Price paid: € 150
Purchased from: Private Seller (used)
Features — 8
I only recently started playing guitar (around 2 years ago), but play and practice every day. For the past 1/2 year I've been mainly playing blues, which is why I decided to pick up this guitar in first place (for a cheap taste of that BB King vibe :)). I was actually eying a used Ibanez AS73 but then the Epi Dot Studio came up used for a very fair price in my neighbourhood, and I just wanted to get on with it. So I made it a quick purchase and took it home in an Epiphone original hardcase which the guy threw in for free.
My Epiphone Dot Studio is a 2006 model made at the Epiphone Qingdao Plant in China and came to me in all black (except the pickups, which are tucked away behind nickel covers - see below). Made of mahogany throughout with a rosewood fretboard and a pretty fat D-shaped neck, the guitar feels and looks good to me. Mine unexpectedly came with after-market pickups, turns out it had a Seymour Duncan SH2N Jazz pickup in the neck position and a Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB pickup in the bridge position installed. Overall, the guitar does feel like a "Studio," that is a stripped down version of something else. But in all honesty, I'm actually quite enjoying the simplicity (e.g. only one volume and tone knob for both pickups) and minimalist styling (e.g. I just feel these guitars look a lot better without a pickguard :)).
I also own a Korean-made Epiphone Black Beauty (which is really beautiful and well made) and a '96 Fender MIM Strat (which I love) next to a Fender acoustic and a Sigma Guitars classical guitar. While this Epiphone Dot Studio doesn't have the same fancy feel as, say, the Black Beauty or the handmade feel of my Sigma, it still feels nice and, what is most important to me, wildly inspiring.
Sound — 10
As I mentioned, I picked this one up just to "try out" semi-hollow guitars and originally was in the market for an Ibanez... the Dot (Studio) was my second choice so to speak... but man, am I glad that I did, because this guitar sounds and feels utterly beautiful! I have read about people complaining the Dot sounded muddy (mainly due to darker/muddier stock pickups - as is often the case with Epiphone), but with the Seymour Duncans I have in there, the guitar sounds absolutely wonderful!! Playing through a Peavey Classic 50 during the day and either a Blackstar ID:Core 20 or S-Gear at night, the Dot produces beautiful cleans and a marvellous blues crunch tone through all three amplification systems. It outputs a very bright and loud tone through both pickups, but with the tone and volume knobs turned down to 3/4 it produces mellow highs with balanced lows and mids... nothing shrill, boomy or otherwise unpleasant about it at all. Even my wife (she's a professional musician and classical guitar player) was impressed with the cleans that came out of this guitar (playing through the Peavey Classic 50). With a little overdrive and not much else, the guitar sings and growls with lots of texture and emotion. In particular the middle position sounds straight up fantastic to me when in blues mode.
What is more, the guitar responds really well to dynamic playing and articulations. Not sure why it is so much more expressive than my other guitars, even unplugged, but my attempts at e.g. "butterfly vibrato" finally sound like there's something happening (moreso than on any other guitar I own :)).
I certainly didn't expect that at all.
I was dreaming of approximating that sweet BB King tone and while his sound was of course all in his fingers, this guitar gets me so close to a tone which sounds familiar to my ears (think "sweet little angel live at the regal") and is thoroughly inspiring and enjoyable to me. I bought it for cleans and blues and I got more than I hoped for, so this is a 10/10 for me.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
My guitar came fitted with mixed string gauges (I believe 10 - 48). They were old so I replaced them with pure nickel Rotosound 10s, which were recommended to me by a friend. Great strings with a great mellow tone.
As for the setup, I used the opportunity to learn about how guitars are set up and decided to do the job myself on this one. From what I could gather, the neck seemed to be set up OK and the nut seemed in good condition (and appropriately set up for my choice of string gauge). I found the action on mine a little too high so I brought it down by adjusting the saddle... way down at first (to about 2mm between the 12th fret and the bottom of both E strings). At that height, playability was fantastic, but unfortunately I got fret buzz on the low E and D strings, so eventually I decided to readjust the saddle slightly upwards to about 2.7mm. Fret buzz gone and playability still very good, so I'm happy with it.
Reliability & Durability — 9
From what I can gather, this guitar will last a long time. At least I really hope so! I had concerns about buying a Chinese made Epi. In terms of finish, my Korean Black Beauty is FANTASTICALLY made, top to bottom... only the quality of the electronics and pickups are debatable and I had heard that Chinese Epis are a step down in both departments.
Well, the "craftsmanship" on the guitar seems fine, I certainly can't find any flaws. the fretwork is excellent, the finish is beautiful and consistent, and as you now know, it sounds awesome too. Judging from this particular experience, I say bring those Qingdao-made Epis on! The quality seems very good and consistent and I trust that it will hold up just fine through the years.
Overall Impression — 9
I think I've said everything in the paragraphs above... I love this guitar and that even though I never tried or even intended to love it (I hope she'll never read this!). It just feels and sounds beautiful to me and inspires me to play, learn, practice, and most importantly, LISTEN! I am not exaggerating by much when I say that I haven't been able to put it down since I got it. I was a little hesitant at first to go with the Studio version of the Dot because I thought I would miss the extra controls, but as I said earlier, I have come to really enjoy and appreciate the minimalist simplicity this guitar brings to the table. I feel I am "setting" less and playing more - and that must be a good thing.
If the guitar were stolen or lost, I'd try to come to terms with the fact that life is unpredictable and that love wants to be free, as all things come and go... then I would seek out a buddhist monastery in the Himalayan mountains where I would retreat to meditate on the meaning of life and cleanse my karma to ensure that, in the next life, such a brutal, unjust stroke of destiny will not happen again.
I want to give this guitar a straight 10 but will choose a 9/10, simply to show some humility towards the heavyweight handmade, custom relic-ed, vintage, mojo magic-induced guitars of this planet. I of course wholeheartedly recommend the Dot Studio as a great guitar, and do so irrespective of its equally great price.