Gear Review - Epiphone Les Paul Special I P-90

Features:
Mahogany body
Bolt-on mahogany neck
Rosewood fretboard
P-90R neck pickup
P-90T bridge pickup
1 Volume, 1 Tone control
3-way pickup toggle switch
Wraparound bridge/tailpiece

Action, Fit & Finish:
Action was pretty typical for a factory setup….not too low, not too high. Playable, with the .009’s it came with. Parts fit is excellent, with a nice snug neck pocket. Strings are well centered along the fingerboard from the Les Paul Junior-style wraparound bridge. All good on that front. Finish…well, I’m not too crazy about what Epiphone calls their ‘worn’ finish. The unit I review here has a ‘Worn Cherry’ finish. As for me, I like shiny guitars, and this one has a matte finish that sort of obscures the nice wood grain on the front & back veneers. The body appears to be made of about three pieces of a type of Mahogany, with a nice Mahogany veneer front & back. The grain would show up so much better with a gloss finish. And hey, ‘worn’, to me, isn’t matte. Because once this guitar gets ‘worn’ in a few places, it’ll start to appear glossy in those places. ‘Worn’ is a weird choice of nomenclature, in my book.

Tone & Playability:
Ah…here comes the ‘shiny part’! P-90’s are my all-time favorite pickup, never mind the 60-Hz hum that they’re so infamous for. They have that wonderful upper-mid ‘bark’ that makes a guitar really stand out in the mix. This is somewhat subdued by the warmth of the Mahogany body on this guitar, but it’s still plenty there. On the neck pickup only, I still have some top-end ‘sparkle’, but with a full-rounded bottom. Great for jazz tones. Both pickups on gives a great Chicago Blues kind of tone, with crisp highs and a fat low end. The bridge pickup solo’ed with some crunchy tube clipping…well…just think “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The neck on this guitar is not the chunky LP Junior type neck, nor is it the super-thin neck you find on some guitars. I don’t really know what to call it except a medium C-shape. It’s thin enough to be really fast, but not so thin that I get thumb cramps from playing it (as I tend to do with really thin necks). It’s really comfortable to play, in other words. I did have to work down a slightly high 3rd fret, because it was buzzing-out on the three skinny strings. But that took me all of 15 minutes. I didn't notice any fret-end finger-snaggers on this guitar, which is really unusual on inexpensive guitars.

Electronics & Hardware:
I don’t really expect Epiphone to put the hottest pickups and best electronics in a $130 guitar, but these P-90’s seem to have plenty of ‘grunt’ to drive an amp pretty hard. The pots & switch, etc. are probably about what you’d expect in a guitar of this price point; not the greatest stuff. But it’s functional as it is, though it all will probably need replacing much sooner than ‘the good stuff’ would. The wraparound ‘intonated’ bridge and posts appear to be good & solid, and it even intonated reasonably well with a fresh set of strings on it (10’s). The tuners however, are cheap, cheesy stamped metal junk that Epiphone puts on all their less expensive lines. This guitar got a tuner replacement before I gave it back to its owner (BTW, thanks to Steve Bratton for the loan of the guitar for review).

Overall Impression:
Not at all too shabby for a guitar that sells new for $130! Now, if only Epiphone would upgrade those tuners…..
I found this guitar easy and fun to play. It sounds great, it looks great (but would look a helluva lot better with a glossy finish, IMO), and it’s very comfortable. All in all, a really swell little guitar for a great low price. I’m waiting for Epiphone to come out with an SG version of this guitar...and when they do, I’m going to jump on it!

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