Epiphone started it’s enterprise in 1873 and has made a considerable mark on popular music up until current. Used by artists from all idioms and all periods, George van Eps (Jazz), Hank Garland (country), John Lee Hooker (Blues), various members of the Beatles and modern acts such as the Strokes, Gary Clark Jr and Joe Bonnamassa.
Both a friend and a student of mine recently got hold of two Epiphone archtop models in particular that I was interested in looking into, the Casino and Sheraton II model. Both undoubtedly highly regarded Epiphone models in their own right. Famed Bluesman John Lee Hooker played on a Sheraton and claimed that the Sheraton II was an out did 335, whilst the Casino is sought after due to its close connection with the members of the Beatles that used it and other brit pop bands since.
I myself used to own an Epiphone Dot, it was my first archtop guitar that I got hold of when I was getting into jazz. It’s basically modeled after Gibson’s ES 335, and is a more financially accessible model than a Gibson. I didn’t include info on it in this blog but thought I would bring it up as it remains an integral part of the Epiphone archtop range. You can follow this link to see a short discussion of the three models https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q66CaEVs5gc
I’m not going to delve too much into the history of Epiphone or the two models, rather just a very brief review/summary of the main specs that I could find on them and some links to demo’s so you can see and hear how the two models compare to each other.
The Casino has a 5 ply maple body with basswood top and has a complete hollow body, so playing unplugged will provide more volume. Whereas as the Sheraton II has a laminated maple body with a mahogany centre block which runs through it, so not a complete hollow body but it is less susceptible to feedback at higher volumes and has more sustain.
The Casino has P-90 single coil pickups, which tends to lead to more of a jangly pop type of sound whereas the Sheraton II has Alnico humbucker pickups which as a whole can be a more meaty sound some claim it to be more clear or glassy.
Another big feature which people talk about when comparing these two models is the neck. The Casino has less upper fret access whereas the Sheraton II has easier access for the higher frets which can be a preferred item for lead players. Certain rhythm players seek out the Casino due to the pickups and the complete hollow body sound (often associated with John Lennon’s accompaniment sound). In their case the upper fret access doesn’t really bother them as they don’t use it in pursuit of their needs.
It really boils down to taste in the end! In terms of visuals you can view the official Epiphone page to see the finishes and looks of the Casino and Sheraton II. The Sheraton II has gold hardware whereas the Casino has silver. I personally like the look of the natural finish of the Sheraton II with the gold hardware, however in the discussion link I placed below, it was said that the gold hardware does often flake off after a while and can look pretty bad.
From what I found online they both retail for around the same price. I’m not sure how each music store will handle their pricings though, you may need to inquire at your closest music shop to find out.
Once again Visuals also tend to taste, so I will leave you with a couple links for you to see and hear both instruments to make up your own mind :)
Official Epiphone Sheraton II page, with all details of the specs and finishes etc.
Official Epiphone Casino page, with all details of the specs and finishes etc.
Two Reviews by Greg Koch so you can hear the sound of each.
Review of Epiphone Sheraton II
Review of Epiphone Casino by
A very informative discussion on the topic on the official Gibson forum.