epiphone dr 100 review

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:

  • Soundboard wood -- The soundboard (or top) of a guitar is probably the most important thing when it comes to sound. Generally, solid wood is better-sounding than laminated wood, but it is more expensive. A well-made guitar with a laminated top can still sound good, though, and laminated wood resists changes in temperature and humidity.
  • Neck profile -- Learning to play on an unplayable guitar can be extremely frustrating. And the neck profile is one of the most important things when it comes to playability. Guitars with slimmer, tapered necks and/or rolled fretboard edges tend to be easier to manage. They also help newer players avoid finger fatigue.
  • Size -- If you're a smaller person, you may find it easier to learn on a smaller 3/4-size guitar. These instruments are also more portable. But if you're a taller person or just want the sound of a full-size guitar, a standard-size instrument is a better choice.
  • Cost -- Usually, people just starting to play guitar try to purchase something more affordable in case they decide they don't want to stick with it. But don't go for the very cheapest guitar you can find, as these instruments tend to have problems with tuning stability and playability.

Our Picks for Review

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Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Martin

LX1E

Alternative

Taylor

GS Mini Mahogany

Cell

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Martin

30th Anniversary Navajoa 000RS25

Cell

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Martin

000-Jr. 10-E

Cell

Epiphone DR 100

PRO's & CON's of Epiphone DR 100

But does the DR-100 live up to your expectations? We'll take a closer look. But before we jump into our Epiphone DR 100 review, let's check out some pros and cons:

Pros

  • It's one of the most affordable full-size dreadnoughts on the market
  • SlimTaper neck profile is easy for new players to handle
  • Premium tuners and rosewood fretboard and bridge are surprising high-end touches
  • All-laminate build resists changes in humidity and temperature

Cons

  • A laminated spruce top doesn't have the same response as a solid top
  • Since its price is so low, buyers may run into minor quality control issues

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.

Martin LX1E Review 01

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.

Martin LX1E Review 02

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.

Martin LX1E Review 03

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:

Fender CD-60S

How it Compares to Epiphone DR 100

  • Its solid spruce top will "open up" and sound more nuanced over time
  • Easy-playing neck profile with rolled fretboard edges is especially easy for new players to handle
  • It also is a full-size dreadnought
  • It is slightly more expensive than the DR-100

Review

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!

Yamaha JR1

How It Compares To Epiphone DR 100

  • A smaller 3/4 body is easier for smaller players to handle
  • Laminated meranti back and sides don't have the same warmth as mahogany
  • Rosewood fingerboard is a surprising high-end touch
  • It's almost exactly the same price as the DR-100

Review

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!

Ibanez PF2MH

How It Compares To Epiphone DR 100

  • All-sapele build gives it a unique sound
  • A smaller 3/4-size body is easier to handle
  • Abalone rosette and noticeable woodgrain make it visually striking
  • It's slightly less expensive than the DR-100

Review

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.

In Conclusion

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!

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