Epiphone by Gibson EB-3 “SG” Bass Hands-on in-depth review
I like to have different sounds in my daily guitar/bass playing. I also like to hear different sounds in my myriad recordings… I find it inspiring to have different instruments from time to time as I grow as a musician and an artist.
I could enjoy having one super-killer bass and one of each kind of guitar, but… I’m totally psyched when I pick up something different almost every day.
My basses are no exception. I really like picking up something different and recording what comes to heart – fretless, fretted, long-scale, short-scale, beautiful, bizarre, humbucker, single – you name it… If it is a bass that plays, I generally enjoy it.
With that said, I sometimes have a strong hankering for a particular feel or sound. To wit: there’s nothing like the feel of an EB bass (be it EB3, EB0, or other!).
The EB3 looks like a really long EB3 with a couple of funky humbucking pickups and giant clover tuners. It has a super-slim neck that sits in the edge of its o-so-familiar body. These are a gas to play. And my Epiphone EB3 fits the bill and then some! Great bass!
I play D’Addario Chrome flatwounds on my EB3 and enjoy the thrill of the old 60s-70s bass sounds and can still get that flatwound “mwah” if I play the strings just right. Love it. I do enjoy roundwounds on these, but I’ve got a Thunderbird for the smashing growl sounds when I need them.
Quick Opinion: The Epiphone EB3 is a modern implementation of a decades-old design that stands the test of time. It’s easy to play, relatively light, sounds great, and is really inexpensive. It even looks really cool.
The Epi EB3 is an unsung hero for bass players, and is a real treat even for beginners and pros alike. In most cases, other bass and guitar players have smiled when they pick up my EB3 (cherry gloss). I keep it well-adjusted and clean, ready to play… It often gets a coveted spot on one of my Hercules auto-grab guitar stands in one of my recording spots in our house.
Playability: The Epiphone EB3 is a pleasure to play. I could end this part of the review with that one sentence… but it would be nice to talk a little more about why…
I haven’t played too many basses that aren’t neck heavy or don’t neck dive a little. Bass players the world over like to argue about “your bass neck dives and mine doesn’t.” Truth be told, almost all of them do. With that said, the neck and headstock on the EB3 is light enough that it actually is one of the more playable models. If you add a strap button to the tip of the upper horn and hang your strap from that, it gets VERY comfortable (don’t alter your guitar based on my advice… YMMV, I’m not responsible for errors you make to your instrument, etc. Please.). I am used to the way my EB3 hangs and plays, so I find it to be just right…
The neck is thin in width, more so than a Fender Jazz. But it is also thick-ish so it is easier to get a good grip. If you have small hands, this might be a good bass for you (as opposed to something like a metal bass or a P Bass – another alternative is the short-scale EB0). I have huge paws, so in my case, the neck is a delight – kind of like a big long Tele neck in most ways. The profile feels like a “D” to me.
Thanks to the shallow set-in of the neck and the double cutaway, I can reach any fret on all four strings. It’s easy to play the high notes, and the low notes are all just a stretch away… With the strap button in its factory position (the back of the bass at the neck/body joint), the body seems to push forward a bit on my strap, but it’s really nothing different than any of my SG-shaped instruments… This is largely true whether you’re playing an EB3 or a Viper or a Samick “SG bass.”
My EB3 is nicely finished, so it feels great in my hands – I really like the smooth finish and the “new” feel it has kept. If you like a satin finish (particularly on the neck), Epiphone (as of this writing) offers a “faded” satin version of the EB3 for the same price…
Sound: Here’s one of the many places the EB3 shines: It sounds great. It has a quiet humbucking nature with a mixture of strong thumpin’ and mild warm funky vintage sounds. It has a pair of very different pickups, with the bridge pickup being a tiny mini humbucker and the neck pickup being a giant heavy big-box humbucker. These sound resoundingly different than Thunderbird pickups, Fender singles, Stingray big-slug humbuckers, or Rickenbacker pickups… These are in a class of their own.
You get a nice mixture of that old warm thumpy sound you get from upright basses and that jeans-ruffling blowback THUMP of a humbucker-bred P Bass. Nice. The three-way dial pickup selector lets you choose between the two or a blend of both… It works like it should and it doesn’t disappoint.
I am a person who likes to upgrade or fiddle with his less-expensive instruments – generally to make them sound better. To tell you how I feel about the sound, I’ve left my EB3 alone, even though I’m a tech and could pop some real Gibson or DiMarzio replacement pickups in it. I like it just like it is.
The first time I plugged it in to my combo amp, I was pleasantly greeted with a sound I’ve been hearing for decades. Wonderful. Once I fed it through my tube preamp into my computer-guitar interface, I was blown away! The benefits of a 12ZX7 and a little dialing are huge! It does sound fine on its own, but with a little help it rivals my Gibson experiences.
Quality: My Epiphone EB3 bass is flawless. I have one of the older ones, and have played many of the recent makes as well. Every single one I’ve played or owned (I’ve owned two and played many more) has been pretty much perfect. The neck is solid, the body is good, and the hardware and electronics are above par.
I do wish Epiphone would stop making so many of their guitar bodies from a zillion pieces of wood and veneering the body with thin sheets… My particular bass isn’t too bad, but it still has that funky composite body. I guess that the price of the guitar is reflective of how it is made… Don’t get me wrong: the sound and heft of the bass guitar is great. It just isn’t a nice slab of mahogany.
The hardware is, in particular, top notch. The bridge works great, came almost intonated, and is nicely adjustable. The nut, tuners, plastics, and metals all are as good as most $500+ guitars. The electronics are fine, with the usual chicklet tone cap and the typical Asian pots and switch. For the most part, the guitar is reliable and is wired as good as or better than the vintage classic Asian guitars. The pickups are excellent and very consistent from individual instrument to individual instrument.
Value: This guitar is easily worth $399 or more street. I think they are under-priced in general. They are an excellent bargain at the current street retail ($299 as of this writing). You can plug it in and play it on day one without spending another nickel on it for a long time. This instrument delivers on value and bang-for-the-buck.
I have had two and will probably buy a third…
Features: The neck is a real feature on this instrument. It is a pleasure to play, and is actually a real selling point for this bass. I love my Jazz, Thunderbird, Precision, ESP Surveyor 404… but this guitar is a treat to own and play.
I like the rotary pickup switch. I don’t often have to do a blinding-fast pickup switch flip, so the rotary works fine for me. It is like it should be, and the chicken-head knob is easy to grab when you’re gigging…
The guitar’s tuners stay in tune very well, the hardware stays adjusted just fine, and the guitar has just what it needs.
Wishes: I don’t really have any wishes for this guitar. I like it pretty much just like it is.
If I were to be able to make minor adjustments to the guitar, I’d say that the body could be made of better wood construction and that the bridge pickup could be wound a little tiny bit hotter.
That’s it for now. Rock on. Buy one if you want a nice bass! It’s a plus that it is inexpensive, too!