The Muse series was officially released in 2020 by Epiphone. These are modern spec’d instruments not mirroring any models from the Gibson range & feature metallic finishes in what seems to be inspired by nail polish colours (especially the sparkled bit).
Features / fit / finish
The Epiphone model on review here has a very clean design, it’s even devoid of a pickguard. You’d notice a neck tenon cover here (between the fretboard & the neck pickup) which is actually fabricated to serve no protective or cloaking intention; it’s there for show. That’s right, upon removal, there are no unsightly tenon lip underneath. There could have been some cost savings if this was excluded but then again, we are not endowed with that designer foresight for its inclusion.
This guitar is as SG as it gets with the double horn design, dual humbucking, 4-control layout & the traditional, 3-per side tuners over at the headstock. New for 2020 would be the re-designed headstock outline for majority of the solid body Les Pauls & SGs so this model looks more SG & Gibson-like than its predecessors. It is traditionally glossed over from one end to the other & nothing looks amiss upon closer inspection. If there’s any credible attention to detail from the less costly Epiphone line, this is a good example of one.
There is no particular shortfall in this department save for the fact that two of the tuners are stiff (in-house Epiphone tuners manufactured by Marvel) & that’s expected from an instrument in this price range. Screwdriver tinkering did not address the tension issue so these are indeed under-performing tuners. The Indian laurel fretboard is a little dry but there are drier examples coming from the Gibson range so this was rather presentable. More importantly, the dryness here does not entail any flaking related damages.
Playability / tone
The immediate positive impression coming from this Muse are those well cut nut slots; no choking in the way. Also, the neck profile is a slimmer C-curve, it feels inviting to both the seasoned & novice players. At this point in time, we shouldn’t be too critical of the inherent neck dive & sticky gloss neck rear as these have been the SG lapses that we have all learnt to embrace & adapt. However, a closer scrutiny revealed some sharp fret ends over at the bass side (frets 20 – 22) but this is a less ventured neck territory for the playing majority & should not be a major demerit.
Moving on to tone, the guitar itself, strummed unplugged, it gives off a rather strong midrange response. The resonance here is also loud considering how slim the body is. In plug-in mode, the clean tones give off great clarity with no particular bass inclinations. This was perpetuated by the driven tones, the highlight of which is that signature AC/DC crunch that lends itself well to none-muted notes. Considering these are Epiphone’s own Alnico Classic Pro pickups, I must say they are impressive & do not sound cheap or compromised. If you favour modern highlights with a good dose of vintage or lower drive / gain settings, these are thrilling to say the least.
The electronics feature hidden tone variations in the guise of three push-pull options. The two split coil options (for each pickup) might be familiar to many of us & the resulting single-coil tone is above average. The phase inversion switch, simply put, turns standard tones into honky voicings that would please funk fans more than anything else. Also, it sounds more inviting played clean than excessively driven. Bonus feature – there are treble bleed components for both pickups to keep clarity in check should you engage in some volume clean-up.
I have no idea what Epiphone was driving at when the Muse range was conceived. If there’s any modern enticements to appease contemporary players then the Prophecy series got that covered rather comprehensively. In this price range & considering the above-average playability & tone of the Muse, it’s a definite winner. There is only a $10 difference between the Muse & the Standard & they both feature the same impressive Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. In terms of wider tonal possibilities, the SG has those extra push-pull switches to keep players occupied & it’s a definite winner in my books.
Final rating: 89%
Epiphone SG Muse
- Availability: Swee Lee Co
- Price: $619
· Good default pickups with lots of clarity for distortion applications
· Impressive finish
· Coil-split & phase inversion features for a wide range of tones
· Well-cut nut slots
· Treble bleed feature for volume controls
· Tuners could have been better
· Pointless tenon cover
· No bag