Epiphone Les Paul Special II Review – 2021 Overview

Vlad
| Last Updated: January 25, 2021

Everytime when we think that those guitars can’t be any cheaper, Epiphone decides to prove us wrong.

It seems they are seriously devoted to the slogan “Les Paul for everyone”. 

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 700T Humbucker pickups are used in the guitar
  • Made with a Maple top and Mahogany body
  • Long 24.75 scale fretboard for better reach
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Epiphone Les Paul Special II Electric Guitar (Ebony)

PROS

  • Portable Design
  • Most Les Paul Specs Included
  • Control Layout Optimized for Newbies
  • One of the Best bang-for-buck Guitars for Beginners on the Market

CONS

  • No individual volume and tone control
  • Ceramic humbuckers are not exactly what Les Paul sounds like

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Specs 

  • Type of Guitar: Electric Guitar

  • Body Size and Type: Single cutaway Les Paul body type

  • Number of Strings: 6-string model

  • Tonewood: All mahogany solid wood body

  • Orientation: Available for right-hand players only

  • Neck Profile: Bolt-on Mahogany 60’s Slim Taper type with 43mm wide nut

  • Fretboard: Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays and 22 medium Jumbo frets

  • Scale Length: 24.75 inches 

  • Bridge: Locktone Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stopbar tailpiece

  • Color: Ebony, Cherry, and Yellow

  • Pickup Type: Dual Humbucker setup with 700T (bridge) and 650R (neck)

  • Weight: 7.9 lbs approx.

Pros

Below are the main advantages:

One of the Best Bang-for-Buck Guitars for Beginners on the Market

Les Paul Special II is one of the most affordable electric guitar Epiphone ever made and it comes with quite a decent build quality and very nice neck playability. This way anyone who is just starting out shouldn’t have any trouble regarding playability or comfort. They will get the feeling that everything is well made on it.

And if their playing evolves, they will be glad that the base is well-made so that all hardware and pickup upgrades can shift the whole instrument to another level.

Most Les Paul Specs Included

All the features from the Les Paul are there - single cutaway body, humbuckers, mahogany body, a bit shorter fretboard scale so that strings won’t generate too much tension and they will be a bit easier to play.

Control Layout Optimized for Newbies

Epiphone had in mind that newbies may not have the playing technique so well-balanced and if the switch remained on the typical Les Paul up-right position they may hit it up or down accidentally while learning how to strum. That’s why the switch was placed more to another logical place, right between tone and volume knob.

Portable Design

Les Pauls aren’t the kings of portability, so having a Special II with a few different dimensions might be welcomed for beginners. They may need some time to get used to holding a guitar while standing, so a couple of pounds less will be much appreciated.

Cons

Below are the main disadvantages:

No Individual Volume and Tone Control

Part of the Les Paul magic happens on the middle switch position where you can combine the sound coming from the bridge and the neck pickup in so many ways thanks to individual volume and tone control. 

Les Paul Specials are not capable of doing it as they only provide you with the volume and tone control that controls both pickups simultaneously.

Ceramic Humbuckers Are Not Exactly What Les Paul Sounds Like

There’s nothing wrong with these humbuckers, especially for beginners and it may be a bit harsh to expect more at this price, but we have to point out that the sound quality is not quite there.

Apart from having a Les Paul body type and size, its sound wouldn’t fool anyone by saying that it’s a Les Paul. If you had a chance to play one for yourself, you would know that Les Paul has a different tone and response.

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers describe this model as a guitar that will be the ideal first guitar for anyone, especially for kids because it’s a bit thinner and lighter than regular Les Paul guitar. Even those who had the original Gibson couldn’t find any significant flaw at this price range.

It appears that this model also got a lot of attention from semi-pro players.

They find the finish quite appealing and along with the price tag, it motivated them to upgrade it further with different nuts, tuning machines, and even pickups. Along that road, they also have learned a lot about how the guitar works and how to tell a difference between professional and cheap parts and that’s why they would advise you to do the same if you’re serious about becoming a guitar player.

Otherwise, if you just want to play it from time to time, Les Paul Special II will work nicely even with the stock setup. In such a case, they advise you to change the strings immediately upon arrival and check if the frets have sharp edges.

Besides occasional fret buzzing that can be easily solved on your own or by taking it to any music shop nearby, we couldn’t find a bad word about it. 

What Are The Components of the Epiphone Les Paul Special II? 

Epiphone Les Paul Special II is an electric guitar with a single cutaway Les Paul solid body type and it’s made of All Mahogany body and neck with Gloss finish. Neck has a bolt-on joint and 60’s Slim Taper neck profile. 

It comes with the regular Gibson-like 24.75 inches Rosewood fingerboard scale length with dot inlays along with 22 medium jumbo frets. The rest of the neck measurements appear to be a standard size, 1.68” for nut and 12” for fretboard radius.

Speaking of hardware, Nickel is installed as a finish and there is a fixed bridge system in the shape of Locktone Tune-o-Matic type with Stopbar tailpiece and reliable Grover Rotomatics tuning machines.

What Pickups Come With the Epiphone Les Paul Special II?

This Les Paul comes with ceramic humbucker pickups, 700T on the bridge, and 650R on the neck to be more precise. Those pickups are controlled by master volume and tone pots and a 3-way switch pickup selector placed between the pots at the bottom.

What Strings Come On an Epiphone Les Paul Special II?

Epiphone Les Paul Special II has an unbranded .010-.046 string gauge set. Those strings are made by D’Addario.

What Kind of Music is a Epiphone Les Paul Special II Best For?

Just like every other Les Paul out there, Special II is made for rock music. And thanks to ceramic humbuckers it will be more suitable for modern music than vintage. But, in general, this is a guitar for newbies so for such purpose it will fit all kinds of music you had in mind - punk rock, blues, country, hard rock, heavy metal, indie, grunge, metalcore - the list is endless. 

And if you plan to play more vintage rock music, try to tame down the trebles first, it might be a bit too harsh for the music you’re about to play.

What Ages and Skill Levels is the Epiphone Les Paul Special II Suitable For?

Sometimes the price indicates the skill level it was intended for perfectly. Special II will go the best with those people who are just about to get started with their guitar lessons.

The neck and the string action will be fine for any player out there, but the tone will be more oriented towards beginners. Experienced players may find it as an affordable spare instrument for practicing purposes or to carry on quick jam sessions.

As for age, Special II is a bit thinner than a regular Les Paul so it may be fit for teenagers as well.

Where Are Les Paul Special II Guitars Made?

Epiphone Les Paul Special II is made in Epiphone facilities in Qingdao, China.

Epiphone Les Paul Guitar Types

There are so many Les Pauls out there available from Epiphone. But, if we disregard all the modern cosmetics and fancy names, all Les Paul belong to four original types:

Standard

It’s the model that made Les Paul so popular. If you say just Les Paul, this is the exact model you have in mind.

It’s that one that comes with a Maple top and individual tone and volume controls for both pickups. These models usually come with humbucker pickups and currently, there are three models available at Epiphone production line - 1959 Les Paul Standard, 50s Standard, and 60s Standard, all honoring the features of the models from the specific Gibson era.

Custom

This guitar was made upon the request of Les Paul, the original inventor. This design was intended for the Standard model and the Custom one was supposed to come with the Maple top, but the history wanted to be vice versa.

It comes in All Mahogany body instead of having a different tonewood top and because of Mahogany nature, it appears to be a bit heavier as well.

Special

These guitars were made for all those who didn’t have enough money to buy a Standard version and it was equipped with two P-90 single coil pickups and a Mahogany body without a Maple top. 

Nowadays, some Epiphone models come with humbuckers as well, but to make them different from Les Paul Standard, Epiphone removed individual pickup control.

Junior

Junior Les Paul was intended to be a student guitar, the budget Les Paul version. It's a bare-boned version of what Les Paul is about to be and it comes with only one pickup installed and minimal volume and tone control. With the current Epiphone offer it lost the original purpose, so it became a sort of collector’s item.

What Makes the Epiphone Les Paul Special II Stand Out From the Competition?

When you’re starting out, you will need all kinds of motivational boost to keep you going. Having a guitar that you want to hold a bit longer can help you maintain a practicing routine. It may squeeze out at least 15 minutes practicing extra on those days when you’re feeling uninspired.

The tone option will provide you with enough content to cover all kinds of rock music, especially if you take into account the players it was intended in the first place and the neck profile and the string action won’t draw them back from practicing their skills.

Comparison Overview

Let’s see how the Les Paul Special II stands against models that are similar by name and how it stands against models from the other brands:

Epiphone Les Paul Standard vs Special II

Les Paul Special models are simply a more basic model of the Standard version, so it’s not completely fair to compare those two. Epiphone Les Paul Standard is a simply better guitar in all aspects - hardware feels more premium, pickups are Alnico-based instead of ceramic and the volume and tone control is individual instead of the master which allows you so many tone combinations at the middle pickup switch position which is one of the main reasons why Les Paul got popular in the first place.

If Epiphone Les Paul Standard fits into your budget, we strongly suggest you to go for it.

Epiphone Les Paul Special 1 vs 2

The main difference between those two will be in the finishing option - Special 1 has a Satin finish, while the Special 2 has Gloss.

Les Paul Special 1 also has an option to get it with the P-90 pickup configuration option so perhaps that model could accompany Special 2 pretty well. 

But, if we have to pick our favorite, Special 2 is more close to the sound of the original Les Paul and has a bit better hardware and quality control.

Bear in mind that Les Paul Special 1 can be only found on the used market.

Epiphone Les Paul 100 vs Special II

Les Paul 100 seems to be placed exactly between Special and Standard models and the same goes with its features. It has ceramic humbuckers, just like Special II, but it has Tune-o-Matic bridge, individual volume and tone control, and Maple top, just like Standard. It also has an arched top so it should resonate a bit more compared to the Special II flat top.

So, if you have the budget for it, Les Paul 100 is definitely worth the extra bucks it asks for. It’s overall a better guitar than Special II.

Epiphone Les Paul Special II vs SG Special

Just like Les Paul, the SG series has its Special model as well. Both models share the master volume and tone control, ceramic pickup, and the Mahogany body, but Les Paul Special seems to be a bit better guitar overall. It appears that SG special has cheap hardware so although it’s less expensive we would advise you to stick to the Les Paul version instead. 

That is, of course, unless you plan to upgrade the cheap parts at some point on the SG model and you prefer that double-pointed cutaway design more than Les Paul.

Ibanez GRX20 vs Epiphone Les Paul Special 2

GRX20 is Ibanez budget-line guitar from the Gio series that will be ideal for heavy metal lovers, especially those who love to play lead guitars. It comes with the tremolo bridge system and it’s placed in the same price range as Les Paul Special 2. 

But, pickup quality is mediocre at best. While it comes with an interesting 5-way switch that provides you with the coil splitting options, those pickups are not recommended to anyone except for beginners.

So, if you like how it looks and don’t mind upgrading it later, we can’t turn you away from this guitar. Otherwise, if this all sounds like a lot of drag to you, Les Paul Special 2 may be a more out-of-the-box ready model.

Squier Affinity Stratocaster vs Epiphone Les Paul Special 2

Squier is a Fender sub-brand that shares the same idea just like Gibson had with Epiphone - providing an entry-level guitar under a different name. So, the price is about the same, build quality as well, so what’s the difference then?

Well, the first Stratocaster comes with the triple single-coil pickup configuration that might be more prone to clean guitar sound at first and may not provide enough grit that humbuckers are capable of. Also, it comes with the tremolo bar which will be praised by guitar players who like to play a solo a lot. And even the scale length is different - the Squier model has a longer scale which will eventually result in slightly higher string tension.

So which one should I pick? Well, for Gibson vs. Fender, it’s a million-dollar question. As for their sub-brands, it’s hard to give advice, but it seems that Epiphone is a bit more rock-oriented guitar while Squier seems to be a better all-around solution, so it’s up to you to decide which way you plan to go.

How to Setup an Epiphone Les Paul Special II

We would assume that by reading this part you don’t have too much experience with guitars which is fine. That’s why we would recommend you to take the guitar to the local shop and pay for proper setting up as it will cost you less than $50 as sometimes the time invested is much more worthy than the amount invested. 

But, if you want to learn it on your own we appreciate the effort, and here are the two most important tips on how to set your Epiphone Les Paul Special II in a professional way.

Setting Up the String Action

Besides fixing the fret buzz (see below), string action can help you play faster or to have a bit more control. Applying a turn to the truss rod nut will raise or lower the string height and in case you’re applying anything other than minor changes, please remember to level the strings on the bridge side as well.

Put the Graphite in the Nut Slot

Graphite may prevent the strings from binding in the nut and helps with most tuning problems you may experience. If intonation problems persist, consider installing at least GraphTech nut as this is a very affordable and reliable piece of hardware.

How to Fix Fret Buzz Les Paul Special 2

Fret buzz is often an issue found on cheap guitars as the quality control is close to none. Luckily, the warranty will usually cover such situations so you can easily swap your guitar for another copy that hopefully won’t have such a problem. But, if you would like to, sometimes the buzz can be solved on your own with a minimal effort, so let’s try to isolate the problem first:

  • If you hear the buzz on more than just one string and possibly all, it means that the string action is set too low and it should be raised by adjusting the truss rod. Also, don’t forget to raise a bridge as well as strings perform the best if they are set parallel with the tonewood.

  • If the buzz is heard on specific frets, it means that frets are not evenly matched so you will have to apply fret polishing for those higher frets as they are touching the string too much. It will also affect the note or two around the problematic fret.
  • If a buzz is happening only when you play a specific string, the nut might be cut improperly and needs to be swapped.

  • Sometimes, everything seems to be set properly, but, if you take a closer look, you will notice that the neck is bent a bit - due to low-quality control usually found at this price tear, some necks won’t be set straight so the string may buzz around the area where the neck is bent.
  • Conclusion

    Some guitars are made for pure professionals, others had beginners in mind. Epiphone Les Paul Special II may not be the guitar you’re going to keep forever, but it will be an excellent choice for taking your first guitar classes and learning how to play your first song.

    People Also Ask

    Let’s check what uncertainties people had about technical aspects of Epiphone Les Paul Special II such as Maple top thickness, truss rod type, manufacturing year, or body weight comparison and also explain terms such as PAF pickup and why humbuckers are better than single-coil pickups.

    What Does PAF Pickup Stand For?

    PAF is an early model of the humbucker guitar pickup invented by Seth Lover in 1955 and he made a sticker under every pickup that said: “PATENT APPLIED FOR". This patent was approved in 1959 but the acronym remained and DiMarzio made a trademark from it in 1978.

    Are Humbuckers Better Than a Single Coil?

    There is no straight answer to this question, only genre-related. But, if you take a look at the design, the humbucker is made out of two single coil pickups which will generally result in a louder and generally fuller sound. But, in some situations, as a clean guitar tone, for example, full sound may not work the best.

    Is an Epiphone Les Paul Special II a Good Guitar?

    We can confirm this. It may not be the best you will ever play, but it will be great for starting in the right way. While being affordable, you won’t have the typical problems with the intonation and the sound will be more than decent for the needs of a typical newbie.

    Is Les Paul Better Than SG?

    It could be said so in general, but the differences are not so obvious. If we compare the models from the same class, Les Paul has a bit more fuller sound with better low-end than SG, while the SG may have a more pronounced middle-range.

    How to Care for a Les Paul Special II Guitar

    Dry cotton cloth is the best way to remove any accumulated dust from your guitar body. For stains, apply damp cloth but be extra careful as too much water can damage your tonewood. Steel or fine wool may also help you out for those extremely dirty spots.

    What Type of Truss Rod Does an Epiphone Les Paul Special II Have?

    Epiphone Les Paul Special II has a dual-action truss rod type. It simply means that it creates tension in both directions and when needed it can create relief on its own. The truss rod nut is found right beneath the truss rod cover at the bottom of the headstock.

    How to Tell The Age of Les Paul Special II

    If you take a look at the back side of your headstock, you will find a serial number there. The first two digits should tell you the year of manufacturing and the rest may tell month and manufacturer location. If you want to know more about it, check out the next link.

    Which is Heavier, a Les Paul or a Les Paul Special II?

    It depends on what Les Paul we’re talking about as there are so many Epiphone models under this name. So, for example, Les Paul 100 is about the same weight and Les Paul Junior is even more light. But, Standard and Custom models are definitely heavier than Special II.

    Vlad

    I'm a 35-year-old rock-oriented professional musician from Belgrade, Serbia with 20 years of field experience in various areas of the music industry. After graduating from elementary music school I joined my first band Alogia in 2001 which had incredible initial success with the debut album and became one of the greatest Balkan heavy metal acts ever. We have recorded several studio and live albums and played as an opening act for Whitesnake, Apocalyptica, and Paul Di’Anno. Meanwhile, I got a chance to collaborate with Roland Planet shop and get familiar with various music equipment for more than a decade. For the last eight years, I have done live audio mixing for numerous bands and other live and studio events, including some TV audio mixing for national television broadcast as well. Currently, I’m playing keyboards for one of the most authentic Serbian music rock legends - Dr. Nele Karajlić, also known for his work with Zabranjeno Pušenje and No Smoking Orchestra.