EPIPHONE SG G 400 ELECTRIC GUITAR
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When you got a good thing, it makes sense to capitalize on it. When Hollywood releases a blockbuster movie that is a big success at the box office, it is almost a sure thing that there is going to be a sequel to it. Well when Gibson released the SG Guitar as a replacement for the venerable Les Paul line of guitars, and it was a big success with the public, I guess it was almost natural to expect that there would be a number of sequels. I doubt that ever Gibson would have guessed just how many different incarnations of the SG have eventually been released over the years. In an effort to capitalize on the success of the SG line of Gibson guitars, Epiphone, a subsidiary of Gibson, has also released a number of more affordable SG style guitars. The guitar that I shall be reviewing here today is one of the most popular SG model guitars in the Epiphone line up of SG's, and it is the Epiphone SG G-400 Electric Guitar. Read on and see if this instrument sounds like a guitar that you would like to audition the next time you are visiting your local musical instrument store.
Since price is always an important consideration when considering making any purchase, the reader should know that the Epiphone SG G-400 has a list price tag of $606.00, but it can easily be found selling at a discount for as little as $349.00 from most of the larger national musical instrument chain stores. That is actually a good deal for a guitar that offers as much as the Epiphone SG G-400. But should someone consider purchasing an Epiphone SG G-400 over a Gibson SG Standard? Read on and see what might be appropriate for you.
There are a number of important similarities and differences between the more expensive Gibson SG Standard and the less costly Epiphone SG G-400. Like the more expensive Gibson SG Standard, the body and neck of the Epiphone SG G-400 is made of Mahogany. Mahogany is an excellent tonewood for solid body guitars. However, not all Mahogany is the same. The Epiphone version of the SG appears be made of a lighter, and softer wood. I did a side by side comparison of the Gibson SG Standard, and the Epiphone SG G-400 (which was easy to do as I own both of these guitars). The Epiphone SG G-400 is definitely lighter in weight because of this difference in the density of the wood being used. I should also point out that I own several Gibson SG Standards, and compared these to my own Epiphone SG G-400 as well as to two others that are owned by two of my sons. We are a family of musicians, and my wife feels that we suffer from a familial genetic disorder for which there is no cure, namely Guitar Acquisition Syndrome or GAS for short. All three of these Epiphone SG's have a Cherry finish, although the G-400 is also available with an Ebony finish as well.
As most of you reading this review probably already know, the specific tonewood as well as its density and porosity of the wood that is used in making a guitar has a clear impact on the overall sound and tonal characteristics of any guitar, even when the wood is from the same species of wood. Gibson guitars are made in the United States. The luthiers at Gibson will typically only use the choicest pieces of Mahogany, and that usually means Brazilian Mahogany to make a Gibson SG Standard. However, there are some cases where the Mahogany that is used may at times also come from Guatemala, Peru, Honduras, and even Africa. On the other hand, the Mahogany used in making the Epiphone version of the SG G-400 comes from the East and Far East, and in many cases that means India, as well as some other regions where there are suitable rainforests to grow Mahogany. However, some less choice pieces of Mahogany may also come from South America, Central America, and Africa as well. A lighter, less dense piece of wood will result in an emphasis on the low end, and thus potentially a richer fuller tone. In a side by side comparison, the Epiphone SG G-400 had a fuller low end sound than the comparable Gibson SG. You will not that I did not say that the Epiphone sounded better. I am discussing the differences in the low end sound of the Epiphone SG G-400 at this point, and not making a complete comparison of the overall sound of the Epiphone SG G-400, especially as compared to the Gibson SG Standard, which is clearly a better guitar overall.
The rich low end of the Epiphone SG G-400 can be a good or a bad thing, depending of course on what type of sound you are looking to get. For instance, if you are in a power trio and want a thicker sounding guitar, so as to fill in the spaces, a guitar like this Epiphone will certainly do the trick. The same could be said if you need a darker, richer sound for your type of music. However, the sustain on a guitar with a less dense grain of wood can also have some unexpected blessings or potential curses. Sometimes a piece of Mahogany that is less dense has more room between its molecules, and the vibrations of the sound can resonate in these spaces like the pipes of a church organ. This is because of the miniature tubes of air that are trapped between the molecules of the grain of the wood. These small tubes are what once carried the sap and related nutrients to different parts of the tree, just the way your arteries carry blood laden with oxygen and related nutrients to different parts of your own body. The resulting sound can be amazing in some cases. However, if the wood is just a slight bit less dense, a bit more porous, and the spaces between the molecules are a bit larger, the vibrations of the strings do not as easily bridge the gap between the molecules, and the vibrations of the strings can get muffled and lost in the relative softness of the wood and the relative space, and the result is a guitar that has poor sustain, and a dull and muddy sound. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case with the typical Epiphone SG G-400's that I played. The Epiphone SG G-400 did produce a full low end, bit it did not produce the tight low end that the Gibson SG Standard did. The low end of the Epiphone G-400 was not as clear, precise, or punchy as the Gibson. It is important for the reader to keep in mind that each guitar has different sonic characteristics, and as such, you must try out every guitar that you are considering for a purchase, in order to determine that the sound is suited to your needs. For example, the Epiphone SG G-400 that my son Jeff owns plays and sounds remarkably better than the other two Epiphone SG G-400's that I was playing. Thus, there is considerable variability between and among Epiphone guitars.
Although Epiphone has definitely begun to take more pride in making a quality guitar, they do not get the choicest pieces of wood for their regular line of guitars, such as the Epiphone SG G-400, and thus there is more inconsistency from one Epiphone to another, even in the same make and model of guitar. The choicest pieces of wood go to both Gibson, and secondly to the Epiphone Elitist Series of guitars (which by the way are very impressive). The best way to know if your electric guitar will sound good when it is plugged in is to try playing it without plugging it in first. If it sounds bad unplugged, it is not very likely that it is going to sound much better when it is amplified. I strongly recommend playing a guitar unplugged and judging the sound that it yields before plugging it in and hearing the way it sounds through an amplifier.
But enough about Mahogany, there is much more to discuss regarding the Epiphone SG G-400. The neck of the Epiphone SG G-400 has a Rosewood fingerboard. A Rosewood fingerboard will affect the sound of the Epiphone SG G-400 by making it a bit warmer. The neck has 22 medium jumbo frets, and access to even the highest notes is readily accomplished due to the generous double cutaway. Adorning the 22 fret neck are trapezoid inlays which serve as position markers on the side of the neck. The neck is also fast and comfortable, and is based on what Gibson terms a slim taper 1960's neck." The neck on the Epiphone SG G-400 is modeled after the neck that was found on the 1962 Gibson SG Standard which was a great guitar. The hardware is all chrome plated. The bridge is an Epiphone LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge, which is similar in many respects to the Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge, which is a superb design. The strings are held in place by a Stopbar Tailpiece, which of course is an ideal companion to the Tune-o-matic bridge. The tuning pegs are made by Grover, and are quite good.
And now on to the electronics of the Epiphone SG G-400. The Epiphone SG G-400 has two humbucking pickups, just like the Gibson SG Standard does. However, the pickups are quite different sounding on each of these guitars. The neck pickup on the Epiphone SG G-400 is an Alnico Classic Humbucker, and the bridge pickup is an Alnico Classic Plus Humbucker. Both of these pickups are made with Alnico II Magnets, with the difference being that the Alnico Classic Plus bridge pickup is slightly hotter than the Alnico Classic Pickup in the neck position. However, a Gibson SG Standard has a 498T Humbucker in the bridge position, and this pickup has a hot, modern sounding Alnico V magnet. The neck pickup on the Gibson SG Standard is a 490R, and this is made with Alnico II magnets. The pickups on the Epiphone SG G-400 sound O.K., but they are just not as clear, and articulate as the Gibson humbuckers. When turned up to a high volume, the sound of the pickups is muddy. I should also add that this muddiness is not solely due to the pickups alone, but to the combination of the woods that are used as well.
O.K, so what is the bottom line regarding the Epiphone SG G-400? The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. There is a great deal of inconsistency between and among different Epiphone guitars, and the Epiphone SG G-400 is no exception. If all of the Epiphone SG G-400's sounded as good as my son Jeff's Epiphone G-400, I would say that this guitar is a remarkable value for the money. Unfortunately, the other two Epiphone SG G-400's that I played did not play or sound anywhere near as good as a Gibson, but they also did not cost anywhere near as much either.
The bottom line in my opinions is this. One must accept the Epiphone SG G-400 for what it is. It is a less expensive, foreign manufactured guitar, that is made with inferior materials to a Gibson SG Standard, and the quality control is not as good. That being said, the Epiphone SG G-400 is still quite a good guitar when compared to some of the other SG style copies that are made by some of the other manufacturers out there. The price tag is reasonable, and if one is knowledgeable about guitars, and knows what to look for, and is willing to do some comparisons, one can get a really good sounding Epiphone SG G-400 like the one my son Jeff owns. I would not recommend just picking one off the rack and trusting that it will sound and feel as good as the next one, as Epiphone just does not have the consistency and quality control that Gibson does.
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