Epiphone Casino Coupe
By Phil O'Keefe |
Classic Casino features in a smaller ES-339-sized body
The Casino is arguably one of Epiphone's best known models, and they're generally highly prized by their owners. First released in 1961 and initially made famous by Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles and used by numerous other artists including Keith Richards, Gary Clark Jr. Paul Weller and Matthew Sweet, the Casino has been popular with players for decades. So why mess with success? Epiphone still offers the standard sized Casino, but for players who want something a bit more compact there is now the Casino Coupe; a guitar that keeps all the essential design elements of a standard Casino but packages them in a smaller, ES-339 sized thinline hollowbody.
What You Need To Know
- The Casino Coupe is designed to be a smaller, sportier version of the legendary Casino, packing all the essential Casino features into a smaller, scaled-down, ES-339 sized body. How small is that? It is roughly similar in size to a Les Paul, but like the standard Casino, it's much lighter - weighing only six pounds or so. Even with the small light body the guitar's balance is quite good, with no "neck dive" when worn on a strap.
- The back, sides and top of the Casino Coupe are five-ply laminated maple. The body is double bound with a ivory colored single-ply binding. The review unit is finished in a softly golden-shaded Natural, which is somewhat blond in tone, with the maple's grain slightly subdued by, but still easily visible through the finish. The Casino Coupe is also available in Vintage Sunburst and Cherry.
- The Casino Coupe has a set, bound mahogany neck with a 24.75" scale length. The headstock is angled at 14 degrees, which helps increase string down pressure at the nut, and thus sustain. The rosewood fingerboard has a 12" radius, and is adorned with pearloid parallelogram inlays. The frets are medium jumbos, and were well set, leveled and polished on the review unit. The nut is imitation bone. Both the pickguard and the bullet shaped truss rod cover feature the stylized Epiphone E logo, and the headstock also features an inlayed pearloid Epiphone logo. The tuners have vintage cosmetics and a 14:1 gear ratio. The Casino Coupe holds its tuning well.
- With the Coupe's slimmed down body size, some other aspects are also changed compared to a standard sized Casino. The neck joins the body at the 19th fret instead of 17th fret as you'll find on a standard Casino, which gives the Coupe even better upper fret access. The trapeze tailpiece is also shorter than a standard Casino's, with a shorter string length between the tailpiece and bridge. The non-rotating output jack is mounted on the side of the guitar instead of the top as with a standard Casino.
- The feel of the neck is definitely different than my own personal Casino, and whether it's better or worse is entirely a matter of personal preference. I have smaller hands and short fingers, so I prefer the more C-shaped profile of my Casino, but many players will no doubt love the profile of the Casino Coupe's neck as well, which is still a SlimTaper in terms of thickness, but with the meatier shoulders of a D-shaped profile. The width at the nut is 1.68" and it's approximately .80" thick at the first fret.
- The electronics follow the classic Casino formula of two full-sized dog-ear P90 pickups, each with its own volume and tone controls. A three-way switch provides the standard pickup selection options of either pickup individually or both pickups together. These are solid sounding pickups - the classic P90 chime, bark and bite are all here, and when coupled with the Coupe's lively, responsive hollow body it results in a really cool sounding instrument. The Casino Coupe can do Brit-Pop, Funk, Rock, Blues and jangle like you'd expect, but it can also provide surprisingly sweet Jazz tones too. It's a very versatile guitar.
- The four gold Top Hat knobs have metal "pointers", but unlike the vintage ones I once swore at every time I cut my hand on them, these are nicely rounded off to protect your fingers.
- The Coupe features a fully adjustable LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge. Intonation, like the rest of the factory setup, was great right out of the box.
- Casinos have a reputation for feeding back, and that's well deserved. If you want a guitar that will sweetly and controllably feed back, the Casino is an outstanding choice. While I was able to turn up a bit louder with the Casino Coupe before it started to feed back than I can with my standard-sized Casino, it still feeds back once the drive and amp levels get high enough, and again, in a very controllable way. The onset of feedback is gentle and swells almost like a compressor with a slow ramp time; building up gently and gradually, it's just as easily attenuated, controlled or muted off with varying pressure from the edge of your palm or a twist of a volume control. The increase in controllable sustain when you have the Casino Coupe, pedals and amp all set right is musically and expressively powerful, and playing the Casino Coupe is a very interactive and fun experience. But beyond that point, except possibly for noise-rock freakouts, the Casino Coupe is less well suited for very high-gain / high-level applications.
- The Casino Coupe is covered by Epiphone's limited lifetime warranty.
- The review unit's pickup pole pieces were adjusted higher than I'd normally recommend; in fact, the treble pickup's adjustment screws were set extremely high. If this is a consistent issue and not a one-off oversight, you may need to do some adjustments to get the pickups dialed in. Fortunately, the rest of the setup was actually quite good, as previously mentioned.
- Make no mistake - it's smaller, but this is still a hollowbody guitar. While somewhat less susceptible to feedback than a standard-sized Casino it's still more likely to howl and wail like a banshee than any solidbody, or even a semi-hollowbody guitar like the similarly shaped ES-339. With some caveats it's a very capable rock guitar, but it's not well-suited for heavier styles like metal. If you use loads of high gain distortion and fuzz, play at very high on-stage volume levels and/or hate feedback, the Casino Coupe is probably not for you.
- No case or gig bag is included, so you'll need to budget accordingly. The correct case is the Epiphone Hardshell Case for ES-339 ($148.00 MSRP, $89.00 "street") an example of which Epiphone shipped to me to check out along with the Casino Coupe. It's a solid plush-lined case that fits the Casino Coupe perfectly; I'd definitely recommend purchasing it with the guitar as a set.
- The standard Casino and Casino Coupe are similar, but definitely not the exact same guitar - if you play 3rd bridge stuff behind the bridge you'll find the Casino Coupe's smaller trapeze and shorter behind the bridge string length provide slightly different pitches and string tension feel than a full-sized Casino.
I have to admit I went into this review with a bit of skepticism. My own 2001 Korean-built Casino is exceptional; it's one of my favorite guitars, and I wondered how the more compact Chinese-built Casino Coupe would measure up. The build quality is similar, and the smaller ES-339 sized body is really a wonderful option; it's more comfortable and easier to hold and play than the larger, full-sized Casino, which will appeal to smaller players. Those who are more accustomed to playing solid-bodied guitars like Les Pauls and SGs will also no doubt find the Casino Coupe a more comfortable and familiar fit that can make the transition to an ES-style instrument easier. And you don't really lose anything other than some size from the body; the basic Casino look, sound and responsiveness are all still present, and upper fret access, gain before feedback and overall "handiness" are all actually improved with the Coupe.
My main criticism is a matter of personal preference. While I love the compact feel of the Coupe's smaller body and totally dig that it has the classic sound and controllable feedback of a standard Casino, the neck profile is the one area where I have a strong preference for my personal Casino over the Casino Coupe. I wish its neck had a more C-shaped SlimTaper profile instead of a D-shaped one. Since players of smaller stature will be attracted to the smaller body size, a C-shaped neck profile makes more sense to me. Personal preferences aside, this is a really cool guitar that I've enjoyed playing. It has a lot going for it - including a very reasonable price tag, and many players will no doubt fall in love with it just as much as I have with my personal Casino. It's well built and finished, and has all the classic Casino features and tone that you'd expect, but in a smaller and arguably cooler looking body. It's going to open the Casino's tonal delights to a wide range of players who have previously balked at the original's larger body - and that's a very good thing. As many legendary guitarists can attest, a Casino can be a very toneful and capable musical partner, and the Casino Coupe is no exception. If you've been considering a Casino but have been put off by their size, try out a Casino Coupe. You may find it's just the right fit for you.
Musician's Friend Epiphone Casino Coupe Hollowbody Electric Guitar online catalog page ($748.00 MSRP, $449.00 "street")
Epiphone's product web page
Here's a few additional pictures that hopefully illustrate the comparative sizes of a standard Casino and the Casino Coupe