A buddy of mine from London was in town recently and wanted to stop by Guitar Center to pick up an effects pedal, taking advantage of the lower US pricing. While I wasn't planning on buying anything, 30 minutes later, I walked out with a new Epiphone Les Paul Studio in arctic white. I was planning on buying a second guitar which I would keep over at my in-laws place. (I think this is part of my wife's overall plan to get me to spend more time with family. Hey, if that get's me a new guitar, I'm fine with it.)
Originally, my plan was to test out some gear, and then just buy something locally near my in-laws. Since this would be a spare guitar that would only get occasional use, I was aiming for something around $200-$250. I tried a few sub-$200 guitars, but the quality just wasn't there and I figured I would just get frustrated if the action was too high or if the guitar wouldn't stay in tune. I tried a few low-end Squire strats and telecasters and while they were ok, nothing really set me on fire.
But then I spotted a beautiful white Epiphone Les Paul Studio for $300. I was really impressed with the playability and the tone. Admittedly, it's not a high end Gibson, but the action and setup are decent right out of the box and it feels sturdy. The guitar is also lighter than I had expected, my estimate around 7.5 pounds. The pickups are great, the neck is good and it's got nice sustain and a beefy classic humbucker sound. Plus, I gotta admit, in arctic white, this guitar looks very cool. If a white Les Paul is good enough for Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, it's good enough for me. And my in-laws.
Overall, it's a very high quality guitar with a nice warm tone and plenty of sustain for blues or rock, especially when you apply a bit of overdrive. The only thing that I think degrades from the overall quality is that the tuners are not that stable. But if you can live with occasionally re-tuning, it's a great sound at a bargain price.
I've added a video review on YouTube below.