Once a highly-renowned name in the world of guitars, Epiphone is more like a Gibson’s sub-division in these days. There aren’t many original models left in production. A huge majority of the company’s current lineup are actually replicas of Gibson’s iconic models like Les Paul, SG, ES-335, Flying V etc. These are cheaper, more available versions of famous guitars that usually cost a fortune. For someone with a tight budget, Epiphone definitely saves a day.
This model, in particular, Epiphone Dot, is a replica of the legendary ES-335, one of the most iconic semi-hollow body guitars of all time. The original model from Gibson came in 1958 and has brought numerous brand-new design solutions that make this guitar impressive even nowadays, seven decades later.
Back in the days when the original ES-335 was designed, we had solid and hollow body electric guitars. This one came as a perfect mix, with the designer’s goal to keep the rich and fat tone of the hollow body, but also to improve playability and make it more versatile. Compared to classic hollow body guitars, this one features a smaller and slimmer body. Also, the neck is thinner, features lower action and more reachable higher frets, which makes it more playable.
Still, the biggest difference is inside the body. The name speaks for itself. It’s not completely hollow since the center area features a massive solid mahogany block, while both sides are cored. Such design provides excellent tone balance, so it’s no wonder that ES-335 is considered to be one of the most versatile guitars around. Don’t be fooled by its jazzy look, or by the fact that is mostly used by blues players, this guitar can play everything.
Epiphone Dot Review – A Cheap Alternative
Original ES-335 models cost a real fortune, so we could easily agree that the price is Epiphone Dot’s strongest point. This model definitely has the flavor of the original. Not only that it looks almost identical, but also feels in hands in the same way. In a few words, I would say – “A reliable budget semi-hollow machine.”
Beautiful Styling that Mimics the Original
Let’s start with the visual appearance. The guitar is an absolute beauty. Many manufacturers make ES-335-style guitars, but Epiphone’s obvious advantage over others is that it doesn’t have to change anything. Just compare two guitars and you’ll easily notice that the only major difference between Gibson’s and this ES model is headstock, which in this case come with the Epiphone’s recognizable design.
Rest of the guitar is almost identical. This model successfully mimics the original in all aspects. Even the final touch looks so impressive that many of us would think that the price is much higher than actually is. There are four finishes in the offer – Natural, Chery, Ebony and Vintage Sunburst. All variants look impressive but if I had to single out one of these, I would go either for the Chery, or Vintage Sunburst.
A Classic Semi-Hollow Body design
When it comes to materials choice, there are no surprises. Just like the original model, Epiphone Dot features a hybrid, semi-hollow body construction. Sides of the body are hollow, while the center is filled with solid wood. The body is made of quality laminated maple, while the center block features solid mahogany, crucial for sustain and rich tone. On both sides, you can notice two “F” holes, which are here not only for aesthetical reasons but also to provide better resonance and more balanced tone. There are several colors in the offer, while a urethane finish seems like a logical choice if we consider guitar’s price. All in all, everything seems to be in the place and the overall final touch is on a high level.
Thinner Neck and Bigger Frets for Better Playability
This is the part where things are actually a little bit different compared to original ES-335 models, though we could see similar deviations on today’s Gibson models as well. Of course, those essential, base design characteristics remained unchanged. This model features the same glued-in neck with 24.75-inch scale. Compared to the original, this neck is a little bit thinner. It also features a different profile, called SlimTaper.
I would say it is pretty much a modern D-profile neck, which is very comfortable and makes this beauty very playable. The fretboard is made of rosewood and comes with a common 12-inch fingerboard radius. Dot inlays fit this guitar perfectly, I would say much better than rectangular ones. Of course, there is a set of 22 frets, once again different compared to the original. These frets are bigger, which seems like another way to improve playability.
I’ve already mentioned that Epiphone Dot features a little bigger frets than the original. Of course, this is important for playability, but how about the fretwork? Well, it seems ok, though some rework would be recommended.
The most important thing about frets is ok – Intonation is pretty accurate, even in highest notes. On the other side, the final touch could have been better, so you will have to rust for a bit if you want everything to be perfect. Action seems quite common for a semi-hollow body guitar, though I’ve noticed a bit of a buzz. All in all, the guitar requires additional setup. This definitely can’t be considered as a drawback. After all, every guitar in this price range needs to visit guitar service.
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While you might have few issues with fretwork, the rest of the hardware is on a pretty high level. A classic tune-o-matic two-piece bridge definitely isn’t a surprise. It guarantees excellent stability and plenty of sustain. Add quality Grover tuners to it and there is no way this guitar won’t stay in tune for days.
The last but not the least, Epiphone’s black pickguard features good quality. Not only that it improves visual appearance, but also keeps your beauty from scratches.
Pickups Quality Could Have Been Better
There are no surprises in this aspects. Epiphone Dot comes in a classic H-H configuration and 2+2 tone/volume control. Speaking of pickups, there is a pair of Alnico Classic humbuckers, which are pretty common pieces in Epiphone guitars. The company uses them for various models and so far there weren’t bigger issues with them. The tone is warm, while the overall quality seems ok, especially if we consider the price tag.
Still, it’s not hard to notice that pickups lack in sharp-cut and that you probably won’t be able to get some expressive hi-gain tone. Another issue is tone/volume pot that isn’t very sensitive, but that is the thing that bothers pretty much every budget guitar.
Sound and Playability Are on a High Level
Finally, let’s say a few words about the most important things. First of all, Epiphone Dot is a quite playable guitar, which will feel nice in your hands for sure. It offers pretty good ergonomics, even to those who used to acoustic guitars. Finding a perfect position seems effortless, especially when you are sitting. On the other side, if you like to stand, it weighs around 8.2 pounds, which are average numbers for all ES-335 models.
Unplugged, the guitar sounds quite loud. However, the sound seems to be a little bit dull and “woody”. Once you plug this Epiphone Dot into an amp, it becomes ready for jazz notes. On the clean channel, the sound is dark and creamy, especially at neck pickup, which gives a lot of tones that are warm and fat at the same time. Add a bit of overdrive and things will become dirty. This is a perfect combination for unrestrained blues tones. Slide players would be delighted.
This guitar goes far beyond mild distortion tones and can deliver anything from rock to heavy metal. However, I’ve noticed some issues with the tone, both on clean and overdrive channels. The tone is definitely warm but seems to lack in terms of, I would say, extroversion. With more overdrive, things will become pretty blurred. There is a lot of vibration on hi-gain, while the lack of sharp-cut is obvious. Seems perfect for a fat stoner sound, though.
All in all, I think that the biggest drawback is pickup design but this is, again, a common thing for this price range. I can’t say that these Alnico Classic pickups are bad, they are actually quite good. However, some quality ’57-like humbucker would make a significant difference. In my opinion, this should be the first investment in Epiphone Dot.
My final impression of this beauty would be that it is definitely worth the money. Epiphone Dot is something closest to the original ES-335 when we talk about guitars in this price range. First of all, it feels like a real Gibson in your hands, mainly because of an identic look. Other models in the class can’t deliver such playing experience, despite the fact that some rival models are actually better instruments.
Besides styling, you can count on a pretty good final touch, quality hardware, and decent electronics. It is a playable guitar, which comes with a modern neck shape which is thin and comfortable, even if you’re a beginner. The tone is decent, definitely stage-ready, though more experienced players would probably want to install some more expressive pickups. Fortunately, this is probably the only essential investment. Of course, detailed setup is a must in my opinion, but that’s a common issue even with far more expensive guitars.
Long story short – If you are a hardcore ES-335 fan with a tight budget, this is the toy for you. Also, consider that Epiphone offers a variety of other hollow and semi-hollow body guitars, which could seem like an even better choice.