Three guitars stand above the rest.
They’ve built a reputation over the years and are now the instruments most players desire.
They are the Gibson Les Paul, the Fender Stratocaster and the Fender Telecaster.
They are also all expensive.
Luckily, there are plenty of copies available these days that cost significantly less.
While they don’t bring the same quality as the originals, some of them come close.
Below are the best Les Paul copies under $1000. And in truth, none of them actually even come close to the $1000 mark.
In other words, they all sell for a great price and give you incredible value for money. Read on to find out which one is best for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Les Paul Copies Compared
- 2 Best Les Paul Copy Under $1000: Reviews
- 2.1 Best Les Paul Copy Overall: Paul Reed Smith SE Mark Tremonti Signature
- 2.2 Best Budget Les Paul Copy: Donner DLP-124
- 2.3 Best Les Paul Clone For Beginners: Epiphone Les Paul Special II
- 2.4 Best Les Paul Copy For Metal: ESP LTD EC-256
- 2.5 Best Les Paul Copy For Blues: Epiphone Les Paul 100
- 2.6 Best Lightweight Les Paul Copy: Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
- 2.7 Closest To Gibson Les Paul Guitars: Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro
- 3 Les Paul Copy Buyers Guide
- 4 Best Les Paul Copy: Final Thoughts
Best Les Paul Copies Compared
Best Les Paul Copy Under $1000: Reviews
Below are brief reviews of our favorite Les Paul clones under a thousand dollars. One comes close to that mark, but most cost far less.
Best Les Paul Copy Overall: Paul Reed Smith SE Mark Tremonti Signature
- Great deal for the price
- Impeccable build quality and a well-conceived aesthetically-pleasing design
- A comfortable neck and great attention to overall ergonomic qualities
- Great tone from the PRS Mark Tremonti signature humbuckers
- No coil-split or coil-tap feature
For many years now, Paul Reed Smith Guitars have been conquering the market. And rightfully so. In many ways, they manage to outperform bigger brands like Gibson and Fender, all while keeping their price within more reasonable territories.
While their instruments cover a lot of different price categories, the best Les Paul-styled instrument under the $1000 mark is definitely the PRS SE Mark Tremonti signature guitar.
It comes closer to the $1000 price point than the other instruments mentioned below, but still stays well away from that mark. And it far outperforms its price, in terms of build quality, ergonomic features, and tone.
The PRS Mark Tremonti model features a mahogany body with a quality flamed maple top. It has a rather innovative body design with the company’s standard SE single-cutaway shape, as well as specially carved indents. The guitar is not only comfortable for the picking hand but also has a special indent on the cutaway that makes it easier to access higher frets.
As far as the joint goes, the guitar has a set-in body and neck formation, which helps it increase sustain and makes the playing experience much more comfortable. It has a maple neck, equipped with a nicely done rosewood fretboard that bears 22 frets. The classic PRS bird inlays go perfectly with the wonderful-looking body finish.
The guitar has a very stable classic PRS tremolo bridge, as well as classic PRS tuners. As for pickups and electronics, it has PRS’ Tremonti signature humbuckers, with two volume and two tone controls and a simple 3-way switch for pickup selection. Ergonomics played a role in deciding the location of these controls: they’re near the strings and the bridge, which is different from Gibson’s classic Les Paul design.
The PRS Mark Tremonti model is a fusion of a great tone, great performance qualities, and an awesome design. And it is not expensive at all. While the price tag is relatively high, the instrument outperforms that price by a lot. It should cost far more.
Best Budget Les Paul Copy: Donner DLP-124
- Very cheap, but great for the price
- Reliable and durable
- Great-looking design
- It's a somewhat limited instrument, although you can't expect much for this price
Gibson Les Paul guitars are well-known for their insanely high prices. Epiphone has some cheaper variants, but they are still a bit too pricey for many and thus not the best option for those looking for very budget-friendly alternatives.
If you need a very cheap guitar, but one that won’t give up on you, Donner has a great Les Paul copy. It is the Donner DLP-124.
It features a bit of a modified version of the classic Les Paul body shape. But this guitar can deliver a decent punch and it is fairly simple and comfortable to play.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the guitar’s great design. The cutaway is just a little deeper, making access to higher frets pretty comfortable. At least a lot more so than you’d expect at this price level.
What’s especially unexpected for such a cheap guitar is the great-looking binding on both the body and the neck. Looking further at the instrument’s aesthetics, things are rounded up with gold-colored potentiometer caps and a cream pickup selector switch.
Compared to regular Les Paul copies, the pickup selector switch is located on the treble side of the body, right between the volume and tone parameter controls.
When it comes to the electronics and pickups, it’s pretty much what we find with most Les Pauls. There are two humbuckers, a volume control, a tone control, and a simple 3-way pickup selector switch.
Of course, you can’t expect much from these pickups on such a cheap guitar, but they’re still fairly reliable and you won’t notice any unwanted noises or hums. Other than that, the instrument also features a regular Tune-o-Matic bridge with a stop-bar tailpiece.
The main idea behind this instrument is simplicity, reliability, decent looks, and decent tone, all available at a low price. It’s far from a pro-level instrument, but it will serve its purpose for beginning (and even intermediate) guitarists, as well as more experienced guitarists who need a practice instrument or a decent spare for smaller live gigs.
Best Les Paul Clone For Beginners: Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Gibson’s subsidiary company Epiphone is well-known for its amazing and affordable copies of various Gibson models. They make them in different price levels, from entry-level up to professional tier electric and acoustic guitars.
If you’re looking for a great beginner-friendly Les Paul guitar, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II is worth checking out for sure.
Although the basic body shape is what you’d expect from a Les Paul, the instrument is “stripped-down” and only has the bare essentials, both in terms of design and other features.
You can recognize the good old Les Paul design with the same exact type of a cutaway, but the body has a completely flat top and is made entirely out of one mahogany piece. This keeps the price low, while still resulting in a well-made instrument.
Another difference is a bolt-on body and neck construction, which is common with cheaper instruments. The neck is also made out of mahogany wood and has a standard rosewood fretboard. It is fairly comfortable and great for any beginner.
Other than that, you have the standard traits you’d expect from a Les Paul guitar, including the Tune-o-Matic bridge with a stop-bar tailpiece, a “3 + 3” headstock, and two humbucker pickups with standard controls.
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II comes with the company’s 700T humbucker in the bridge position and a 650R in the neck position. Considering the instrument’s price, these are pretty great pickups that pronounce all the sonic qualities that a beginner or an intermediate player would need.
This instrument can serve you well even past the novice stages of playing. But its overall simplicity, low price, and general qualities make it a great choice for new electric guitar players. It’s not an overly exciting instrument, but it’s reliable and simple which is exactly what a beginner needs.
Best Les Paul Copy For Metal: ESP LTD EC-256
- Outperforms its price range
- Coil-tap control
- Great-looking and ergonomic design
- Extremely versatile
- The guitar could use a tremolo bridge, but it's still not much of a downside
Gibson Les Paul guitars were quite popular among proto-metal and early heavy metal bands back in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Of course, the instrument was still used in the genre during the 1980s, but it slowly got pushed out by more specifically metal-oriented guitars.
But if you love the Les Paul shape and still want to play metal, the ESP LTD EC-256 is a great option, especially if you’re on a budget. It is built by LTD, which is ESP’s budget subsidiary brand. And ESP is one of the best Japanese guitar brands.
Despite being a very affordable guitar, it has many great qualities, especially for metal-oriented players. We named it the best metal guitar under $500 and our favorite electric guitar at the same price point.
First, it’s important to note that this guitar has a modified and more modern body design. The cutaway is much sharper and somewhat deeper than on regular Les Pauls. It’s more than just an aesthetic feature.
The cutaway is combined with a conveniently placed indent on the backside of the body, which helps make your performance in higher fret areas much more comfortable. This is further enhanced with a set-in body and neck construction that also features a very comfortable heel.
The mahogany body has an arched body design, which is another surprising features at this price level. The neck is also made of mahogany and has a nicely-done jatoba fretboard.
Further boosting the aesthetic qualities are the company’s well-known “flag” inlays on the fretboard. Combine this with the guitar’s finish and other design traits and it’s pretty clear from first glance that the guitar is intended for metal music.
Of course, you can also glean this from the instrument’s pickup and electronics. The EC-256 is equipped with two humbucker pickups made by ESP, the LH-150N in the neck position, and LH-150B in the bridge position.
They’re controlled through individual volume pots and one master tone knob. Aside from the standard 3-way switch, you also have push-and-pull action on the tone knob for coil-tapping. This lets you add some of those “twangier” tones, making this guitar fairly versatile.
Although it is intended as a metal instrument, ESP LTD’s EC-256 is far more than just that. Considering the low price, there is no chance you’ll regret buying this guitar if heavy music is your main focus. Learn more in our full review.
Best Les Paul Copy For Blues: Epiphone Les Paul 100
- Two volume and two tone pots, making it pretty versatile for the price
- Great tone
- Fairly reliable
- Comes with some of the famous Gibson Les Paul Studio design traits
- Pickups could be better
For many years now, Epiphone has done its best to bring us quality copies of Gibson guitars. Their greatness is still present and many blues-oriented players who don’t feel like spending a lot on a Gibson prefer to go with one of these.
If you’re a Les Paul fan looking for a great blues or blues-rock guitar, you should definitely check out Epiphone’s Les Paul 100 model. It’s a bit more advanced than the company’s Les Paul Special we mentioned above. But the price is still within reasonable limits, despite the additional qualities it brings.
One of the most surprising traits is that the body features an arched maple top along with the basic mahogany construction. Its great-looking body design is rounded off with a classic Les Paul pickguard and humbucker pickup frames. Overall, it’s somewhat similar to Gibson’s Les Paul Studio models with its “stripped-down” design.
One of the main differences is that this Les Paul model has a bolt-on construction, but you can’t really expect a set-neck formation on a cheaper instrument. The neck is made from Okoume wood and features a rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets.
As far as its pickups go, we have the standard combo we already saw in the Les Paul Special model: the 700T humbucker in the bridge position, and the 650R model in the neck position. But this guitar is a bit more versatile due to individual volume and tone controls for each humbucker.
Overall, the Les Paul 100 model will provide you with some great traits that blues players look for. We would prefer a different set of humbuckers though, but it’s still more than a great deal for its price. And you can always swap out the pickups.
Best Lightweight Les Paul Copy: Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
Gibson Les Pauls are heavy guitars and even uncomfortable to some players. Gibson partially overcame this problem with weight relief and chambered body designs, although this doesn’t always work for everyone.
If you need a decently-priced and lightweight Les Paul, check out the Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT. As you may already assume, the “Studio” in its name refers to an overall stripped-down design. It is a simple model that focuses on quality and still delivers some awesome characteristics for the price.
The guitar comes with a mahogany body without a maple top. However, it still features that much-appreciated arched top design. It’s a step forward compared to the Les Paul Special model, bringing a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard to the equation, as well as two volume and two tone pots.
The price is slightly higher, but you get some pretty great advantages with the Studio LT. What’s more, we can also notice that there’s more effort put into the overall design with the instrument’s finish.
Other than that, you’ll get pretty much the standard Epiphone Les Paul configuration here. It comes with the 700T and the 650R humbucker models and the standard Tune-o-Matic bridge and a tailpiece.
It’s a pretty great deal for its price and you’ll be surprised at what this model can do and how great it feels in your hands.
Learn more in our full review of the Studio LT.
Closest To Gibson Les Paul Guitars: Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro
If you want to get as close to a Gibson Les Paul as possible, without having to spend a hefty sum of money, there are a few great examples to choose from. The best among them is the Epiphone Les Paul Limited Edition Standard Plustop Pro. This guitar has that amazing Gibson feel and tone.
The body has pretty much the same design as some of the Les Paul Custom variants by Gibson. Made entirely out of mahogany, it features amazing binding on the edges both on the front and the back, that easily recognizable carved top, as well as a classic stylish pickguard.
Its body and neck form a standard set-in formation, while the mahogany neck bears an ebony fretboard. The choice of materials is, of course, not as luxurious as on Gibson Les Pauls, but it’s still surprisingly great for its price level. The only easily recognizable difference is the headstock design, as well as the angle it makes with the body.
It has Epiphone’s ProBucker 2 and 3 humbuckers and standard Les Paul controls. Overall, this is one of the best deals that you can find for the price and the closest thing to the real deal under $1000.
Les Paul Copy Buyers Guide
These days, it is quite easy to find great but cheap Les Paul alternatives. There are a lot of them, but they are differ in certain ways. We’ll help you figure out what characteristics to consider so that you get the guitar that best suits your needs.
Budget is usually the number one consideration. With the abundance of different LP-style guitars available these days, you can find anything from super-cheap beginner models up to pro-level instruments.
Naturally, you can’t expect to get a top-quality Les Paul for a low price. Beginner-friendly guitars usually won’t be as versatile and the tone quality usually suffers.
All the guitars listed above are great deals for what they cost. You’ll be satisfied with any of them as long as you understand that the lowest cost instruments do make serious sacrifices. Once you get above $300, you’ll see significant improvements in features.
Pickups And Electronics
Most Les Paul copies have two humbucker pickups and a 3-way selector switch. Most cheaper models have one tone and one volume control, as well as cheaper potentiometers, which can impact the tone. As the price goes up, you’ll see guitars with two volume and two tone pots, as well as better components.
Of course, it’s not unusual to see some more modern features. This is also the case with many Gibson Les Paul guitars these days. For instance, coil-tap or coil-split controls are becoming increasingly popular on LP copies. Almost all Les Paul copies with these options come with a push-and-pull tone potentiometer instead of a 5-way switch or a separate control.
Certain models, like some mid and higher-end Epiphones, have much better pickups that increase sustain and improve the overall dynamic response and tone quality of the instrument. The most important thing you need to know is what tone you’re aiming for.
Some more modern-oriented examples come with active pickups. On the other hand, most Les Paul copies tend to replicate the tones of old school models and are quite useful for blues, blues rock, hard rock, and sometimes even classic heavy metal music.
Build, Design, And Ergonomic Features
While the basic body shape doesn’t change a lot, there are a few differences. The most notable one in pretty much all of the cheaper LP alternatives is the headstock. And it’s not only the shape but also the angle at which it’s positioned, always forming a flatter construction. This can decrease the overall sustain, but it makes these guitars much cheaper.
More expensive Les Paul copies come with a carved top and binding on the body and the neck. In some cases, we also have additional ergonomic features that allow easier access to higher frets. At the same time, cheaper models usually feature bolt-on construction, while mid-priced and expensive ones have a set-in body and neck formation.
In some cases, controls are closer to the strings, making it easier to make easier adjustments while you’re playing. However, the hardware almost always copies classic Les Pauls, especially with Tune-o-Matic bridges. There are some rare LP-style guitars with tremolo bridges, as is the case with PRS’ Mark Tremonti signature model.
Best Les Paul Copy: Final Thoughts
Every guitar listed above has one thing in common. They are all incredible value for money. Of course the more expensive ones are objectively better instruments, but which is the best Les Paul copy under $1000 depends on your needs and your budget.
If you can afford it, the PRS is the one we recommend. IfF that is out of your budget, get the one that is just within it, and that has other features you like. The last one looks and plays closest to an actual Gibson Les Paul. The ESP LTD has an amazing tone for metal, but is also extremely versatile, so it can play many other genres too. The Donner is incredibly cheap.
All models have their advantages. Hopefully our list and the brief reviews for each guitar have helped you figure out which guitar’s advantages best match up with your specific needs. Whichever one you end up buying, the good news is that you can’t go wrong with any of them!