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Epiphone Les Paul Prophesy Custom GX Guitar

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The Gibson Les Paul I’ve played since just after the dawn of time is a much-beloved instrument, but nothing lasts forever. New frets, new pickups and new wiring would have cost more than a new axe.

New Gibsons are seriously expensive, and to some extent, the financial carnage attending one sticks to the name on its neck as much as to the fire in its strings.


Epiphone is Gibson on a budget – owned by Gibson and infused with Gibson’s designs and technology, Epiphone builds instruments in the far east, rather than Nashville, Tennessee. Unlike many imported guitars, however, Epiphone’s instruments are built with a craftsman-like attention to detail, and they play superbly.

There are innumerable strata of both Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls, ranging from relatively cheap and somewhat nasty right on up to strings that only the gods could do justice to. It’s possible to find Gibson and Epiphone models that look and play pretty much identically.

The very low-end Epiphone Les Pauls – such as the Les Paul Special II – are arguably worth what they cost, and in that they cost well under two-hundred dollars, they’re worth using as decor elements and little else. They’re entry-level instruments with pretty disappointing sounds. It’s worth keeping this in mind if you’re shopping for a new axe, as these things could easily put you off looking at better Epiphones.

The Prophesy GX is among the most expensive of Epiphone’s Les Pauls, and it’s everything its cheaper cousins aren’t. It looks like it beamed in from an alternate universe where everything is dark and sinister. Its finish is extraordinary. It plays like thunder with a volume control.

The Prophesy GX is a somewhat non-traditional Les Paul. It has two extremely hot active Gibson Dirty Fingers humbucker pickups, which is where its intense sound comes from. It only provides one volume control and one tone control, and a three-position pickup selector, which means that you can’t balance the sound between its pickups. This proved to be less of an issue than it seemed as if it should.

The lack of a balance control is offset to some extent by the instrument’s “coil tapping” feature, which allows each of the two coils in its pickups to be isolated – pull the volume knob out to activate it. This feature offers a remarkable range of sounds for a two-pickup guitar.

The sound of the Prophesy GX is difficult to describe. It enjoys the subtlety and depth of a traditional Les Paul, but it’s huge. It’s also beautifully textured, with a perfect, centered performance that doesn’t get lost in infinite sustain or pickup distortion. You’ll hear every note you play on it.

The picture at the beginning of this review entirely fails to do justice to the appearance of the Prophesy GX. It has a red quilted maple top – I’ve seen several of them, and while no two are alike, they all look stunning. The body and neck are bound. The fingerboard is ebony, with inlay. The gold hardware looks like it belongs on the guitar, rather than in a shop that sells cheap jewelry, as is so often the case. The Grover machine heads installed on mine almost tuned by thought control alone.

The neck of the Prophesy GX is eminently playable – its satin finish makes the neck impressively quick. The frets on mine were dressed to the nearest molecule, and the action couldn’t have been tighter.

It’s worth noting that while Epiphone’s guitars are made in China, they’re set up in the States. Someone took his time over this one.

One of the few disappointing aspects of the Prophesy GX is its owner’s manual – in that it’s the owner’s manual for an entirely different guitar. A generic booklet which appears to accompany all contemporary Epiphone electric guitars, it describes a number of control layouts, none of which correspond to the Prophesy GX. I would have foregone the page which outlined the life story of Epaminodas Stathopoulo – the Greek luthier who founded Epiphone a century earlier – for a few tips on how the coil tapping function of the Prophesy GX actually works. If you buy one of these instruments, you might find the tuning chart therein to be somewhat superfluous as well.

Despite a level of detail and workmanship that would have cost several thousand dollars in a Gibson Les Paul, the Epiphone Les Paul Prophesy GX has a street price of about eight hundred dollars. It looks like you ought to pay for it quickly and run for the parking lot before the guy at the cash register catches his mistake, but that’s the real price.

Unlike American-made Gibsons, the Prophesy GX doesn’t come with a case. It will fit most aftermarket Les Paul cases – I bought a Gator ABS case, better than which just can’t be had. In choosing a case for an Epiphone Les Paul, it’s probably worth observing that the Epiphone headstock’s a bit bigger than that of Gibson Les Paul, and not all aftermarket cases fit them.

You can actually buy a very low end Gibson Studio Les Paul for about the same pile of cash as a Prophesy GX if you catch the right sales, and the Studio sounds pretty reasonable. The Prophesy GX sounds fantastic, however, and it looks seriously cool.

My Prophesy GX came from Musician’s Friend, which had it in stock and shipped it for free.

Comments (4)

LarryAugust 26th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I collect guitars – I have two other us lps in my collection and this piece is over the top in quality and performance

MikeApril 25th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Wish I’d read this review and spent a little more, as the Epiphone I have just bought for under £200 is horrible. Sounds okay though, if you can hear it over the fret buzz. Good review.

HTSILYISSeptember 1st, 2011 at 9:54 am

Really nice article you wrote here!

Zoltan MolnarOctober 1st, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I just had replaced my old LPs for a Nighthawk and a Prophecy GX. Unbelievable look and quality for the money. The only mod I did on the GX, is replaced the pearl knobs for the Gibson black top hats. Now it looks sikly serious, as it sounds.