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Epiphone Slash Collection Les Paul Standard and J-45 review

The Gibson brand ambassador and top-hatted Guns N' Roses rock icon's signature electric and acoustic guitars made affordable

Epiphone Slash Collection
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

Our Verdict

Gibson may have had some turbulent times in recent years, but for Epiphone, the first fruits of Slash’s partnership with the brand are a great balance of design, build, value and quality control. Forget your preconceptions and enjoy some fine guitars!

For

  • J-45 has all solid build and quality electronics.
  • Classic styling makes them suitable for non-GNR fans.
  • Both hit all the right tones.
  • Hardcase included.

Against

  • J-45's preamp controls can be fiddly to access mid-song.

Guitar World Verdict

Gibson may have had some turbulent times in recent years, but for Epiphone, the first fruits of Slash’s partnership with the brand are a great balance of design, build, value and quality control. Forget your preconceptions and enjoy some fine guitars!

Pros

  • + J-45 has all solid build and quality electronics.
  • + Classic styling makes them suitable for non-GNR fans.
  • + Both hit all the right tones.
  • + Hardcase included.

Cons

  • - J-45's preamp controls can be fiddly to access mid-song.

Brian and the Red Special, Jimi and his Strat... some pairings are just meant to be, and while Slash has strayed and played other guitars at various points, he’s never very far from his Les Paul. In fact, not many things sum-up rock ’n’ roll like the image of the man himself sporting a top hat, Malborough and a low-slung LP. 

In 2020, Gibson appointed Slash as its first ever ‘Brand Ambassador’, a job title which presumably involves some of his already-daily activities: being Slash, playing Gibsons and inspiring generations to play the guitar. 

As well as this, there’s the obvious scope for helping to create some great guitars across the company’s product lines. Which brings us to our review of the first Epiphone release since Slash came onboard in his new capacity: the Epiphone Slash Collection.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Appetite for construction

Essentially comprising two base models – the Slash Les Paul Standard and Slash J-45 electro-acoustic – the collection is actually a seven-strong line-up. Five finish options are offered on the Les Pauls, and two on the J-45 with the finishes being the only spec changes between models of the same type.

Now, as you might already be aware, this isn’t the first time Slash has had a signature Les Paul with Epiphone. In 2010, Epiphone released the Slash AFD Les Paul, which featured the same Slash Custom neck profile (patterned from Slash’s original). 

There are a few spec differences here, though – the previous AFD guitar included Slash’s signature Seymour Duncans and a rosewood fingerboard, while today’s model features Gibson Custom Burstbuckers – the same pickups used in his signature USA Gibsons – and Indian laurel ’board. 

Elsewhere, you get a mahogany body capped with a AAA flame maple top, mahogany neck carved to Slash’s custom profile, Graph Tech nut, block pearloid inlays, top hat (what else!) control knobs, CTS pots and Orange Drop capacitors. Meanwhile, the J-45 is the first acoustic that Slash has put his name to, and on paper it’s an all-rounder. 

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Kicking off with that iconic J-45 body shape, it’s designed to give you plenty of punch when strumming chords, while also working for fingerpicking and single-note playing. Slash’s take on the J-45 is an all-solid construction, with a Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides aiming straight down the middle when it comes to the sort of tones we can expect.

But, stepping away from tradition is that same Slash Custom C-shaped neck profile which should mean that – combined with the 24.75” scale length – jumping between an electric and this strummer should feel like strapping on a comfortable pair of old boots.

There’s electronics onboard, too, with the inclusion of an LR Baggs VTC under-saddle pickup and preamp system. Being Slash signature models, both the Les Paul and J-45 have Slash’s ‘Skully’ logo and signatures printed on the back of the headstock.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Welcome to the Jangle

If you’re the type of player who has reservations about ‘affordable’ guitars, we’d suggest leaving the snobbery at the door. For a start, neither of these guitars are exactly cheap, and it’s backed up by the presentation. 

The hardcases are of the gig-ready, pink fluff-lined and shaped variety that definitely mean you won’t need to upgrade in a hurry. Both guitars are striking as we open the cases, with the Les Paul’s orange tint and ‘flat’ burst aping the look of a faded ’59.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

There’s nothing worse than a beautifully flamed finish with slight colour blemishes under the lacquer, and we’re pleased to say that it’s uniform across the front, while the back is finished in a sweet cherry red.

The J-45 matches it in a different way – its furniture-like gloss and rich tobacco burst is immaculate and feels expensive straight away. If you couldn’t see the headstocks, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a USA Gibson.

The Les Paul is exactly what you might expect: the medium weight body feels meaty, but sits comfortably on our lap and strap. The neck profile, however, definitely gives this guitar some of its personality.

While the 12-inch fingerboard radius is standard, the carve feels flatter and slightly wider than some more recent C-shapes to our hands. Tonally, we’re looking to be fulfilled, and if the exclusion of Slash’s signature pickups has you worried then don’t let it.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

The neck pickup rings like a bell with the tone rolled back for that famous intro, outputting all the nuanced interaction and harmonics between the strings as we go. Pushing the tone back up to full with some overdrive gives us a near perfect bluesy-rock lead sound.

Perhaps surprisingly, the neck pickup only starts wooling up a bit under some pretty high gain settings, remaining tight and clear until then – sort of like a bridge pickup with more bass response. Kicking in that bridge humbucker is equally rewarding, particularly when overdriven.

The quality continues once you pick up the acoustic, too, with the J-45 packing a solid low-end punch that’s well out of the way of muddy frequencies, but also has a high-end sparkle to it. Our first impressions strumming chords is that it has a very studio-like, pre-EQ’d quality to it.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

There’s projection, too, with bigger strums punching their way through with a strong percussive edge. It’s impressive considering the average size of the body. It’s no coincidence the J-45 has been a perfect all-rounder for so many decades.

Electric players sometimes find swapping to acoustic to be slightly jarring, but we’re pleased to say that this is a comfortable ride. The neck profile isn’t noticeable, until you remind yourself, which is probably about all we can ask for here, and our review model came with a very forgiving low action.

Plugged in, that tone transfers nicely. The controls are mounted inside the soundhole which helps to keep everything looking neat, but can also be Marmite to those wanting to make changes mid-song without ham-fistedly muting the strings while doing so. But that’s a small gripe, especially as this mounting position is becoming a standard from many brands.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Use your conclusion

Signature guitars potentially present a slightly different proposition to non-squiggle models. But it’s a double-edged sword. Go too specific and you risk having a one-trick pony with niche appeal. Too broad and you lose the essence of the artist.

The great news with a player like Slash is that his tones and tastes strike right at the heart of rock and its surrounding genres. The result in this case is some hugely playable guitars that you really aren’t going to go wrong with within the wide sweeping margins of rock ’n’ roll.

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Specs

Epiphone Slash Les Paul Standard

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
  • BODY: Mahogany with AAA flame maple top
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE: 24.75”
  • FINGERBOARD: Indian laurel
  • FRETS: 22
  • PICKUPS: Gibson Custom Burstbuckers
  • CONTROLS: 2x volume, 2x tone, three-way toggle
  • HARDWARE: Chrome
  • LEFT-HANDED: No
  • FINISH: Appetite Burst (pictured), November Burst, Vermillion Burst, Anaconda Burst, Victoria (goldtop)

Epiphone Slash J-45

Epiphone Slash Collection

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
  • BODY: Mahogany back and sides/Sitka spruce top (all solid)
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE: 24.75”
  • FINGERBOARD: Indian laurel
  • FRETS: 20
  • ELECTRONICS: LR Baggs VTC pickup/preamp
  • HARDWARE: Chrome
  • LEFT-HANDED: No
  • FINISH: November Burst (pictured), Vermillion Burst
  • CONTACT: Epiphone