“Proper, grown-up tones that wouldn’t disappoint even the most critical ear”: Epiphone Inspired by Gibson Custom 1963 Les Paul SG Custom with Maestro Vibrola and 1959 ES-355 review

Epiphone’s collaborations with the Gibson Custom Shop continue unabated, this time with two of the latter’s most prized top-end models but built in Qingdao, China

Epiphone Inspired by Gibson Custom 1963 Les Paul SG Custom with Maestro Vibrola
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

Guitar World Verdict

While the niggles we’ve uncovered will surely be ironed out as production progresses, they did take us a little by surprise. However, behind this lie two guitars that are immensely rewarding to play, with characters that shine through both visually and from a sound perspective.


  • +

    SG Custom is almost unmatched visually.

  • +

    Fabulous if not infinite range of beefy tones.

  • +

    Real ebony ’board and top-quality electrics.

  • +

    ES-335 is a looker, too.

  • +

    Stunning range of dynamically potent tones.

  • +

    Excellent value for money.

  • +

    Top-class pickups, hardware and general materials.


  • -

    It’s a shame about the noticeable ridge on SG's neck binding.

  • -

    We would have preferred full gloss finish.

  • -

    ES-335's wonky heel also came as a surprise (and is surely something of an aberration?)

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

When it comes to impressive-looking guitars, it’s hard to imagine anything more sensational looking (save perhaps for Gretsch’s White Falcon) than a three-pickup, white Gibson SG Custom with Vibrola, and a Cherry Red ES-355.

When released, both instruments sat at the top of their respective family trees and boasted pretty much every flashy element that Gibson had at its disposal. Thus it was ebony rather than rosewood fingerboards, gold instead of nickel plating, and real mother-of-pearl over the swirly celluloid found on SG Standard and ES-335 models.

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Neville Marten

In the late '70s and early '80s Neville worked for Selmer/Norlin as one of Gibson's UK guitar repairers, before joining CBS/Fender in the same role. He then moved to the fledgling Guitarist magazine as staff writer, rising to editor in 1986. He remained editor for 14 years before launching and editing Guitar Techniques magazine. Although now semi-retired he still works for both magazines. Neville has been a member of Marty Wilde's 'Wildcats' since 1983, and recorded his own album, The Blues Headlines, in 2019.