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Best Cheap Les Paul Guitars & Les Paul Copies


It's one thing finding cheap Les Paul guitars, another finding LPs that don't sound cheap.

Time and time again I come across a review or forum post stating how ridiculous the price gap is between the $2000+ Gibsons and the sub-$300 "copies". In the guitar world, the old rule of "you get what you pay for", although still relevant, is becoming less and less an indicator of quality, as you'll see and hear.

Top 5 Cheap Les Paul Copies

If you're looking for a Les Paul style guitar on a budget, there has never been a better time. I've whittled it down to 5 solid picks based on the opinions of both new and experienced players.

The top 5 at a glance (click the table to enlarge)...

cheap Les Paul guitars comparison table

Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Epiphone Les Paul Standard Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar | Amazon
ZzoundsMusicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $399

Key Features

Classic Les Paul cut & controls. Solid mahogany body. Alnico Classic pickups. Locking Tune-o-Matic stopbar. Medium frets.
Les Paul Standard - Ebony


What users say

For many budget musicians, the Les Paul Standard is a crucial step up in quality from the even more modestly priced LP100 and Special II models offered by Epiphone. The main differences are an arched (as opposed to flat) top, set-in neck and solid mahogany body (that's one piece as opposed to several pieces glued together).

The result is a look, feel and tone very close to the Gibson Standard. The general consensus is, if you were considering either the LP100 or Special, it's worth saving the extra 150 or so bucks for better durability, more sustain, harmonic response and a meatier Les Paul crunch.

The Standard Plus-Top (add about $50) gives you the option of a flame maple top, although not quite as detailed as the impeccably hand finished USA Gibsons.

The Standard delivers that rich, warm and gutsy tone all Les Paul players fell in love with. When the inevitable comparison is made between the Epiphone and Gibson Standard, the Epi perhaps lacks some mid-range depth and bite, due to cheaper materials, electronics and stock pickups, but the fact that it is 6 times cheaper than the Gibbo quickly puts things into perspective. You can always upgrade the pickups and pots. The solid foundations are there.

Some players (and not just inexperienced players) can't even tell the difference or simply think the two sound different, rather than one sounding "better" or "worse". This ultimately boils down to your personal judgement when you try out in store (which I recommend).

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Agile AL-2000

Agile AL-2000 Les Paul Copy Overall Rating

8 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar | Amazon

Best Deal

  Est. $225

Key Features

Classic Les Paul cut & controls. Set-in maple neck. Ceramic humbuckers. Solid mahogany body. Jumbo frets.

AL2000 Tone Sunburst  AL2000 CSB Flame  AL2000 Black


What users say

Just unbelievable value for money. Rondo Music are known for their beautifully crafted budget copies with seemingly no corners cut. The reviews that truly stand out are those by more seasoned players who don't just see their AL-2000 Les Paul copy as a backup or "beater", but a solid, no-nonsense gigging and recording instrument.

A little upgrade work, such as pickup change, electronics, a $40 setup and you'll be very close to the Gibson standard. Or keep it stock and you'll still have something very playable.

There's attention to detail here, such as the pickups' wax potting, which helps keep feedback under control at high volume/gain. The tone on the 2000 is more faithful to the original standards than the slightly hotter Epiphone. The ceramic pickups deliver a tight vintage crunch whilst not sacrificing that beautifully fat LP warmth.

In contrast to the other cheap Les Paul guitars on this page, the AL-2000 features a set-in maple neck as opposed to mahogany which gives you brighter, crisper overtones against the natural darkness of the deep mahogany body. A balance that many players appreciate, especially those who are buying their first LP from perhaps owning a smaller bodied guitar.

You can also get the AL-2000 with a Floyd Rose tremolo and in a wide selection of finishes and with options such as gold hardware. Credit to the guys at Rondo for giving those of us on a budget such a huge range of customisation.

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Vintage V100

Vintage V100 Les Paul Copy Overall Rating

8 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar | Amazon
Music Radar

Best Deal

Widely available in UK for est. £220. US residents should check Ebay and local ads for best deal.

Key Features

Classic Les Paul spec. Vintage ceramic humbuckers. Set neck. Jumbo frets.

V100 Ice Tea  V100 Gloss Black  V100 Cherry Sunburst


What users say

Hailing from Britain and the family run John Hornby Skewes' factory, the Vintage V100 has become one of the most respected, authentic Les Paul copies available. Residents outside the UK should be able to get hold of a V100 through Ebay or local stores/classifieds.

Users note how versatile the V100 is, with that fat, deep and gutsy LP warmth as the foundation for many different styles of playing. The tone knobs are surprisingly responsive and sweeping for a guitar of this price, without muddying or muffling the tone when things are pulled back.

The set mahogany neck and thick body (only a couple of pounds lighter than the Gibson Standard) help towards producing excellent sustain and harmonic response.

The V100 offers everything players look and listen for in an original Les Paul (see below for more modernised interpretations) at a fraction of the cost and the quality has surprised even the most experienced of players.

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ESP LTD EC-256

ESP LTD EC-256 Les Paul Copy Guitar Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar | Amazon
ZzoundsMusicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $399

Key Features

Split coil humbuckers. Optional distressed finish (aged look). Thin U neck profile. Thinner, lighter body than standard LP profile. Extra jumbo frets.

EC256 Gold  EC256 Black  EC256 2 tone sunburst  EC256 Cherry Sunburst


What users say

Modified to meet the requirements of the modern player, yet posing an aged, "distressed" finish (a worn look) that alone might determine whether or not you look any deeper. Mind you, so will the split coil, which adds a whole new dimension to your tonal options not offered by the others.

The thinner neck and lighter body does not seem to take away the depth and richness LP lovers demand, meaning those who prefer a less bulky profile can still enjoy the meaty tones. The coil tap allows you to effectively switch the humbuckers into single coil mode for a skinnier, noise-free strat like chime and twang.

Users are impressed by the stock ESP pickups - noiseless, punchy, well balanced and never dark or muddy. In fact they're a little brighter than your typical Les Paul clone. The EC-256 stands out from others on this page in that there is little to no expressed desire from users to change the stock pickups.

Extra jumbo frets give you that scalloped neck feel and, coupled with the slim U neck profile, puts this axe confidently in shredding territory, confirming it as one of the most versatile cheap Les Paul style guitars available.

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Ibanez ART100

Ibanez ART100 Electric Guitar Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony CentralUltimate Guitar | Zzounds
Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $350

Key Features

Great for metal and modern styles. All mahogany for a rich, warm tone. Fast, slim profile neck. Set-in neck for more sustain. High output humbuckers.

ART100 Cherry  ART100 Violin  ART100 White

What users say

So here we have a Gibson scale mahogany bodied beauty with a set-in neck, rosewood fretboard, two high output humbuckers and a fixed Gibralter III bridge. No nonsense, basically. Oh, and big bloody strap buttons. Nice touch.

Reviewers have raved about the finish and setup of the guitar right out of the box. Consistently high quality output, solidly built and stunning aesthetic detail, right down to the 12th fret pearl inlay. The Artcore's very modest price tag suggests costs have been cut intelligently and discretely, without sacrificing overall quality.

Ibanez has positioned this axe as a metal chopper. However, owners of the ART100 have generally been pleased with its versatility. The stock Artcore pickups are hot and definitely built to handle cranked gain, but there's enough chime and richness in the bridge and neck pickups respectively for some very articulate clean playing.

It's seriously difficult to find a poor review of this guitar. Like all the great cheapo guitars, long time players have inevitably compared it to the sub $1k/2k Gibson/PRS greats and felt they have just avoided a mugging.

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