Back to Making Music Back to Home

 Epiphone Dot
Years Produced Type Vintage Condition Value Pick ups
2000 - Present Semi -Hollow Body 2005 New $400 Humbucker
Finish Fingerboard Tuners Trim Extras Body/Neck
Cherry 22 Fret Rosewood Grover Maple/Maple
         In 1873, Anastasios Stathopoulos was a maker of stringed instruments in what is now Turkey. in 1903, he moved to New York, where he continued to ply his trade until his death in 1903. The company was taken over by his son Epaminondas, who was called Epi, by his American fiends who had a hard time pronouncing his name. He called his company Epiphone, and was the major rival to the Gibson guitar company, in the production of arch top guitars. There were many who considered the Epiphone to be the better instrument. After the death of Epi, the company moved to Philadelphia, and was eventually bought by Gibson.
        Initially, the Gibson Epiphones were great guitars. Epiphone continued producing it's own line, and also made a line of Gibson copies. The Gibson copies were every bit as good as the regular Gibsons, and were even made on the same line, by the same workers. The reason for the subterfuge, is the agreement that Gibson had with it's dealers. A Gibson dealer had an exclusive right, which had been paid for, to handle the Gibson line within it's territory. Only an authorized Gibson dealer, who had paid for the privilege, could carry the Gibson line. The authorized dealers were also protected, by their agreement with Gibson, from competition by other dealers in the same area. What Gibson did, to sort of work their way around this limitation, was to take advantage of their ownership of Epiphone, to produce Gibson guitars on the Gibson assembly line, but put Epiphone labels on them and sell them as Epiphone guitars, to any dealer that would buy them. These guitars were just as well made as the genuine Gibson, and cost just as much; but they could be sold by dealers who were not authorized Gibson dealers.
        Eventually, everyone caught on, and there was little incentive to be a Gibson dealer, so Gibson changed it's policy again. In the early seventies, Epiphone copies of Gibson guitars were made in Japan. In the eighties, most were being made in Korea. Today, Epiphone is made, along with everything else you buy these days, in China. The EE serial number of this guitar indicates that it was made in China, as has been the case since 2002.
        The Dot is a copy of the Gibson ES335, which was itself styled after the famous Epiphone Casino, complete with thin body and double cutouts. The main design difference between the two is that the Casino was a true hollow body guitar, while the ES335 and Epiphone Dot are semi hollow bodies. These guitars have a block of wood running down the center of the inside of the hollow portion of the body. This is to moderate feedback a bit, during amplification. Still, the guitar is enough of a hollow body, that it does not require an amplifier in a standard room size environment. It is also enough of a hollow body, that it has a nice rich sound, when amplified, reminiscent of the old fifties style jazz sound. This, along with the narrowness of the hollow body, give it the sound and feel of a club guitar. Very nice, and very classy.
        The tuners are liquid filled Grovers, chrome plated, and very smooth. At the other end of the strings, is a classic Gibson Tune -O-Matic bridge. The guitar stays in tune pretty well, and I can sometimes pick it up after days, or even weeks of not playing it, without having to retune. The narrow body makes it almost as easy to hold and play as a solid body. Some players have complained about the fat neck, but I kind of like it. The neck is smooth, fast, and its width gives me something to hold onto. Other common complaints are muddy pickups, rough frets, actions set too high, plastic nut, and low quality strings. There are also some stories of the electronics not being too good. I have run into none of these problems; but there may be matters of quality control involved. Each guitar is said to be inspected and set up, here in the U.S.
        Fat necks, too high an action, and muddy pickups are all matters of personal taste, and are also all easy to fix, or adapt to. The plastic nut could be an issue; but I have noticed that my Gibson SG, and Fender Stratocaster have also got plastic nuts, and I hear few complaints about them. A bit of graphite on the strings can work wonders for tuning problems (real or imagined) attributed to plastic nuts. The black plastic nut at the head of the Epiphone appears fine to me, shows no signs of binding, and I never have trouble with the guitar staying in tune. The Gibson ES335 presumably has a bone nut, but also costs over $2000. As far as the rest goes, pickups can be replaced, as can pots in the control section, and for not very much money, should it be deemed necessary.
        Even for the player who decided to have the nut, pickups, strings, and pots replaced, as well as having a luthier set the guitar up, you are not talking more than a couple of hundred dollars. Added to the normal $400 street price of the Epiphone, you are talking $600, for a guitar that will rival an ES335 costing $2000+. And who says you need to change anything? Why replace the pickups? What one person considers muddy, another considers mellow. The two pickups each have their own tone and volume controls, and a variety of intonations can be achieved by simple manipulation of these controls. This is all moot anyway. If you are playing this through an amplifier, a modeler can make a guitar sound like anything you like. Where this guitar really comes into its own, is when playing without an amp.
        The Dot has a great sound, all by itself. This is not about the electronics, or any easily user modified part - it is about the construction of a guitar body as a soundbox, and a musical instrument. This is where any hollow body guitar will shine, if well put together. When I travel, this is the guitar that I bring along, because I can take it out of its case, and then sit under a tree, or at a picnic bench, and play the instrument. There is no need to plug into anything, and the sound I hear is the sound of my hands interacting with the materials of the instrument. There is no modeler, synthesizer, amplifier, or sequencer involved here. The whole generation of musicians growing up with solid body guitars have missed something important, when they missed this. It is very basic and very real. While a hollow body has a nice rich tone, through an amp, and can produce bunches of feedback and distortion, if that's what you want, the real charm of the beast is to be able to just go off somewhere and play, with no complications.
        This was my first guitar. I bought it because I wanted a guitar that I could travel with, and play on the road, without having to have an amplifier. I have since purchased two other guitars, both solid bodies; but this is still the one that I play most often. this is the least expensive guitar I own. It lists at a bit over $600, and generally sells for around $400. I bought it, because it reminds me of the classic Gibson hollow bodies that my dad, a professional jazz musician, used to play. The body is nicely put together, and has a great finish, it really is a nice looking instrument. Even the back looks good. I sometimes consider changing out that plastic nut, just to be on the safe side, and perhaps changing the upper pickup; but probably never will. The neck and body are both said to be maple; but the neck appears darker than the body, so who knows" Complaints of roughness aside, the rosewood fretboard seems flat and true to me, as well as being quite smooth. The double cutouts make access, even to the higher frets pretty easy, for those who like to play up that high. The frets themselves seem quite smooth, with no real edges to them, and are even all up and down the board. The action was a bit high, as it came out of the box, but after lowering, there was no buzz from the frets. Someday, when my playing improves to the degree that I can tell the difference, I may take this guitar to a local shop and have it set up; but for now, and for me, it plays just fine.
        A close up view, here, of the fret board should lay aside any doubts as to the smoothness or trueness of the board. It should also give an indication of just how well set up the frets themselves are. So I am not certain where the complaints are coming from about the frets and fret board, or for that matter about the guitar staying in tune. I have never had anything but good experiences with this guitar, and it has never been taken in to be set up or modified. Other than having my brother lower the action for me a bit, it has been untouched. This guitar has also not led an easy life. I have not abused it; but it has been taken camping, boating, out to the desert, and up into the mountains of the west. It has sat in a hot van, during the summer, and a cold van during the winter, while traveling and camping, and has never let me down, and always has stayed in tune. Part of this may be the hard shell case, which has probably saved it many times. The case has it's share of scuffs, scratches, and dinks, which I suppose would have been on the finish of my guitar, had they been no case. This is the one and only guitar for which I have a hard shell case, and a good thing too.
        While I hate to make qualifying statements, I have to say that, for the money, I am shocked at what I got. Out of the box, this is a great guitar to learn, practice, and develop skills; but it is also good enough to use for performing, and there are many working musicians who use these guitars. It is not a Gibson, though there are those who say that properly set up, and with a few user made upgrades, most would be hard put to tell the difference; but it is good enough, and it is affordable. I also suspect that I would not be taking an actual ES335 (Street price of $2500 - $3000) on the road with me, leaving it in my van while I travel, or playing it out at the lake, or while camping.
        I suppose that the secret is to play the guitar that you are going to buy. It is still as much art as science to build a musical instrument, especially when it comes to set up. There are also matters of personal taste. Everyone who sees it likes it, and some of my friends who play have really enjoyed playing it. This is particularly true of those whose only experiences with guitar have been with solid body Fenders, or Les Paul type guitars. It is like a revelation for these people, when they play a hollow body. All of the comments I have heard on this guitar are overwhelmingly good, and my own experiences have been very positive. If something were to happen to this guitar, I would probably get another just like. it. I even like the color.