Epiphone is well loved by many for their semi-hollow bodies, their range of selection and affordable prices. You may be ready to pull the trigger your first Les Paul style guitar but your credit card may refuse such a purchase – an Epiphone LP is a good alternative. After getting their hands on an Epiphone, it’s not uncommon for people to make a couple upgrades, including changing out the stock pickups to something with more output, less mud and more clarity, or just to get a sound more to their liking. In this new article we look at some great choices, most of which will work for a whole host of the many Epiphone models out there.
Epiphone Les Paul
If you’re looking that classic tone vintage rock and blues tone, the ’59 gives you a great PAF character: after all it’s built to recreate one of the most highly desired tones, known to many as the holy grail of tone, a ’59 Les Paul. For a little more edge, the Whole Lotta Humbucker takes you up to the stairway of an era. It features sand-cast magnets and a special winding pitch developed by Seymour when he worked in London in the days of what we now call classic rock.
The Pearly Gates is also a great choice, giving you a very clear, sweet tone that gets plenty rude when overdriven, perfect for classic rock or blues. For those looking for a versatile, smooth and warm tone perfect for rock and blues, the Slash Alnico II Pro can perform well:
Here’s the Slash Alnico II Pro in an Epiphone Les Paul.
While all these pickups mentioned so far can be ordered in sets, you may prefer more variety between your two humbuckers: for instance a brighter tone for one and warmer tone for the other. For those that want a more warm PAF neck pickup, go with the ’59. For a more sweeter/brighter tone, go with the Pearly Gates. An Alnico II Pro in the bridge and a Pearly Gates in the neck will also give you plenty of range, with a fat, warm and smooth neck tone and all the biting brightness in the bridge. And of course the JB/Jazz Hot Rodded combo will give you tons of versatility, with singing highs from the bridge pickup and plenty of articulation for soloing in the neck position. While some love the JB at 500K, consider going to 250K pots to tame the highs just a bit.
For those looking for a more modern tone for rock/hard rock or metal – the Custom will supply plenty of midrange and crunch, with cutting leads. The Pearly Gates neck matches it perfectly, and both will sound great in mahogany. The Custom 5 (a Custom with an Alnico 5 magnet for more open midrange and richness) is also a good middle-of-the-road choice.
The most desired choices would be either the Antiquity or Seth Lover. Each will give you a great open, airy, clear and articulate tone. Neither are wax potted, so you get an open sound which is the way the originals were made. Another great choice for a full, warm and smooth tone is the ’59 pickup. These options are also true of the ES-335 and other variants. (By the way, anything ‘vintage’ that we make is wound on the very same Leesona machine used to make original humbuckers in Kalamazoo back in the 50s).
For those with an Epiphone Nighthawk, Seymour Duncan offers special ‘slanted‘ versions of the ’59 and JB models for the bridge position. This gives extra warmth to the low strings, but keep in mind though that if you are looking for these pickups you might not find them at your local store or even online: you’ll need to ask your favorite music dealer to order them for you.
If you’ve upgraded the pickups on your Epiphone, share with us in the comments which you put in and how it changed the tone.