Thinking about your first “proper” guitar? No offense, but that $50 guitar you started out with is probably holding you back if you’ve been playing for a while now. Perhaps you’ve read enough to decide that you want to skip the cheap entry level guitars and are looking for something that’ll give you years of service. In this Epiphone AJ220SCE review we’ll take a closer look at a decent entry to intermediate guitar. Oh yeah, and it’s electric-acoustic so you can plug it into an amp too! Let’s get started.
Overview of Epiphone AJ-220SCE
The AJ220SCE is a full scale (25.5″) electric-acoustic guitar. The AJ in the model name references it’s body design, which is advanced jumbo. The body has a larger bottom than dreadnought styles, which means it produces a lot of volume and depth. I find these sorts of guitars are good for rhythm guitarists, but also for singer song writers who need a decent mid-range to compliment their vocals.
The back and sides of the guitar are made from laminated mahogany, but the top is made from solid Sitka Spruce. The laminate back and sides is common to most guitars unless you want to pay thousands of dollars for a solid wood guitar!
The important point is the solid Sitka Spruce top. Solid top guitars provide a much better resonance. Spruce is bright and responsive but also brings out the full range.
It’s popular with producers these days for the balance of performance against cost. Solid top guitars also sound better with age.
The body has a gloss finish to the top, back and sides. The neck is made of a solid piece of mahogany, which is glued into the body with a dovetail joint. The neck has a satin finish making it easier to move about the fringerboard.
The neck is a slim taper shape, which improves playability. The fingerboard is made of Pau Ferro wood, which shares many tonal characteristics with Rosewood. Pau Ferro is good quality material but is cheaper and more sustainable than Rosewood.
There are 20 medium-jumbo frets, with pearloid inlays marking out the key frets. The single cutaway makes reaching the higher frets possible. The headstock is the classic Epiphone shape and features die-cast tuning machines finished in nickel. The tuning gear is sufficient and holds it’s tune well enough.
There’s a bell shaped cover on the headstock, which houses the truss-rod. You can adjust the truss-rod to adjust the action, which is a nice bonus. If you feel that the action (the distance between the strings and the fingerboard) is too high, your local music store will be able to make adjustments for you.
The AJ220SCE comes with a set 0f 0.12’s, which are reasonably heavy duty. You will probably want to swap them out for your favored brand and gauge, but if you don’t have much experience the strings will do just fine.
The nut is made from plastic, which isn’t surprising given the price of the guitar. You tend to find bone nuts in more expensive guitars. I don’t really like plastic nuts. Again your local guitar store can swap that out for you if you’d like a better material. It’s the same story for the saddle, which is also plastic.
As we covered earlier the AJ220SCE is an electric-acoustic guitar so includes some electronics. The recent models contains the Fishman Presys II pre-amp and pickup system, which sits behind the bridge. This is all wired up to a control panel on the top side of the guitar.
The control panel has the usual master volume control along with bass and treble control. It would have been nice to have some mid control too, but the Fishman Presys II isn’t an expensive pickup. You do get a phase button, which helps to eliminate unwanted feedback.
There are a couple of comfort features too with a chromatic tuner and low battery warning light. The battery compartment is located with the control panel. It’s powered by disc batteries (2032), which last a lot longer than 9v batteries. The one thing I would say about the control panel is that it looks a little cheap, housed in a tacky looking plastic case. That’ll be a nod to keeping costs low.
The jack input is cleverly hidden away in the bottom strap anchor. That’s something I really like to see in electric-acoustic guitars. It really affects the aesthetics when there’s an ugly jack mounting port on the bottom of the guitar.
So how does the AJ220SCE sound? Unplugged there’s an absolute ton of resonance and volume. The Spruce top gives it a bright response whilst the body shape takes care of the bass and mid ranges.
Hook it up to an amp and you get a decent clear tone with no discernible distortion or break up. Although the pickup isn’t the most expensive, it does the job pretty well.
The AJ220SCE delivers outstanding quality for the price. That’s something that is more often than not synonymous with Epiphone. Here are the best bits:
- Solid Top
- Satin Finished Neck
- Very Good Resonance
The drawbacks of the AJ220SCE are more about the need to keep costs down. You find this is the selection of some of the materials. Here are the main offenders:
- Control Panel Looks Cheap
- Plastic Nut
- Plastic Saddle
Well, it seems that Epiphone has done it again. They’ve produced a good quality guitar that plays like is should cost $150 more than it actually costs. The body shape combined with the solid Spruce top gives you a full, resonant and dynamic range of tones. The pickup is pretty good whilst fulfilling it’s requirement of being relatively low cost. The inclusion of a chromatic tuner is a nice bonus.
I particularly like the neck profile and the satin finish to the back of the neck, making the AJ220SCE very comfortable to play. The fact that you can make truss-rod adjustments is another bonus, allowing you to make fine adjustments according to your preferences.
AJ220SCE not for you? Take a look at the Acoustic Guitar page for more. I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page.
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