Purchased from: iPawn
Features — 9
I have the Dot Studio in Worn Brown finish. This is an extremely stripped down version of the regular Dot guitar by Epiphone, but I actually prefer this model to the Dot. It's lighter than the Dot, and has an airier, more woody sound than the Dot. It's only got two knobs: one tone and one volume, but I like the simplicity of it. The hardware is all black, which I don't like the look of, but they do their jobs well; the guitar isn't hard to set up, and the tailpiece and tune-o-matic bridge are nice and solid, with no rattling or buzzing, and provide enough stability to give the guitar excellent note sustaining quality. The tuners are generic, no-name Epiphone tuners. They hold tune well actually, so I can't complain. This axe is so spare, there aren't even fret markers on the fretboard! I like this look! Fortunately there are fret markers on the side of the neck, so it's not like you'll be playing this guitar with no guidance at all.
Sound — 10
The sound of the Dot Studio is superb. Unlike the regular Dot, this model has a very airy, woody sound, which I love. You can tell if you close your eyes that this is a semi-hollow bodied guitar, even plugged into an amp. It's not very resonant when it's played acoustically (most semis don't sound good to me unplugged), but it springs to life with an amplifier. I play with clean tones almost exclusively, and the Dot Studio really shines on clean settings. Turn up the treble, and you get a nice clean early Beatles type crisp sound that sounds great for old British rock or for blues playing. Turn the treble down, and the guitar sounds awesome for jazz - a nice round, full tone that you normally don't get with anything other than a full hollow body. Jazz is what I usually play on guitar.
The pickups are ugly as sin and look cheap, but don't rush to judgment and automatically assume you'll replace them. They sound really good, with nice crisp highs, a good midrange tone and a full, rich bass. I'm leaving them alone.
It may not look like a heavy metal guitar, but this thing WAILS when played with distortion. It doesn't feed back much, and you can crank out some blistering, ear-melting solos with this guitar cranked. I was very surprised about this, and comes as a nice surprise, even though I think the guitar might look kinda silly at a death metal concert.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The Dot Studio is pretty easy to set up. By raising the tailpiece and adjusting the truss rod a bit, I was able to get the action to a fairly low, comfortable level. The guitar feels very comfortable to play and well balanced. The neck feels like it's really long, which I like, but there's no "neck diving," and it balances well with the rest of the guitar. I like the thick, C-shaped profile of the neck, though this might not appeal to everyone.
I like the feel of this model much more than the regular Dot. To me, the Dot feels unbalanced, overly heavy in the neck, and just uncomfortable. I always feel like I'm fighting with the guitar when I play a Dot. Not so with the Dot Studio - the Studio fits like a glove to me. Regarding the pickups, keep in mind that the neck pickup is a lot hotter than the bridge one, so you'll need to screw down the height of the neck pickup and raise the bridge pickup. Like I said before, they sound really good. The nut on mine, a cheesy black plastic one, is really bad and needs to be replaced. When I use heavier strings (11's and above), the low E and A strings get stuck in the grooves of the nut. It's a cheap fix, though.
The looks of the Studio are such that you'll either really like it or hate it. Some say the satin finish looks cheap. To me, it makes the guitar look woodier and more natural. The only thing I hate about this guitar is the hideous black hardware. It looks cheap and silly. Also, the lack of a pickguard looks a little strange.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I bought my guitar used, and it appears to be fairly old and like it got a lot of use. However, everything looks to be stock, and the whole guitar plays and works like a charm. As long as I don't crush the body, I think this guitar will outlive me. As for the feeling of durability, that's the only area where I think the regular Epi Dot has this one beat. Though the Studio is far from a cardboard guitar, the regular Dot feels like it could survive a nuclear war - it's heavier and it has that bullet-proof urethane varnish all over it that the Studio does not have. I don't play live and am not a professional, so I can't comment on how good it is for live gigs.
Overall Impression — 10
I really love this guitar. The Dot Studio is not only an excellent guitar for the money, it's an excellent guitar period. Granted, it doesn't have the flash and dash, or the cosmetic attention to details of, say, a Gibson Les Paul Standard, but it's wonderfully playable and has a great resonant sound, better than most semi-hollow body guitars I've played. I say these as someone who owns many Gibsons, Gretsches, Fenders, etc. and much more expensive guitars than this one. This guitar is a HUGE bargain and would be suitable for anyone from a beginner to a professional. I am so impressed with the Epiphone Dot Studio.