Hi guys, sorry in advance for the long post, but I need some help in choosing an acoustic guitar. Planning to get one for a friend for his bday, but i'm not really familiar with guitars but have spent some days doing research and reading reviews, and have selected these 2 guitars that are within my budget (haven't really decided which to get yet tho..): Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE & Yamaha A3M.

I have read mixed reviews of the Epiphone Masterbilt guitars. Some say the sound is great, others said craftsmanship or quality isnt good. And there were others saying that you have to try many of the same models as some sound better than others, which i cant do.. to me all guitars sound the same
As for Yamahas, reviews said they're more consistent with their quality.

He currently owns a Takamine D20 TBS. And I'm not sure how good/bad that model is. Hopefully the DR500 or the A3M will be a big upgrade from his current guitar. Any other suggestions/opinions would be welcome. Thanks in advance for the help!

Here are the specs for the guitars so its easier for your reference:

Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE
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 Material: Rosewood with pearloid Split-Diamond Inlays
Neck Pickup: Shadow NanoMag™
Bridge Pickup: Shadow NanoFlex™
Electronics: eSonic-2™ Stereo Preamp
Fingerboard Radius: 14"
Frets: 20; medium
Bridge: Rosewood
Saddle Material: Bone
Nut Width: 1.68"
Nut Material: Bone
Hardware: Nickel
Machine Heads: Grover® Sta-Tite™ 18:1 ratio
Cost price in my country: around USD$700

Yamaha A3M
Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
Back: Solid Mahogany
Side: Solid Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Ebony
Bridge: Ebony
Nut Width: 43mm
String Length: 650mm
Tuners: Die-Cast Chrome
Preamp: System 63 SRT
Cost price in my country: around USD$800

Takamine D20 TBS (His current guitar)
Body Shape: W
Top: Spruce
Back: Mahogany
Sides: Mahogany
Binding: Black
Roset: Multiple Rings
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Fingerboard Inlay: Acryl Dot
Number of Frets: 20
Scale Length: 644mm
Nut&Saddle: PPS
Nut Width: 42.5mm
Trussrod: Two way Adjustable
Bridge: Rosewood
Strings: D'Addario EXP
Color: Natural, Tobaco Brown Sunburst
Finish: Glossy
Electronics: None
this is a great, trusted ebay seller ! i've bought a few from her and her stock is spot on perfect! she has a luthier go thru them first. i haven't found a flaw in the 3 i've purchased. the $250 savings is worth it. message her and she'll happily answer any questions you may have. she'll even steer you toward something else if she feels it fits your needs better.
all that being said..i do prefer the Yamaha of the 2( based soley on reviews). either would be a giant upgrade of the all-laminate Takamine. tough part is that guitars are very subjective items. it's hard to tell if either will fit his likes/needs. i had a Yammie AC3M(the smaller bodied variant). it was a great sounding guitar. great build quality. i trade out lower end guitars frequently so that one went toward a different one which shortly will be replaced by the Masterbilt. i like to try them all for a bit before i offer an opinion here. 15 minutes in a store doesn't do it. i usually come close to breaking even.
it ain't easy buying a guitar for someone else. my preference would be the masterbilt, assuming it was in good condition. but if buying for a friend, do you know for sure if he's happy with the scale and nut width of his current guitar? also does he like the tone of his current guitar? if he's very happy with his tak, he may not be happy with the replacement. if there are things he doesn't like about his current guitar, do you know what they are? if he prefers a wider nut, neither of these guitars would be a good replacement. does he want more bass? clearer tone?
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
Last edited by patticake at May 5, 2013,
thanks for the replies!

Think i would prefer a new guitar, not refurbished sets. And rather get it locally too, so easier to get it replaced/warranty issues. but thanks for the link

He is fine with the physical aspects of it (size, width, etc). But i know he mentioned that the tone is going a bit off because the fretboard will start to bend after while (are there any tips to prevent this?), and he said now he cant seem to tune it properly as it doesnt give the right sound. So i'm quite sure he would love a new guitar.

What im aiming for it just to get him a guitar with better sound, better materials. Mainly, just a better upgrade from his current Taka.
what kind of music does he usually play with it? either is fine. Patti did bring up an important question that i hadn't thought of( she's really good at that, been at it longer than myself....advice that is..not calling you an old codger-ette!! )... how wide does he like the fretboard? the kind of music he plays will help us determine that for you.
if he plays a lot of lead type stuff, the wider nut ( fretboard at the top) will benefit him, if he plays a lot of chords, the nut on either the Yammie or masterbilt will do admirably.
He's not a professional guitarist, just plays for leisure by himself. And from what i've heard him play, its a mixture of chords and tabs (is that what its called? haha)

Umm, and he did have an injury on the inner tip of his left index finger a couple of years back, so pressing hard with that finger causes pain (not sure if this will affect the choice of nut)
i commend you for the amount of homework you've done by the way!!!!
if those are your 2 choices( limited by local availability), they are both great ones. i'm sure that he would be floored with the surprise of either. i know the yammie gets one but, does the masterbilt come with a case??
I own three Epi Masterbilts (AJ-500M, AJ-500R and DR-500M) and my brother owns a DR-500MCE like you are interested in. I can attest they are fantastic guitars and all sound really great. Can't go wrong with it IMHO.
Check out "thelastplaceyoulook" on YouTube, iTunes and [url="http://facebook.com/thelastplaceyoulook
the neck shouldn't be bending in any normal scenario - there's a truss rod in it. either the strings your friend is using are too heavy for the guitar, he's tuning it too high or he's leaning it against the wall a lot - or he's keeping the guitar at the wrong humidity. or perhaps if the tak has a bolt-on neck, there could be an issue with the bolt in the bolt on neck where the bolt is digging into the wood. if everything else is normal, he can use the truss rod to adjust the neck relief, and if part of his issue with the tuning turns out to be intonation, correcting the relief may fix that problem, as well.

if it's a humidity issue, it will affect the tone of the guitar - in fact, of any guitar except a carbon fiber guitar. it can also cause damage to the guitar from braces coming off and bridge coming off to cracks in the wood.

if it's a humidity issue, it will be easier to deal with with a hard case as it's easier to control the humidity in a case than in a house or apartment, although we prefer to do our entire apartment. if it's a too-heavy string problem, and he continues to use strings too heavy for his guitar - whatever guitar it is - he'll also keep having the same problems with intonation, neck bending - or bellying, which might be what he means.

that would mean the neck isn't bent, but that the guitar needs a neck reset. in many cases, that could be caused by the same things or the manufacturer - or it happens over time (generally a lot of time) with almost any guitar.


if your friend wants to know more about all sorts of things about taking care of his guitar, expert guitar tech frank ford has an awesome site for any guitar player http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/pagelist.html
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
Last edited by patticake at May 6, 2013,
haha thanks. gotta do lots of research if im gonna be spending that amount of money on a gift that im not familiar with.

Thanks to all who replied to this thread. I'm currently kinda leaning towards getting the DR500MCE now, due to price. (Cheapest prices i've searched DR500MCE: USD$682. Yamaha A3M: USD$804) But will still be checking what accessories and warranty it comes with.

I live in a tropical country, so the weather here is extremely humid. So perhaps that's causing the problem with the guitar. Not sure how he maintains his guitar tho, but im sure that he will take good care of whatever guitar I get him lol. He better!
Thanks for the tips, will let him know these next time
extreme humidity would cause poor tone, bulging belly and i believe too much curve in the neck (although i could have that one backwards - i'm sooo sleepy). you can get in-case stuff to absorb a lot of the humidity.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
another question i have is.. whats the main difference between a DR-500MCE and a DR-500ME ?
is it just the shape of the body?

Price of the DR-500ME is around USD$650, about $30 cheaper than the MCE version.
And the MCE version is currently sold out, means i have to wait up to 4mths for stock to arrive (i dont mind waiting/making him wait for it if the MCE version is worth it). I like the vintage sunburst color of the MCE tho..
the MCE has a "cutaway" on the lower bout under the neck to make it much easier to reach "higher" frets..... recommended unless he only strums. offhand, i can think of at least a dozen songs that utilize the 13th thru 16th frets.
researched that the cutaway does sacrifice some sound quality tho.. But it does look cooler, and i prefer the darker color of the MCE.. The only problem is that i have no idea when stocks will arrive.
Staff told me the guitars are already on order, but they do not know when they will be available. Doesn't come with any accessories tho. No case
To address the Epiphone acoustic quality and reviews. I wouldn't touch an Epiphone that wasn't a Masterbuilt, period. These do seem to have following though, with good things said about them during the time I have been with this forum. QC is always an issue no matter how much you spend, and to hear many people talking, there are good (real USA) Gibsons, and bad ones as well. Try it before you buy it, if possible.

My second observation is perhaps a bit superficial, but I never let things like that stop me in the past, so here goes. I'm not a big fan of tobacco sunburst. However, the Epiphone wins hands in their rendition of it, versus the current butt ugly Takamine version. (This assumes the picture is an accurate reproduction and, "all Masterbuilts are created equal").

So, from an aesthetic standpoint, would your friend be happier with an extension of the finish scheme on the current Takamine, or perhaps something more low key, as is the natural finish of the Yamaha? (It is possible the either or both guitars are available in multiple finishes).

(Disclaimer: I like all black acoustics, so my opinion really doesn't count}.

As was told to you above, I would check out the conditions under which your friend's Tak was being used & stored. Then correct any problems or bad habits before buying that person another guitar.

One thing is certain, the more expensive all solid wood guitars are going to be more fragile than the all laminate Takamine Which, for all intents and purposes, should ostensibly be the proverbial, "beater".
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 6, 2013,