Epiphone SG Special Review – 2020 Guide

Vlad
| Last Updated: December 29, 2020

Hey, do you like AC/DC? Besides that legendary vocal, what else would you mention as their trademark? Guitars, right?

Well, the guitar that has been used regularly for an Angus’ duck walk belongs to the Gibson SG series.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Comes with the classic SG style finish
  • Comes equipped with Epiphone premium machine heads
  • Slimtaper D profileneck is installed
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Epiphone SG Special with Chrome Hardware and KillPot, Cherry

PROS

  • Lightweight model
  • It Has the Look
  • Quality body and neck material
  • Unique killpot silent feature included

CONS

  • Ceramic pickups sound characteristics
  • No individual tone and volume pickup control

Epiphone SG Special Specs

  • Type of Guitar: Electric Guitar

  • Body Size and Type: Double-pointed cutaway SG solid body shape

  • Number of Strings: 6-string model

  • Tonewood: All Mahogany body and Black pickguard

  • Orientation: Available only for right-hand players

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

  • Fretboard: Rosewood with dot inlay and 22 Medium jumbo frets 

  • Scale Length: 24.75 inches 

  • Bridge: Wraparound combo fixed system

  • Color: Cherry, Ebony, and Pelham Blue

  • Pickup Type: Dual ceramic-8 humbuckers - 650R (neck) and 700R (bridge)

  • Weight: 6.5 lbs approx.

Pros

Below are the main pros:

It Has the Look

If you put Epiphone SG Special next to the original Gibson SG Special, you won’t be able to tell the difference without looking at the headstock to find a brand name. It comes in that beautiful Cherry Red color finish and in case you want to make it even more retro, it’s also available in the VE version that will give you an even better vintage look.

Unique Killpot Silent Feature Included 

Specials are stripped-down versions of Gibson guitars that come with the basic setup and cut down prices. Combined with the Epiphone low-price mindset, it makes this guitar extremely affordable.

It’s also quite interesting to see that Epiphone included a Killpot at this price - a feature that will allow you to create some interesting stutter effect by tapping on the volume knob. 

Quality Body and Neck Material

While the price may be low and the hardware may beg you to upgrade it, the actual tonewood is pretty nice. It generates a nice sustain and fine overall tone combined with ceramic open-coil humbuckers.

Its wood material is no different from other more expensive models so it may be an interesting affordable solution not just for beginners but semi-pro players interested in project guitars.

Lightweight Model 

SG has a friendly weight that will fit more players than other Epiphone models. If you have long performances or rehearsals, SG is the way to go, especially if you’re playing standing and like to pull some show-off moves. 

Cons

Below are the main cons:

No Individual Tone and Volume Pickup Control

Every guitar player knows that magic starts in the middle switch position, but the key ingredient is to have individual tone and volume pickup control at first.

Perhaps we’re spoiled with the Standard models, but, eventually, you will think about tone experimenting, and having only two pots instead of four will be a drawback you can’t upgrade unless you buy a new guitar. 

Ceramic Pickups Sound Characteristics

The reason why we love Gibson guitars so much lies in Alnico pickups. Nice, warm, round tone with decent low-end and pleasant trebles.

Ceramic pickups are more harsh and noisy. This doesn’t mean that those pickups sound bad, it’s just that they won’t deliver you the sound you would expect from a guitar that has an SG name on it.

So, while it may look vintage, don’t expect to have such experience with the sound.

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers say that this guitar seems to be just like its price advertised - a decent budget model that doesn’t even try to impress you, but it will do the job once you set it up to your playing taste. When you get your hands on the guitar, the feeling is positive in general and it feels a bit better than its price tells you. 

Yes, it will be able to pull out AC/DC sound, especially if you have an appropriate amp for it, but unfortunately, that’s about where the resemblance to the original SG sound ends. Experienced players wouldn’t recommend this guitar for anyone else except for real beginners.

As for build quality, tonewood seems to be okay, pickups are about to be described as decent, but it’s the hardware where this guitar begins to show its price range flaws. 

Many users are complaining about input jack getting loose and that tuners or nuts are faulty and affect the intonation a lot. Also, be prepared to set it up for yourself, as the factory settings are not the best we’ve seen so far and we could tell the same about factory strings provided - those should be changed as soon as possible.

What Are The Components of the Epiphone SG Special?

Epiphone SG Special comes with the Mahogany double pointed cutaway body and 60’s SlimTaper D-profile neck along with Wraparound combo fixed bridge system.

What Pickups Are in the Epiphone SG Special?

Pickups found at Epiphone SG Special VE are ceramic humbuckers, 650R at the neck, and 700R at the bridge position. 

What Scale is an Epiphone SG Special?

This SG Special model comes with the regular Gibson scale of 24 3/4 inches and it has 22 medium jumbo frets with dot inlays on a Rosewood fingerboard. It’s a bit shorter than one found at Fender or Ibanez guitars for example. The scale also comes with the regular 12 inches fretboard radius and 1.68-inch nut width.

What Kind of Guitar is an Epiphone SG Special?

Epiphone SG Special VE is an electric solid body guitar with a dual humbucker pickup configuration and provides basic control of master volume and tone pots along with the 3-way pickup switch selector. Volume pot contains a killpot feature that mutes the sound output instantly by tapping on it.

What Strings Come on the Epiphone SG Special?

All Epiphone electric guitars come with the unbranded .010-0.046 string gauge sets.

What Types of Music is the Epiphone SG Special Best For?

As we have mentioned, SG guitars were originally named Les Paul, so that could give a hint or two about music it’s suitable for. 

If it is still not clear, let us give you a couple of names that have used the original Gibson SG: AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Santana, The Doors, Allman Brothers Band, and many others preferred SG over Les Paul.

So, anything rock or heavy metal related should work for Epiphone SG Special. As long as clean guitar sound is not the main guitar sound for your track, this guitar should work just fine.

What Ages and Skill Levels is the Epiphone SG Special Suitable For?

While the Epiphone SG Special has a neck that could be suitable for all kinds of skill levels, it is still a budget, stripped-down version of the Epiphone SG Standard.

The sound quality will leave a lot to desire for advanced players but it wasn’t intended to satisfy their needs. For beginners and inexperienced casual players, it will be more than enough until they decide to get serious about their music performance.

We also find this guitar to be suitable for all ages - it’s not so heavy and the body size may be more suitable than some other Epiphone models out there.

What is an SG Special?

Gibson has an electric guitar that unfortunately lives in the shadow of the Les Paul fame. SG guitar has been used on so many rock albums and just like the Les Paul, it has its stripped-down Special model and gold hardware model, SG Custom, and those models can be found at entry-level Epiphone sub-brand offers.

What Does SG Stand For?

The SG part stands for Solid Guitar. It was used back in the 1950s when Les Paul, the inventor of Gibson Les Paul guitars, decided not to approve the Les Paul name for this guitar design. 

He simply didn’t like how it looked like, so Gibson had to remove the Les Paul part from the model’s name and promote it simply as Gibson SG.

What Does a VE Stand For in SG Special?

The VE part in SG Special name stands for Vintage Edition. It describes the vintage worn finish that makes this guitar look like it has been played for years. It’s a nice way to blend your new guitar into that retro vibe that seems to be praised by rock fans and players.

Where Are Epiphone SG Specials Made?

All Epiphone SG guitars are made in Epiphone facilities in Qingdao, China.

Epiphone SG Guitar Types

SG guitars followed the Les Paul model type categorization, so, all SG guitars can be displayed as:

Standard

This is the regular SG model that usually comes with Mahogany neck and body, Rosewood fingerboard and dual humbucker pickup configuration, and individual pickup tone and volume control.

There are several models available at the moment. Some are honoring the special era, like SG Standard 60s, while others come with different setups like SG Standard P-90 which has single-coil pickups, or SG Standard 60’s Maestro which brings back that old Gibson tremolo bar and creates an incredible “blast from the past” vibe.

G-400

This Epiphone has been in production since 1989 and probably because Gibson’s decision didn’t share the SG name while everything about it was just like the original SG. 

Currently, Epiphone G-400 Limited Edition 1966 model with the batwing pickguard is available.

Custom

SG Custom followed the Les Paul design solutions so it also came up with the Ebony fingerboard, same rectangular inlay and headstock logo along with gold hardware and pickup covers.

Special

Special was a tuned-down version of the Standard model. It shares the same specification except for having a master volume and tone control instead of individual controls. At this moment, there are two SG Special models available - Epiphone Limited Edition SG Special-I and SG Special VE, a model with the “worn” color finish.

Junior

Back in the 1960s, these models were the most affordable instruments, created as a gift for the students and players on a budget, It features only one pickup in the setup, pots for volume and tone, and no pickup switch selector.

Currently Epiphone SG Junior is no longer in production, but perhaps you can still find them online.

Modern

Modern SGs are Epiphone’s tryouts to bring fresh air into the whole collection with a slightly different body design, a bit of different weight distribution, and additional features such as coil splitting, treble bleed, or phase switching features which shape the overall tone further.

Currently, there are four models available: premium Prophecy SG, SG Modern with Figured or Worn finish, and budget SG Muse.

What Makes the Epiphone SG Special Stand Out From the Competition?

It’s one of the cheapest ways to get that real rock guitar sound at a more than decent playability. Practice your leads as this guitar is prone to have a terrific lead tone.

When we talk about the Epiphone SG Special, we can’t deny the price factor. It’s an incredible purchase and a great starter kit that shares a couple of unique features such as Killpot switch that will wait for you until you get more into guitar playing. 

The worn finish will make it look vintage so you can dodge all those unnecessary prejudices about “how new guitar can’t sound like the old ones” and stun them with your playing first. 

Comparison Overview

Now, let’s compare Epiphone SG Special with other similar models on the market either by price range or name:

Epiphone SG Special vs G400

Those two guitars belong to the same SG series. G-400 represents Epiphone SG Standard vintage versions and it comes with four pots instead of two. 

But, in general, it shouldn’t be so different. Visually it’s pretty much the same except that G-400 has that full-scale batwing pickguard. Pickups are also in favor of G-400 as they are Alnico and not Ceramic.

Epiphone SG Special vs SG Standard

Epiphone SG Special is a stripped-down version of the SG Standard model, so the latter is undoubtedly a better and more expensive guitar. also probably the one Epiphone will put a bit of extra care during the quality control process, too.

So, SG Standard provides you with the individual volume and tone control for both pickups and it comes with the large pickguard also known as the batwing. It has Alnico pickups which will generate a different, warmer, and more round tone and significantly better hardware starting from Locktone ABR Tune-o-Matic bridge system to Grover Rotomatic tuning machines. And let’s not forget improved CTS electronics as well. But, for some reason, it doesn’t include the Killpot feature.

So, if your budget allows you, SG Standard is the way to go. It’s one of those guitars that will pay off in the long run.

Epiphone SG Special vs Les Paul Special II

These two guitars belong to the same tier so it seems like a fair fight. They are both intended to be a guitar for the starters 

They both share the Mahogany tonewood, master volume, and tone control and the same neck profile and same ceramic pickup configuration, but if we exclude SG killpot feature as a bonus, it’s about where the things are starting to get into Les Paul favor. 

The top is made of beautiful flamed Maple veneer and the bridge system is Locktone Tune-o-Matic with Stopbar tailpiece, the one also found on even premium Epiphone models.

So, if we have to pick a winner, we have to say that Les Paul Special II is a bit better guitar and seems to be worth the extra money it asks for.


Epiphone Les Paul Special II (Source)

Epiphone SG Special vs Gibson SG Special

If you just take a look at the price you will understand that these two guitars only share the name and body design in common. Of course, Gibson is a bit overpriced because of its brand name, but, it’s a better guitar that may be interesting to look up for on the used market.

The pickups are not just different quality, but also different type - The Epiphone version has ceramic humbuckers and Gibson comes with Alnico single-coils. Also, Gibson SG Special provides you with the four-pot control layout and it’s available for both right-hand and left-hand players.

So, Gibson SG Special is closer to the Standard model and aims at the semi-pro market.

Conclusion 

Nowadays, there is no need to buy an expensive guitar. Epiphone SG Special will give you just enough content so you may chill and save a lot of money meanwhile, especially if you’re looking for affordable rock guitars or if you care about stage presence.

People Also Ask

Let’s find a bit more about the SG Special. We’re going to provide you with some technical tips and advice on how to improve your guitar and tell you how the price is going on at the moment, but also explain the differences in short about various SG Special models.

How to Improve Epiphone SG Special

Epiphone SG Special may sound better if you swap the pickups or change the tuning machines that will improve overall intonation. Also, installing some premium strings can help with a tone a lot. But, always remember that the biggest improvement comes from improving your playing skills first.

Why Does My Epiphone SG Special Only Have Two Knobs?

Guitars that belong to Special have stripped-down versions of the Standard models. One of the features that have been stripped down is the individual volume and tone control per pickup. That’s why your Epiphone SG Special will have only two knobs instead of four.

What Size Are the Screws For the Neck Of an Epiphone SG Special?

Based on the tuners types screws might be 10mm for die-cast and 8mm for non-cast tuners.

Bear in mind that getting non-matching screws to happen all the time and there is a way to solve it by using a toothpick to make a hole exact fit for the screw you’ve got. 

Which is Better, an SG Standard Or Special 2017?

When compared to Special 2017, SG Standard appears to be a next-tier guitar. It will have better pickups and more tone controls than any Special model. But, if you’re looking for a cheap model, in that case, Special 2017 will be a much better choice.

What is the Difference Between the Epiphone SG Special and the Epiphone SG Special VE?

Those two models share the same body shape and material, pickups, and bridge type, but, there are some differences. First, the Killpot feature is only available at the SG Special and vintage “worn” finishes are what makes Epiphone SG Special VE guitars unique. 

How to Care for an Epiphone SG Special Guitar

Epiphone SG Special guitars are solid body guitars. They don’t require any special treatment, so a dry cloth should be enough for dust wiping. Cleaning your strings before and after your playing sessions and applying a string conditioner should significantly increase both performance and the lifespan of your string set. 

How Much is the Epiphone SG Special Worth?

SG Special is currently being sold at around the price of $200. In case you find a more expensive deal online, ignore it, and try to look for the Epiphone store on the Amazon website. The price difference between Epiphone SG Special and SG Special VE shouldn’t be more than a couple of bucks.

How to Spot a Real Epiphone Special SG

Because of the low price, it’s unlikely to see a copy of Epiphone Special SG, but in case you want to be certain, check for the truss rod cover - it should have only two screws and if you open it the truss rod nut should be visible.

Where to Find Model Number on a Epiphone SG Special?

The model number should be placed on the back of the headstock of your Epiphone SG Special. It can be used to date a guitar in terms of the manufacturing year, see at which factory it was made, and also register your instrument for warranty purposes.

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.