If rock guitars had their own hall of fame, the Gibson SG would surely take center-stage! Introduced in 1961 as an updated Les Paul, this iconic axe has been utilized on more rock stages around the world than we can count.
While it’s a true legend, not everybody can afford a Gibson SG. This is where the Epiphone SG Special VE steps in. This affordable model features the classic design and hardware that you’d expect from an SG, with a price tag that comes in at under $300. Worth a closer look? We think so!
The SG Special VE sports the feel and aesthetic of the original SG, with that classic asymmetrical body shape. To keep the cost down, this body is made from poplar with an attractive mahogany veneer, which is all enrobed in a choice of several ‘vintage worn’ finishes (although, the cherry version is our immediate favorite!).
As with all SGs, the slim body is lightweight and comfortable to hold, while the neck is very playable. It’s a bolt-on okoume neck, with a traditional ‘60s SlimTaper D-shaped profile. This is capped with a 22-fret rosewood fretboard with small dot inlays. Throw in the classic black pickguard and clipped-ear headstock and you have yourself an authentic SG, with all the trimmings!
Despite the lovely design and build, this is still an entry-level model, so Epiphone have equipped it with a basic set of their own open-coil ceramic humbuckers – a 650R and 700T at the neck and bridge respectively. While quite simple, they rank pretty well when compared to those on other entry-level guitars.
The pickups are controlled with a very familiar layout. There are two black ‘speed’ knobs – one for master tone, one for master volume – as well as a three-way pickup selector switch. It all works reliably enough.
The rest of the hardware found on the SG Special VE is standard to the rest of Epiphone’s entry-level range. There’s a fixed LockTone tune-o-matic bridge, which is complemented by a set of chrome die-cast tuners on the headstock. While basic, the quality of the hardware is great. The bridge holds up well, and the tuners keep things stable.
Overall, the sound is actually very versatile, but it’s clearly a guitar designed for a hard rock tone filled with overdrive. For an affordable model, the pickups handle high-gain distortion very well, so channeling your inner Angus Young is pretty easy, providing you have a decent amp. The overall tone is well-balanced, but leaning towards the brighter side of things.
The weakness of the pickups becomes more obvious when you take away the gain and try to get a flawless clean tone. There is a decent amount of definition, but it feels a bit loose. Still, it’s ideal for practice and jamming scenarios.
The Epiphone SG Special VE doesn’t pretend to be a $3,000 Gibson – it knows it’s an affordable guitar. But it basks in punching above its weight in terms of design, build and quality. Gibson enthusiasts may not be sold, but for beginners or intermediate players looking for a wallet-friendly rock machine, this is one axe well worth adding to the shortlist.