Epiphone Custom Shop Slash Signature Les Paul Standard Plus Top
The Epiphone Company, epiphone.com
Originally printed in Guitar World, July 2008
Slash received his first Les Paul at the age of 14. It was a gift from his grandmother, who hoped that encouraging the youngster’s interest in music would keep him off the street. Though it failed at the latter, the guitar did provide young Saul Hudson with a high-voltage outlet during his turbulent younger years. From that, the man who would become Slash created a loose-limbed style of blues-rock riffing that is his signature.
Today, Epiphone’s Custom Shop honors Slash’s lifelong relationship with the Les Paul by offering one of the most highly anticipated signature model guitars of 2008. Even though it’s surprisingly affordable, Slash’s Epiphone-crafted LP is not intended to be a cost-effective alternative to the Slash model built by Gibson’s Custom Shop. This limited-edition Les Paul (just 2,400 will be made) is a bit more simple, and it’s purpose-built for the serious player who wants what Slash achieves in tone and feel. All its features are as specified by Slash, and even its old-school construction methods are focused on achieving his iconic tone.
Those special construction techniques are focused mainly on the neck joint. Just like Slash’s favored Les Paul, the Signature uses a long Fifties-style tenon-and-locking joint that extends under the neck pickup. It’s not the easiest way to build a guitar, but the extra sustain and resonance gained through this method is undeniable.
The mahogany neck itself is just shy of massive, yet it’s shockingly playable. Instead of a deep-hulled boat neck or one of those Fifties-era U-type necks that put all of the wood in the fold of your palm, Slash’s slugger-sized stick builds its volume on muscular shoulders (the area of the neck that meets the fretboard) and a thick C shape.
My medium-sized hands had no problem with speed or movement on this neck. What’s more, its specifically beefy geometry placed my hand in consistently stable positions, which made it easier to achieve Slash’s finger-controlled semitones and nuances. Another pleasant byproduct of the extra neck wood and elongated joint is its balancing effect on the guitar: Slash’s LP feels relatively light and maneuverable at all times.
I doubt that anyone will object to the guitar’s one color option: a dark tobacco burst, with an antique yellow tint on the curly maple top and a transparent brown stain that bleeds into the mahogany body and neck. Like almost all of Slash’s guitars, the Slash Signature has two Seymour Duncan open-coil Alnico II Pro pickups. Other bits of hardware include a sustain-and-clarity-enhancing LockTone stopbar and Tune-O-Matic bridge, and a set of vintage-style tuners with mint-green acrylic tombstone keys.
I tested the Slash Signature with my Dave Bray–modified Marshall. I was particularly curious to see how much closer to Slash’s sound I could get with this guitar as opposed to another Les Paul model with Duncan Alnico IIs. The answer is, quite a lot, in great part because of the size and style of neck. A large neck like this puts more tension on the strings, thereby increasing the guitar’s natural compression and sustain. Extra compression also results in greater punch and attack.
At the same time, the lightweight tuners, select woods and LockTone bridge assembly encourage a mellow and hollow essence to dominate the character. This guitar can be brighter than expected, so I found the tone knobs key to achieving Slash’s legendary balance of brilliant sting and silky ringing sustain.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Epiphone's Custom Slash Signature Les Paul Standard Plus Top lives up to the hype, delivering the Slash sound at a price that average players can afford. There are no frills here, just the Slash essentials: a big resonant mahogany neck, select tone woods, Duncan Alnico II Pro pickups and immaculate construction quality. If you want to experience the performance of a vintage Les Paul at about a tenth of vintage prices, Epiphone’s Slash should be at the top of your list.
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