Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE Review (2024) – A Guitar Worth Buying?

Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE

Editor’s Note: The Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE ticks off all the boxes of what it means to be a quality musical instrument. With 145 years of guitar building behind its design and construction, the Masterbilt DR-500MCE can rival with the high-end acoustic-electric guitars in the market even at its relatively cheaper price. Uncompromised quality at a lower cost, it is the acoustic-electric guitar that you are looking for and more.

 $134/Month on Sweetwater.com

The Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE

Editor's Pick
Epiphone DR-500MCE Acoustic/Electric (Dreadnought)

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Epiphone has been commonly known to be Gibson’s low-end cousin. But considering that it has been more than a century old in the industry, cheaper does not necessarily mean low quality. Continuing the tradition of Epiphone’s outstanding workmanship is its Masterbilt line of guitars. Today, we will be reviewing the Epiphone DR-500MCE, an acoustic-electric dreadnought under the Masterbilt line.

Excellent Build Quality

If you have a thing for vintage but do not like getting those acoustic guitars that only have a laminated wood exterior, then the DR-500MCE is up your alley. The rich warm finish of the Sitka spruce top gives the guitar an aged façade complemented by the solid mahogany side and back—so rich in color that it completed the vintage, seasoned look. And finally, to complete its nod to tradition, the fretboard and bridge are cut from pieces of hard, smooth rosewood.

But it is not only the guitar’s exterior that reflects the vintage fashion. The devil is indeed in the details for this dreadnought. Its fretboard inlay are subtle little split diamonds made with Mother-of-Pearl that adds a touch of style. The Epiphone historic offset “haircut” headstock has a cool stickpin inlay in the ebony faceplate. The nickel tuners are Grover Sta-Tites. The saddle and nut are bone. And the fretboard, is bound in white; creating a classic-looking package.

Sophisticated Electronics

What is more impressive is how Epiphone managed to integrate modern electronics into the guitar without completely clashing and destroying its vintage façade. The eSonic preamp, which runs on a nine volt battery, is mounted in the bass side of the instrument for easy access.

epiphone-masterbilt-dr500mce electronics
image from www.keymusic.com

Also included are the tone controls: two Shadow pickups—the soundhole-mounted NanoMag magnetic pickup and the under saddle NanoFlex pickup under the bridge. Controls also include a slider for blending the two pickups, a volume knob, and phase and tuner switches.

All in all, the guitar has a very good workmanship. You can play different tunings with it and it will remain stable—a quality that does not always describe guitars under higher price brackets.

How’s The Sound?

A stunning look is not all that this instrument has to offer. Unplugged, it creates this powerful and unique acoustic sound that is neither too blunt nor harsh to the ears. Surprisingly, for its price, the volume and depth of its tone can actually give the high-end electric-acoustic guitars a run for their money.


The tone is simply amazing—a good blend that is neither too ‘bassy’ or too bright. The mellowness of its sound would probably be attributable to the Mahogany. While the lightweight spruce tops creates good resonance. So with this classic pairing of solid woods, it is ensured that the sound will be balanced between warm and bright but still ensuring a good low end.

Although it is not the loudest dreadnought you will play in its price category, this baby surprisingly has great sustain. Due to its narrow string spacing, the guitar has a full balanced sound regardless of the kind of strings your are using.


Unplugged, the DR-500MCE already has such a solid sonic foundation. Plugged, it certainly does not cease to amaze and wow its users as it creates a natural and clean sound that is not usually the case for other electrics. But perhaps, what takes the cake among its features is the blendable preamp.

Sliding the blend to the NanoMag pickup, the eSonic2 offers a warm and mellow output that gradually becomes dry with more punch as you slide towards the NanoFlex Pickup. The only problem lies however, when the slide is fully pushed towards the Nanoflex pickup since the output suddenly drops.

Great Value for Money

Price has always been the deciding factor when purchasing a guitar. Though laminates are generally cheaper, the DR-500MCE offers a solid-wood option for less than a thousand bucks. Thus, there is no need to miss out on a guitar that produces a rich sound and has a great volume because you are scrimping on cash.

Pros and Cons

A guitar can have the best features but still, it will not fully satisfy the needs of its users. Although Epiphones Masterbilt DR-500MCE ticks off most of the boxes in my list of what I need a guitar, there is definitely room for minor improvements in certain aspects.


  • Amazing action
  • Gorgeous headstock
  • It stays in tune regardless of the number of plays.
  • It stays in tune regardless of the number of plays.
  • Thin neck which is a plus for playability.
  • The solid-wood build.


  • The preamp is small.
  • When you turn the volume knob, some kind of static noise is produced.
  • The EQ do not do so much in changing the sound.

Final Thoughts

Editor's Pick
Epiphone DR-500MCE Acoustic/Electric (Dreadnought)

We may earn commission from purchases made from our links, at no additional cost to you.

It’s quite painstaking searching the right kind of acoustic-electric guitar that will fit your needs and your style. But for its price, I have found everything I have been looking for in Epiphone DR-500MCE. You can use it for band practices, jamming session with friends, playing in small venues, recording music in the studio, and even at rock concerts. The versality Epiphone offers in this product makes it the perfect guitar companion.

 $134/Month on Sweetwater.com

Body and Neck
Value for Money
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Hi there, I’m Charles, chief editor here at The Guitar Junky. I'm a professional guitarist, and have over 10 years experience in playing guitar, piano, and other music instruments. When not working, I love playing with my two lovely kids. Read more about our team of music experts here.
epiphone-masterbilt-dr-500mce-reviewQuick Review <p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Epiphone-DR-500MCE-Acoustic-Electric-Dreadnought/dp/B003K2OWKO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=theguitarjunky-20&linkId=15967e02932dea1e80983b79155475f3" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener"><b>Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE</b></a> is all about versatility. No matter if you are a complete beginner or a guitarist with a bit of experience, this acoustic-electric dreadnought has everything you need. Pair it up with a solid body for durability and you have everything you need for years to come. </p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Epiphone-DR-500MCE-Acoustic-Electric-Dreadnought/dp/B003K2OWKO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=theguitarjunky-20&linkId=1d7d1ec831181a9eb3887cc39277af20" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener"><span class="td_btn td_btn_lg td_round_btn">View on Amazon.com</span></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://imp.i114863.net/c/2507849/794166/11319?prodsku=EMTFITAGH&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sweetwater.com%2Fstore%2Fdetail%2FEMTFITAGH--epiphone-masterbilt-frontier-acoustic-electric-guitar-iced-tea-aged-gloss&intsrc=PUI1_5713" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener"><span class="td_btn td_btn_lg td_round_btn">$134/Month on Sweetwater.com</span></a></p>


  1. Great review. My concern is with the issues on the Shadow Esonic2 on this guitar. The newest version coming out in May 2020, that have moved to the fishman preamp. She I be concerned about one over the other.
    Thank you for your values time.

    • I just got one with the Fishman Pre from Sweetwater and so far so good. It’s just a basic preamp with 3 band eq & 1 bridge pu, but it works and sounds fine for my home studio/songwriting demos…
      Guitar fit & finish is great!

  2. ..waited till I was guaranteed the 500 DR has Fishman electronics. Esonics was too unreliable for me. Absofreakinlutely love this guitar. Just got my PositiveGrid Spark this week and the combination is
    absolutely insane.

  3. Many of the Masterbilt line was discontinued last year. Check Epiphone website. DR-500MCE has been a wonderful value, but during Pandemic the line was dropped, and production of remaining units shifted to China. Yes the electronics were switched to Fishman system. I am actively seeking a “pre Pandemic” DR-500MCE, quality hand crafted in Indonesia. Not the final stock cranked out from spare parts in China.

    • I’ve just received a Masterbilt DR-500MCE from Musician’s Friend and it has the Fishman electronics. Also has the hand-crafted in Indonesia sticker. With the little time I’ve had to play it, just received yesterday, very satisfied, but have not plugged in yet. There is a small crack in the pickguard that really isn’t noticeable and doesn’t bother me. It was the Deal of the Day and I received $200 off the price of $699. Nice instrument for the money.

  4. I bought mine at the music go round in Massachusetts. It has the Esonic2 preamp. It turns out it is a MIRC refurb. I didn’t know this until warranty was out. It was stamped “used” in back of headstock. It was ok. In the store it looked good and sounded good. Like new. BUT, when I got it home, saddle pickup intermittently shorted resulting in loud hum. This stopped for awhile. Then started again. I ordered a new one and replaced the old. Now it’s perfect. I replaced the saddle. Perfect. The truss rod cover screws were stripped. Fixed those. Perfect. Adjusted the Neck. Perfect. Now I love it. The refurbish company ( MIRC) did a lousy job. But with my fixes, the guitar is awesome. You can tell The MIRC refurbs if the serial number for epi DR500MCE starts with “311……,”. I’m sure if you can find a new one , it is worth the time.


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