Here we have an innovative steel-string acoustic from Gibson’s respected subsidiary Epiphone, which comes with the accolade of being ‘designed by professionals to be easy to play’. It looks very similar to Epiphone’s popular DR-100, which we feature in our article on the best cheap acoustics on the market today, but the PRO-1 is a little more expensive. So let’s find out if it justifies the higher price tag.
As usual with Epiphone guitars, the PRO-1 looks great – with a classic full-sized dreadnought body shape and a reduced 24.75” scale length (slightly smaller than the DR-100), that comes in several eye-catching colors. These include Blueburst, Wine Red and Ebony, although the natural finish is just as appealing and shows off the woods of the guitar nicely. On that topic, the top of the body is made of laminated select spruce (along with Epiphone’s own bracing style), with a laminated select mahogany back and sides.
The neck is a highlight – made of mahogany with Epiphone’s EZ-Profile C shape, which is designed for comfort. Adding to the playability is a well-lubricated rosewood fretboard and 20 JumboPRO frets, which are huge and make it easier to fret notes. Taking in to consideration the well-designed neck, the jumbo frets, and the short scale length (which makes the strings a little easier to play), the guys at Epiphone pretty much score full marks for their design of the PRO-1.
Sticking with their promise of making things feel and sound better for beginners (and the rest of us!), the PRO-1 comes fitted with some good hardware. This includes a rosewood bridge, which doesn’t utilize bridge pins, meaning – in theory – string changes should be easier. On the bridge you’ll find a GraphTech NuBone compensated saddle and a matching nut, which is much more durable and consistent than plastic, and has similar tonal properties to GraphTech’s more premium Tusq material. At the top of the guitar, on the metal badge-plated headstock, there are six deluxe tuners, with an upgraded 18:1 gear ratio for a smooth tuning action. Finally, the PRO-1 comes with low gauge strings (again, simple to fret) and a humidifier, which is a nice touch from Epiphone, allowing you to store your guitar in optimum conditions.
So the style and hardware offer great bang for your buck. Does it sound any good? In short – yes it does. While it still has the vibe of a cheaper guitar and won’t age as well as a solid top model, the PRO-1 is quite crisp and vibrant in tone, with plenty of natural resonance thanks to the dreadnought body shape.
The effort Epiphone have gone to to avoid making just another ‘cheap guitar’ is commendable, and the beginner-friendly ergonomics of the PRO-1’s body and neck are a real benefit. For such a wallet-friendly price you really wonder how they do it. For beginners, or even experienced players looking for an affordable acoustic to practice on, you may struggle to find something better than Epiphone’s impressive PRO-1.