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Epiphone SG Standard review

Epiphone’s recreation of this '60s powerhouse is sure to leave you Thunderstruck

Epiphone SG Standard on white background
(Image: © Epiphone)

Guitar World Verdict

With effortless playability and a fierce, fiery tone, this Epiphone SG delivers the larger-than-life sound of a rock icon with the added bonus of a modest price tag. The Epiphone SG Standard helps cement the idea that Gibson's sibling is in the midst of a renaissance, producing the best guitars they have done in years.

Pros

  • +

    Great feel

  • +

    Superb tone

  • +

    Very well finished

Cons

  • -

    The pickups are a little dark

  • -

    Not everyone gets on with the off-kilter feel of an SG

This devilishly pointy six-string may live in the shadow of its overachieving, flame-topped big brother, but the humble SG has actually been responsible for some of the most iconic electric guitar sounds in rock'n'roll history. And while you may not think it, this Solid Guitar is actually Gibson's most popular model, and by quite some margin, we might add – take that Les Paul! 

Famed for its lightweight construction, near-perfect fret access and charming good looks, the SG brings a unique level of playability to the table, as well as its own sonic identity, especially when compared to its single-cut brethren. 

Now, while a Gibson SG isn't the most expensive USA-made guitar on the market, its price will easily set you back four figures these days, putting it out of reach for many. So, if you fancy following in the footsteps of AC/DC axe-man and the world's oldest school pupil, Angus Young, the Godfather of modern metal, Tony Iommi, or contemporary blues icon Gary Clark Jr – but you don't want to spend a fortune – the Epiphone SG Standard, is the guitar for you! 

Epiphone SG Standard review: Epiphone SG Standard front

(Image credit: Epiphone)

While this SG comes in three color options, Heritage Cherry, Alpine White and Ebony, we were excited to see that our review example arrived in a wickedly pitch-black finish. We've always loved a black SG, believing that the sleek, dark hues and high gloss finish complement the SG's bevelled edges and countless contours, and this Epiphone is no exception. While this finish may not be nitrocellulose like its big brother, it does have a rather impressive shine, resulting in an expensive look for this budget-friendly instrument.

Completing the look are the famous "bat-wing pickguard", trapezoid inlays, vintage style Epiphone deluxe tuners, and of course, the revised Epiphone headstock. All of these elements combine to make a gorgeous-looking guitar that is more than the sum of its parts. 

Okay, so we've established that this Epiphone SG Standard delivers on looks, but that's only part of the equation – how does it sound? Coming loaded with a set of the Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers – with CTS pots – this guitar delivers all the filthy mid-range you demand from an SG and more! The low frequencies are tight and controlled, making this Epiphone sound well-balanced and focused. 

Epiphone SG Standard review: Back of Epiphone SG Standard

(Image credit: Epiphone)

That said, the pickups do lack a little of the high-end sparkle you'd normally expect on an SG-style guitar. We aren't saying this guitar sounds overly dark or muddy, mind you, just that we can't help but notice the lack of high-frequency sheen found on a set of Gibson 57 Classics or the 498T, for example. This becomes particularly apparent when compared to our own Gibson SG Standard, which is loaded with 490R/498T pickups.  

Admittedly, this is a very minor qualm, and a slight adjustment of the presence control on your amplifier would quickly rectify the issue. Overall this guitar more than delivers on tone for its price, sounding equally as good playing meaty down-tuned riffage to soft, delicate clean parts and everything in between.  

For us, it's the perfect balance between not too thin and too narrow, which results in a very enjoyable playing experience.

That brings us to playability. Opting for the ever-popular 60s Slim Taper neck profile, this guitar is a dream to play. The neck is thin, although perhaps, some may find it a little wider than the name suggests. For us, it's the perfect balance between not too thin and too narrow, which results in a very enjoyable playing experience. While it feels nothing like our SG Standard, it's a dead ringer for our Gibson '61 Special reissue.

Our review example came ready to go straight out of the box, well set up, and with zero fret issues at all. The Graph Tech NuBone nut was well cut, and as a result, none of the strings got stuck, causing tuning issues, which was a welcome surprise.

Epiphone SG Standard review: Epiphone SG Standard in living room

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)

Conclusion

The SG is an icon of rock guitar for a reason. Not only is it highly playable and fantastic sounding – it's drop-dead gorgeous. Now, while this wallet-friendly version may be missing the high-end sheen of its big brother, Epiphone proves that you don't need to spend big money to get a big sound! 

While the price makes it a very valuable beginner electric guitar, you only need to play it to see it's far more than that. This guitar is beautifully finished, expertly crafted and a must-have for players looking for an SG on a budget. On that note, if anyone needs us, we'll be fumbling our way through the entirety of Back In Black

Specification

  • Body Style: SG 
  • Body & Neck Material: Mahogany 
  • Body Finish: Gloss 
  • Neck Profile: 60s SlimTaper
  • Fingerboard Material: Indian Laurel
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Bridge: Epiphone LockTone Tune-O-Matic
  • Pickups: Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro
  • Contact: Epiphone (opens in new tab)

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First and foremost, I'm a guitar enthusiast – a fanatic, some might say. I'm a firm believer that most of the world's problems can be solved with a Gibson SG and a catastrophically loud amp. As Junior Deals Writer on Guitar World, I write about guitars for a living, but in a past life, I worked in music retail for 7 years, advising customers on the right guitars, basses, drums, pianos, and PA systems for their needs. I also have a passion for live sound; I'm a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland, where I live with my wife and dog.