Fender vs Epiphone Guitars: Which is Better?

Fender and Epiphone guitars are classics that have stood the test of time. Both companies created some of the best budget guitars you could ever find, but they greatly differ in music styles, build, and overall design. 

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. 

Fender guitars are also more comfortable to play because their models are lighter, but Epiphones have more detailed aesthetics and a shorter scale length.

So which one should you choose? This article will cover all that and more to help you make an informed decision for your next guitar purchase.

fender vs epiphone

History of Fender and Epiphone Guitars

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s first take a look at the history of both guitar brands and how they still fare to this day.

Fender

The history of Fender guitars started with Leo Fender, who turned his radio shop into a musical instruments business. In 1954, Fender released the Stratocaster. This guitar made the Fender company worth millions of dollars and essentially put an iconic status to Leo in the music world. 

The original Fender company was sold to CBS in 1965 for $13 million. Years later, the company started acquiring other guitar brands, including Squier. Since 1982, Fender has used the Squier brand to make more affordable variants of their guitars. 

The company created this strategy to compete with Stratocaster imitations that were beginning to steal sales. 

Epiphone

Epiphone is another American household name in the world of musical instruments, which had its early start in 1873. Anastasios Stathopoulos founded the Epiphone brand in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire, and later moved the business to New York City in 1908. 

Anastasios’ son, Epaminondas Stathopoulos, took over the musical instruments manufacturing business in 1928 and named the company “Epiphone”, a combination of his nickname “Epi” and the suffix “phone,” which means voice in Greek.

Epiphone’s main rival, Gibson, bought the company in 1957. Gibson and Epiphone were the leading guitar brands in the arch-top guitar market before the two merged in the late 1950s.

When the company released the Epiphone version of the famous Les Paul in 1989, they started being known as the maker of cheaper versions of flagship Gibson models.

Differences Between Fender vs Epiphone Guitars

Many guitar players like to compare Fender and Epiphone guitars because both brands release great guitar models. If you have ever wondered which of the brands offers better products, these considerations might help you pick the one that will suit you best.

Sound

Fender guitars produce bright tones that are almost bell like. These guitars were designed for clean tones and even to this day are best suited for this style. Guitars like the Fender Stratocaster are also very versatile, as they offer a 5-way pickup switch for many sounds.

Epiphone guitars have a deeper and warmer tone, but are also designed for a completely different type of sound. They are equipped with humbucker pickups more often and are also great for high gain and distortion.

Build Quality

Fender guitars are known to be high quality and durable. Their USA made models are costly, but they include some of the best wood and hardware choices available. They are also on top of quality assurance to make sure any guitar that leaves their plant are going to provide an amazing experience.

Epiphone has come a long way from being a classic guitar brand in their own right to its association with budget models. In the last few years, their guitar quality has reached a new level, even though they are so affordable.

And although Epiphone is known for making inexpensive variants of Gibson products, the build quality is on par to match Fenders of the same price point. Doing minor tweaks on Epiphone guitars can also be worth the effort if you want to get the sound you want.

Check out our Fender vs Gibson comparison here!

Looks and Aesthetics

Fender and Epiphone each have their own designs and aesthetics for their signature guitars. Epiphone guitars are similar to Gibson models, having more details such as their carved top, binding, angled headstock, raised pickguard, and many more. Epiphone guitars also have better inlays, and their controls are mounted directly to the body.

Fender guitars, on the other hand, are iconic in terms of design, since its Stratocaster model is the most copied electric guitar out there. However, they tend to be less detailed than Epiphone models, which some players prefer.

Some guitarists would even attribute that playing Fenders is like playing a routed plank of wood. This is because Fender guitars are flat and straight, similar to a board when compared to the intricate design of an Epiphone.

Feel

Comparing the feel and comfort of Fender and Epiphone guitars can be tricky, since this will largely depend on your preferences as a player. It’s best for you to try both first before you decide, since their shape, size, and general ergonomics will depend on what you prefer.

But in any case, Epiphone guitars, especially the Les Paul, tend to have flatter fretboards which many guitar players prefer. They also have shorter scales than Fender models and wider necks, which make them a great guitar for leads and solos.

The downside of Epiphone guitars is that they tend to be heavier than Fender models. A heavy guitar can be an issue, especially for beginners who are learning how to hold a guitar. Many guitar players also noted the sticky and thick necks of Epiphones, which can be uncomfortable for beginners trying to learn chords. 

In comparison, Fender guitars, particularly the Strat, are lighter and have thinner necks which can be easier to play. 

Music Style

Fender and Epiphone guitars can fit a variety of music styles. However, Epiphone guitars are normally associated with rock and metal, while Fenders are known for the genres of blues and jazz. 

The single-coil pickups of Fender guitars aren’t always powerful enough to produce the preferred sound for heavy music styles, and may even cause some background fizz. Epiphone guitars are better for those music styles because they have more powerful humbucker pickups.

Price Range

Fender and Epiphone have similar price ranges, especially mid-level beginner electric guitars. However, Epiphone has a few models that start as low as $159. Fender doesn’t offer a guitar at this price range.

When comparing these two brands and their guitar offerings, we need to consider their mid-tier models, which start around $800.

Some of our favorites and their prices can be seen in this chart below.

Fender Player Stratocaster$850
Epiphone 1959 Les Paul$850
Epiphone SG$900
Fender Player Telecaster$850

Fender vs Epiphone Guitars: Which One Is Better?

Why Choose Fender?

Choose a Fender guitar if you prefer bright tones and are looking to play the music styles of rock, blues, and jazz. Fender guitars also have a longer scale, which adds more tension on the strings. 

If you prioritize comfort, Fender models are lighter and have thinner necks than Epiphone guitars, which can make playing chords easier. It’s also hard to get the same sound, as Fender’s tone is unique and iconic, thanks to their single-coil pickup schema and wood choices.

It’s also worth noting that a Fender guitar will hold its value for years to come, whereas most budget brands struggle to do so. This means you are more likely to get more of your money back should you decide to sell.

Why Choose Epiphone?

Choose an Epiphone guitar if you want warmer and darker tones and are looking to play rock and metal genres. Epiphone guitars have more powerful humbucker pickups, which are suitable for heavier styles of music but are still great for blues, jazz and even pop. 

Epiphone guitars are also more detailed in terms of looks and aesthetics, but also tend to be heavier than Fender models, but this is not a dealbreaker by any means. Lastly, Epiphone guitars have a shorter scale length, allowing you to easily bend and apply vibrato to the strings, perfect for lead playing. 

Conclusion

Choosing between Fender and Epiphone guitars all boils down to your personal preference. Both brands offer quality builds but differ in suitable music styles, designs, and overall feel. It’s always important to make sure you are choosing the guitar that will keep you inspired to play!

Photo of author

Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!