Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar Review

A short while ago I decided that I wanted to try to find a good beginner's acoustic guitar. It took a while because there are dozens of different models, but eventually I settled on the Epiphone DR-100. In this post I'll detail why I chose that guitar and what alternatives there are.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Beginner's Acoustic Guitar

When it comes to acoustics, the two most important factors are build quality and wood choice. Different woods create very different tones. In addition, better build quality means more durability and consistency of sound and less upkeep.

The Epiphone DR-100

Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar

The Epiphone DR-100 is an introductory acoustic guitar from one of the world's most popular guitar brands. Its choice of woods and attention to detail in the construction separate it from the many competing instruments at the $100 price point. The guitar has a tone like a significantly more expensive guitar by making intelligent use of design and materials. It is versatile enough to play just about anything and it supports learning for new guitarists. It also makes a good gigging guitar.

  • Features an ambidextrous design, so it can be played by lefties or rightist
  • Solid spruce top produces clear sound
  • Guitar travels well and may be a good, sturdy option for kids or a backup guitar for gigs
  • Sharp frets may present a challenge for beginners who haven’t built up callouses
  • Needs frequent tuning to keep its solid sound
  • Tuning machines may wear out quickly and need replacing more than other guitars

Features and Benefits

Woods and Construction

The DR-100 is made of mahogany in the body and the neck. This gives it a lovely warm tone. The top layer is select spruce, which isn't the best choice because it tends to be flat, but for this price it is hard to do better. The body is well-built and has higher than average sound projection. The fingerboard is made of rosewood and is fairly easy to play.

Sound

The tone is warm due to the presence of mahogany. It would have better sustain if the neck joint had more attention, but it is hard to expect better for a $120 guitar. The sound is comparable to an intermediate guitar in all respects besides sustain. The DR-100 is easily good enough to be used for a performance if necessary. The tone will sound good with either nylon or steel strings depending on your preferred style, and it is easy enough to play fingerstyle rather than with a pick. The tuners generally keep the tone in tune for a reasonable amount of use.

Value

The DR-100 doesn't sound or feel at all cheap. It looks like Epiphone made a real effort to build an accessible and beginner-friendly guitar that wouldn't compromise on the tone. It sounds like some of the $400 acoustics on the market. The value of a good beginner instrument is that it does not need to be replaced or upgraded for a long time, which lowers the potential financial commitment to learning to play. It should last years without losing any of its sound or projection. It probably cannot handle tapping, but it will fit into essentially any genre.

​Rating

Design

4

Performance

3

Construction

3

Value for the Money

5

User Satisfaction

4

Alternatives

Fender FA-100 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Pack

Fender FA-100 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Pack

The FA-100 is Fender's version of the DR-100. It costs $150 and comes with a gig bag, tuner, strap, and pick. That makes it attractive for the extras alone. The body shape is slightly more elongated but otherwise almost exactly the same. The wood is not quite as good, using agathis and basswood rather than mahogany for the body. The main differences are really the body shape and the extra parts of the kit.

Comparison

Fender FA-100

Price: $150

Wood: Agathis and Basswood

Special Features: Comes with bag, strap, tuner, and pick

Epiphone DR-100

Price: $120

Wood: Mahogany and Rosewood

Special Features: Strong projection

Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar

Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar

The Jasmine S35 is a budget choice at $100. It has a body of nato and agathis. The body shape is dreadnought, just like the previous two guitars. The top is spruce and the fingerboard is rosewood. The S35 is a no-frills choice that doesn't sound quite as good as the DR-100, but it saves a little money and it is still a solid option.

Comparison

Jasmine S35

Price: $100

Wood: Agathis and Nato

Special Features: Chrome tuners

Epiphone DR-100

Price: $120

Wood: Mahogany and Rosewood

Special Features: Strong projection

Yamaha Gigmaker

Yamaha Gigmaker

Yamaha isn't quite as mainstream as Epiphone or Fender, but they do make guitars. Tne Gigmaker is their answer to the intro acoustic guitar pack. For $170, it contains a guitar, a gig bag, a pick, a strap, a tuner, a set of steel strings, and a DVD of some introductory guitar lessons. The guitar body is meranti and spruce. The big value of this package is the DVD. If you already have a teacher, it probably won't be useful. But if you want some guidance, it's a good place to start.

Comparison

Yamaha Gigmaker

Price: $170

Wood: Meranti and Spruce

Special Features: Comes with bag, strap, tuner, pick, strings, and instructional DVD

Epiphone DR-100

Price: $120

Wood: Mahogany and Rosewood

Special Features: Strong projection

Final Thoughts

The introductory acoustic guitar market is a competitive one, with plenty of guitar makers churning out cheap instruments to meet demand. The DR-100 from Epiphone stands out by creating an appealing and warm tone through good wood selection and a good design. There are some other guitars in this price range of sub-$200 guitars that also sound fairly good. It pays to do research ahead of time because there are so many models that it is easy to buy a poorly-made guitar.

Stephanie Su
 

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