Sunday, June 1, 2014

2013 Epiphone Zakk Wylde Signature Les Paul Custom Review

Hi there!

Today we are looking at a really neat hard rock/metal guitar – a 2013 Epiphone Zakk Wylde Custom Plus Bullseye in Antique Ivory. This is an affordable version of the amazing Gibson model, and it comes in at a fraction of the original’s eye-popping list price of $6880 (street $4799). This is the latest version of the Epiphone model, and there have been some important changes.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the man, Zakk Wylde is Ozzy Osborne’s former guitarist, and is the founder of the Black Label Society. He is a guitar hero of the highest order, and this guitar is a fitting tribute to him and his mad skills.

For starters, it is a Les Paul Custom, so it has the traditional body shape, multi-layer binding, pearl block inlays, and gold hardware. It has a one-piece mahogany body -- apparently the carved maple top is a thing of the past. There are gold-plated Grover tuners and a Tune-O-Matic stopbar tailpiece, so there is nothing really out of the ordinary with these parts. It even has the expected trapezoidal inlays in the 12-inch radius fretboard. But, there are a few major differences from the usual Les Paul specs.

The most significant difference is the electronics package. It comes with high-power Zakk Wylde model EMG 81 (neck) and 85 (Bridge) pickups, with two volume controls, two tone controls and a 3-way (3-way!) pickup selector switch. So, it is going to have that EMG sound, love it or hate it. This is a major divergence from previous Epi ZW models, which came with passive EMG HZ pickups. The battery is easy to change, as they put a battery box on the rear control cover.

The other huge difference is that the set neck on these is made of hard maple with a satin finish. These guitars now come with a rosewood fretboard (the Gibson ones and early Epiphone models used ebony).

Cosmetically there are a few neat things going on too, obviously there is the dizzying bullseye paint job, as well as the special Zakk Wylde graphic on the back of the headstock and the gold truss rod cover.

After giving this Les Paul a thorough exam, I have to say that it is really a well-made instrument. There is not a single thing to complain about: the hardware and electronics are all first-rate, and the finish is flawless. Better yet, the fretwork and neck binding is better than I have seen on most modern day guitars that are coming out of Gibson’s US factories. Maybe their quality control staff can learn something from the folks over in China that put these things together.

This all comes together well, and the playing experience is something to write a blog post about. The slim-taper C neck is very fast, and there is no fret buzz or dead spots. Plus, I love the way the maple neck feels. I have it set up with Ernie Ball 0.010s, but if you are a huge fanboy you could always track down a set of the Zakk Wylde GHS Boomers (also 0.010s). Rawk!

It also sounds incredible (I like EMG pickups), with no unwanted noise and an aggressive tone with more than enough output. It takes effects well (wah and distortion) and it is the ultimate rock guitar. By the way, it weighs in at 8 pounds, 15 ounces, which is not bad for a Les Paul.

As I said right up front, the Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom is a tremendous value, too, and you are going to save $4000 by not buying the Gibson version. These guitars have a list price of $1165 and a street price of $699, which is not bad at all. Be careful if you are buying used, as the specs have changed a bit over the years, and you do not want to get stuck with a passive pickup model.


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