joepassOver the years Epiphone have produced many varied quality Arch Top Guitars – Among their best known sits the Joe Pass Emperor II – produced in association of the great Jazz player Joe Pass (1929 – 1994) and first released just prior to Joe’s death.

Made in Korea – the Joe Pass Emperor sits within Epiphone’s current family of Archtops which include guitars like the Regent and the Wildkat – unlike these other pieces it’s clear from the moment that you pickup this instrument that it was built for one thing – Jazz.

Firstly, Epiphone have done a fine job with the aesthetics, the finish and the hardware really look the business, the natural finish in particular looks stunning offset against the rosewood fingerboard and dark headstock with it’s gold motifs – This is all finished by a reproduction of Joe Pass’s signature on the pickguard.

The Guitar has a scale Length of 24.75” and the control layout is standard Gibson fare with two tone and two volume controls and a 3 way pickup selector switch. With a laminated maple body and spruce top – the guitar isn’t the loudest archtop we’ve ever come across when played acoustically and the rosewood bridge does limit the sustain a little – but for most that won’t be too noticeable.

Plugged in however it really does deliver. Epiphone have released many classic Jazzer’s over the years and the Joe Pass Emperor fits neatly into this niche. Electronics wise the Joe Pass Emperor comes fitted with two Epiphone Humbucker pickups routed into the top (similar to a ES175s). Amped up it’s nice and responsive with a well produced articulate sound.

With the tone rolled back and the pickup selector centered this archtop produces what it was built for, a really authentic Jazz tone with plenty of warmth, very reminiscent of it’s dearly departed sponsor. Stock Epiphone pickups are often berated by enthusiasts but don’t be too deterred here – if your after classic jazz tones then the Joe Pass Emperor delivers. The neck pickup offers a wonderful rhythm tone and the bridge offers just enough treble and bite to make your leads sing.

One thing to note is that guitar doesn’t benefit from too much overdrive – treat it mean and it will squeal especially if your amp is set to max and your stood too close- this one needs to be treated with a little respect especially live, where you’ll need your PA to do it’s job rather than push your amp to 10.

With the Joe Pass Emperor II, from the outset you need to consider what it is and what it isn’t – versatility isn’t it’s thing – yep it’ll do rock-abilly and blues but this thing was built for Jazz – don’t expect it to be a metal axe. For it’s price (retail at around $700) it’s a great deal and for those looking for a jazz box at a keen price need look no further.
Epiphone Guitars

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