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Are the lower priced Gibson acoustics noticbly better than an Epiphone Masterbilt?

#1 User is offline   Allenjason95 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 06:31 AM

I'm a Gibson guy when it comes to electrics but I don't know much about their acoustics. I have an Epiphone Masterbilt, I don't know the exact model, something 500, I bought it used a couple of years ago from EBay because the Masterbilts had a good rep and I wanted something better than my Chinese starter pack Fender.

Anyway, are the lower priced Gibson acoustics a good value? I don't care at all about bling on an acoustic, I actually prefer just a plain Jane dreadnaught no cutaway guitar. I've been looking at some of the lower priced Gibsons but is the difference between an Epiphone Masterbilt and a Gibson worth the price difference? And I know someone's going to reply "just play some Gibsons for yourself" but I wouldn't even know what models to play in my price range. I'm wanting some suggestions of what models to play and whether players have had good experiences with the Gibson models.

I like my Epiphone well enough but I'm not in love with its tone and like I said, I'm a Gibson guy. So any recomendations on lower end Gibson acoustics? Thanks.
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#2 User is offline   sbpark 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 06:54 AM

Different bracing, different quality of materials and construction techniques, producing guitars with a totally different sound and that feel different in the hand. As you already mentioned, you'll have to play them for yourself to decide whether it's worth it to you or not, and it really has nothing to do with bling, as the models you're most likely referring to in the Gibson line are pretty sparsely appointed in that regard. Anything with a '45" in the name in the Epiphone line is simply in name only, because it's not even going to come close to what a Gibson J45 is gong to sound like. Pick the right tool for the right job and the guitar that matches the sound you're looking for. Maybe that's an Epiphone, maybe it's a Gibson. Different animals altogether, neither better or worse or one being "with it" if it's the sound you're looking for.
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#3 User is offline   OldCowboy 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 06:58 AM

Yes, Gibsons beat hell out of Masterbilts.
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#4 User is offline   OldCowboy 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:00 AM

 Allenjason95, on 18 March 2017 - 06:31 AM, said:

I'm a Gibson guy when it comes to electrics but I don't know much about their acoustics. I have an Epiphone Masterbilt, I don't know the exact model, something 500, I bought it used a couple of years ago from EBay because the Masterbilts had a good rep and I wanted something better than my Chinese starter pack Fender.

Anyway, are the lower priced Gibson acoustics a good value? I don't care at all about bling on an acoustic, I actually prefer just a plain Jane dreadnaught no cutaway guitar. I've been looking at some of the lower priced Gibsons but is the difference between an Epiphone Masterbilt and a Gibson worth the price difference? And I know someone's going to reply "just play some Gibsons for yourself" but I wouldn't even know what models to play in my price range. I'm wanting some suggestions of what models to play and whether players have had good experiences with the Gibson models.

I like my Epiphone well enough but I'm not in love with its tone and like I said, I'm a Gibson guy. So any recomendations on lower end Gibson acoustics? Thanks.

Try a J-15.
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#5 User is offline   EuroAussie 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:03 AM

Yep, J-15 shites all over any epi ive ever come across, not even close.
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#6 User is offline   Lars68 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:06 AM

Yes, try a J-15, or a J-35. In my opinion, two of the best values of any acoustic out there today. There is absolutely nothing budget about either of these. Superb acoustics at very reasonably prices. If I was to buy my first serious acoustc, this is where I would start.

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#7 User is offline   Allenjason95 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:19 AM

View Postsbpark, on 18 March 2017 - 06:54 AM, said:

Different bracing, different quality of materials and construction techniques, producing guitars with a totally different sound and that feel different in the hand. As you already mentioned, you'll have to play them for yourself to decide whether it's worth it to you or not, and it really has nothing to do with bling, as the models you're most likely referring to in the Gibson line are pretty sparsely appointed in that regard. Anything with a '45" in the name in the Epiphone line is simply in name only, because it's not even going to come close to what a Gibson J45 is gong to sound like. Pick the right tool for the right job and the guitar that matches the sound you're looking for. Maybe that's an Epiphone, maybe it's a Gibson. Different animals altogether, neither better or worse or one being "with it" if it's the sound you're looking for.


I know the lower priced Gibsons font have the bling, I was just saying I prefer that which is why I'm interested in the lower priced models.

I get that Epiphones are OK guitars and YMMV with them. Like I said I like my Masterbilt but I've also owned a cheap Epiphone LP special that was complete garbage. I was working in North Dakota at the time and just wanted a cheap beater guitar for while I was working but holy lord was that thing awful. I ended up just giving it to a buddy. Really soured me on Epiphones. I know they're cheap but cheap or not if a guitar can't even stay in tune for a few strums they shouldn't be selling it.
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#8 User is offline   Allenjason95 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:20 AM

View PostLars68, on 18 March 2017 - 07:06 AM, said:

Yes, try a J-15, or a J-35. In my opinion, two of the best values of any acoustic out there today. There is absolutely nothing budget about either of these. Superb acoustics at very reasonably prices. If I was to buy my first serious acoustc, this is where I would start.

Lars


Thanks for the j-15 suggestion guys, that looks right up my alley. I'm going to check out some j-15 reviews/demos on YouTube.
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#9 User is offline   ThemisSal 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:27 AM

Let me also throw in the LG2 American Eagle. Not a dread, but great Gibby tone and comfortable. Chicago Music Exhange is advertising new $1395 floor models, and you can probably get it lower. It's Map is $1899. These are unloved, and not popular. The top is a little too much aging tint, but get past that and you have great electronics, a great neck, great tuners, comfortable, and a little picking and strumming buddy.
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#10 User is offline   Allenjason95 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:55 AM

View PostThemisSal, on 18 March 2017 - 07:27 AM, said:

Let me also throw in the LG2 American Eagle. Not a dread, but great Gibby tone and comfortable. Chicago Music Exhange is advertising new $1395 floor models, and you can probably get it lower. It's Map is $1899. These are unloved, and not popular. The top is a little too much aging tint, but get past that and you have great electronics, a great neck, great tuners, comfortable, and a little picking and strumming buddy.


I'll check it out. I've seen several used J-15s for less than a grand and that guitar seems my speed.
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#11 User is offline   meanstreak 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 08:28 AM

IMHO the Masterbilts are easily comparable to the lower priced Gibsons for sound. I'd say about 90% as good a sound for half the price. The main things for me are the scale length and nut width on most Gibsons vs the long scale and thinner nut on most Masterbilts.

The EF masterbilts have an extra wide nut but are long scale, the AJ-45 Masterbilt has the short scale but the thinner nut. I prefer the short scale and wider nut on most of the Gibson's but be wary of the Hummingbird Artist or Pro, both are long scale, thin nut just like most Masterbilts.


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#12 User is offline   Mafy31 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 09:35 AM

In most string instruments the finish is for a great part in the instrument ageing and vibrations.
Epi is not afaik nitro finish... and will never age like even say, a j15.
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#13 User is offline   BigKahune 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 10:32 AM

.
Epi Masterbilts are very much worth their price point. The lower priced Gibson's have made compromises to reach their price point. Fine guitars none the less. Gibson Corp is close to crossing the streams here - upping the quality of their higher priced Epiphones and making compromises on their lower priced Gibsons. IMO they are somewhat comparable, but I would give the lower priced Gibsons the edge.

If you want to save money buy the Epi Masterbilt. If you don't mind spending a bit more money buy the Gibson. . B)


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#14 User is offline   Allenjason95 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 10:55 AM

View PostBigKahune, on 18 March 2017 - 10:32 AM, said:

.
Epi Masterbilts are very much worth their price point. The lower priced Gibson's have made compromises to reach their price point. Fine guitars none the less. Gibson Corp is close to crossing the streams here - upping the quality of their higher priced Epiphones and making compromises on their lower priced Gibsons. IMO they are somewhat comparable, but I would give the lower priced Gibsons the edge.

If you want to save money buy the Epi Masterbilt. If you don't mind spending a bit more money buy the Gibson. . B)


.


Thanks, but I already own a Masterbilt. My question was if the low end Gibsons worth upgrading to. I've been looking into the J-15 and it seems to be what I'm looking for. Like I said I have very little first hand experience with acoustics and was just wanting some advice mostly.
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#15 User is offline   JuanCarlosVejar 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 10:59 AM

 BigKahune, on 18 March 2017 - 10:32 AM, said:

.
Epi Masterbilts are very much worth their price point. The lower priced Gibson's have made compromises to reach their price point. Fine guitars none the less. Gibson Corp is close to crossing the streams here - upping the quality of their higher priced Epiphones and making compromises on their lower priced Gibsons. IMO they are somewhat comparable, but I would give the lower priced Gibsons the edge.

If you want to save money buy the Epi Masterbilt. If you don't mind spending a bit more money buy the Gibson. . B)


.



BK,

What compromises are you referring to?

As far as I know they just sourced all american tone woods (no import fee) to make these guitars and offer them at a lower price point ...Construction is the same





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#16 User is offline   drathbun 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 12:29 PM

View PostOldCowboy, on 18 March 2017 - 06:58 AM, said:

Yes, Gibsons beat hell out of Masterbilts.


What he said.

Also, Masterbilts are well built and lovely playing acoustics at their price point.
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#17 User is offline   BigKahune 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 12:47 PM

View PostJuanCarlosVejar, on 18 March 2017 - 10:59 AM, said:

... As far as I know they just sourced all american tone woods (no import fee) to make these guitars and offer them at a lower price point ...Construction is the same...


Yes, for instance the J-15 swaps out mahogany body and rosewood fingerboard/bridge for walnut. An alternative wood for fingerboard and bridge. If it is just the wood, it's pretty impressive that domestic sourced walnut can save $700 on a slope price - $2199 J-45 (hog and rosewood) to $1499 J-15 (walnut and walnut).

That's a compromise of sorts in my mind - I prefer ebony or rosewood fingerboards. I recall Gibson tried using layered rosewood during the Lacey period for fingerboards and bridges in the acoustic division, and for fingerboards on certain electric models. In the electric division there were also other alternative fingerboard woods being used (Baked Maple, Obeche, Curacao De Negro). Some folks were fine with that, others, including me, weren't.


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#18 User is offline   Red 333 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 12:50 PM

I have 4 Epiphone Masterbilts and eleven Gibson acoustics. One of those Masterbilts, the AJ-500RC 12-fret is one of my favorite acoustics and very close in sound quality to a similar Gibson model, the 12-fret Stage Deluxe Rosewood, the Gibson providing a tad more focus and note separation, and more headroom (the Masterbilt has a cedar top). The Gibson, of course, exceeds the Masterbilt's quality as an object in my eyes and to my fingers. Beautiful wood and a perfect nitro finish. And what looks better than a Gibson sunburst? I doubt that would make much difference on a recording, however.

I like my guitars to look good and try to keep them in pristine condition (I don't collect vintage for this reason mainly), but that's MY particular condition for ownership. It may not be yours. What to do you want to do with your guitar? What do you want it sound like? That leads me to my next point.

The other Masterbilts are all excellent guitars. They sound fantastic and are made well. I bought all mine in the first few years they were made, and the materials and hardware are all top notch, and the workmanship is excellent. That said, they are not voiced to sound like Gibsons. They have very overtone-rich low ends, while Gibsons tend to be more focused and decay quicker; individual notes are heard more clearly. The Masterbilt low end is more cello-like, while the Gibson low-end is more muscular. Your preference should certainly be a factor in what choices you make.

I am speaking only about the slope-shouldered and square-shouldered Masterbilts. I don't have any experience with the EFs, which seem very highly regarded. The advice to try before you buy (if you can) is really the best input anyone here can give you. I've sometimes been very surprised and most pleased with some of the more modest purchases I've made (those thought to be budget quality or even "cheap"), and most disappointed with things conventionally thought of as "best." It all depends on your likes and needs and expectations. And sometimes your ability to evaluate quality despite peer pressure and marketing!

Have fun auditioning some guitars, and good luck with your search.

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#19 User is offline   Mojorule 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 01:11 PM

I haven't tried enough of either category to pass judgement. However...

I would like to try a Masterbilt AJ45ME because it might be a decent beater/busker/back-up for my Southern Jumbo. As Meanstreak pointed out, it has the 24.75-inch scale length of the cheaper Gibsons listed here (J15, J35), and its narrower nut is still over 1 11/16 inches, so just a smidgen narrower than the usual Gibson 1.725-inch nuts. Many vintage Gibson slope shoulders have 1 11/16 nuts, like your Gibson electrics presumably have, so we're not talking about a super-narrow Korean Epiphone nut from the 1990s. Online videos of this model vary, but in some comparisons, it sounds very much like I would expect a Gibson J45 to sound. So far I've not encountered one of these guitars in a store. Still, most people here who have tried Masterbilts rate them very highly: they're considered a genuine cut above standard Epi fare, like your LP or even my old Korean Casino (from the much-touted Peerless factory, but not all that to be honest).

The only J35 I've had a chance to try out in our local big box store was very nice, lightly constructed (generally considered a good thing among acoustic players), well set-up and had a nice tone. What it didn't have were the thumping bass and growl I get from my SJ, despite being a very similar guitar (same wood types, same shape, same scale length). The J35 does have different bracing, which can make a significant difference in tone, but if anything the advanced bracing pattern in the J35 seems to be associated with additional thump in the bass and more growl in the mids. The example I played was very polite and not what I consider typically 'Gibson'. I've never seen a J15 in real life.

I think that you would do well to compare an AJ45ME with a J35, as they are constructed along similar lines: short-scale, slope-shoulder dreads, with solid sitka spruce tops, solid mahogany back and sides, and mahogany necks. For comparability, they are the most appropriate pair.

The J15 is much the same in design, but with American walnut back and sides and a maple neck. Walnut is supposed to have tonal qualities between mahogany and rosewood, and the maple neck might contribute a snappier aspect, so the guitar ought to sound different. Online, though, some samples actually seem to have more thump than certain J35s, making them seem more 'mahogany' than the guitars made with mahogany.

Still, in the end, every guitar is different, and this is even truer of acoustics than electrics: the individual pieces of wood in combination have a much more immediate impact on the sound of the instrument.

One significant difference to bear in mind between the J35 and the AJ45ME is neck profile: the Epiphone is supposed to have a slim-taper D profile neck (sounds like a typical Gibson electric neck), whereas the J35 has a very chunky neck (a more vintage feel - the one I tried was a lot chunkier than my SJ's neck, and similar to a VOS '58 RI ES335 neck that I've tried). I'm not sure about the J15 neck, but I've read reports that it is also quite a handful. How chunky do you like your necks?

Your current Masterbilt is a longer, 25.5-inch scale instrument, and so will sound and feel different. In deciding what if any Gibson you want to buy, you need to work out if the cheaper models have the tonal and feel characteristics you seek. There are no cheaper long-scale Gibsons, for example. Do you actually like the sound of classic Gibson short-scale jumbos (J45, J50, Southern Jumbo, Country and Western, J35, Original Jumbo)? Do you like the feel of the shorter scale? It's quite possible to be a Gibson guy on the electric side and be something else on the acoustic side. Or vice-versa: the J45's workhorse image is closer to the ethos of the Telecaster than to the Les Paul's glamour, for example.
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#20 User is offline   chasAK 

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 02:00 PM

Isn't there still a sizable price difference between the two?


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