Epiphone G-400 SG User Review

Epiphone G-400 SG User Review:

First off, a little story about this particular guitar…
Some while back, a friend of mine had mentioned that he’d like to get hold of an Epiphone SG. Some time later, I happened across one on Craigslist for sale for $140, and remembered my friend’s interest in one. So I emailed him with a link, and he bought it that day.
Every time I’d go over to his place, I’d always pick this guitar up and play it, look at it…fondle it. I love SG’s, especially the ones with the small scratchplate. I don’t much care for the big full-face ‘batwing’ scratchplates on the more recent SG’s. This Epiphone G-400 is more or less a replica of the Gibson ’62 SG, with the small guard on it. OK, so, I was over there just before Christmas, and as usual, picked up this guitar and was just holding it and, OK, I was fondling it. We’re talking about something, and as we talked, he went over to the corner of his studio where he keeps his guitar cases & bags, picked out a gig-bag, walked back over and took the guitar out of my hands. Then he put the guitar in the bag, handed it back to me and said “Merry Christmas, Dave!”. Needless to say, I was pretty much floored. I suppose I’d made it obvious how much I liked that guitar ever since he’d had it. At any rate, it’s mine now, and I’m thrilled to have it! Now, is that a friend, or not?

OK, down to the review now:

Physical Description:
Standard SG body shape, after the ’62 Gibson SG
Heritage Cherry finish
Small pickguard
Trapezoid MOP fingerboard inlays
Chrome covered humbucking pickups
Grover tuners
Standard Tune-O-Matic bridge/tailpiece assembly
Tone/Volume for each pickup, with selector switch
Set neck, Mahogany

The body is made of ‘Philippine Mahogany’ which is not a true Mahogany, nor even a close relative…but it looks a lot like Mahogany, and the density is similar. However, it’s not really as pretty a wood as ‘real’ Mahogany, so Epiphone puts a veneer of African Mahogany on front & back of the body, and that is really pretty. You can see the edge of the veneer where the body bevels run out from under it, but it’s actually not a displeasing look at all.
Now, if you see this guitar in a catalog, it’s always described as having a ‘slim-taper’ neck. This particular specimen, however, does not. Its neck is eerily similar to the neck on the ’65 Gibson SG Junior that I cut my guitar-playing teeth on ‘way back when. It’s wide, thick, and has a fairly flat fingerboard radius…all of which suit me to a ‘T’, as that’s exactly what I prefer. Thin necks tend to fatigue my hand something fierce, especially if they have much of a fingerboard radius ‘arch’ to them. So….BONUS for me!

Fit & Finish:
Very nice polyester or polyurethane ‘Heritage Cherry’ finish, thin enough that some of the wood’s “graininess” kinda comes thru in the surface. In other words, the finish is not one of those super-thick tone robber jobs you see on so many guitars these days. The neck joint seems absolutely perfect, quite seamless. The bridge has the strings centered perfectly along the fingerboard (something that seems to be a problem with some less-expensive guitars), and appears to be just as good as the Gibson hardware. Everything lines up perfectly, and fits just like it ‘oughta’.

Tone/Playability:
There’s a certain ‘thing’ to an SG’s tone that I’ve always really loved, but that I can never accurately describe in words. I don’t even really know what it is, exactly, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the shape, thickness, and density of the body adding a certain…well…’thing’; a resonance or something. I’ve noticed that Korina SG’s don’t sound quite the same as Mahogany SG’s, or the Walnut ones I’ve heard. But whatever the ‘thing’ is, this guitar has it. I’ll make a valiant stab at a verbal description of that ‘thing’…
There seems to be a natural resonance somewhere in the lower middle of a guitar’s range that gives an SG an almost nasal, ‘honky’ kind of tone. And I happen to love that. Think about the tone that Frank Zappa got from his SG. Kinda snotty, kinda snarly. Angus Young…same sort of deal.
I’ve read a lot of reviews on these guitars, and quite a few of them deride the pickups somewhat. I don’t have a problem with them, other than wishing they were just a little bit hotter. Still, they drive pretty well. I’d also like a little more top-end, but humbuckers, especially metal-covered ones, tend to be mellow. Gee, I wonder what this guitar would sound like with a pair of those “P-90-in-humbucker-clothing” type pickups in it? But I digress….
I’m pretty old-school in my guitar-tone preferences (Hey, I’m OLD!), and this guitar sits squarely within my tone-comfort-zone.
After a good setup, this guy plays as easily and as well as a gen-you-wine Gibson SG. I was able to get the action right where I like it, and it plays like a dream for me. The SG body shape is one of the more comfortable (not to mention beautiful) electric guitars ever designed. It just snuggles right up to you and makes you feel loved. The only downer is the strap balance, which isn’t excellent. Adding a strap button to the back of the upper ‘horn’ as near the tip as possible seems to help with that, though.
To me, this guitar looks, plays, and sounds every bit as nice as the ‘way more expensive Gibson SG’s that I’ve ever played….you’re just not paying for the American (probably union, at that) labor and the top-grade materials that are found on the Gibsons. And that’s exactly why Gibson has the Epiphone division…so that players can get virtually the same playability, tone, and style of some of the best-loved Gibson guitars at a much more affordable price. This they can do by having them made in Asia, either in Korea or at Epiphone’s factory in Qingdao, China.

Overall Impressions:
Quite good quality, excellent tone/playability/style/appearance…all at a very affordable price. And who argues with that? I have not one single legitimate gripe with this guitar, and I wouldn’t be the least bit ashamed to play it in front of 30,000 raving fans (like that’s ever gonna happen, anyway…). Some of Epiphone’s bottom-tier guitars are surpassed in quality & value by some of the Chinese ‘off-brands’ like ‘SX’ and ‘Agile’, but their midrange products and upwards are quite nice, and perfectly respectable instruments in their own right.