The combination of these modifications was a rich tone and long sustain that helped to define the sound of early rock’n’roll—but the Les Paul isn’t limited to rock, and players of blues, metal, and jazz will also find a lot to love in the Les Paul copies on this list. They are, in our humble opinion, the 4 best Les Paul copies on the market.
ESP LTD EC Series EC-1000
Every detail of the ESP Limited EC Series guitars is carefully designed to give you the power and tone of a classic Les Paul, updated with the best modern musical technology has to offer. It uses a TonePros locking bridge and tailpiece for absolutely solid intonation, play after play, even if you like to use a relatively low action.
These guitars (see full specs) also give you two options of pickups: Seymour Duncan passive humbuckers or EMG active single-coil pickups. Each brings out different qualities of the guitar, which uses mahogany and flamed maple as its tonewoods. It’s lightweight, easy to play, and can deliver all the gain and crunch a Les Paul does so well. This should easily be on the list of the best Les Paul copies.
Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty
The Black Beauty from Epiphone takes the best aspects of the Les Paul style and puts the brand’s own modern twist on it, installing modern technology that updates this classic instrument. One example is the LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge, which not only helps keep the intonation consistent but also makes it easier to change your strings.
The biggest change, though, is in the pickups. The Black Beauty uses three Alnico humbuckers, giving you a wider range without the added hum of single-coil pickups. It has a classic rosewood fingerboard with perloid inlays. The neck and body both are solid mahogany, with cream binding and a black lacquer that gives it a simple, elegant overall look. Without a doubt, this is one of the best Les Paul copies for the money.
Epiphone Les Paul-100 Heritage
In addition to their professional instruments, Epiphone has several affordable Les Paul guitars in their catalogue. The LP-100 Heritage is one of these, striking an impressive balance of performance and value. It has a body of maple and mahogany with an attractive gloss and stylish white pickguard.
The SlimTaper neck is comfortable to play, with a nice low action right out of the box. The two open-coil humbucker pickups enhance the bold, heavy sound you get from the tonewoods, and it also features the Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece found on many of their pricier models, meaning your guitar will stay in tune better and longer than most models in its price range. It’s easily among the best cheap Les Paul copies you can buy (“cheap” only in terms of price, not quality).
Paul Reed Smith 245STVC SE 245
If you’re a Les Paul traditionalist but can’t find (or can’t afford) a vintage Gibson, check out the SE 245 from Paul Reed Smith guitars. It has a shorter scale length, at 24 ½” with a relatively wide neck, making it comfortable and familiar for traditional players. The individual components of the instrument are all designed in-house, specifically crafted to work harmoniously together, including the humbucker pickups, the tuners, and the bridge. The cutaway is less pronounced than on many Les Paul models, giving the guitar’s overall shape a more subtle profile, that’s complimented by the bird inlays and nickel hardware. Overall, you’ve got a modern Les Paul for the vintage lover that looks as beautiful as it sounds.
Playing Comfort of the Best Gibson Les Paul Copies
One of the Les Paul’s unique selling points when it was first released—and one of the characteristics that defines the Les Paul body shape—is its Florentine cutaway that made it much easier to play higher, faster lines. If you’re looking for a Les Paul so you can play this kind of shredding solos, pay close attention to the action of the instruments you’re considering.
While you can adjust the action after purchase, not every guitar will sound as good when you lower the action from its factory settings. The point at which the action is so low it creates unwanted noise and distortion is different depending on how the instrument is constructed, so if this is one of your priorities in a new instrument, check out guitars that come with the action set relatively low out of the box.
The length of your arms and fingers could also play a factor in how comfortable an instrument is for you to play. If you’re of a smaller stature, a shorter scale length will make it more manageable to reach all of the frets. If your hands are on the small side, a thinner neck can keep the muscles of your hands from having to work as hard, extending your practice time. Conversely, players who have larger hands could feel like their fingers get in each other’s way on a guitar with a slim neck; the wider neck of the Paul Reed Smith (see full specs) will likely feel more natural.
Pickups on the Best Les Paul Copies
Where the tonewoods in an acoustic guitar have the largest influence over its tone, in a solid-body electric guitar the pickups have more influence over the tone color than the type of wood used in the construction.
The original Les Pauls came with P-90 style single-coil pickups, but Gibson switched to using PAF-style humbuckers relatively early in the guitar’s history, so it would be hard to call one more traditional than the other, though they do certainly bring out different tonal qualities.
P-90 pickups are generally brasher, while humbuckers will give you a darker tone and are quieter, without the audible hum of single-coil models. Each type has its adherents across musical genres. If you’re not sure which style is right for you, find out what kind of pickups your favorite players use; it’s most likely to match your ideal style.
The individual components of the pickups will also affect the sound. When it comes to pickup magnets, there are two broad categories of commonly-used components: Alnico and ceramic. Within these broad categories, though, there are subtle variations depending on the ratio of metals. The style of winding on the poles, the gauge of the wire, and the material used in the casing are some other factors that will influence the signal that gets sent to your amp. Some of these alterations will be subtle, but when you narrow down your search to a single guitar style—such as the Les Paul—thinking carefully about which pickups you choose will ensure you get exactly the tone you’re seeking.