Pros: Acceptable quality, playability and sound for a reasonable price
Cons: It will never be Gibson Dove, but it's only a fraction of the price
As I've noted in several of my guitar reviews, today's Epiphone guitars have demonstrated a notable bump-up in quality in past few years. Epiphone is Gibson's bargain brand division, and many of their guitars are knockoffs of Gibson's guitars. Gibson guitars have gotten so expensive lately that they are no longer affordable for most musicians, so Gibson has stepped up the quality of their Epiphone guitars to appeal to all of us who want good, solid guitars but are unwilling to pay stratospheric Gibson prices for them. The Epiphone Dove is a fine example of an affordable and acceptable (for the majority of players) substitute for a high-priced classic Gibson acoustic guitar.
Epiphone Dove is built along the same lines as the Gibson Dove, although I don't believe the quality of the materials used match those of the Gibson model. The back and sides of the Epiphone Dove are made of maple, while the top is made of solid spruce. The set neck is also maple, with a rosewood fingerboard adorned with split parallelogram inlays.Both the body and neck are bound, and this guitar comes in both a cherry and natural finish. Just like the Gibson Dove, this guitar has a moustache bridge with dove inlays on both sides and a pickguard featuring a dove perched on a limb. The Epiphone Dove comes equipped with the classic Gibson green tulip tuners, and there's also an inlay on the headstock which adds to the look of the guitar.
Speaking of looks, this one has a pleasing appearance. The finish of the Epiphone Dove is a bit loud and a little cheap looking, but when compared to other guitars in its class, it looks pretty good. You can tell that the inlay and etching work on the headstock, fretboard, moustache bridge, and pickguard aren't as slick and refined as the Gibson model, but at roughly 15-20% of the price, that's perfectly understandable. As my esteemed and fellow guitar reviewer Horswispr has often noted, guitars must be evaluated in the context of their price and peer group, so using those parameters, I give the Epiphone Dove a solid 8 on a scale of 10 appearance-wise.
All of the components of the Epiphone Dove seem to be put together pretty well too. I noticed no glaring defects, and the attention to detail in building the guitar is acceptable--I noticed no glue globs or seams, and the guitar seemed to be solid, except for a bit of a lack of heft. Even though the materials used in constructing the Epiphone Dove are obviously not top rate, the company has put them together pretty well and produced a guitar that's a pretty passable imitation of the Gibson model at a fraction of the price. I give the Epiphone Dove an 8 on a scale of 10 when it comes to construction and attention to detail.
Playability is just about what I expected--the factory set up was adequate and the only buzzing I detected was on the bass strings up around the 12th fret. Most acoustic players don't have much need to be roaming around that high on the fretboard, but it's a problem that could probably be fixed with a few adjustments. Intonation was a little weak in the same general area, so I concluded that a truss rod adjustment was in order to fix both issues. Otherwise, the rosewood fingerboard gave me the "soft" feel that I like so much, but not at the expense of compromising speed and quickness. I executed my "baby" runs with ease, and chording and fingerpicking felt pretty good too. Overall, the Epiphone Dove is a solid player, earning another 8 on a scale of 10 in my evaluation.
The sound of the Epiphone Dove seemed to be pretty nicely balanced--the maple back and sides worked to restrain the natural liveliness of the spruce top to produce a sound that was even and rich, but somewhat muted in terms of brilliance. This is not a loud guitar, but it has a tonal response thatmixes the highs and lows very nicely. I've always considered the Gibson model to be a great guitar for the fingerpicker, and the Epiphone Dove is well suited for that application also. It would also be a good rhythm instrument, but probably lacks the volume to serve as a lead instrument, unless it was miked into the mix. Considering everything, the sound of Epiphone Dove is adequate, and I give it a 7 on my scale of 10.
The Epiphone Dove is a good example of the step-up in quality that's taken place over the past few years at Epiphone. For the money, I think it would make a good entry level guitar or an instrument for the casual intermediate player. You can get acceptable sound, playability and quality for a fraction of the money that you'd pay for the genuine article, and when considered in the context of other guitars in its class, the Epiphone Dove earns a 7.5 on a scale of 10 overall.
Thanks for reading.