If you're getting ready to purchase your first guitar, the options may seem endless. There's a wealth of affordable guitars out there, but some are much better than others. Today, we'll be taking a look at one of the most affordable guitars offered by Epiphone, Gibson's budget brand. Epiphone has a fairly good reputation for offering guitars with excellent value.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Beginner Acoustic Guitar
Buying a guitar as a beginner can be a real challenge. As you search, it may help to keep a few essential factors in mind:
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Features and Benefits
Now we'll take a closer look at the DR-100's key features.
Tonewoods and Body Style
Like many starter guitars, the DR-100 is a dreadnought. This body style is named after a large battleship, and it's the most popular acoustic guitar body style. The dreadnaught strikes a great balance between focused tone and interesting, complex overtones. Check out this fascinating documentary if you want to learn more about the dreadnought's history!
The body style is an important part of any guitar's construction, but the tonewoods used are incredibly important as well. It's crucial to note that the DR-100 is made of all laminated woods. It's true that guitars with solid tops tend to sound better with age. But a well-made laminate top guitar like this one can still sound surprisingly good.
Laminate also has the advantage of being able to withstand changes in temperature and humidity much better than solid wood can, so the DR-100 makes a great travel guitar, too.
The laminated top of this instrument is made of spruce, while the back and sides are made of laminated mahogany. This is a classic combination that strikes a beautiful tonal balance. Spruce is bright and responsive while mahogany is warm and more midrange focused.
The neck of this guitar is made of mahogany. You might not think that the neck of a guitar would shape its sound in any meaningful way. But neck material does make a major difference. Mahogany adds substantial warmth to the sound of an acoustic guitar.
It's also a much higher quality neck wood than you usually find on affordable guitars -- many have necks made of nato or similar inexpensive wood.
Neck and Playability
If you've ever tried to learn to play guitar on a very cheaply made instrument, you know how frustrating it can be. A guitar's neck shape is central to its playability. This video offers some interesting insight into the many neck shapes and profiles out there.
The Epiphone DR-100 has Epiphone's SlimTaper neck profile. This profile is slimmer than the necks that you normally see on acoustic guitars. That's advantageous for newer players -- it reduces hand and finger fatigue.
The rosewood fretboard is also easy on your fingers. Rosewood is one of the primary woods used for fretboards -- it's beautiful and extremely durable, so it isn't likely to develop pitting over time.
The action (height of strings above the frets) is another very important part of playability. Many guitarists complain about inexpensive guitars arriving with very high action. However, the DR-100 has low, playable action right out of the box. It has a relatively standard scale length of 25.5".
It's important to mention that a full-size dreadnaught body can be a little bulky for smaller players to manage. It may be a bit of an adjustment (or you may ultimately decide that you would prefer a 3/4-size instrument. The DR-100 also does not come with a cutaway.
This has the advantage of giving the guitar a slightly fuller sound. However, if you need to play notes past the 12th fret, it can make things a bit more challenging.
Sound and Tone Quality
If you ask most guitarists what they think a guitar in this price range would sound like, they probably won't have very high expectations. But the DR-100 sounds like a much more expensive instrument. It has a surprising amount of sustain on chords and individual notes. There's a strong fundamental, but you still get rich overtones, too.
As you can see in this video demo, this is a guitar that sounds great when played into a quality condenser microphone. It has a decent tone for a guitar of any price. But given its very low price tag, the sound of the DR-100 is truly astounding.
We do want to note that this is an all-acoustic guitar -- it does not come with any electronics. But for most beginners (or more experienced players in need of a travel or campfire guitar), that shouldn't be an issue.
Finish and Appointments
It's especially important to look closely at the appointments of any inexpensive guitar. This is an area where many of them fall short. In particular, cheaper guitars tend to have very cheap tuners. These tuners tend to not hold tune well, and that's extremely frustrating for any player -- maybe even more so for someone just learning guitar.
Luckily, the DR-100 is unusually well-appointed. Its Epiphone Premium tuners look nice while keeping it in tune for even very long practice sessions. It also has a rosewood bridge to match its rosewood fretboard -- a nice touch you don't usually see on guitars this affordable.
As you'd expect, the nut, saddle, and bridge pins are made of plastic. However, all of these are easy enough to upgrade if you'd like to.In terms of finish, you get more choices than you normally get with a very affordable instrument. It comes in Natural, Ebony, or Vintage Sunburst finishes. Check out this video to see the Vintage Sunburst finish under stage lights.
Social Proof of the Guitar
Buying a guitar online comes with its challenges. One of those is not being able to try out instruments before you buy. Reading an Epiphone DR 100 review or two can help you make a decision. Here are a few informative ones we found.
This highly complimentary review is a great endorsement. After all, you might be concerned about the fact that the DR-100 does not have a solid top. But at least in this player's opinion, this is a guitar that really punches above its weight.
This Epiphone DR 100 review echoes what almost every one of the reviews we found said -- that this guitar is an outstanding value. That's good to know, as many guitars in this price range are challenging to play, tonally dull, or both.
It's always valuable to seek out some of the downsides of a given instrument. This player did find a couple of imperfections, but it's important to remember that these are minor issues you almost always run into with less expensive guitars. Overall, though, this person was still impressed with the DR-100.
Alternatives to Epiphone DR 100
Before committing to the DR-100, it might help to see some of the other beginner-friendly acoustic guitars out there. Here are three alternatives:
How it Compares to Epiphone DR 100
Like Epiphone, Fender (and its budget brand, Squier) makes several affordable acoustic guitars ideal for beginners. The CD-60S is a little more expensive than the DR-100, but it does have a solid top -- a significant advantage.
If you have a little more to spend on a solid-top starter guitar, make sure you check this one out!
How It Compares To Epiphone DR 100
Yamaha is another company that makes guitars that deliver great value for the money. This one is a smaller version of some of the guitars in the best-selling FG (folk guitar) series -- it's a 3/4 size dreadnaught. Like the DR-100, it has a laminated spruce top. The JR1's shorter scale length and slim neck profile make it a great choice for new guitarists who have smaller hands.
If you like the DR-100 but would prefer a smaller instrument, make sure you give this one a look!
How It Compares To Epiphone DR 100
If you want something a little different from your typical beginner's guitar, this 3/4-size Ibanez might be your answer. It's made of all laminated sapele. Sapele has a sound that's roughly between the brightness of spruce and the warmth of mahogany. Plus, it's the most affordable guitar on the list!
If you want to start learning on something different, this pretty little guitar is worth checking out.
Overall, despite the fact that it doesn't have a solid top, we think that the Epiphone DR-100 is a perfect guitar for new players. Its sound is remarkably full and nuanced for an inexpensive guitar. Plus, its neck is designed to be comfortably playable for those with smaller hands and those who just want to avoid hand fatigue.
And perhaps most importantly, it offers an amazingly rich, natural sound for the price. If you want a starter guitar that looks and sounds more expensive than it is, look no further than the DR-100. Click here to check it out!