Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele - REVIEW | GOT A UKULELE - Learn Ukulele, beginners tips and reviews

9 Aug 2015

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele - REVIEW

Something of an 'about time' ukulele review this one. The Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele has been around for a few years now, and although I have played many of them, I just haven't seemed to have one long enough to write a detailed review up.  It must also be said, this instrument was probably the one that was most requested as a review on Got A Ukulele. Now is that time, and I suspect this one will divide opinions.

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele

The Epiphone Les Paul ukulele, as the name suggests, is an instrument designed to look like the iconic Gibson Les Paul shape guitar. I feel I should get one thing out of the way before getting into the meat of this review. I don't like the concept of making ukuleles look like famous guitars. They are not guitars. They are ukuleles. Why not come up with novel designs that are original? I get that this is going to be highly subjective, but it's just me. I mean, as ukulele players we all have to deal with the claptrap that is 'oh it's just a small toy guitar', so why play a uke that looks, well, like a small toy guitar? I think the style of it, whilst clearly 'Les Paul' in design looks a bit silly. It's not Les Paul guitar - Les Pauls are big heavy things. To me this is just a novelty. Glad to get that off my chest.

So, we have a Les Paul shape and this one is in Heritage Cherry Sunburst. They are also available in 'Vintage Sunburst' which loses the red colour and replaces it with brown. They come in at about £90 in the UK and are in concert scale.

But when we get in to the detail there are one or two things that just jar with me. First of all, let's look at that top. Shiny, sparkly and with a stripy flame that is, I admit, quite eye catching. Epiphone bill it as 'grade AAA flame maple' yet it is also laminate. Hang on...  As my readers will know, I am not one of those who sneers at laminate and to be fair to Epiphone, they do make it clear that it is laminate, but to call it grade AAA? I don't buy that. That sort of terminology should, in my opinion, be reserved for solid woods of the highest calibre. The fancy flamed outer of this instrument is just an extremely thin veneer stuck on to a piece of plywood. Grade AAA? And that laminate is thick thick thick. Sorry, just because the outer (which for all intents and purposes could be a photograph sticker) looks like flamed maple, that doesn't make this grade AAA tone wood in my book. What we have is a thick laminate top, but albeit one that looks pretty.

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele top

The top is attached to what Epiphone call a 'solid mahogany body'. Ah, that 'solid' word, but again, a misnomer here. The body is indeed made from mahogany, with a deep red colour, but it's made from various pieces of mahogany. Blocks of mahogany in fact as this body is not constructed in a traditional ukulele way. Like the top, I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, but I think the 'solid' word misleads. It's all marketing speak and I don't much care for it. There is nothing incorrect in the words Epiphone use but for 'grade AAA' and 'solid' read 'grade AAA veneer on plywood' and 'solid chunks of mahogany glued together into a guitar shape'.

So the body creates kind of a swimming pool type chamber on to which the laminate top is laid. And looking inside the sound hole the chamber actually isn't that big. The sides of this are not thin at all. Reaching in with my finger I would estimate they are about 1cm thick. The top and body are all finished in gloss and nicely done too with no flaws that I could find. The joint between the top and body is bound with a cream edge binding. Elsewhere on the top we have a rosewood looking slotted bridge with a plastic saddle, and a cream plastic 'pick guard'. I really don't like the pick guard. I know it's there to mimic the guitar, but Les Paul pick guards don't look like that and I think this one would look better without it.
Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele sound hole

Oh, and then we have a sound hole - not something you see on Les Paul guitars but more on that later!

On the base of the body we have a strap button and a jack socket mounting in an offset position and faced in chrome. That's right - this instrument has a pickup, and a passive one at that, meaning no need for batteries.

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele jack socket
At the top of the body we have another strap button on the top left shoulder and the top right shoulder has a cutaway to complete the Les Paul look. I must say the whole of the body is finished to a high standard.

Up to the neck, this is made of mahogany and also finished in a deep red gloss. The neck appears to be in two pieces, jointed about halfway along and has quite a chunky D shaped profile that I like. What I dislike though is that it's on the narrow side. The neck is joined to the body with four chrome bolts.

The fingerboard sits on the neck and is made of rosewood which is nice and even in colour. We have 19 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body and all are finished nicely with no rough edges. We have inlaid pearloid fret markers at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 19th spaces and these are repeated on the side. I found that an odd choice for marker positions myself, and certainly don't see a need for one at the 3rd. They are also dots, and think this would have looked far nicer if they were trapezoid markers like on higher end Gibson guitars, but we can't have everything...

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele neck

Past the plastic nut we have a typical Epiphone Les Paul shaped headstock (in a symmetrical scroll shape) faced in black gloss. The Epiphone logo and ubiquitous Les Paul signature are applied in gold transfer and look 'OK' but nothing special.

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele headstock

The tuners are open gears in chrome with vintage shaped buttons. They are nice enough but would have preferred something more akin to the Kluson Tulip shaped tuners on vintage Gibsons to really set this off.  On the back of the headstock are more stickers that you can shake a stick at  (serial number, QC check and the label stating proudly that it is Made In Indonesia). Completing the deal are some black unnamed glossy strings (GHS?) and a reasonable zippered gig bag with the Epiphone logo and front pocket.

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele tuners

So all in all, a nicely finished ukulele but one that I don't think is quite what you think it is. If you are a fan of the Les Paul guitar and absolutely must have a miniature version, then you probably already own one and nothing I write will matter. And, hey, it's £90. But that low price does make these very attractive to new players and I see this instrument named as a recommendation from many players to beginners. On that basis, I need to delve a bit deeper!

Setup and action at both the bridge and nut are good. It's a very playable instrument. The neck is too narrow for my tastes, but will be perfectly acceptable to many. It's not overly heavy (unlike the guitar equivalent!) and nicely balanced in the hands. It's a nice thing to hold.

Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele back

Let's try it unplugged first of all. And that is the first major disappointment. If they set out to make this sound like the proverbial toy guitar, then they succeeded. This has an incredibly thin tone, with very low volume and little sustain. In fact, exactly the sort of 'plinky' cheap sound that some people expect the ukulele to have. I really don't have much good to say about it in this department. I put it down to the overly thick top and relatively small sound chamber inside the body - there just isn't enough instrument to resonate.

Some people may say 'but it's great for quiet practice'. Perhaps, but why not ditch the sound hole altogether and make this a solid body? You could still have quiet practice or use a headphone amp plus the instrument would look more like a Les Paul, which as I say, don't have sound holes!  You would never be heard playing this at a jam session or club alongside other more traditional acoustic instruments, and what you can hear is very one dimensional. What staggers me is that I regularly see 'reviews' of these where people claim the acoustic tone is pretty good. No it really isn't. For me, they should have made this as a solid body and then I would have had no grounds to complain. For those who may say, 'but it's not designed to be an acoustic' I would reply with two things. 'Then why put a sound hole in it?' And, 'It better sound good plugged in then!'.

So, I could forgive it on the acoustic front if it then shines through an amplifier. Yet, I am afraid to say, it doesn't. Again, I see many people review these claiming that they have a great tone. I can only assume those people have not played anything better. And I am not talking high cost here, just better pickups generally.  The tone for me is muddy, slightly noisy and worst of all, uneven across the strings.  It's just a louder version of the acoustic tone and therefore totally lacking in sustain or character. And here is the thing. Over the years I have played a few of these and they all suffered in the same way. I have also had my hands on one and tried to adjust the pickup and that really showed me where the problem lay. The pickup Epiphone use in these is cheap cheap cheap. Basically the cheapest I have seen - a basic Piezo braid that is thick, doesn't sit well under the saddle (hence the uneven sound issue) and and just sounds plain nasty. Sure, through a 2.5W battery amp you may have some giggles, but I couldn't ever imagine performing with this though anything else and being pleased with the sound. Don't get me wrong, it makes a noise. It just doesn't make a particularly pleasing one. The tone of something like the Risa Uke Solid leaves this in the dust, and in reality those instruments are not hugely more expensive.

I've tried it through a variety of pre-amps, EQ's and into a couple of very nice acoustic amplifiers and whilst I can improve the tone with some tweaking it is still quite noisy, incoherent and uneven with a lack of any sustain. Perhaps you could change the pickup, but really, why would you?  And in reality, who is going to buy a £90 ukulele and then part with more money for a £200 EQ pre-amp and a £300 amplifier just to improve the tone? They missed an opportunity here and I just think it could have been so much more.

For me it is a classic case of Epiphone jumping on the ukulele bandwagon. I like the Epiphone brand and just think they could have done better here (or could have introduced a great acoustic ukulele of their own). It seems to trade only on the looks. 'All mouth and no trousers' as the saying goes. Style over substance. I can almost forgive it the lack of acoustic tone if it then did the one thing it needed to do, well. Yet it doesn't. Which leaves me with something of a novelty and nothing else.


This tuned out to be one of the most divisive reviews I have written. I had a number of people accuse me of just having an 'issue' with Epiphone as a brand. I consider that strange when the two instruments below are both mine, both Epiphones and both sublime. I love Epiphone. No - the Les Paul Ukulele is just a very disappointing instrument..

Be sure to check out my other ukulele reviews here!


Looks (if you like miniature guitars!)
General build and finish


Zero acoustic tone
Thick top
Terrible plugged in tone
Questionable product marketing speak


Looks - 8
Fit and Finish - 8
Sound - 5
Value For Money - 7


To understand my review scoring and see this result in context - visit my review page at


AND - Sound comparison against other beginner ukuleles


  1. I had one of these. I bought it after seeing many mixed reviews, but more importantly quite a few blogs and posts about ironing out all the niggles and faults. I love to tweak and adjust and so on so I gave it a go. I loved the finish and looks in sunburst. The set up was awful as were the strings. I didn't like the cheap looking scratch plate either but that was easily removed with the aid of a hair dryer to soften the glue. So after new strings and a set up it sounded ok, but quiet and I liked it for quiet practice. Plugged in it was just like you reviewed here. Very uneven across the strings. I could have tried a better pickup and messed around for a while but I decided to sell it on and the new owner is very happy with it. One last thing I'd mention is it's rather heavy and I'd not thought of your point of them making it solid but I fully agree with that idea. So why they didn't do that and put a decent pickup and strings on it is beyond me..

  2. I was in a London shop, looking for a concert size uke: A salesgirl tried to push one of these on me, giving me all the spiel about how a friend of her played great gigs on one blah, blah, blah. I looked at this item closely and put it back on the wall. It is a horried gimmicky piece. I can imagine the mother of a teenaged boy, who nagged her constantly for an electric guitar, buying her offspring one of these to shut him up. I don't think that imaginary teenaged boy would be impressed either! Don't touch with a bargepole.

  3. Couldn't agree more Felicia - I think that is what is so depressing about them - they trade on the looks and not on the way they sound.

  4. Making it a solid body is a horrible idea. Then you get nothing at all. Its great to play in a group where you don't want to over power everyone else. Why review what it looks like? You either like it or you don't. I prefer it because of the narrow neck. I've had two of them and never touched the action. To me its like a kala thin line travel ukulele only cheaper and with a pickup. And I like a thin body uke too. Ditch the factory strings for D'Addario and get a good amp. I'm getting ready to buy two more. My first was stolen and I've worn out the second one. They take a lot of abuse but I put a million miles on it too. And that would be what you call an endorsement. AloHa!

  5. I suggested a solid body as for me the uplugged sound is so thin, so quiet and so lacking in sustain it's just pointless. You heard the contrast on the video between it and another concert - I can't see how this would even feature in the mix compared to a couple of those.

    Why review what it looks like? It's only a part of my reviews - all my reviews look at the same things. To NOT comment the looks of a review would seem to be a pretty major omission.

    To me it is night and day different to the tone volume and sustain of the Kala Thinlines.

    I always review instruments based on the strings they come with - most people will change them but that is a whole other level of subjectivity. Case in point - I don't like D'addarios - so I would never put those on it. (I rarely find that anyone has the perfect string choice as I don't think that is possible).

    As for getting a good amp - agreed - though these are being marketed to beginners - are you really suggesting they would spend £90 on this instrument and then £300 on an amplifier?

    Just an opinion of course though Tim - a quick straw poll on Social media though has the vast majority of people who have owned them coming forward and agreeing.

    It's honestly one of the most disappointing ukuleles I have ever reviewed, and I have played hundreds.

  6. But I really am not sure how anyone can hear that video and claim they sound 'good'?

  7. As an Epiphone Les Paul guitar owner I have to say I am not a fan of this ukulele at all. Ok Epiphone may be the budget version of the classic Gibson Les Paul but they're very well made. This looks very cheap to me. The sound hole completely kills the look. Much as I love a Les Paul, I wouldn't touch one of these - and that's without ever even trying it.

  8. Epiphone had a Masterbilt ukulele serie some years ago. So they know how to build a decent uke

  9. Coincidentally I have one of these, ready to review for UKE magazine as part of a series of comparisons of concert electro ukuleles. I agree completely with the review - even though I wanted to like it (I have an Epiphone Nighthawk electric guitar in cherry sunburst which I dearly dearly love).

  10. Epiphone is a brand, not a firm (it used to be one, though) - and the current Gibson firm makes many odd marketing-oriented decisions. They do make some quaility instruments, but this is not one of them. In fact, they haven't made quaility ukuleles since 1967.

    Kiwaya once did a much better job, with their K-wave series: a better sound (because of a lighter construction), tulip/keystone tuners, broader and bound fretboard. I thought that one had a solid top too, but I'm not sure anymore. The best job is the Earnest Instruments La Paula.

  11. just been watching a review of the epiphone uke on posted by a mr colton munn - myshrall , think you may find it interesting to say the least !!!! it was posted Aug 2012 on u tube

  12. It didn't sound any better in the Colten Munn-Myshrall video than it did in the ones above. He also seemed to like it mainly for the looks and branding.

  13. Hello Barry, and thanks for all the effort you put into your reviews.
    This does indeed seem to be a controversial one, doesn't it?

    People do tend to form attachments to certain instruments (or not), and this often starts with the appearance - I'll cheerfully plead guilty to that! In Ukuleles as in tasting wine, the eyes do play a part.

    I just do not see the same instrument that you do - it appeals to me, and I suspect that we are alike in finding our overall response being modified by our response to its appearance.

    I also rather like the sound, even when played acoustically by you - your lack of love for this Epiphone is reflected in your playing on both videos, although I am pretty sure that this is not deliberate? Feelings do tend to surface in music.

    Yes the sustain is not long, but it is longer than my 1940s Windsor Banjulele that has been in our family since new.
    Sustain is not everything, and the one Epiphone I have tried extensively has a tone that really appeals to me and to its owner and his family and his uke-playing friends.

    But I am well-used to the semi-acoustic guitar tradition and find a semi-acoustic ukulele very acceptable - particularly for someone needing to keep the noise low.
    I have a delightful solid Uke - the Sojing skeletal 'silent uke' with assorted modifications that I enjoy doing even though my professional guitar-doctoring days were very long ago. These do need headphones for 'silent' practice, which I found a nuisance and can lead to hilarious entanglements.
    The Vox electric uke is particularly clever, but having worked for Vox in the '60s I'm still a bit wary of that label and look - you may disagree, but can you see where some preferences might originate?

    A couple of thousand years ago the Romans had a saying "De gustibus non disputandum est"
    ...roughly translates as "There's no arguing about matters of taste"

    The sound of any instrument is very much a matter of taste!
    Sure, you dislike the Epiphone, but many others do find it very satisfying.
    All depends were you're coming from.

    Thanks again for all the hard work! Ben

  14. yeah the tone. its warm. just got my aquilla strings men i think its one of the best. maybe the problems that people claim is an isolated case? since this ukulele was not hand crafted. machine built as they say. but i really like this ukulele. i just dnt know why hahaha

  15. I've played about five of these so I'm not convinced it's a one off. The tone seems anything but warm to me

  16. There are three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar), the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar

    Guitar Instrument

  17. Must have been a Epiphone Les Paul from a parallel universe you tested. You seem unaware that a semi solid body Uke is gonna sound different than a conventional uke. Guess what? They do sound different. If you are gonna play this EXCELLENT Uke, even if it were 200 dollars (US)acoustically at a level useful outside of your living room, you'll want to attack it pretty good. Because hey . . .it's a semi solid body uke.

    And what Barry seems to mistake as being Dull and thuddy or whatever . . .is actually sort of a buttery, smooth tone . . . sort of reminiscent of a Les Paul . . .imagine that!

    As for his approval of the action, that is a bit strange, considering the critical opinion on nearly everything else about this Uke, because that would actually be a valid fault. The actions on most of these from the factory, is simply too high. Luckily it's a three minute fix if you have a screwdriver, a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, and a few pieces of thin plastic like a credit card, SC case, or whatever of varying thicknesses so you can shim the neck.

    Lose the stock strings, ad some fluorocarbons to brighten the tone up a bit, and "POOF!" you have a seriously awesome little uke, probably the best overall value in Ukuleles today. Not sure how ya missed all that in your review Barry . . .but ya did.

  18. I don't normally allow troll comments through but this was just too hilarious!

    'Probably the best overall value in ukuleles today' .. Errrr yeah, yeah whatever ...

  19. Nic - you might want to look into what other instruments I have played or own before you try to tell me about solid body instruments....

  20. I had one of these about a year ago. Sold it soon after.

    I actually like the look of it and thought it was set up really well. I'm sure the strings on mine where white so maybe they changed them.

    I also didn't mind the sound hole as I thought that was just cosmetics so not to bothered by sound as acoustic.

    The reason I sold it thoug - plugged in it sounded dreadful - one string had no volume at all and the others just sounded fuzzy. I had a Stagg solid electric which sounded FAR better.

    A real shame..

  21. I'm afraid instrument critics are like film critics ,and any other critic realy. I've sat and watched films what critics have raved about,and frankly they were crap, but hey that's why were all individual ,I've learnt through the years not to listen to any so called critics but to value my own decision on what I like and not what anyone else says,I listen to music I like and other people might not, so MY REPLY IS , its a nice little uke for the price with a nice sound. Duncan

  22. Although if that is true - why do people read my reviews at all?

    Certainly a nice price, not a nice sound in my opinion.


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