If you’ve ever found yourself thinking “They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” then you may be pleasantly surprised by this Epihphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE review. It certainly has the looks, and the makers claim that it delivers too.
While many guitarists now associate Epiphone with cheap Gibson imitations, that’s a small part of this fabled guitar manufacturer. The original Masterbilts appeared in 1931 and left a big imprint on the contemporary music scene.
With the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE, they aim to breathe new life into this old classic. Let’s see how well they did it.
The all-solid wood design gives the Epiphone Masterbilt DR500MCE a full retro sound. Furthermore, they’ve used old-school construction techniques to make it more true to the ‘30s both in tone and feel. For example, the hand-scalloped bracing helps with that authentic retro tone.
It’s quite rare to find an all-solid guitar in this price range where most guitars seem to use laminate bodies and spliced necks these days. Thanks to the real bone nut and saddle, you get a bright tone that rings out slowly.
While it’s mostly a vintage guitar, the D-profile SlimTaper neck provides modern playability. Plus, you get an adjustable truss rod to fine-tune the string action to your preference, as well as a powerful preamp system.
The neck gives you 20 frets, connecting at the 14th. Its fingerboard consists of rosewood, as does the bridge, and stylish pearloid inlays highlight key frets. In traditional fashion, the scale length is 25.5 inches.
Under the hood, the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE hosts an eSonic-2HD stereo preamp with a Shadow NanoMag pickup in the neck position and a NanoFlex under the bridge. In addition to the main volume knob, you get an EQ dial for each pickup and a blend slider for choosing between and balancing their signals. You can also flip the phase with a button to counter feedback and phasing issues.
Plus, there’s a built-in tuner. And there are two output jacks, so you can play in stereo.
All in all, these features give you a rich and natural tone with generous customization options.
You can get an Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE in stylish vintage sunburst or natural spruce finishes. Both come with a glossy topcoat that adds strength and shine. The classic combination of a deep sunburst gradient and a tortoiseshell pickguard has a timeless look that’s ideal for jazz, country, and blues – or any genre, for that matter.
How the Ephiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE Plays
Nothing stands out much about the ergonomics of the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE, but it offers easy playability. For example, the action is low and smooth, which I consider essential for a steel-stringed guitar. Thanks to the slim, hand-shaped neck and the deep cutaway, playing fast and complex chords or licks is easy along the whole fretboard. If you’re into flatpicking and fingerstyle, an Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE is a great fit.
You will notice on Epiphones website that they claim the guitar is "Plek'd for ultimate playability". This means that they use a special machine, called a Plek, to scan the neck, file the frets, and ensure the guitar has the best setup it can possibly have when it gets to you. I've personally paid $200 to have my guitar plek'd and it was well worth the money. You can rest assured that the guitar will play in tune and have no buzzing frets if it has been plek'd. This is killer value.
The solid mahogany body gives it that thick, authentic old-school guitar sound. It’s a sweet tone with clear highs and rich lows that bloom as the notes resonate. Whether you’re strumming, fingerpicking, or flatpicking, the sound is bold and clear. When I hear the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE, it sounds much more expensive than it is. When you plug it in, the beautiful tone comes through how it should.
Believe it or not, the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE only costs between $600 and $700 depending on the vendor. For an all-solid electro-acoustic guitar with proper quality components, that’s an incredible price. Clearly one of the best acoustic guitars under $1,000.
Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE VS Yamaha A3M
Yamaha’s A3M has the same all-solid spruce and mahogany design, but it’s a 19-fretter with a 23.65-inch scale length. In the electronics department, it has a signature Yamaha S.R.T setup that blends piezo and microphone signals. As for controls, it gives you a three-band EQ.
Overall, the two guitars are similar in terms of features and functionality as well as price. If you’re interested in the A3M, check it out here.
Pros & Cons
An in-depth Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE review can be a lot to take in. Let’s go over the key insights in a simpler format.
- All-solid tonewoods
- Gorgeous vintage design
- Thin neck for comfort and speed
- High-quality electronics
- Affordable price
With these features, it’s easy to see why they call it Masterbilt. It really stands out among Epiphone guitars.
- Somewhat heavy
- Limited EQ range
There isn’t much to complain about with the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE. All-solid guitars weigh a bit more than laminate ones, so it may feel somewhat heavy to some guitarists.
While the EQ won’t make any drastic cuts, that won’t be necessary with the balanced tone of the guitar.
Is the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE the Best Vintage Electro-Acoustic for You?
Looking at the materials and the price, it’s hard not to fall for the Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE. Playing it and hearing the sound reinforces the feeling. Altogether, it’s a beautiful high-value guitar that should suit all vintage guitar needs. Check it out here! I hope this Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE review has helped with your decision. Stay tuned for more guitar reviews and lessons.
Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE John Holloway Rating: 5 out of 5