Review from www.guitar.com –
"Although we may associate the Epiphone brand with Gibson’s budget electrics and acoustics, Epiphone was once one of the great names of American guitar making. Many of the Epiphones produced from the late 50s onwards are fantastic instruments in their own right, but the new Masterbilt Century archtops represent an attempt to alter perceptions by revisiting Epiphone’s pre-war golden era. The other guitars in Epiphone’s Century reissue range are the Olympic and Zenith.
A considerable effort has gone into getting it right, and the evidence is in the details. The tailpieces have an aged but not distressed look, the fingerboard edges are softly rolled for player comfort, vintage-style fretwire is used and period decorative motifs have been revived.
The finishes have a soft sheen rather than high-gloss and they appear to have been applied thinly. Check the specs and you’ll find that body dimensions, longitudinal bracing and materials are all accurate, too – including solid spruce tops. Perhaps most impressive of all are the repro tuners. Epiphone has gone all out for a vintage look, with ‘E’ branding and period-correct buttons, but under the covers the gears are tweaked for a more modern 18:1 ratio.
Fortunately, adherence to the past combines with an up-to-date Shadow NanoFlex HD under-saddle pickup and an eSonic HD preamp and stealthily concealed volume and tone controls. A combination jack socket/battery compartment is tucked under the tailpiece hinge.
Masterbilt De Luxe -
Measuring 17 inches across, the body is one inch wider than the Zenith’s and 2.5 inches wider than the Olympic’s. This time, the ebony fingerboard is treated to large ‘notched snowflake’ markers, but the ‘ebonoid’ floating bridge is just the same.
With an armful of Masterbilt De Luxe, it would be quite easy to imagine oneself wearing a cheap tuxedo in an orchestra pit, swathed in tobacco smoke with a silent movie playing overhead. It’s by far the biggest of this bunch in size and sound, but it combines elements of both the Olympic and Zenith. The De Luxe is the loudest by some margin, but it has the highs and lows of the Zenith combined with the even balance, midrange muscle and sustain of the Olympic. It also has the most refined and sophisticated tone. No doubt you can bash out a rhythm part with considerable cut and gusto, but it responds just as readily to a soft touch that rounds out the bass and allows the extended treble to breathe. There’s a dusting of high harmonics that linger on as single notes fade leisurely away.
All three of these guitars are fitted with the same eSonic HD preamp and Shadow NanoFlex HD under-saddle pickup. The pickup system was designed with dedicated acoustic amplification in mind, which typically comes with the kind of powerful onboard parametric EQ that will allow you to sculpt not only the kind of toneful warmth synonymous with the Jazz Age but also much more contemporary acoustic sounds ideal for the modern player.
Output level is high and noise is low, but be mindful that the voicing is relatively bright when plugged directly into a flat-response desk or PA system, so you may want to use the instrument’s onboard tone control to roll off the high end if you don’t have an acoustic amp or preamp on hand. David Rawlings stopped using pickups live many years ago and has since relied exclusively upon microphones but if that’s not an option, we’re happy to report that although the mids are less full, the bass response retains much of its woody character.
Epiphone has pulled off something spectacular by creating three distinct models that combine modern Far Eastern production with an authentically vintage vibe. The tuners are a triumph, and kudos to Epiphone for going the extra mile. Let’s hope one or two other heritage brands will finally be inspired to do likewise.
The flamey figuring on the De Luxe’s maple back and sides is vivid and vibey
The gauge of fretwire is judged perfectly and Epiphone has achieved that elusive goal of carving a fat vintage neck profile that isn’t unwieldy or clubby. In fact, it’s a sheer delight.
You shouldn’t make snap judgements if you get to try one of these. Even more than a solid wood flat top, these archtops require a few minutes of playing time before they warm up properly. Perhaps the bridge bases could be made to fit the top a little more snugly, but ultimately, I don’t think I have ever had so much fun playing archtop acoustics. So which one would I choose? That’s a tough call, but when they are eventually returned to Epiphone I think there will be an Olympic-sized hole in my collection."
- Finish:Vintage Natural Aged Gloss
- Hardware:Aged Nickel
- Top:Solid Spruce w/ Parallel Tone Bar Bracing
- Back & Sides:Laminated Flame Maple
- Body Dimensions: Lower Bout - 17", Waist - 10-1/4", Body Length - 21"
- Scale Length: 25-1/2"
- Nut: Bone, 1-11/16"
- Neck:5-piece Laminated Hard Maple/Mahogany
- Neck Profile:Rounded "C" shape
- Bridge: Floating Adjustable Ebonoid w/ Compensated, Artificial Bone saddle
- Pickup:Shadow NanoFlex HD; Under-saddle
- Preamp:eSonic HD
- Onboard Controls: Master Volume & Master EQ
- Tuning Machines: Historic Epiphone Reissue Tuners with Marboloid "Crown" buttons (18:1 ratio)
- Tailpiece:Historic Epiphone Reissue Trapeze
Weight is 5.46 lbs
At 17" across on the lower bout, the Epiphone Masterbilt (yes - that's the correct spelling) De Luxe packs a punch as a rhythm instrument. It has strong, full tone capable of cutting through any mix.
But it is also a fine soloing instrument with lots of articulate single note character and good projection.
While it sounds just fine unplugged, its cutting-edge eSonic HD preamp system and Shadow NanoFlex HD under-saddle pickup make its amplified tone sound just like it does unplugged. This system does an excellent job accurately capturing the guitar's natural acoustic tone. Plus, it has easy-to-access controls for Master Volume and Master EQ mounted just inside the lower f-hole.
This guitar presents in pristine, mint condition with no signs of player wear or use of any kind apart from some faint marks on the pickguard. It would definitely suit a new buyer.
It is a beautiful instrument in so many ways – cosmetically, soundwise, playability, and in the sheer joy a nicely made hollowbody can bring to a player.
Comes in its original Epiphone hard case in new condition.
NAMM Interview & Demo - https://youtu.be/nV7FgZh4UQY
… And better audio demo - https://youtu.be/XZEgtTAcbhQ