy to me and didn't sound that great. Hell, my favorite tone I own right now is from a Rogue 6 string bass I got for $130 on CL
Despite the fact that it has too many strings, it sounds nice. I even had a few people at a Blues Jam ask "what is that? It sounds great!"