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The ’70s were strange days for Epiphone. The early part of the decade saw a shift from US to Japanese production. And after enjoying the benefits of being under Gibson’s wing for over a decade, Gibson’s parent company relegated Epiphone to subordinate status, and the company was left to fend for itself in an ever-growing sea of budget import knockoffs.
Things weren’t all bad though. Epiphone would go on to release a brood of acoustics including the Monticello, Presentation, and Nova series, as well as their now cult-classic scroll-cut guitars (SC 350, 450, and 550). Just before the ’80s hit, they snuck in one more closet classic, the Genesis. Designer Jim Walker had hopes of creating a completely fresh company identity in the form of the Genesis, and he aimed to lasso a younger generation of players with coil-tapping versatility and double-cut design. Unfortunately, the Genesis only enjoyed production for a few years in Taiwan before retiring from the market. Now some 30 years later, Epiphone has reissued a limited run of these horned warriors, dubbed the Genesis Deluxe PRO.
A Double-Cut Classic
Just like Walker’s original design, the Genesis reissue glistens with both vintage vibe and forward-looking, player-centric features. The double-cut body has a similar appeal as Yamaha’s own ’70s cult favorite solidbodies, though the Epi’s slightly rounded horns visually splits the difference between a Yamaha and a Danelectro U2. As on the originals, the Genesis body and set neck are mahogany, and the body is capped by a maple top. Trapezoid inlays mark the length of the 22-fret rosewood fretboard, and Grover tuners and a LockTone Tune-o-matic-style bridge with stop tailpiece anchor the strings at either end of the instrument.
All the reissues have a flame-top finish, gold hardware, and single-ply, cream binding. Pickups are an Epiphone-designed ProBucker-2 in the neck and a ProBucker-3 in the bridge. The latter is a little hotter than the neck pickup (though raising the neck pickup a touch helped even the output.) Where the original Genesis had one tone control and used a DPDT switch to enable coil-tapping, the Deluxe PRO employs push/pull pots and separate tone controls for each pickup. This allows you to split the neck, bridge, or both pickups by simply pulling up on the volume knob (or knobs) for either or both pickups. Factor in the 3-way pickup selector and you have a trove of available tone configurations.
Removing the back plate reveals the quick-connect PCB push/pull pots. Having installed a set of standard push/pulls into a Les Paul, I can say these units streamline the installation process, though they can potentially be more difficult to repair than a circuit connected with a good ’ol soldering iron. On the Genesis, they look plenty sturdy though, and the rest of the wiring is clean. Epiphone also added a bit of foil shielding to the inside of the back plate, which is good for RF noise abatement if you’ve tapped into single-coil mode.
Switching Up the Game
Coil-tapping capabilities are a real asset if you’re trying to keep stage gear to a minimum. Sometimes you just need that single coil-bite and the chunkiness of humbuckers, and coil taps conveniently let you access both without switching guitars. As you’d expect, tapped single-coils generate less output than the humbuckers.
I plugged the Genesis into a clean silverface Bassman with a matching 2x12 cab. With humbuckers selected, the Genesis, perhaps not surprisingly, does a convincing Les Paul imitation that tends toward the brighter side of that guitar’s voice. Single-notes have a blues-tinged bite that you’d expect from a vintage-voiced axe, especially through the darker 6L6 Fender circuit. By pushing the Bassman into higher gain regions, the bridge pickup resonates and sings with a Mick Taylor “Street Fighting Man” kind of fury. Though super high-gain environments find the pickups delivering less detail. And the neck pickup is certainly fat enough if you’d rather play the Richards role.
Using the single-coil tap gives you a lot of extra versatility, but again, you’ll have to devote a little practice to coping with the volume drop if you plan on switching modes onstage—especially within a single song. One of the coolest configurations comes from splitting the neck pickup and leaving the bridge as a humbucker. In this setup, the neck unit delivers a sweet, sustaining chime that rings with that familiar mahogany-and-maple warmth and immediacy, and switching to the bridge pickup generates a boost in high-end content and cut that works well for solo work—a nice little trick that sidesteps the need for a booster pedal.
In general, the ProBuckers in split configuration sound very full, retaining low-end heft and adding the treble sting of single-coils, though you won’t get super-twangy tones in the vein of a Telecaster. P-90 comparisons might be more fitting, especially when you’ve rolled off the tone control a touch.
Smaller amps seem to enhance the volume discrepancy between humbucker and single-coil settings, probably because they have less low-end potency to begin with. But you can still reap the benefits of the split coil’s clean-to-dirty potential. Regardless of amp size, the ProBuckers interact with effects pedals beautifully. Like many fuzz freaks, I love the sound of an aggressive buzz-saw tone coupled with single-coils, and it was a breeze to generate paisley-hued, Summer-of-Love tones with a Fulltone Octafuzz in the mix.
Epiphone’s Genesis reissue is a very well-built guitar for the $499 street price, and easily stands up to a lot of more expensive instruments in terms of fit and finish. Apart from the nice balance and playability, the big plus with the Genesis is the coil-tapping capability, and if crafting more sonic options via your pickups makes more sense than hauling around an additional instrument, this is a very affordable alternative—and certainly easier than retrofitting your current ax. Ultimately, the versatile Genesis has the ability to transform your tone palette. And this is not just through new pickup configurations, but a result of how your pedalboard can sound without ever switching instruments. And whether you’re an old hand at these techniques or just testing the waters, the Genesis is a very rewarding partner for the exploration.
Watch our video demo: