By Adam Perlmutter
If you shop wisely, you can get a whole lot of guitar for the money these days. In a recent post, we surveyed a range of attractively priced small-bodied steel-strings by Breedlove, Taylor, and others. This time we’ll shift the focus to larger instruments, like the almighty dreadnought.
When it was introduced nearly a century ago, the dreadnought body style, which takes its name from an early 20th century battleship, was designed to have a robust, powerful voice that could stand up well to other instruments. Though in the hands of a skilled player, a good dread is up for anything, this size guitar especially found favor with bluegrass pickers. It remains a top-selling form—just about every maker offers its variations on this classic.
Several years ago, AG’s office was littered with dreadnoughts when we did a roundup on eight examples selling for around $500, most with onboard electronics. These guitars, by Martin, Taylor, and others, all sounded and felt more expensive than might be expected from their low price points.
Epiphone recently reissued a rarity with a rich look—the Masterbilt Excellente slope-shouldered dreadnought—and updated it with Fishman electronics. Reviewer Nick Millevoi found that this guitar captures the original guitar’s cool vintage vibe while having a modern and reliable feel.
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Speaking of Epiphones, the archtops that the company made in the 1930s and ’40s are among the most coveted by players and collectors alike. A vintage example in good condition could easily cost several grand, and new production model archtops are few and far between. That’s what makes the Epiphone Masterbilt Century Deluxe, with its old-school detailing, such a cool offering. (Note that when we reviewed this guitar in 2017, the street price was $899, but as of November 2020, a round-hole version of this guitar can be found online for $649.
An all-solid-wood, U.S.-made acoustic guitar can easily set you back several thousand dollars—Martin’s flagship D-28, for instance, currently sells for $2,899 new—and even some imports have four-figure price tags. That’s what makes Gibson’s G-45 Studio ($999) and Taylor’s American Dream AD27 ($1,399) exceptional finds. If our experience with these excellent guitars is any indication, they stack up quite well to their much more expensive counterparts.
A guitar’s shape and size aren’t the only factors that can influence its sound. Download our FREE guide, All About Top Woods, to learn how different woods affect the tone of an acoustic guitar.