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StRanger7032

Opinions on Masterbilt AJ guitars

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I visited my local guitar shop today looking for a second acoustic guitar that I could take out to bluegrass jam sessions without worrying too much about it getting dinged up. I've been taking a very nice and somewhat collectible guitar to the jam nights so far and I really don't want to put it at risk of damage.

 

I looked at some lower to mid-end Taylors, which were good. I played a few PRS acoustics, which were loud, but the necks were huge. I also tried one of the new premium solid wood Fenders, which I didn't like at all. I finally tried an Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500-something. I liked it a lot. The owner of the shop said he used to be a Gibson/Epiphone dealer years ago, and the guitar was from 2008-2010, new old stock. He found another one that had been a demo for years and had some big dents on it. He offered me the mint one for $400 and the dented one for $300 without a case or gig bag.

 

Does that sound like a good deal, and what do you guys think about these guitars in terms of quality? I'm sorry that I don't have the exact model number, but it looks like a Gibson J-series (slope shoulder, sitka/rosewood). The only thing I don't like is the satin finish, but I can live with that considering the way it sounds and plays. Would you get the dented up one for $100 less?

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He offered me the mint one for $400 and the dented one for $300 without a case or gig bag.

 

$400 is not bad for the mint one. Oh, but you want a beater? You could try for $250, but there are no used Masterbilts at GC (or ebay or reverb) for less than $300.

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Sounds like you may have run across an AJ500RC and/or an AJ500RCE.

 

They sound like similar guitars...maybe one with a cutaway/pickup combo, the other strictly acoustic...but they aren't.

 

Diffences arise in tonewoods, with the AJ500RC having a cedar soundboard and the newer AJ500RCE having spruce, IIRC. Both use Indian Rosewood for sides & backs.

 

Large differences arise between them regarding the neck...the AJ500RC neck joins the body at the 12th fret and the AJ500RCE joins at the 14th fret...and the heads are quite different, with the AJ500RC having a "slot-head" and the AJ500RCE having the more common "peg head". The neck on the AJ500RC is a thicker "V-neck" design, whereas the AJ500RCE will likely be a thinner/faster neck. The body shape is different between the two models, too, with the AJ500RC having a "Southern Jumbo/slope shouldered" shape and the AJ500RCE having the more square-shouldered upper bout characteristic of dreadnought models.

 

If the shop owner is right about the history I believe it's likely that at least one of them is an AJ500RC. I own one and frequently mention that it is my favorite steel string guitar, so of course it gets my highest recommendation. Having said that, though, the Masterbilt line of Epiphone's are very well made and highly regarded acoustic instruments, so you would not go wrong with either model...and that $400/$300 deal is one I would jump all over before someone else realizes what a steal/deal that is!!

 

Please let us know how you resolve this dilema...wish I could run across deals like this!

 

Cheers!

 

Dugly

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If the shop owner is right about the history I believe it's likely that at least one of them is an AJ500RC.

 

Could be, but I doubt it. RC's are much more rare than any other AJ500. And they're typically priced higher. They are indeed the boomboxes of the Masterbilts. But any AJ500 from 2008-2010 is going to be nice.

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The mint one for 4 Franklin is a good deal. the AJ-500R sounds like what you are describing. Very nice indeed. Not really a beater unless you in pretty rarified atmosphere! LOL!

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The mint one for 4 Franklin is a good deal. the AJ-500R sounds like what you are describing. Very nice indeed. Not really a beater unless you in pretty rarified atmosphere! LOL!

 

I think you're correct, it is an AJ500R. It has no cutaway, 14th fret neck joint, and no electronics. I think I'm going to grab one of them next week. Now I just have to decide if I want to save $100 for the banged up one, which I'm leaning toward doing. There are some nasty big dings, but nothing structural, and then I wouldn't have to treat it like a baby. Then again, the mint one would hold its value better if I decided to sell it at some point later. Decisions...

 

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Well, I bought the dinged one today for $300, plus $35 for a gig bag. I took it straight to a bluegrass jam and it sounded and played great, even with the original strings. Its actually an AJ-500MNS (mahogany), and its a 2008 model. If anyone is interested, they have another brand new (NOS) one in mint condition for $400. That one is also a 2008 I believe. Send me a PM and I'll get you in touch with the shop owner.

 

IMG_1860_zps3tlrnvkz.jpg

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Great choice!!!

 

Dings? I don't see no steenkin' dings!!!

 

I like it more than I wanted to. At first all I bought were dreads and then I started moving to less sizable interests and forgot all about GASing for large ones.

 

Sure do like that slope-shouldered look, though.

 

NS=Natural Satin?

 

Not a fan of pickguards, either...but it can be quite easily removed.

 

Did I mention how much i sure do like that slope shouldered shape?

 

Hmmmmmm....

 

Cheers!!

 

Dugly

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Great choice!!!

 

Dings? I don't see no steenkin' dings!!!

 

NS=Natural Satin?

 

That photo doesn't show the dings, but there are two whoppers and two small ones. I'm fine with that, since this will be my workhorse acoustic for practice and jam nights. I won't be upset if it gets a few more.

 

You're absolutely right about the letter codes: AJ-500MNS= Advanced Jumbo-500 Mahogany Natural Satin.

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The AJ-500M is the one that get the most love on this and the AGF. Good job picking one up that cheaply. Play it in good health!

Late to the party but I'll add my two cents anyway. Bought this AJ500M new for $499 2 1/2 years ago and couldn't be happier. My luthier's comment when I took it in for an initial setup etc? "Ooooh, I LOVE the Masterbilts". 'Nuff said. Great guitar for the money so you did good IMHO. Mine:

 

001_zps02ea3abf.jpg

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Well, that didn't last long. I happened to look at the bridge from the back for the first time last night and you could fit 2 credit cards between the treble side of the bridge and the body. I can't believe I didn't catch that before I bought it. I slacked the strings and it didn't settle back into place fully, so its warped as well as pulling up. Back to the shop it went for a full refund. [thumbdn]

 

I asked about buying the other one they had and the guy at the shop (different guy this time) told me not to bother. They actually had 2 more new ones, and he said he didn't think either one was any good. At least he was honest about it. I left with nothing but a refund. Now I'm thinking about selling my Ovation and buying a Gibson J-15 or J-35 since I liked the AJ-style guitar so much.

 

Edit: Just bought a Gibson J-35! [thumbup] I'll have to return the Les Paul I bought myself for Christmas, but I need the acoustic more since my only active gig right now is a weekly bluegrass jam.

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First off, congrats on the NGD. Second, sorry your Masterbilt experience didn't turn out so well. I can honestly say that mine is a treasure, and like Dugliness, I was a dreadnaught guy till I tried the "sloped shoulder" shape of the AJ's. It's really my only true acoustic (I have a couple of Ovation a/e's) and it's a keeper for sure.

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