Epiphone Riviera

3 ratings (3 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Excellent
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Mmm, jangle jangle.

Feb 22, 2002
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great full sound, looks beautiful, a little unusual

Cons:On the heavy side, bridge rattles

The Bottom Line: Rich, full and authoritative; versatile for many different sounds (but not too good at really thin Fender sounds); looks great; plays great; what more do you want?


I bought my Riviera second-hand for 400 (UK pounds) about four or five months ago. It is a '94 model with a Frequensator tailpiece and full-size humbuckers and I must say that I'm very pleased with it.

Cosmetically I think the guitar looks great (and I always have). I love the fact that the pickguard is different to the ES335's pickguard (which you expect with this body shape) and that it's white instead of black (again unlike the ES335). Even the "E" logo looks good. The cherry finish on my model is particularly well done; the grain of the wood shows through nicely and even subtle flaming of the maple appears in places. The Frequensator looks quirky and unusual and despite the comments of my fellow reviewers I had no drastic problems when restringing, it's just a slightly different system that's all.

As far as sound quality goes the Riviera is like a large deep pool; you can get treble and bite if you want, but there is always a reassuring weight behind the sound, which gives everything you play an extra dose of conviction. It is brilliant at giving a rich jangle or a warm rounded sound though; if you want paper thin, get a Fender. One of the best things is the Frequensator tailpiece though. With such large lengths of "unused" string available you can do loads of stuff to them to get weird "pinging" effects or bizarre atonal chords. You can even lean on the tailpiece sections to get a mini-Bigsby vibrato effect.

I play it through a Marshall JCM 900 100w combo (all-valve) and I can get the direct and positive mid-range that I use most of the time with no hassle at all. Incidentally, the Riviera is also very good at responding to changes in playing pressure and picking position as well. With the way I set the amp up I can get the amp to crunch up nicely when I dig into the strings hard.

My Riviera sounds fabulous through a Boss tremolo (either with a hard edged sound or a gentle Twin Reverb style wobble) and the sustain I get from my vintage 70's Big Muff pi goes on for ever. I have to back it off a little so I don't shred my band mates ears!

As far as playability goes it is great. It was set up well when I got it, and when I changed the strings to my usual 11s it put my last guitar (an Aria Pro II TA40) in the shade. The unusual tailpiece doesn't make the tuning fly around the place either - it's as solid as a rock. The guitar feels solid and dependable at home and on stage and inspires confidence. Make sure you have straplocks (or those red rubber things from Grolsch bottles) on your strap buttons; the one by the heel is a little precarious with an old strap with worn holes.

Right then, bad points. I've had to search hard for these so don't take them as huge catastrophies. I could probably sort them out with a little time, it's just I haven't been annoyed by them yet. Firstly, the bridge has a little wire along it's front edge to keep the intonation screws in position. This can rattle a bit when you are playing acoustically. This can be fixed easily (so I have been told by a qualified mate) but it doesn't effect the electric sound at all anyway so I dunno if I can be bothered. Secondly the pickup selector switch is a little eager to pop back into the middle position on the odd occasion (and I mean the odd occasion), but this is another minor quibble. The other point is that due to it's solid centre block (unlike a Casino) it is quite heavy, but nothing compared to the seventies Les Pauls I've tried. Those things were logs by comparison.

All in all I am very happy indeed with the Riviera. It does what I want when I want it and responds beautifully to the little nuances I try to put in my playing. It looks good, hasn't broken, and has made the other people in my band say "Ooh, that's a nice guitar!" which is always a good thing.


Recommend this product? Yes


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