Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE Review – Vintage Masterpiece

As we creep into the higher end of affordable acoustic guitars, one name is still well represented – Epiphone. Although the Gibson subsidiary are more often associated with the entry-level market, their electro-acoustic DR-500MCE – part of the renown Masterbilt series – looks like an interesting prospect for the serious acoustic player, with all solid wood construction, vintage design and gig-worthy electronics. Let’s check it out!

Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE Body

Body And Neck

With a scale length of 25.5”, the DR-500MCE shows off an attractive single-cutaway dreadnought body constructed entirely of solid woods – solid Sitka spruce on the top, with solid mahogany used on the back and sides. This is all finished with a vintage sunburst finish, although a natural version also exists, should the former be a little too seasoned for your tastes. From the body emerges a one-piece satin-finished mahogany neck, glued into place at the 14th fret. This is both fast and very comfortable to get around for both fingerstyle and flatpicking, with a SlimTaper D profile, a rosewood fretboard and 20 medium frets. With a quality build and set-up, some stylish detailing adds to the vintage appeal of the DR-500MCE, including pearloid split diamond inlays on the fretboard, a classic imitation tortoiseshell pickguard, and a really cool offset ‘haircut’ headstock which finishes the design off very nicely.

Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE Headstock

Hardware

As well as a good-looker, this baby is fitted with quality components that keep it in good shape. On the aforementioned vintage headstock sit six Grover Sta-Tite nickel machine heads with a ratio of 18:1 and historic tuning keys, while just below is a quality bone nut, followed by a rosewood bridge and bone saddle. However, this is also an electro-acoustic, so it would be a crime if we didn’t talk about the eSonic-2 Stereo preamp, which is a very suitable system for gigging. This is fitted with Shadow’s NanoFlex undersaddle pickup as well as their NanoMag pickup at the end of the fingerboard, allowing for a hugely flexible system. This is complemented by a decent control panel including tone controls for both pickups, a phase switch, and stereo blend, although it does lack individual mid, bass and treble controls. Still, along with a built-in tuner, this system is very versatile and makes the guitar sound great.

Sound

Unplugged, the DR-500MCE is a powerful acoustic with a robust voice and lovely tone. The classic pairing of solid Sitka spruce and solid mahogany ensures it sits in the middle of warm and bright, with good low end. Through the preamp the acoustic sound is amplified naturally and – thanks to the two pickups – you can find the perfect live tone, whatever the venue or amplification system, while the phase switch keeps your feedback in check.

Conclusion

The vintage Masterbilt DR-500MCE is a superb acoustic guitar that’s just as happy strummed around a campfire as it is on stage. With a solid build quality, slick feel, flexible stereo electronics, and smart attention to detail, this is another winner from Epiphone, and hard to fault – especially when you consider the relatively wallet-friendly price.

For more info about the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE, click here.
For more acoustic guitar under $1000 you might like, click here.


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Comments

  1. After traveling the world with my Martins many years ago, I have recently gotten back into playing and I bought one of these and I really like it. Playing it onstage may not impress the bluegrass/Martin listeners, but one of the benefits of being older is I don’t really care what others think as much. This guitar sounds great and plays well and that’s all I need. Since we’re always at the mercy of a P.A. and a sound person, small differences you might hear comparing guitars in a music store disappear onstage. I’m getting ready to buy another one as backup when I break a string.

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