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Epiphone DR-500MCE | Possible purchase

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I am seriously considering buying the Epiphone DR-500MCE here in Australia. I haven't played one yet but from all accounts from all the positive reviews I have read, I doubt I can go wrong.

I currently have a Epi Hummingbird Pro and an AJ220SCE  which I may sell to finance the new DR-500MCE. I am now 65y old and I want just one guitar, a keeper. I cant afford a Gibson, Martin or Taylor ect.

My question is, given most of the reviews are years old, is the build quality still as good now in 2019? Has anything changed to the guitars detriment? Where is the guitar now built? I assume China?

Thanks in advance


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I believe the build quality is about the same as it has always beem. These are all sold wood guitars with bone nut and saddle. You might check the serial number inside the sound hole..if you see a number "23" in the middle of the serial number, it was made in Indonesia. And that is likely where it was made. You might also consider the masterbilt AJ-45me model, which is the Gibson J-45 knock  off, and mine is quite good but it does not have a gloss finish, but a flat matt finish, which most do not seem to prefer. The two models you presently have. the Epi bird pro, and the 220sce, are both known to be good for singing. I previously owned the 500MCE and sold it as it overpowered my voice, but had a wonderful chocolate dark tone. Unfortunately it washed out my vocals, so I sold it for the aj-45me, which like your two guitars, is a fine singing guitar, and that solved that problem. But in general to answer you question, the 500MCE should have good build quality, sound beautiful, and at a reasonable cost. Being solid Sapele mahogany wood, it will definately require a good case to protect it from heat and humidity fluctuations. Expect it to need a good set up to play its best. Be willing to pay for the set up, it is well worth the cost indeed. All my Masterbilts needed a set up before they played and sounded their best, but that is true of ANY guitar no matter the cost. Best wishes. Hoped this helped!

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Thank you for your detailed response, I am glad you have made me aware of the Masterbilt AJ-45me, I really did not even look at it. Again, rave reviews for this guitar.

A couple of minor concerns are the scale length and the neck profile.

My AJ-220SCE has a SlimTaper™ C-Shape ( thinner) which I really like,  The Epiphone Masterbilt 2015 AJ-45ME and 500MCE use the SlimTaper™; D profile (thicker)

I think I can live with the thicker profile, my Hummingbird Pro uses it and it' s the first thing I notice when I play it.

My AJ-220SCE has the longer scale length which I like too Scale Length    25.50"

The Masterbilt 2015 AJ-45ME:  Scale Length    24.75”

The 500MCE :  Scale Length    25.5" same as my AJ-220SCE

Neither of these issues are deal breakers tho.

I will need to find a dealer that has both, unfortunately none close by, but I will make a trip.

You have described the sound of the 500MCE  "has a  wonderful chocolate dark tone" taking into account it is near impossible to describe how guitars sound, I will ask anyway and take it as subjective.  Are you able to put into your own words the difference in sound between the 2 guitars? 

Many thanks


Specs from the Epiphone site;

Hummingbird Pro
Top    solid spruce
Body    select mahogany
Neck    select mahogany
Neck Profile    SlimTaper™ "D" Profile
Fingerboard Radius    12"
Truss Rod    Adjustable
Binding    -fingerboard 1-ply (white)
-body top 5-ply (white/black)
-body back 1-ply (white)
Fingerboard Inlay    pearloid parallelogram
Scale    24.75"
Frets    20, medium frets
Nut    1.68"
Bridge    reverse belly
Saddle    compensated, imitation bone
Pickguard    imitation Tortoise with traditional Hummingbird artwork
Hardware    nickel
Machine Heads    Grover™ 14:1
Electronics    Active Pickup System with EQ
Controls    -master volume
-treble eq
-bass eq
Typical Weight (+/- 5%)    5.0 lbs
Strings    D’Addario® 12, 16, 25, 34, 41, 53

Top Material    B, NA, VS = Solid Sitka Spruce, MA = Solid Mahogany
Body Material    Select Mahogany
Neck Material    Mahogany
Neck Shape    SlimTaper™ C-Shape
Neck Joint    Glued-In, Set Neck
Scale Length    25.50"
Fingerboard Material    Granadillo with "Dot" inlays
Fingerboard Radius    12"
Frets    20, Medium/Jumbo
Truss Rod    2-Way Adjustable
Nut Width    1-11/16"
Hardware    Nickel
Machine Heads    Premium Die-Cast with Kidney buttons; 14:1 ratio
Bridge Pickup    NanoFlex™ low-impedance pickup
Controls    Shadow® Performer Tuner HD Preamp, Built-In Tuner with auto-mute, Master Volume, Phase (feedback cancellation), Treble EQ, Bass EQ, Tuner (on/off); On - Output Muted
Pickguard    Imitation Tortoise with vintage metal "E" logo
Power    Two 2032 Lithium Batteries
Output    1/4" Endpin
Colors    Ebony, Natural, Mahogany Burst, Vintage Sunburst
Bridge    Granadillo
Options    Hard Case (940-EDREAD), Case UPC = 711106261362
Warranty    Epiphone Limited Lifetime
Service    1-800-4GIBSON (1-800-444-2766), service@gibson.com

Solid Sitka Spruce top
Bone nut and saddle
eSonic2 HD™ preamp
Epiphone vinage style 18:1 machine heads
Top    Solid Sitka Spruce
Body    solid Mahogany
Side    solid Mahogany
Neck    Mahogany; 1-piece plus heel
Neck Shape Options    SlimTaper™ “D” profile
Neck Joint    Glued-In, Dove-Tail with hide glue
Truss Rod    Adjustable
Scale Length    25.5"
Fingerboard    pearloid Split-Diamond Inlays
Neck Pickup    Shadow NanoMag™
Bridge Pickup    Shadow NanoFlex™
Electronics    eSonic-2HD™ Stereo Preamp
Controls    eSonic2™ preamp with built-in tuner, stereo output, Master Volume Pot, NanoMag™ EQ Pot, NanoFlex HD™ EQ Pot, Phase "Anti-Feedback" Switch, Electronic Tuner Activation w/Output Mute Switch Binding: Body: 6-ply; Neck:1-ply, Headstock: 3-ply
Fingerboard Radius    14"
Frets    20; medium
Saddle Material    Bone
Nut Width    1.68"
Nut Material    Bone
Hardware    Nickel
Machine Heads    Epiphone vintage style 18:1 ratio
Color    Vintage Sunburst (VS), Natural (NA), Gloss Finish
Typical Weight (+/- 5%)    5.1 lbs
Strings    D’Addario® 12, 16, 25, 34, 41, 53

Epiphone Masterbilt 2015 AJ-45ME
Top    Solid Sitka Spruce
Back    Solid Mahogany
Side    Solid Mahogany
Neck    Mahogany, 1-piece heel
Neck Shape    SlimTaper™; D profile
Neck Joint    Glued-In; Dove-Tail with hide glue
Truss Rod    Adjustable
Scale Length    24.75”
Fingerboard    Pearloid Dot Inlays
Bridge Pickup    Shadow® NanoFlex™ ; Under Saddle
Electronics    Shadow® Sonic™ Soundhole
-Master Volume
-Treble EQ
-Bass EQ
-Phase “Anti-Feedback” Switch
-Low Battery Indicator
Power    Two #2032 Lithium Batteries (3V)
Binding    Body, 5-ply
Fingerboard Radius    14”
Frets    20 medium
Saddle Material    Bone
Nut Width    1.69”
Nut Material    Bone
Hardware    Nickel
Machine Heads    Grover™ Sta-Tite™ 18:1 ratio
User Manual
Truss Rod Wrench
Epiphone Poster
Epiphone Bumper Sticker
Optional    Hard Case
Color    Vintage Sunburst Satin




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Pete, The difference in SOUND between the Masterbilt AJ-45me and the Masterbilt DR500mce ..to me is very great. The 500 was deeper, with a lot of resonance, and darker in sound..with less treble and more base..than the aj-45me. The 500 is louder over all by a little, the 45 just slightly quieter to accomodate for the human voice to "fit in" without overwealming it while singing. The 500 is a drednought model, slightly bigger in body...while the aj-45 is a round shoulder guitar and it just snuggles in your lap like a puppy. I sing a lot while I play...and I found the dr500 washed out my voice with the darker louder sound...while the 45-me played just as nice but I was able to not have to fight over it while singing. I would say the 45-me is sweeter in tone than the dr500 which is darker and very full. You epi bird is a sweet guitar, and excellent for singing, the aj-45 is even better, as it mocks one of the greatest guitar icons in the world since the biginning...the famous Gibson J-45 which is nothing short of a legend. Gibson produced the aj-45 to be very similar to the J-45. remember if looks are your thing..the aj-45 will NOT have a gloss finish, but the satin, duller flat finish..still very nice but NO shine on it anywhere.  while the dr500 has a wonderful high gloss finish like your epi bird and aj-220.  You might consider the Masterbilt aj-45me to be similar to the aj-45, but much richer in tone. The matt finish on the aj-45 has been buffed and polished on mine to a shine gloss on front and looks great but took hours and hours of hand rubbing. And by the way both of these guitars are sapele, a very close cousin of mahogany, also noted to compliment the human voice. If you do not sing, the dr500 might be your best bet. If singing is your thing, you need an guitar that will not upstage your voice in volume and tone. Let us know what happens..any more wuestions, feel free to ask! Hope this helps!

You an order either from Sweetwater or from Guitar Center..see Sweetwater links below, where you can choose the ACTUAL guitar you are looking at. They are a good reliable company. The two models are below in separate links.



Edited by ALD323

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Well again I applaud you for your very detailed response, I am drawn to your description of a sweeter sound from the Masterbilt AJ-45me. Your description of the  DR500mce somewhat fits my AJ-220SCE, I love the sound of it, but I wish the treble was a little brighter, sweeter. Perhaps the AJ-45me is a better choice for me. I will have to try them and see. As said earlier, I was prepared to go with the DR500mce , its great to have a second choice to consider.

A couple of things I forgot to mention, I use D'Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Light Acoustic Strings 12-53.

I play mainly fingerstyle, again the aj-45 might be the better fit.

BTW I do prefer a glossy finish and did see a post somewhere else about polishing in a high gloss. I didn't realize it was so labour intensive tho 🙂

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Pete yes it took 18 hours of hand buffing to bring the gloss out...but that might have been shortened considerable if I had a power buffer. My arms were sore for 2 weeks because the pressure is heavy and you must press hard to achieve the gloss. As for strings, I always prefer strings that bring out more treble and shine. 80/20 bronze are well know for doing just that..while Phosphor Bronze tend to sound darker. I use Elixir 80/20 nanoweb lights (.12-.53) on all my guitars, they stay sounding bright and clear for months and months, they cost more..but they can last over a year if your switching around guitars like I do. I have 5 guitars..you'll soon have three! You'll be switching around too. You have two great guitars..I LOVE the Epi pro. And the aj-220sce is outstanding for the price. But your Masterbilt will be your best guitar of the three.  If sweet tone is what your looking for...short scale might be your best. Your Epi bird is short scale. Almost all Gibsons are short scale for that reason, even the $4000 Gibson Hummingbird is short scale. Very sweet and crisp and clear. The longer scale pushes out greater volume and base..often at the expense of sweet tone and crystal trebs.

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Its funny how things happen sometimes, you mentioned Elixir 80/20 nanoweb lights (.12-.53) which I had already ordered and turned up today 🙂  I am going to fit them to my hummingbird tomorrow probably.  I dont play the hummingbird very much as I have always considered the sound of it a bit thin. Plugged into my Fishman Loudmouth mini is a another story, it literally comes alive and sounds full to a point I need to roll some bass off. I bought the guitar very cheaply and have no regrets, its almost in mint condition. I might sell the AJ220 but I dont think I can let my Hummingbird go actually.

BTW, both my guitars have has bone nut and saddles fitted by a well-know luthier in my area.

For some reason I didnt notice the aj-45 is not a cut-away, again not a deal breaker but I do often like to play up the neck.

So much to think about! I will have to find a store that has both and spend a good few hours trying them both 🙂

Its all part of the  fun.

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Here is a Masterbilt in "rosewood"..( Epiphone AJ-500RCE)  (rosewood cut away) it is the same guitar as the aj45me in mahogany...except it is long scale and made of solid rosewood instead of Hog....and it does have cut away and electronics also. Yes shopping can be a thrill..so much to think about! Have fun!!! Remember rosewood sounds different than hog....More overtones in rosewood, but many are thrilled with that and desire it, while others prefer hog.



Edited by ALD323

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Yes I have seen the rosewood version 🙂 It's early days yet but at this stage I am thinking the Epiphone AJ-500MCE might be best for me, it ticks all the boxes except for scale length perhaps. I really am at the stage where only playing each version  should help me make the final decision.

I'm really looking forward to playing them.

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