Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (2023)

Guitar World Verdict

All in all, we’re looking at two very attractive offerings from Epiphone, even more so when you factor in the hard cases included. For our money, the Wino has the edge, but you may well disagree!


  • +

    Wino is particularly good value for money.

  • +

    Sounds that rival Gibson builds.

  • +

    The Wino can nail tones across the Alice In Chains catalog, while the Prophecy is a great modern all-rounder.

  • +

    Great weight relief on the Prophecy.


  • -

    Prophecy’s active pickups will not suit everyone.

As the founding guitarist and singer in Alice In Chains, Jerry Cantrell knows a thing or two about dialing in massive rock tones.

His riffs were arguably the heaviest from the 90s Seattle scene, the group sharing nearly as much kinship with the likes of Metallica and Pantera as they did with the alternative peers from their hometown.

But there was always a more delicate side to the music, as evidenced on tracks like Down In A Hole, Nutshell and Brother – which, thanks to a profound sense of emotional sincerity, turned Jerry into one of the most deeply admired songwriters of his generation.

In January 2020, he made headlines by announcing he was teaming up with Gibson to release a whole line of acoustic and electric signature guitars. Here’s a closer look at the two latest Epiphone models for this year...

(Video) Epiphone JERRY CANTRELL Les Paul Custom "Wino" | FULL DEMO & REVIEW

When Jerry Cantrell last spoke to us, he acknowledged that Gibson guitars had “been right there in the development of my sound from the beginning” and teased the acoustic signatures that were to follow on from the 100 signed and Murphy-Lab aged Wine Red Customs released in 2021.

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (1)

The debut models were based on one of the four Les Pauls he acquired in the early 90s and stuck with him through his career. The collaborative partnership continues this year with two new entries under the Chinese-made Epiphone banner, sitting at a much more affordable price point than anything we’ve seen thus far.

With two voicings for each humbucker as well as split coil modes, the Prophecy clearly going to be able to cover a lot of tonal ground,

The new ‘Wino’ comes in a slightly darker variant of Wine Red, with Epiphone parts offering a more cost-effective take on those found on its American Custom Shop sibling. The most notable difference is the lack of a Fishman piezo pickup-equipped bridge – a fair compromise given that this instrument retails for over ten times less, and ultimately a concession few would be surprised by.

Less predictable, however, is the arrival of its companion 24-fret Custom Prophecy fitted with Fishman Fluence pickups, given that the Alice In Chains guitarist isn’t known for using Fishmans and has generally stuck with 22-fret instruments through his career, including the G&L Rampages he’s used extensively alongside his Les Pauls.

However, with two voicings for each humbucker as well as split coil modes, it’s clearly going to be able to cover a lot of tonal ground, as well as two whole octaves across the neck.

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (2)

Straight out of the (man in the) box, the new Wino model looks and feels like the closest the budget brand have come to a ‘real’ Les Paul Custom in quite some time. The neck profile is slightly thicker than your typical Epiphone Les Paul, though it’s still very user-friendly and every bit a ‘fretless wonder’, as these guitars were lovingly nicknamed early on.

It’s a guitar that comfortably nails the tones all the way from Alice In Chains’ 1990 Facelift debut right through to latest release Rainier Fog

Going head-to-head with our own 2004 Gibson Custom, there’s very little difference tonally (as much as it pains us to admit, barely any, in fact!). The Dark Wine Red finish and gold hardware marry gracefully with Cantrell’s name along the truss rod cover and his JJ logo, which some may recognize from his signature Friedman heads, on the back of the headstock.

When plugged into our British tube amp’s clean channel, the neck Alnico Classic PRO humbucker sounds rich and full-bodied, with bell-like chimes that can be accentuated further by flicking onto the middle position of the pickup selector.

On the distorted channel, the 98T PRO bridge humbucker sounds cutting and articulate, packing a little extra snarl thanks to its exposed coils. Arriving already tuned half a step down, it’s a guitar that comfortably nails the tones all the way from Alice In Chains’ 1990 Facelift debut right through to latest release Rainier Fog, as well as any of Cantrell’s solo endeavors.

(Video) Epiphone's Jerry Cantrell "Wino" Les Paul Custom, Full Review and Demo

Drop-D (or in this case Drop-C#) riffs like We Die Young, Dam That River and Stone feel particularly responsive here too, striking a perfect balance between low-end punch and searing high-end attack, with notes that well and truly pop out when switching over to leads.

Turn down the volume controls and you’ll easily find some tasty blues tones too, and there’s plenty of fun to be had using the neck pickup with the tone completely off, as you’d expect from traditional singlecuts of this ilk. In that regard, it’s every bit as classic as it looks.

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (3)

The Custom Prophecy is a considerably lighter instrument, with an ultra modern weight relief in place of the Wino’s nine-hole drilling.

Other interesting features include the all-new Circle In Diamond custom inlays, which add to its aesthetic allure, as well as two extra frets and the inclusion of Fishman Fluence pickups. Which, by the way, react faster with more compression and snap than the medium-output humbuckers found on its companion, as to be expected from an active set.

There are three voicings per pickup – hot, vintage and single-coil – making this one of the most sonically diverse Les Pauls ever to go into production

There are three voicings per pickup – hot, vintage and single-coil – making this one of the most sonically diverse Les Pauls ever to go into production, and while the single-coil tones can’t quite compare to, say, plugging in an old Strat, they certainly carry enough bite to get you close enough for live performances.

With the right kind of compression and EQ treatment, these tones could also work as a faux piezo through a clean channel, which is handy if you’re combining electric and acoustic guitar layers like Cantrell and his cohorts have done over the years.

It would be fair to say the bridge pickup on the hot voicing might be a little scooped and overkill for some of the tones Cantrell is known for and it’s the vintage mode that gets us closer to the sounds on the records, but that’s precisely what makes this signature such a good all-rounder.

It covers a lot of bases well, especially for those in need of a singlecut that’s deceptively lightweight and comfortable.

These bells and whistles do come at a price, however, this signature retailing for £300 more than its companion. It’s not exactly the same kind of guitar you see Cantrell playing himself, but then again it doesn’t necessarily need to be. If anything, that’s what makes it such an intriguing proposition...

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (4)

Final verdict

As we suspected, these are two very different instruments that cater for different needs. Purists and retro-lovers will undoubtedly feel more at home with the Wino, which convincingly harks back to Les Pauls of old. Modern-style and heavy metal players, however, may very well appreciate the Custom Prophecy for its extra power, versatility and range.

(Video) Guitar Talk - Epiphone Wino Jerry Cantrell Les Paul Custom Review

It doesn’t cover vintage tones quite as well as its claret-hued counterpart – active pickups are typically less smooth and less dynamic than passives – and players who dabble in blues or jazz may find that a bit of a turn-off. Those dialing in higher gain sounds all the way from Rammstein and Slipknot through to Code Orange and Periphery, however, will arguably feel more at home on the Prophecy.

Specs – Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (5)

  • PRICE: $849 / £749
  • BODY: Mahogany with plain maple cap
  • NECK: Mahogany SCALE: 24.75”
  • FRETS: 22
  • ELECTRONICS: Alnico Classic Pro (neck), 98T PRO (bridge)
  • CONTROLS: 2x volume, 2x tone, three-way toggle
  • HARDWARE: Gold
  • FINISH: Dark wine red

Specs – Jerry Cantrell Les Paul Custom Prophecy

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (6)

  • PRICE: $1,149 / $899
  • BODY: Mahogany with maple cap
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE: 24.75”
  • FRETS: 24
  • ELECTRONICS: 2x Fishman Fluence
  • CONTROLS: 2x volume with push/pull coil splitting, 2x tone with push/pull voice switching, three-way toggle
  • HARDWARE: Brushed nickel
  • FINISH: Bone White
  • CONTACT: Epiphone (opens in new tab)

Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (7)

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(Video) Epiphone Jerry Cantrell "Wino" Les Paul Custom - First Impressions

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Epiphone Jerry Cantrell ‘Wino’ Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Custom Prophecy review (9)

Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles likeTotal Guitar,MusicRadarandGuitar Worldfor over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences. He's interviewed everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handling lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).


Are Epiphone Prophecy guitars good? ›

Verdict: is The Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy a Good Guitar? Made with cheap labor to reduce costs, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a bad product. It's a guitar with good playability. It comes with excellent pickups with good sound and provides tons of sustain.

What is the difference between Epiphone Les Paul Custom and Custom Pro? ›

THE BOTTOM LINE:The Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro has the same beloved look of a classic Les Paul Custom, but upgrades like coil splitting, a phase switch, and the SlimTaper “D” neck profile make it more versatile and playable than ever.

Is Les Paul Epiphone a good guitar? ›

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.

Does Jerry Cantrell have a signature guitar? ›

Alice in Chains guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell has announced two new signature acoustic guitars with Gibson. The two instruments, dubbed Atone and Fire Devil, are part of Gibson's Songwriter collection of acoustics, and are designed with writing and recording in mind.

Where is Epiphone Prophecy made? ›

Epiphone Prophecy guitars are made in Qingdao, China.

How much does Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy weigh? ›

Epiphone has used extensive weight relief techniques on the Les Paul Prophecy to reduce the weight down from the usual 9 to 12 lbs to around 7 lbs. How did Epiphone do this?

What is the weight of an Epiphone Les Paul Custom? ›

Weight. The Epiphone Les Paul Classic weighs 9 lbs, and the Epiphone Les Paul Custom weighs 9 lbs. Guitar weight is an important factor when it comes to finding the right guitar for you. A heavier guitar will give you more sustain, but a lighter guitar will be more resonant, and easier to play and carry around.

What pickups are in Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro? ›

The Les Paul Custom PRO now features Epiphones ProBucker pickups, a 4-wire design with coil-tapping inspired by Gibsons legendary BurstBuckers. ProBucker pickups recreate the sound of the original hand-wound PAF humbuckers made by Seth Lover at the Kalamazoo factory in the late 50s.

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

Aside from the different pickups, the Les Paul Classic has a Slim Taper neck profile (closer to a 60s profile) which is really comfortable, especially for faster players whereas the Les Paul Traditional has a chunkier, Rounded neck profile – as they were in the late 50s.

Is a Les Paul better than a Strat? ›

The Stratocaster is generally the better choice of electric guitar than the Les Paul for country style music. The Strat has a brighter and twangier tone due to it's single coil pickups, which really suit country riffs. The Les Paul's humbuckers are generally a bit too mellow and warm for this style of music.

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.

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.

How do you get the Jerry Cantrell tone? ›

Recreating Jerry Cantrell's DIRT Tone! - YouTube

What pickups does Jerry Cantrell use? ›

Jerry however used a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker for majority of the first 20 years of his career, and just recently switched to different pickups made by a company called Motor City.

What guitar strings does Jerry Cantrell use? ›

Strings. Jerry Cantrell relies on Ernie Ball RPS Regular Slinky electric guitar strings.

Do Epiphone Prophecy guitars come with a case? ›

Does The Epiphone Prophecy 2020 Come with a Case? No. None of the Guitars Come with a case.

Are Epiphone Les Pauls weight relieved? ›

Epiphone uses a traditional weight relief process to make the Les Paul Worn less taxing for long gigs. Drilling 9 holes into the mahogany body also has the added benefit of reducing certain resonances that can lead to feedback.

Are PRS guitars heavy? ›

Next, to Les Paul, the PRS guitars weight is around 9 pounds (4.1 kg). Made from mahogany with a carved maple top, along with mahogany necks, these guitars are one of the heaviest on the list. Made famous by Carlos Santana, for years PRS has been his number one guitar.

How much does SG weigh? ›

A typical Gibson SG weighs around 6 lbs (2.7 kg). What is this?

Do heavier guitars sustain longer? ›

Heavier guitars generally have better sustain, and more resonance than lighter guitars. This is often due to the wood type, and the body size. Thicker guitar bodies, cause the tone to be fuller, warmer and louder.

What is the heaviest electric guitar? ›

Gibson Les Paul

This is the heaviest guitar on the list weighing in at 9-12 pounds (4-5.5 kg). This is due the the thick mahogany body, which is around 2.5 inches wide.

Why are electric guitars so heavy? ›

Electric guitars, which usually weigh around eight pounds, are so heavy because they're typically made with solid wood bodies and metal electronic components. Guitar weight is one of those things that has the potential to vary quite a bit from instrument to instrument.

What are Probuckers? ›

The Probucker pickup is now one of Epiphone's most successful pickups and features on a wide range of their electric guitar models. Epiphone is a guitar brand that has been around for many years now and has become synonymous with quality but without reaching the same kind of status as your Gibsons or Fenders.

What is the neck radius of a Epiphone Les Paul? ›

Lastly, it has a 12'' radius neck.

What is the difference between a Les Paul Standard and a Les Paul Custom? ›

Both guitars are versatile; the Standard allows you to split coils so you can go from humbucker to single coil sounds, and the Custom has both Alnico II and Alnico V magnets to give each pickup a more distinct flavour.

Is a Les Paul Classic better than a standard? ›

The Quick Answer. The Gibson Les Paul Classic sounds brighter compared to the Les Paul Standard models which sound warmer and fuller. The Les Paul Classic is weight-relieved and has a coil tap function unlike the Les Paul Standard. The Standard version is approximately $400 more expensive than the Classic.

Do Les Paul Standard hold their value? ›

You can buy a brand new Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus for about $600. The used ones in mint and excellent conditions sell for an average of $530. That means that right now the Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus is holding almost 90% of its value. The demand is high for name-brand Les Paul-style guitars.

Is a Les Paul harder to play than a Stratocaster? ›

Les Paul vs Strat String Tension

A big part of a guitar's playability is due to string tension. The higher the string tension, the harder you need to work to press down and move the strings. A Les Paul has lower string tension when compared to a Strat with the same gauge strings. This makes a Les Paul easier to play.

Why do Les Pauls sound so good? ›

It's a rich, resonant tonewood with lots of guts and character. Les Pauls feature mahogany bodies and necks, and this is a major driving force behind that legendary sound. There is a never-ending debate about how much tonewoods matter for electric guitars.

Can a Les Paul sound like a Strat? ›

Can a Les Paul Sound Like a Stratocaster? The simple answer to this question is no. A Les Paul known for it's thick and creamy sound can not achieve the bright and twangy Strat tone.

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

What year did Gibson quality decline? ›

In 2016, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Gibson's credit rating outlook to Caa2 or "negative," reporting that the company owes over $80 million to a supplier and $45 million in accounts payable.

Are all Epiphone Guitars made in China? ›

In 2004, Gibson opened a factory in Qingdao, China, which manufactures Epiphone guitars. With few exceptions, Epiphones are now built only in the Qingdao factory.

How do you hold a Les Paul? ›

How To Hold A Guitar | Guitar Lesson | Gibson Les Paul - YouTube

Did Gibson make Epiphone? ›

In 1957, the company that owned Gibson bought out Epiphone and since then, they've been sister companies. Other brands may make copies of the Les Paul, SG, 335 etc but Gibson and Epiphone are the only two brands that can really lay claim to these guitars.

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.

What type of music is a Les Paul Good For? ›

Along with Fender's Telecaster and Stratocaster, it was one of the first mass-produced electric solid-body guitars. Due to their versatility, Les Paul electric guitars have been used in a wide range of music genres, including rock, country, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, reggae, punk, and heavy metal.

Is Les Paul good for beginners? ›

Epiphone is among the top guitar brands in the world, and the Les Paul is one of the most popular electric guitars for beginners for good reason. The Les Paul is also a versatile guitar. It is an instrument equally at home playing jazz, metal, blues, country or rock.


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