When is an Epiphone better than a Gibson?
That can be summed up in one word: Availability.
One (of several) complaints I have about Gibson is that they have several really good models but don't make them in a Gibson USA version. Or if they do, it's a cut rate version of it that doesn't have all the features you want...
...which is where Epiphone comes in. They make the stuff Gibson should be making now.
The above guitar is a classic example of this, the 3-pickup Epiphone Black Beauty Les Paul Custom. Yeah, it's a bit expensive for an Epiphone, but it ticks all the right boxes. It has the diamond inlay on the headstock, all the binding, all the proper electronics and so on. Everything is there and it's missing nothing. You really do get a true Black Beauty 'Paul from Epiphone. Nobody else is making this right now. Not even Gibson.
Two examples of genuinely good Epiphone models that you can't get from Gibson (or would have a really hard time finding from Gibson)
What a guitar, and what a steal this is. If you liked the cheap-and-good Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90, wow are you going to love this. Seriously. This guitar has that raspy and "gritty" single-coil P90 sound and is a total tone monster.
I consider this a "sleeper" Les Paul and am genuinely surprised more people don't buy it. And it comes in gold. GOLD. And it has binding and trapezoid inlays! What more do you want?
You know the old saying "they don't build 'em like they used to"? The '56 is built like they used to make them. If you don't believe me, try one for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
If you want a guitar that turns heads that is not a Black Beauty, it's a Les Paul Custom in Silverburst.
This is sometimes known as the "ghost" finish, and wow does it work well. Ever since it was introduced in the 1970s, the 'Paul has always taken well to a Silverburst finish.
If you were ever trying to decide which Epiphone Les Paul gets everything right where the look, price, features, resale value and so on are all correct, this is that guitar. It is literally a can't-go-wrong Les Paul as far as Epiphone is concerned.
There is good stuff from Epiphone when you look
Sometimes your "dream Gibson" might not be a Gibson at all simply because Gibson doesn't make it...
...but Epiphone probably does. Be on the lookout and you'll find some truly great offerings from the brand.