Why the Epiphone Explorer is better than the Gibson (for now)
It basically all comes down to one reason.
Right now, if you want to buy a brand new Gibson Explorer guitar, there are only two colors. Antique Natural and the "70s Explorer" version in Classic White.
Both these color options miss the mark.
The Epiphone version comes in one of the two best colors ever offered on this guitar, Black. (The other is Cherry.) It's not nitro, but it totally looks correct.
An Antique Natural finish Explorer is cool when going for that late '50s guitar appearance. A Classic White Explorer looks similar to the "EET F*K" guitar James Hetfield played (which was actually an ESP MX-220.)
But Black makes the Explorer really look like a rock guitar, and that's what makes the Epiphone better than the Gibson...
...for the moment. Gibson could, and should, release a regular production Explorer in Black. They don't call it Black but rather Ebony just to be fancy about it.
Yes, it's true there is a Gibson Custom Shop Explorer in Ebony at the time I write this, but that thing is $4,699 and too pretty for what it is. All the hardware is gold. The pick guard isn't white, so there is no contrast at all against the finish. And this is an instance where the block inlays don't work, visually speaking. Explorers are supposed to have dot inlays.
This is why I say there should be a regular production run of the Gibson Explorer in Ebony.
As crazy as this sounds, Gibson needs to copy what Epiphone did. Ebony finish, white guard, nickel hardware, dot inlays, "loud" pickups. This is a formula that works for the Explorer guitar.
Antique Natural and Classic White? No. Ebony and Cherry? Yes.
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