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epiphone Ace Frehley Budokan Les Paul Custom
Overall Rating
Submitted: May 18th, 2018
by PC3x_
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Sound Quality
OK - It's not perfect out of the box. BUT, a simple rework of the electronics will get you ALL the way there - and it will crush any Les Paul sound you can think of.This guitar is a limited run of 1000, it has USA DiMarzio PAF's and a Super Distortion bridge pickup. The toggle switch is fine - just metric. The pots, caps and shielded hookup wire and stop bar earth are junk. Replace the wire with period correct 22awg cloth braid. orange drop caps and Emerson CTS pots and there is nothing more that it needs to be the perfect 1977 Budokan. The super distortion was Ace's favourite lead sound and this is bang-on once the electrics are replaced. the two PAF's are wired on the rhythm and middle circuit via the toggle. They deliver. This guitar is not the best for super-clean sounds, but it does clean up fantastically with the usa pots, orange drops and true 'vintage' rewire. 
It's a Les Paul. Make no mistake.  Despite the perceived "Epiphone" disparity based on gibson's price point, this instrument easily matches the quality of my other Les Pauls, and exceeds the somewhat variable quality of most 2009-2016 gibson studio or standards. No, I am not joking. The guitar is a faithful reproduction of a 74 Les Paul Custom, and as such has some inherent areas which require elevated maintenance. The bridge and stopbar are nickel, so require a proper and thorough cleaning when restringing. The 'grover' milk bottle tuning machines are to my mind not as high quality as the same units found on the Gibson branded les paul custom or standard. These are easily replaced however. Nonetheless, the guitar itself is made to a very high standard, but let down by cost-cutting on the electronics and the metal hardware.  I rate it as 4/5, because expecting to have $5K guitar hardware on a $700 PRC made instrument is unrealistic.  If it bugs you, change the grovers, and get a new gibson historic lightweight stop bar and a nashville bridge if you dislike sprung-ABR-1's. Bear in mind the hardware is metric, so CTS pots require hole reaming, as does the toggle switch. Not difficult, worth the effort, and will make the instrument last indefinitely.
I purchased this guitar on impulse - second-hand, feb 2018, in original condition. It just happened to be. I was almost unplayed and with what appeared to be the original strings. It looked like it needed a proper clean, new strings and a setup. For the total cost of all the modifications to the electronics and metal hardware, I could still buy two of these for less than a current les paul studio. It sounds amazing after the electronics were replaced with the real-deal. What a Bargain! but market prices will inevitably rise when people realize just how good these guitars are. I would put this right at the door of a brand new Fender American professional stratocaster for price, quality and performance, once you replace the electronics. So there is a huge bang for buck on this particular model Epiphone. I am still amazed by it every time I pick it up - it really is that good, certainly better than I ever expected.
General Comments
This model is a Limited edition run of 1000 units. It comes with a special hardcase, a certificate of authenticity and signed by Ace. There is also a sticker and some Epiphone literature and posters that accompany the instrument. I was fortunate that my example came with all of the case candy, which is unusual for most second-hand guitars.Based on this low-volume production run and the period-correct hardware fitted, The guitar represents excellent value (even at it's new price  over a decade ago) and has the capability to sound better than a modern Les Paul, provided the owner is not shy of making the necessary rewiring changes.  This is the key difference between the price of an Epiphone and a Gibson. The metal hardware and the electronics quality difference do account for a substantial portion of the price disparity, but make no mistake - the bones of this guitar are all there, and then some. Cosmetically the Nickel obviously is not as shiny as chrome and requires more upkeep, but it is authentic and period correct. the Bridge is the epiphone version of the ABR-1, having the nashville style posts (metric) instead of the vintage threaded ABR-1 gibson threaded rod and knurled nut.This is the first epiphone LP I have purchased, It was an impulse buy and I took it on as a 'project' to see if it needed a tweak here and there, or if it needed a full-on upgrade and setup. The reality is that it needed a proper full-on clean and electronic overhaul. Any cheap s/h guitar does really. With that in mind however, it was a cheap upgrade, and the result is equal to an LP custom in terms of sound quality. I would absolutely recommend replacing the pots and caps with vintage CTS and your favourite flavour of vintage cap as a bare minimum, but rewiring the switch and grounds is essential for top performance.I contacted DiMarzio tech and verified that the pickups are indeed USA made vintage PAF's and a Super Distortion. The PAF winding is not available any more, and is closest to the 36th anniversary (slightly different) PAF for those who are interested in the spec.The body has no weight relief - it is a true period replica, and includes the 60's profile neck with the volute - and that is a fantastic neck profile to say the least. I have quite a few LP's and I must admit this epiphone neck is better than nearly all of the others. It was one of the reasons I took it home with me - it felt amazing within 2 minutes of picking it up and playing. Too good to pass up at the price.With minimal outlay, and a basic clean up as you would do on any s/h guitar, this instrument is absolutely a bargain and delivers far beyond it's price point. I'm not selling it, so that should be more than enough encouragement for you to buy one, should one ever find your hands. Points to consider:1. USA DiMarzio Vintage PAF neck and Middle pickup, Super Distortion Bridge pickup.2. Vintage spec nickel-plated epiphone hardware - requires maintenance to maintain shine.3. switch wiring and pots / cap wiring are cheap quality as is stop-bar earth. 4. Burst finish is period-correct and neck has volute. Binding is LP Custom.5. Milk-bottle Grover tuners with pearloid buttons - my tuners have a bit of backlash, and I will replace them with new genuine USA grovers. I would suggest others do same if they encounter tuning instability.6. AWESOME tone once rewired. The difference is massive, which proves that cheap electronics really can make a great guitar sound really crap.
Reviewer's Background
35+ years of industry experience. 
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