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As a subsidiary of Gibson, Epiphone knows everything about what a semi-hollow guitar should look and feel like. The trick is translating that knowledge into an affordable model which would still retain the type of performance this type of guitars are known for. One of their more successful attempts comes in form of Epiphone Wildkat Pearl White LE. This guitar is an entry level semi-hollow, which delivers a great combination of hardware, build quality and tone. Due to its bang for the buck value, we had to include it on our list of top semi-hollow guitars.
The shape and aesthetic design of the Wildkat follows the standard semi-hollow guideline that has remained more or less the same over the years. The body is made of mahogany with a maple top which gives it a nice touch. The neck is a maple slim taper D-profile piece which is glued in and sports a standard rosewood fretboard. In all honesty, the only aesthetic detail which gives away the price range this guitar falls in is the lack of binding on the neck. However, that is a minor detail and a trade-off worth accepting.
One of the most worrisome issues when dealing with affordable semi-hollow guitars has got to be the hardware. Even on top-tier models, setting everything up correctly is a painstakingly complicated process. Now add cheap components into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Epiphone Wildkat offers a decent compromise. The quality of its Adjusto-Matic bridge and Bigsby tailpiece is pretty decent, as well as the tuning machines. However, the moment you go hard on the whammy bar, you canexpect trouble.
In an effort to bring as authentic of a performance as possible, Epiphone went with a P90R and P90T Dogear Classics pickups. These are wired to a set of two individual volume knobs, a master volume knob, a tone knob and a pickup select switch. Pots which come with the guitar are great and everything works pretty smooth. Working those volume knobs is easy, while the adjustments are relatively precise. Depending on your playing style, you can really work the controls like they're meant to be worked.
How a semi-hollow guitar is put together is going to have a large impact on the way it sounds. Everything plays a part with this type of design. In the case of Epiphone Wildkat Pearl White LE, things are very carefully balanced. Straight out of the box, it might sound average. However, there are two things you need to understand in order to get the best possible performance out of this guitar. First and foremost, a proper setup is necessary. These guitars are very fragile in terms of intonation, no matter what price tag is attached to them. Secondly, the pickups are ‘darker' compared to your higher quality semi-hollow of this type. Once you adapt yourself to these conditions, you will find the Wildkat to be an incredible bang for the buck.
All things considered, Epiphone hit the nail on the head with this guitar. Epiphone Wildkat comes across as somewhat rugged, but ultimately well-balanced package likes of which you will rarely find elsewhere. If you are looking to get into semi-hollows on a budget, this guitar is as good of a choice as you can find at the moment.