MUCH better than expected...
Let me start this out by saying that I purchased this guitar not for what it is, but based on other reviews, for what I wanted to make it in to...
That being said, when I first started researching the Epiphone Les Paul Special II, not having so much as ever having seen or played one in person, I read reviews here & there & figured it was going to be a basic, entry level guitar. It had all the call signs...foreign made, relatively inexpensive, economical replacement parts, etc. Well, after receiving it, I see it's just that, an entry level guitar. But the AMAZING thing about this one that separates it from other competitively priced, entry level guitars is the EXTREMELY solid foundation you have to work with if you decide to upgrade some of it's components. I have, and you will.
The particular guitar that I chose to buy (Ebony in color) came from the Indonesian factory very solidly put together. By that I mean the neck screws and strap button screws were very tight, unlike some reviewers who had bad experiences with them being loose on their particular purchases due to improperly drilled holes, improper lengths of screws being used, etc.
The black finish was much better than I expected and i found it to be relatively flawless. It's actually a beautiful product from a distance as well as up close. I threw a few coats of wax on mine and it gives the impression that you could actually walk right in to it. I'm very pleased with the aesthetics all the way around.
I'm not going to go in depth on the electronics as I'm no expert as far as the various pick-up options for different sounds, etc. All I know is that the sounds the stock Humbucker pickups generate are more than an adequate fit for my band's genre as well as my style of playing (Rhythm Guitar - Country/Classic Rock) All I saw that needed done was to adjust the pickup height a little which I did without any problems. I really like the tones they produce and they do so without any electrical interference sounds. The pickup selector switch is spring loaded which I like. It does have a tiny electric 'snap' that emits thru my Fender Mustang V when I switch between the settings, but it's much less noticeable when I'm playing, & to be honest, it really doesn't bother me in the least. The volume & tone pots are smooth and taper very well.
The only flaws that I see in this guitar (and I call them 'flaws' because they are things that I feel should be better) are the bridge, the nut, & the tuners. I'll address these individually.
BRIDGE: The 'V' saddles that are on my particular bridge have a tendency to pinch the strings and decrease the sustain rather than being just a support structure. You may cringe when you read the next few sentences, but its how I fixed the issue I was having easily and inexpensively. I took a tool that is called a 'tip cleaner' (which is basically a set of 3" long needle files of various sizes used to resurface the existing holes in the heads of oxygen/acetylene cutting tips) and I filed the saddle for a better string fit. I took my time, testing it several times throughout the whole process until the string rang as it should. And no. No string buzz is present whatsoever because I chose the correct size tip cleaner for each saddle. I don't recommend this, but its how I fixed mine. I then adjusted the bridge height and it was good to go.
NUT: The stock nut is a cheap plastic one that likes to pinch the strings. I was going to replace the nut regardless of the fact I could throw some graphite on it & make it work for the time being. It was just one thing I was adamant about doing. The stock nut was easily removed and absolutely no damage was done to any of the finish or woods during the removal/replacement process. I replaced it with a PQL-6060-00 Graph Tech TusqXL Epiphone 1/4" Slot Nut. It was easily shaped to the action that I prefer using small files and 600 grit sandpaper. I then dabbed 2 drops of Elmer's wood glue, positioned it, and restrung it to hold it in place until it the glue dried. The whole process literally took 20 minutes and it was my first nut replacement. If you are like me & not familiar with doing this type of thing, there are some good videos on YouTube that you can watch to help. Since the replacement, several guitarists have played it and said the action is perfect. Not bragging, just letting you know that a $10 nut & 20-30 minutes of tour time can make all the difference in the world. No problems as of yet and I don't expect any.
TUNERS: The stock tuners are complete garbage. They're stiff and inconsistent, they slip and won't let the guitar stay in tune while you're playing it. Count on replacing them if you plan on playing out with this guitar and don't want to tune your guitar after every other song. They're less than worthless if there is such a thing. I replaced mine with a set of 102C Grover Rotomatic Tuners. The only problem I encountered is the stock tuners had an 8mm mounting hole, but the Grovers required a 10mm (3/8"-ish) hole, so the 6 tuner holes in the head stock had to be enlarged. I won't go into detail how I did it because it would take too long, and if misinterpreted, you could damage your headstock. But I will tell you that I took my time & used two woodworking tool called a 'reamer' and a 'rat tail' file to enlarge them. I have experience in woodworking and it was EXTREMELY easy for me to do. The tuners mounted without any problem whatsoever and I was ready to go in a little over an hour start to finish.
In a nutshell; this guitar is now one that I will use at every gig until it completely falls smooth apart. I love everything about it now and am EXTREMELY happy that I made the choice to get it. Was I lucky? Probably. But Epiphone DEFF dealt me a good hand with the Les Paul Special II.