If you want a Les Paul but you don’t want to pay Gibson money, what’re the best Les Paul copy models on the market right now?
Gibson Les Paul guitars are iconic. Used by the greats, both old and new, Gibson’s Les Paul Custom and Standard guitars have been used to create some of the greatest riffs ever committed to tape.
Adam Jones from TOOL uses a Gibson Les Paul and so too does Matt Pike. Plenty of newer players, dudes like Matt Heafy, have jumped ship to Epiphone. But most purists swear by good ‘ol American-made Gibson guitars.
And there’s plenty of logic behind this too: Gibson guitars are hand-made in the US. They use the best possible materials and, unlike nearly everything else on planet earth, they actually get better (and more valuable) as they age.
But if you just play casually, or even if you’re in a band, dropping the best part of $2500 on a basic Gibson Les Paul is probably not the best of ideas. I know my wife would kill me if I spent that kind of money on a guitar.
If you’re a pro, it’s a different matter. When you’re a pro, your guitar is a working tool. You need the best components, the best tone, the best materials. Without these things, your sound will suffer. And if you’re sound suffers, your work does too.
But for us mere mortals, we’ll have to settle for Les Paul copies – Les Paul-style guitars from other guitar companies that, for the most part, are WAY cheaper than Gibson’s iconic guitar. But what are the best, current Les Paul copy models, you ask? Here’s my current pick…
Best Les Paul Copy: 2021’s Most Beastly Options
- ESP LTD Deluxe
- PRS SE 245
- Jackson Monarkh Pro
A near-perfect guitar in every way. The neck is rapid, it looks like a weapon when you're wearing it, and it sounds incredible, thanks to its Seymour Duncan JB/59 passive pickup setup. It ain't cheap, but this could well be on the best Les Paul-style guitars ever created.
For the money, there probably isn't a better production guitar on the market. The PRS SE 245 serves up incredible value for money, and it plays like a dream. If you want to spend under $800 on a Les Paul-style guitar, this is the one to go for. Period.
If you want to play fast, you need a thin neck. The Jackson Monarkh was designed with shredders in mind. And it shows when you play it. This is a modern metalheads' Les Paul with all the trimmings, including Seymour Duncan humbuckers for screaming tones. No wonder Marty Friedman likes them so much...
What’s The Best Overall Option?
Ironically, our current favorite Les Paul copy is actually the cheapest option from our above picks.
The Epiphone Les Paul Custom Limited Edition is based on Gibson’s iconic ’54 model but because this is an Epiphone, you get a few extras thrown in for good measure – things like chrome hardware and ProBucker pickups.
As much as I love Gibson’s Les Paul Custom, the Epiphone Les Paul Custom – especially in this amazing limited finish – is just an infinitely preferable option. It is better than half the price of a Gibson Les Paul and it plays just as well, in my opinion.
Epiphone makes more Les Paul models than any other guitar brand; it literally has a Les Paul-style guitar for every time of player under the sun. If you want something that is specced-to-the-hilt with modern Fishman Fluence pickups, check out the Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy – it is more expensive but it is insanely good.
The company’s outstanding work in the past few years has seen its sales jump massively, thanks in part to just how good its hardware is but also because more and more professionals are using Epiphone. Signature models from Slash and Matt Heafy help too.
We Need To Talk About The PRS SE 245…
PRS makes utterly beautiful guitars that are a dream to play. Usually, PRS guitars are very, very expensive. But its PRS SE 245 is exactly kind of affordable. And from a player’s perspective, I would argue it is one of, if not, the, best electric guitar you can buy for under $800 right now.
What makes the PRS SE 245 so good? The quality, to put it simply. PRS SE guitars are made to such a high standard that the uninitiated would struggle to spot the difference between a PRS SD and a standard, more expensive PRS guitar.
Used by pros in the studios and amateur noodlers like myself, the PRS SE 245 is one of the best ways to experience what a truly well-crafted instrument feels like. It’s still not cheap at $799, but for the quality of its build and components, plus how well it plays, anybody that knows anything about guitar will tell you the PRS SE 245 is a steal.
Who Makes The Best Les Paul Replica?
As always, when you go with a brand like Epiphone and/or PRS, you know what you’re getting – a quality guitar made by people that are passionate about guitar. This is how guitars should be created, even affordable versions of classic guitars like the Gibson Les Paul.
What you DO NOT want to do is buy cheap, knock-off guitars like Chibson guitars. These are made in bulk in China with little to no quality control. Oftentimes Chinese copies of Gibson’s Les Paul have faults, rubbish electronics, and are basically not worth the money.
For this reason, it is always advisable when choosing a Les Paul replica to go with a respected and reputable brand. My advice? If you’re on a budget, go with Epiphone – it has Les Paul models for every type of player and budget – from $169 to $899.
If you’re a bit more advanced and have a more liberal budget, go with either the Epiphone Les Paul Custom Limited Edition, the PRS SE 245, or the Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy – they’re all brilliant options and, in some ways, preferable to a proper Gibson Les Paul.