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Time Changes Everything

This month’s celebration of a century-and-a-half of Epiphone guitars really shows the seismic changes that can happen to guitar brands as the decades fly by. Epiphone started as Gibson’s keenest competitor, before being bought by Gibson (or, rather, parent company CMI) and subsequently marketed as Kalamazoo’s most upmarket product line, outshining Gibson’s own guitars in both cachet and price tag – something that’s often

forgotten today. Then, in a complete about-face, Epiphone became a Japanese-built budget brand before settling into a long period of being known as a maker of decent, affordable copies of classic Gibson designs. Today, the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way, thanks to small but tangible improvements in quality throughout the Epiphone line and a stronger, more confident sense of its own identity and heritage. But old habits – and attitudes – die hard… When we reviewed two of Epiphone’s new top-tier, US-built guitars, recently (a USA Casino and a lovely Frontier dreadnought built in Bozeman, Montana), some of the viewers of our YouTube video demo asked why anyone would pay Gibson prices for an Epiphone – seemingly not realising that Epiphone was merely reclaiming a shard of its own history as a premium US maker.

So what will it take to erase ingrained perceptions of Epiphone as a budget brand? While the current US-made Epis are great, it’s the uptick in the quality of the more affordable ‘Inspired By Gibson’ guitars made overseas that will do most to persuade players to look at Epiphone in a new light. Epiphone is never quite going to be to Gibson what Squier is to Fender – the relationship is a little more complicated than that – but for years it has been regarded as such by consumers. But Epiphone started as a company with its own distinct verve and mojo, and nobody will complain if the brand continues on its current trajectory towards becoming so again. Enjoy the issue and see you next month.

Editor’s Highlights

East Meets West Slide guitar master and Indian classical musician Debashish Bhattacharya on how blues and the rāgas have much in common p52


Jamie Dickson Editor-in-chief

Baked To Perfection Torrefied tonewoods are here to stay, offering greater stability and (arguably) tone than woods that haven’t been heat-treated p116

Born To Be Fylde We look back at five decades of top-notch luthiery from one of Britain’s most revered and idiosyncratic acoustic makers on p104