Epiphone Prophecy Series Electric Solidbody Guitars
Epiphone Guitars, epiphone.com
EM-2 EX, $499.00; EM-2 FX, $665.00; SG EX, SG GX and Futura EX, $915.00; Futura FX, $1,082.00; Les Paul EX, Les Paul GX, $1,165.00
Originally printed in Guitar World, October 2008
Over the past few years, Epiphone has reinvented its image by taking on the role of a rebellious young upstart, challenging even its own status quo by introducing the upscale Elitist line and Slash and Zakk Wylde signature Les Pauls. These models seriously upped the ante in terms of materials and features, but they remained competitively priced, a combination that fits right in with Epiphone’s philosophy of offering exceptional value for your hard-earned dollar.
In the process, Epiphone’s guitar line has expanded rapidly with models that offer uncompromising workmanship, playability and tone—qualities that make the company’s guitars attractive choices for discriminating players ranging from beginners to experienced pros.
With the introduction of its new Prophecy Series solidbody electrics, Epiphone has shattered the price/quality barrier. Featuring hand-stained quilted maple tops, 24-fret necks with jumbo frets, and pro-quality options like EMG-81 and -85 active pickups and original Floyd Rose tremolos, the Prophecy models offer the features and craftsmanship of custom guitars, yet they’re priced to compete with most companies’ entry-level models.
At present, Epiphone offers eight Prophecy models—essentially four different body styles (Les Paul, SG, Futura and EM-2), each with two finish and hardware or pickup options. All eight models share a D-profile satin-finished neck with “blade” fretboard inlays, knurled metal knobs with pearl inlays, Epiphone’s patent-applied-for straplocks and binding surrounding the body, headstock and fretboard. The Les Paul and SG Prophecy guitars are available in two varieties: EX, with EMG-81 and -85 pickups, black hardware and a transparent Midnight Ebony finish; and GX, with Gibson Dirty Fingers humbuckers, gold hardware and a transparent Black Cherry Finish. All Les Paul and SG models have ebony fingerboards.
The Futura models, which have the distinctive, angular body shape of Gibson’s original Fifties predecessor to the Explorer, offer a different feature set. Both models include EMG 81/85 pickups and rosewood fingerboards, but the FX version has a Midnight Ebony finish and a locking Floyd Rose tremolo system while the EX has a Black Cherry finish and a LockTone Tune-O-Matic stop tailpiece.
The EM-2 models resemble Gibson’s short-lived M-III and M-IV models from the early Nineties but without the reverse headstocks. Deviating from the design features of the other six models, the EM-2s have 25 1/2–inch scales, maple bolt-on necks, poplar bodies and EpiActive pickups. The EM-2 EX has a blue Midnight Sapphire finish, Tune-O-Matic bridge and string-through-body design, while the EM-2 FX boasts a Floyd Rose trem and Midnight Ebony finish.
The Les Paul and SG GX models feature a push/pull volume control that lets you split the Dirty Fingers pickups’ coils to produce single-coil tones. The EpiActive pickups on both EM-2 models operate in either active or passive modes by engaging the push/pull volume control. The EM-2, Les Paul and SG models have master volume and master tone controls, while the Futura offers individual volume controls for each pickup plus master tone.
No matter which Prophecy model you choose, you get the same smooth-playing fast action on every guitar. The jumbo frets are expertly filed down to a low, almost flat profile that creates a “fretless wonder” feel, while it provides plenty of metal to keep your tone true as you bend notes. The neck’s D-shaped profile is wide, flat and shaped to deliver the ideal balance of speed, comfort and tone. The satin finish feels smooth, but not slick, and helps you keep your fretting hand anchored where you want it. If you’re considering a Floyd Rose-equipped model, note that the tremolo is flush mounted Van Halen-style (i.e. nonfloating), so while you can dive bomb, you can’t pull up on the bar.
In my testing, the weight of each model varied rather significantly, so I suggest you try before you buy. Even with the quilted maple tops, the SG models had the comfortable, light feel of a vintage Sixties SG, and the Les Paul models had the “just right” weight you’d expect for a new Les Paul. However, the Floyd-equipped Futura FX felt significantly heavier than my almost featherweight stop-tailpiece Futura EX example. I noticed a similar but not as drastic weight difference between the EM-2 FX and EM-2 EX.
When it comes to killer pickup tone, the Prophecy models offer players a buyer’s market. The EMG-81 bridge and -85 neck pickups deliver exceptional definition and dynamic range that’s perfect for most modern metal styles. The Dirty Fingers humbuckers deliver classic Gibson humbucking tone with fat midrange and hotter output that overdrives amps at lower volume levels. The EpiActive pickups sound remarkably clear with distortion and put out smooth, glassy clean tones. The passive setting produces similar tone with slightly mellower output, but it’s a godsend that will let you finish your set should your batteries die in the middle of a gig.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Epiphone's Prophecy guitars compare favorably with guitars costing two, three and even four times as much. They offer such incredible value that they’ll make you forget the recession. In fact, most of these models sell for street prices that will leave you with change from your economic-stimulus check.
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