Epiphone Les Paul: Made In China Vs Made In Korea? (2023)

Epiphone Les Paul: Made In China Vs Made In Korea? (1)

If you want a guitar that has a good sound and won’t leave you begging on the street for spare change, the Epiphone Les Paul is a popular choice. But one of the ongoing questions is whether there’s difference between those Made In China and the guitars Made In Korea and which you should be looking at buying.

[If you already have an Epiphone Les Paul and want to figure out what LP you have, scroll down to the bottom of this page and we’ll help you figure it out]

When you’re first starting out as a guitarist, what kind of guitar you have isn’t particularly important. If you know exactly one chord and can only hit it half the time, a quality guitar isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference. You’re still going to sound like crap.

There will come a point, though, when you need a better guitar, because your sound will suffer. Plus, this is going to be the time when you want to get something that looks cool because, frankly, half the fun of playing is looking awesome when you do it.

Of course, if you’re like most guitarists, you don’t have a ton of money to spend on your guitar, either. You need that money for beer and women (or men). So what you’re looking for is something that sounds good, looks good, and won’t break the bank, which brings us to the Epiphone Les Paul.

If you think of an electric guitar, the picture you have in your head is probably a Gibson Les Paul. Guitar legend, Les Paul first designed the electric guitar that bears his name back in the fifties, and is still one of the most iconic guitar styles today.

They are also some of the most expensive guitars on the market. Gibson models can easily run into the thousands of dollars, putting them well outside the budget of a lot of people. Fortunately, they aren’t the only option in town.

Epiphonemakes its own version of the classic Les Paul, but they cost a whole lot less (under $600 for a Classic or a Standard). This is largely because they are manufactured overseas— in China, Korea and Indonesia.

Epiphone Les Paul: Made In China Vs Made In Korea? (2)Epiphone Les Paul guitars are mostly indistinguishable from the Gibson version, from their look and feel to their sounds. Not everyone would be able to tell the difference at a glance–you’ll notice the difference from the headstock design. It’s tempting to label them a knock off, but the company is actually owned by Gibson.

Read: the differences between Gibson vs Epiphone Les Paul to learn more.

The main thing you’ll hear discussed in music circles is whether there is a difference between the Chinese and Korean made guitars, and if the difference is big enough to affect your buying decision.

(Video) Korean Epiphones vs Chinese Epiphones. Which is better?

This is one of those things where it’s hard to get a handle on the answer. Part of this, naturally, is because some of it can be subjective. You might try a Made In China (MIC) and a Made In Korea (MIK) and not be able to tell any difference, while another person might hear and feel significant differences between them.

Personally I like Korean Made Les Paul better than Chinese.

But what that means is that you’re likely going to get a lot of different opinions on which is better. If you have the chance, your best option is to get a hold of each one and decide for yourself.

For Example, here is a post on MyLesPaul.com Forum:

During that time period Epiphones being made in Korea were still considered better than anything out of Qingdao until after 2006. In 2007 the Qingdao China Epiphone factory started implementing noticeable upgrades in building and materials to help make their Epiphone guitars some of the best ever made in the world.
But, in 2004 Korea still ruled.
I’ve seen many shoddy Qingdao pre-2006 Les Pauls and SG’s with messy binding and gobs of glue on the neckjoins
but somehow after that time they seemed to really pull it together to make a better instrument.
Pre 2006 Epiphones from Korea would be considered superior, but by 2007 there would be little difference.

Depending on who you believe, the sound difference is largely down to the wood. The two factories have different suppliers, and wood does make some difference in sound; unique wood is believed to be the reason Stradivarius violins sound so much better than Guarneri.

Generally speaking, for people who claim there is a difference between the two manufactures, the consensus is that the Made in Korea Epiphone guitars have a slightly deeper, richer sound. The difference is generally said to be fairly slight, and not as important as the differences between individual guitars.

The other issue is quality. There is some concern that the Chinese made guitars simply aren’t as well made as the Korean guitars. This is generally believed to be the result of the difference in working conditions in the two countries. Chinese made were known to be a bit more sloppy, but that could have changed since this article.

Without getting into a treatise on international labor relations, here’s what you need to consider. China has a much lower standard of living, and the workers in their factories are paid much less than you would get elsewhere, and are, allegedly, expected to work grinding hours. The general theory is the poor working conditions can lead to compromised guitars.

Korean guitars are manufactured in South Korea, which has one of the highest standards of living in Asia, and the factory workers that produce the Korean made Epis are well paid and well trained which, if you believe the rumors, means the Made In Korea Epiphone guitars are much better constructed.

There is also an Indonesian factory which opened more recently, but there doesn’t seem to be much being said about the quality and sound of those guitars. No doubt the serious gearheads will have an opinion soon enough.

(Video) Korea Epiphone vs China Epiphone | Sound and Tone Comparison Video

So which is better; the Made in Korea Epiphone or the Made in China Epiphone? The unhelpful truth is that there isn’t a simple answer to that. If you are in the market for an LP, but can’t actually try either out before you buy it, I’d probably steer you towards the Korean made.

Your best option is always to try the guitar out yourself. Go to your local guitar store and play with a couple of different models. No one can say what guitar is going to look and feel best for you, so you need to be the one to make the decision. If you do that, you’ll get the right guitar no matter where it comes from.

What Epiphone Les Paul Do you have?

Serial numbers
You might find the serial numbers stamped on the back of your headstock. It can consist of a series of numbers or letter(s) and numbers.

Only numbers
For an eleven digit serial number, the encoding is as follows:
Example: 11051502060
The first two digits are the last 2 digits of the year. (11)
The next two digits represent the month. (05)
The 5th and 6th digit represent the factory code.. (15)
(See list numbered factory codes)
The last 5 digits form the series sequence number.
Serial number 11051502060 is the 2060th guitar built in May 2011 at the Qingdao factory in China.
(Since 2004 Epiphone guitars have been produced in China)

Five digit serial numbers
Five digits with a space after the first digit and custom shop on the back of the headstock, applied from 1990 to 1999.

The first digit is the last digit of the production year, the following four digits are the serial number.

Five digits no space after the first digit were used from 1951 to 1956 for both acoustic and electric models.

Six digit serial numbers
From 1961 to early 1970, Epiphone used 6-digit serial numbers in the Gibson serial number line. However, many serial numbers were duplicated during this period, making the exact production year difficult to trace. It is certain that the models with a 6 digit serial number starting with 0 were produced in 1967.

Seven digit serial numbers do not have a factory code, here is the first digit the last year of the decade. The 2nd and 3rd numbers represent the month.
These were manufactured in Korea by Samick between 1984 and 1995.

Eight and nine digit serial numbers without a factory code.
These were used respectively from 1990 and 1988 and also manufactured by Samick in Korea.

Letter(s) and numbers
One letter five digits
The letter indicates the factory code and the first digit is the last digit of the year (since 2002).

(Video) Epiphone Les Paul (Korea) | What's in the Case? - Episode 7

The factory code can be an F or a T here.
(See list Factory code letter below)
Example: Serial number T32222 is the 2222th guitar of 2003 built in the factory of Terada Gakki Seisakusyo, Japan.

One letter six digits
The letter indicates the factory code and the first and second digit are the last two digits of the year.

Example: Serial number Z051234 is the 1234th guitar built in 2005 at the Zaozhuang Saehan factory in China.

Two letters five digits
The letters indicate the factory code and the first digit is the last digit of the year.
Example: Serial number CI21234 is the 1234th guitar built in 2002 at the Cort, Indonesia factory.

One letter seven digits
The letter indicates the factory code and the first digit is the last digit of the year.

The 3rd and 4th digits represent the month.

The last 4 digits form the series sequence number.

Because the year is only represented by 1 digit, guitars with this coding from the 80s, 90s or a decade of 2000. (depending on the factory code)
Example: Serial number S6031234 is the 1234th guitar built in 1986, 1996 or 2006 at the Samick factory in Korea.

Two letters six digits
The letter indicates the factory code and the next two digits are the last two digits of the year.

The second letter (third character) stands for the month. (A = January, B = February, etc.)

The last 4 digits form the series sequence number.
Example: Serial number R04E0123 is the 123st guitar of May 2004, built in the Peerless factory, Korea.

(Video) Epiphone Custom's - Sustain Test - MIJ vs. MIC

One letter eight digits
The letter indicates the factory code, the next two digits are the last two digits of the year.

The 3rd and 4th digits represent the month.

The last 4 digits form the series sequence number.
Example: C99040233 is the 233rd guitar of April 1999, built in the Cort factory, Korea. (This coding method was used until 2010)

Two letters seven digits
The letter indicates the factory code, the next two digits are the last two digits of the year.

The second letter (third character) stands for the month. (A = January, B = February, etc.)

The last 5 digits form the series sequence number.
Example: S07C00122 is the 122th guitar of May 2004, built at the Samick factory in Korea. (This coding method was used until 2010)

Two letters eight digits
The 2 letters indicate the factory code, the next two digits are the last two digits of the year.

The 5th and 6th figures represent the month.
The last 4 digits form the series sequence number.
Example: SI02060234 is the 234th guitar of June 2002, built at the Samick factory in Cileungsi near Bogor, Indonesia.

Two letter nine digits
This coding is the same as the coding of Two letter eight digits with the difference that here is 5 digits for it sequence number are used

Source: https://www.guitarinsite.nl/serienummers-epiphone_eng.php

Numbered factory codes
12DeaWon or UnsungChina
15Qingdao (electric)China
16Qingdao (acoustic)China
20DeaWon or UnsungChina
Factory code letter
BBohêmia Musico-DeliciaCzech Republic
EAQingDao (acoustic)China
EEQingDao (electric)China
FFuji-gen (Elite/Elitist models)Japan
FFine GuitarsKorea
FCFuji-gen (’90)Japan
GRFarida, Guang DongChina
ISSamick, BogorIndonesia
JTerada Gakki SeisakusyoJapan
KKorea Ins.Korea
LLeader Musical Instrument Co Ltd.Korea
MRMirr factoryChina [Korea to 2004]
QGQingdao GibsonChina
SISamick, BogorIndonesia
TTerada Gakki SeisakusyoJapan
UCUnsung ChinaChina
ZZaozhuang SaehanChina
Unclear Letter factory codes
H??Probably Hunan, China
GG??Probably China or Korea
GP??Probably Korea
JK??Probably Korea or Indonesia
SN??Probably Indonesia
WF??Probably China
X??Probably China

(Video) Korean Epiphones? Could they be better than new low end Gibsons


Are Chinese made Epiphone guitars any good? ›

Chinese Epis are just as good as the older Korean ones. When Gibson opened their own Epi plant in China that they still supervise. Epis have gotten so much better IMHO the best they have ever been.

When did Epiphone switch from Korea to China? ›

International demand for Epiphones was so high that the company opened a new factory in China in 2004, the first time that Epiphone had its own dedicated factory since the merging with Gibson in 1957.

Where are the best Epiphone Les Pauls made? ›

Epiphone Guitars are made in Gibson's own factory in Asia. Because Gibson owns the Epiphone factory overseas and doesn't use contract manufacturers, you can be sure that your Epiphone Les Paul is made to the exacting standards of the Gibson Company.

What years were Epiphone Guitars made in Korea? ›

After 1996, Epiphones were built by the Peerless Guitars Co. Ltd., established in 1970 in Busan, South Korea. Many of these Peerless guitars, particularly the 1998 models commenting their 125th Anniversary, were very well made, represent excellent value, and have become quite collectable.

Are any Epiphones made in USA? ›

Today, three Epiphone guitars are made in the USA, comprising the brand's Made in USA Collection. Epiphone's Made in USA Collection features three iconic Epiphone original instruments rather than Gibson copies.
More About the Epiphone Company.
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Feb 12, 2022

When did they stop making Epiphone in Korea? ›

The Korean factory stopped making Epiphones in 2002.

What kind of wood does Epiphone use? ›

Typically, Epiphone uses a very thin maple veneer, which is common for many companies when using a figured or flamed maple; however, Epiphone still uses a thin maple veneer when using plain maple tops too. Both Gibson and Epiphone use several pieces of wood glued together to form the body of their guitars.

Is Epiphone better than Gibson? ›

The big difference between Epiphone and Gibson guitars is the finish. Gibson models are coated in a vintage style nitrocellulose lacquer. This can be satin or gloss. Epiphone guitars come shipped in a tougher poly finish.

Which guitars are not made in China? ›

Some of the most well-known guitars produced in the USA are the Gibson Les Paul, Fender Stratocaster and Fender Telecaster. Other popular brands that produce guitars in America include Ibanez, Jackson, PRS, Martin, Taylor and Yamaha.

Where is the Epiphone Les Paul Classic made? ›

Epiphone Les Paul Classic and Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s side by side
SpecEpiphone Les Paul ClassicEpiphone Les Paul Standard 60s
Years of productionSince 2020Since 2020
Made inChinaChina
Body typeSolid (9-hole Weight Relief)Solid
Body shapeLes PaulLes Paul
28 more rows

What is the most popular Les Paul guitar? ›

Gibson Les Paul Standard '60s

The Standard is Gibson's flagship Les Paul and arguably the most iconic. From its beautiful flame maple top, bound body, and mother of pearl Gibson logo to the throaty mid-range bite of its humbucking pickups, this guitar sounds just as good as it looks.

Which Epiphone guitars are made in Japan? ›

Unique Epiphone models, including the Emperor, Zephyr, Riviera and Sheraton, are built to higher quality standards than the company's "Gibson copy" line. Epiphone also produces a range of higher quality instruments under the "Elitist Series" moniker, which are built in Japan.

Are Epiphone Casinos made in China? ›

Epiphone currently builds several versions of the Casino. These include: Regular "Archtop-Series" Casino made in China and uses non-American made parts (Korea until 2007) Elitist Casino.

Are Gibsons made in Korea? ›

It looks like that piece of gear is gone.
Product Specs.
Listed6 years ago
Made InKorea, Republic of
4 more rows

Where do I find my Epiphone serial number? ›

Locate the serial number on the headstock of the guitar. With Semi-Hollow models on the label inside the top f-hole and with acoustic guitars on the label inside the sound hole.

How can you tell a real Les Paul? ›

How to Spot a FAKE Gibson in Seconds! - YouTube

Where is the serial number on a Les Paul? ›

Where to Find the Serial Number on Your Gibson Guitar?
  • On electrics, they are almost always on the back of the headstock, at the top.
  • On acoustic guitars, they're usually in the soundhole.
Mar 23, 2021

Are Epiphones worth it? ›

When you want to play a guitar with looks similar to an expensive Gibson classic, then Epiphone is perfect for filling that space. Epiphone produces great quality guitars for their low cost, and if you pair them with a good quality amp, they deliver a great sound that rivals more expensive guitars.

Who owns John Lennon's Epiphone Casino? ›

Lennon kept his Casino until the end of his life, bequeathing it to Yoko Ono. It has become one of the most treasured artefacts in Rock and Roll history, appearing in museums around the world as a genuinely important cultural relic.

Is Epiphone a good guitar brand? ›

The short answer is yes, for the most part Epiphone produces a quality guitar. There are exceptions, of course, and it must be remembered that Epiphone is a budget guitar, so you can't expect Gibson or Fender-level quality. But for the lower prices, Epiphone does produce a fairly good instrument.

How do I make my Epiphone sound like a Gibson? ›

Building The ULTIMATE EPIPHONE! - One Les Paul To Rule Them All!

What pickups do Epiphone Les Pauls have? ›

It comes with 2 open-coil humbucker pickups (700T/650R), The Les Paul 100 is cut to the same specs as Les' 1952 original, nato neck, rosewood fretboard (with dot inlays) and a tune-o-matic bridge.

Is an Epiphone Les Paul worth it? ›

The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is a fine guitar. It plays well and has a great sound and at the price is surely unbeatable in terms of value for money. It has become a recognized quality guitar by many and is now widely used, and that is quite understandable.

Do Epiphone guitars hold their value? ›

Do Epiphone Guitars Hold Their Value? Epiphone guitars are seen as having high value for money, and this helps them retain their value fairly well in most circumstances. Even lower-end models only tend to lose a small fraction of their worth. You can buy a brand new Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus for about $600.

Is Epiphone or Fender better? ›

Fender guitars produce brighter tones, while Epiphone models sound warmer and darker. Because of their signature sound, Fender guitars are better for blues and jazz. While Epiphone guitars, with their more powerful pickups, are better for rock and metal.

Why does my Epiphone say Gibson? ›

It's not the factory, it's the year it was made. Older Epis (from before they updated their entire production line, just after they all moved to China) have 'Gibson' on the headstocks on some models, newer Epis (from since they updated the production line in China) always have Epiphone.

Are Korean built guitars good? ›

There are absolutely fantastic, high-quality guitars made in Korea like the Cort CJ or the PRS. Squier, Epiphone, and Martin are also super high-quality brands that make guitars and other instruments in Korea.

Are Chinese made guitars any good? ›

A Chinese guitar can be great if the companies allow it. When a company outsources to China, it's usually to produce a high amount of guitars for a cheap price. If that's their goal, they're not going to be very good quality. But they also make some great quality guitars, just look at the Ibanez Chinese customs.

What are the best Chinese guitars? ›

DEVISER is one of the guitar brands under Guangzhou Huayi Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. It's one of the best Chinese guitar manufacturers founded in 2012, we have been deeply involved in the guitar field for many years. We have popular brands such as Caravan Music, DEVISER, Oriental Cherry, etc.

When were Epiphone Les Pauls made in Japan? ›

Product Specs
Listed6 years ago
ModelLes Paul Standard MIJ Japan Flametop
FinishIced Tea Burst
Made InJapan
2 more rows

What is the difference between Epiphone Les Paul Classic and Standard? ›

However, there are a couple of differences. The Les Paul Classic has zebra-style humbucker pickups, whilst the Standard models have a more traditional covered design. The color options for the Les Paul Classic, '50s Standard and '60s Standard models are all different.

Is an Epiphone Les Paul a real Les Paul? ›

According to Epiphone and Gibson: Yes, Epiphone Les Paul models are real Les Pauls. The Epiphone models are the only company other than Gibson that can use the Les Paul name on the guitars. Epiphone Les Paul guitars are made in Asia, but retain most of the same features as a Gibson.

What is the cheapest Les Paul copy? ›

The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is an affordable copy of the original. Its price tag is lower because it is made in Asia and features more affordable, but still good quality materials. If you want a Les Paul copy at a truly affordable price, this Epiphone might be for you.

Who makes good Les Paul copies? ›

Our Favourite Les Paul Copies
  • Best Overall – Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Pack.
  • Best Budget Les Paul – Ivy ILS-300 EGR Les Paul Solid-Body Electric Guitar.
  • Best Option for… ...
  • Best Premium Les Paul Copy – ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitar, Black.
  • Best Lightweight Model – Epiphone Les Paul Special VE.
May 19, 2022

How much does a good Les Paul cost? ›

The Gibson Les Paul Standard costs around $2500, however Les Paul electric guitars can range from $150 to $3000 for base-level models. Gibson Les Pauls are the most expensive and cost upwards of $1000 whilst the more affordable Epiphone Les Pauls versions cost between $150 and $900.

Where are Epiphone guitars made now? ›

Where Are Epiphone Guitars Made? Epiphone guitars are manufactured in Gibson's Chinese-based Qingdao factory. The majority of Epiphone's instruments have been made exclusively in this facility since 2004, including their solid-body, hollow-body and acoustic guitars.

Are Japanese made guitars good? ›

Cheap Japanese made guitars, at least after the mid-Seventies, are still really well made. They tend to have good solid wood, great weight and sustain and an amazing quality feel to them.

What Epiphone guitar did John Lennon play? ›

Unlike his bandmate Harrison, who adopted an ever-evolving arsenal of electric guitars during the Beatles' latter days, John Lennon remained mostly faithful to his 1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino thinline hollowbody ever since he first acquired it in early 1966.

What Epiphone guitars did the Beatles use? ›

Of all the guitars the Beatles made famous, the only one that John, Paul and George had in common was the Epiphone Casino. Each owned a Casino and used it for countless recordings and performances.

Are Yamaha guitars made in Korea? ›

The instruments are currently produced in US, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia. Yamaha Guitar Development Center in California, designs, develops prototypes and customizes old and new models.

When did fender stop making guitars in Korea? ›

Fender began backing off Korean production until it finally ended totally in 2002-2003 at which time they determined it was just too expensive to manufacture in Korea, and moved all their non-USA production of Fender branded instruments to the Mexico plant.

What guitar factories are in Korea? ›

Cort Guitars (Cor-Tek Corporation) is a South Korean guitar manufacturing company located in Seoul. The company is one of the largest guitar makers in the world, and produces instruments for many other companies.

Are Gretsch guitars made in China good? ›

Gretsch outsources the production of their solid-body Electromatics to China. Specifically, all of the Electromatic Jet models are made in Chinese factories. They have a great price to quality ratio such as the rest of this line of instruments.

Where is the Epiphone SG Custom made? ›

The Epiphone SG Custom is made in China has a solid mahogany body, a set Slim Taper “C” mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, and HH pickups. The Epiphone SG Standard has Epiphone Deluxe tuners, Alnico Classic PRO Humbucker pickups, and Standard electronics.

Where are Epiphone Sheraton II made? ›

They've been made in China and Indonesia probably since the mid 2000s after the Korea move IIRC depending on the years and colors.

Where are Epiphone Dot guitars made? ›

Formerly made in Korea, since 2002 the Dot has been made in Epiphone's factory in Qingdao, China.


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