BetterGuitar.com recently reviewed the Epiphone Les Paul Ultra. Here's what they had to say:

  


Epiphone Les Paul Ultra
Review by Mark Starlin

For many guitar players (myself included), the Les Paul represents the ultimate guitar design. Although it is truly a matter of personal taste, the Les Paul’s perfect symmetry and the beauty of its simplicity make it an undeniable classic. And when you factor in the legion of guitar heroes who have wielded the axe, its cool factor goes through the roof. Unfortunately, the cost of a new Gibson Les Paul is beyond reach of many students and working musicians. Realizing this, Gibson also provides Les Paul models under its less expensive Epiphone brand, providing nearly everyone a chance to enjoy a Les Paul of their very own.

The Ultra

While the Epiphone Les Paul Ultra is a beauty, it is more than just the same old Les Paul wrapped in new cosmetics. In fact, it contains two significant changes from the standard Les Paul line. The first change is evident the minute you pick up the guitar. If you are expecting the heft of a standard Les Paul, you will be surprised at its lighter (around 5.5 pounds) weight. The weight reduction was achieved by carving chambers out its Mahogany body. This not only makes the Ultra much more comfortable to play for long periods, it also has a major impact on its tone (which I will discuss later.)

Another new comfort feature is the “belly contour” on the back of the guitar. This contour allows the guitar to hug your body closely when sitting down, although I found that the rather abrupt end of the contour where it nears the pickup selector electronics actually poked into my belly. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but noticeable. I guess this feature’s usefulness depends on your body size and how you wear the guitar.

Construction

The Ultra is constructed in Korea and inspected by Epiphone technicians before shipping to dealers. The body is chambered Mahogany, with a quilted Maple top. The neck is Mahogany with a Rosewood fingerboard and satin finish. It has a slightly narrower 42mm neck than the standard 43mm Les Paul neck. It has Grover tuners, an Alnico Classic pickup in the neck position, and a HOT Alnico Classic pickup at the bridge. The body and neck are bound with single-ply cream binding. Construction was solid throughout, although the guitar I received for review had a warped (bowed) pickguard. Epiphone assured me this was probably the result of shipping, as the guitars go through thorough inspection before shipping. A pickguard is easily replaceable by a dealer and has no effect on the tone, so I continued with the review.

Playability

The most common complaint about Les Pauls is their weight. The Ultra’s lighter weight makes the guitar less tiring for long gigs and jam sessions. The neck is a “medium” thickness and is ruler flat. The action was perfect out of the box and there were no buzzes or dead spots on the neck. There were no sharp edges on the fret ends, but file marks were visible on many frets and all along the binding. The neck is very fast and felt quite smooth for having a satin finish. The Ultra’s light weight and fast neck make it great fun to play.

Tone

Here is where the Ultra makes a major departure from its solid chuck of Mahogany brethren. The chambers carved out of the Ultra’s body have a very noticeable effect on its tone. Acoustically it is much more “alive” than a standard Les Paul. When using a clean setting on my amp, the Ultra had a more acoustic quality to its tone than my Les Paul Custom. It’s not bright like a Strat, but it does seem to resonate more than a typical Les Paul. The biggest difference, however, came when I added some overdrive. The attack was less defined and overall the tone was less focused than my Custom. The best analogy is a semi-hollowbody guitar with more sustain. Which makes sense since, technically, a semi-hollowbody is what the Ultra is.

If you are looking for a thick bluesy tone, a clean rootsy tone, or a raging garage band/punk tone, the Ultra may be just your cup of tea. Fans of guitar noise will appreciate that the Ultra makes it easier to get feedback than the typical solidbody. Shredders, metal fans, or those looking for well-defined attack and chords would do better with a standard solidbody Les Paul. The Ultra’s tone is not your typical Les Paul tone, so you will want to give it a good workout before you decide if it’s right for you.

Final Thoughts

When you name something “Ultra”, you are setting the bar pretty high. Does the Ultra live up to its name? That depends on your vision of the ultimate guitar. If you consider its attractive faded Cherry-burst, quilted Maple top, gold hardware, cream binding and pickguard, the Ultra has the looks department covered. If you like a fast, flat neck, the Ultra provides it. If you long for a lighter Les Paul, check that off your list also. If you want a more acoustic clean tone and a “raging” distorted tone, the Ultra is calling your name. And if you want it all at an affordable price, the Ultra may be just the ticket.

 

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