Epiphone DR-100 Dreadnought Review (2021) – Best Beginner Acoustic Guitar

The Epiphone DR-100 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar stands out even in the incredibly crowded sub-$200 beginner acoustic guitar market, and no wonder. Epiphone are one of the US’s longest running guitar manufacturers, and for the last few decades have been essentially the budget arm of Gibson, probably the biggest guitar brand in the world.

It is this relationship that makes the DR100 such a great guitar – Epiphone have taken much of what makes Gibson acoustics of ten times the price, and then built the guitar overseas with less expensive woods. In doing so made an absolutely killer acoustic for beginners that is well built, easy to play, and sounds like a guitar of two or three times the price.

If you’re looking to pick up a great affordable acoustic – or if you’re shopping for a gift for the budding musician in your life – this is your best bet.


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Epiphone DR100 Acoustic Guitar [Product Demonstration]

Who is the DR-100 for?

The Epiphone DR-100 is the perfect guitar for students and beginners, as it has a thick and full dreadnought sound, easy to play slim neck for beginners, and is at a price that allows you to take a chance at a new hobby.

It’s also an ideal option for electric players who want to try out acoustic guitars. The low action fretboard makes it an easy transition from easy to play electric guitars.

Finally, it’s a perfect around-the-house guitar for seasoned players who might have several more expensive guitars, but would be worried about them getting bumped or knocked. At this price point, you don’t have to fret about

Check out the Epiphone DR-100 on Amazon.


Epiphone Dr-100 Acoustic Guitar
Image courtesy of Pinterest

Appearance

The DR-100 has a classic country and 60s look, and is instantly impressive. It is a classic “dreadnought” shape , which means it has a larger and broader body than other guitar types. In a practical sense, this means it’s louder with more pronounced bass, but appearance wise it looks much more impressive than smaller concert style bodies. On the other hand, it does mean you’ll want to make sure you’re not buying it for anyone under about 11 years old, as it will be too big to play.

The DR-100 comes in a choice of ebony, natural or vintage sunburst finishes, and features white or black binding that you would expect from a much more expensive guitar. It also features an Epiphone E logo on the pickguard that gives the guitar a more interesting look than just a plain old black pickgurard.

Overall, you would never look at this guitar and guess it’s price point.


Body And Fretboard

The top of the guitar is made from spruce, which, along with the dreadnought shape, gives the guitar a loud, blooming tone. Bare in mind that this is still a budget instrument, so it’s a laminated spruce rather than solid spruce. The body and neck are made of rosewood which air with resonance and clarity. The neck also features a truss rod, which provides a ton of extra stability – much less likely to break, and will stay in tune better. You may want to adjust the truss rod out of the box (or ask a store to do it) as typically they are shipped loose to allow for any changes in humidity.

The overall weight is typically around 8lbs, which is certainly lighter than many heavier electric guitars, but may be a little heavy for smaller players such as kids. Similarly, the 25.5-inch scale length might be a little long for kids, but for adult players is perfect. It’s the same length as you find on Fender Stratocasters, and will allow you to tune the guitar down without messing up the intonation.

The guitar also features a slim taper rosewood fingerboard with jumbo frets, which are easy for a beginner to play. Another bonus for beginners – the guitar is set up out of the box with low action, which is super helpful for anyone who just wants to pull it out and get playing!


Hardware

One of the areas that more budget guitars fall down is on the hardware – cheap tuners and useless nuts. On the DR-100 however, Epiphone has managed to leverage economies of scale to give above average quality across the board.

The guitar comes with premium die-cast tuners, a synthetic nut and a compensated synthetic saddle. While all of these are perfectly fine for beginner to intermediate use and will likely last some time, you will for sure notice an improvement in tone if you update the nut to bone or similar. Additionally, upgrading the tuners will mean you spend a lot less time tuning and retuning the guitar.

The DR100 also comes set up with a fairly basic set of strings, and realistically you’re going to find they will have suffered some oxidization from sitting in a showroom, or being in a box from the factory. Therefore, I would highly suggest immediately changing the strings to get the best out of the guitar.


Epiphone Dr-100 Acoustic Guitar
Image Courtesy of Epiphone

Sound and Playing Feel

Your typical student guitar, especially at this price range is going to sound boxy, and be a fight to play. The DR-100 could not be further from that mark.

The sound from the guitar is full, with the spruce top giving the guitar bell like trebles, as well as low full basses. The guitar is responsive both to full strumming as well as gentle finger picking. The dreadnought shape gives the guitar excellent projection, which means it is loud and full in any playing space.

The jumbo frets combined with the slim taper neck make the guitar a breeze to play. It comes set up with low action which means even a beginner will have no hassles getting clear notes up and down the fretboard.

Really, for a guitar at this price point, the DR-100 shines. It could easily stand toe to toe with guitars from other manufacturers that cost many times more.

In fact, one youtuber did a comparison between this affordable guitar and a $3000 Martin, and as one commenter said, “Nothing about the sound of the Martin says, “yea I better pay an extra $2,860”:

$140 vs. $3,000 Acoustic Guitar // Martin HD-28 & Epiphone DR-100

Common Questions

Is this a nylon string or steel string guitar?

The DR-100 is a steel string guitar. In theory you can replace the strings with nylon, but it is not built for it and will not sound at it’s best. When replacing the strings, we recommend D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings. On the other hand, if you are looking for a nylon string guitar, the Yamaha C40II is a killer affordable option. We also have a full guide to the best acoustic guitar strings on the market that might be helpful.

Is the DR-100 a good guitar for younger players?

The DR-100 is an excellent choice for beginners, though I would caution against it for extremely young players.

It is a dreadnought size guitar, which is the classic size and shape everyone is familiar with, and gives the best balance of size and projection.

However, if you are buying the guitar for a smaller child or someone under 10, I would suggest instead looking at a 3/4 size guitar as the smaller body will be easier to sit with and play. The best 3/4 size guitar in a similar price range is the Yamaha JR1 (check it out on Amazon).

Is the DR-100 good for small hands?

The DR-100 has a slim taper neck, which is the best neck for people with smaller hands. Shorter fingers would struggle to get around a standard D shaped neck. However the slim taper neck and flat fingerboard of the DR-100 makes it easier to play for kids as well as adults with smaller hands.

Epiphone DR-100

Does the DR-100 have pickups installed?

The DR-100 does not come with pickups installed, and is an entirely acoustic instrument.

However, there are many options for making this an acoustic electric guitar.

Both Luvay and Traderplus make pickups for under $20 that sit across the soundhole and allow you to play the guitar through an amp.

If you want to upgrade, Seymour Duncan make an acoustic soundhole pickup that costs a lot more, but will give you a significantly better sound.

Randon also makes a contact piezo pickup for under $10 that sticks to the guitar body and gives you an output to play through an amp, though the sound will be a lot more muffled.

Is Epiphone a good brand?

Yes, Epiphone is considered one of the best guitar brands under $1000.

Epiphone was originally a competitor of Gibson before ultimately being bought out in the 60s. Since the 90s, Gibson have used Epiphone to make affordable versions of their flagship guitars.

In the acoustic world, Epiphone makes the best budget or affordable models, and the DR-100 is their flagship sub-$200 guitar.

Does the DR-100 come with a warranty?

Surprisingly for a low cost guitar, the DR-100 comes with Epiphone’s Limited Lifetime Warranty and Gibson Brands™ Customer Service. What this means is Epiphone will repair or replace the guitar free of charge if it ever runs into issues that result from a defect in materials or workmanship.

Does the DR-100 come with a case or gig bag?

Unforunately the DR-100 does not come with a case or gig bag. That said, we would recommend you check out the Cahaya waterproof gig bag (check it out on Amazon) which is incredibly sturdy for it’s price, plus it includes a music stand pocket.


Other Guitars To Consider

Fender CD60S

Fender CD-60S

We recently featured the DC-60s in our article about guitars with low easy to play action. The features are very similar to the DR-100 but the extra $50 or so gets you a solid top, a walnut fingerboard and Fender’s East-To-Play neck profile, as well as rolled edges.

That being said, the DR-100’s jumbo frets and slim taper neck are also perfect for beginners, so the only real difference (outside of looks) is a little top end sparkle on the Fender. Is that worth $50? That’s really up to you.

Fender Classic Design Series | Models & Features | Fender

Check out the Fender CD-60S at Amazon.


Yamaha FG800

Yamaha FG800

The Yamaha FG800 was actually one of our top three choices in the same article. It’s around the price of the fender, but is a very different guitar.

For the money, you get a solid sitka spruce top, nato back and sides, a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, die cast tuners and an adjustable truss rod.

Sound wise, the Yamaha is hands down the better sounding of the three – but it lacks the slimmer neck of the Epiphone and the Fender. The full C-profile can feel full to an experienced hand, but will be slightly more challenging to a beginner or student guitarist.

New From NAMM 2016: Yamaha 800 Series Acoustic Guitars

Check out the FG800 on Amazon


Summary and Conclusion

Let’s take a look at some of the key points we found for the Epiphone DR-100

  • Spruce topand dreadnought shape give a bright, full tone
  • Easy to play slim taper neck
  • Low action with jumbo frets
  • Excellent quality hardware
  • Three gorgeous finishes available
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Perfect for small hands
  • Great for electric players

How can our conclusion be anything other than that this is the best acoustic in it’s class. At this price point, there’s really nothing to dissuade anyone from picking up the DR-100 today.

We hope our guide was of use to you, and you stick around to see more! We are a reader-supported website that depends on your pro-active actions to sustain these free guides and resources, so feel free to share this article with your friends.

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Brian Kelleher

I'm the main guy at KillerGuitarRigs.com and I want to tell you all about guitars. I've been playing music since 1986 when my older brother taught me to play "Gigantic" by The Pixies on a bass with two strings. Since then, I've owned dozens of instruments from guitars to e-drums, and spent more time than I'd like to admit sitting in vans waiting for venues to open across Europe and the US.