Epiphone DR-100, Fender CD-60S, and Yamaha FG800: Beginner Acoustic Guitars Head-to-Head

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Once upon a time the entry level acoustic guitar was a rite of passage for all beginners. The action was almost always too high. Good tone? Forget. But times have changed. And here we have three excellent dreadnought-shaped acoustics from Epiphone, Fender and Yamaha to prove it.

Each of these acoustic guitars for beginners offers a gaming experience that belies their modest price. And we don’t share trade secrets here; it is not the enigma of the Sphynx. The DR-100 is Epiphone’s best-selling acoustic. Another top seller is Fender’s CD-60S. While the Yamaha FG800 is almost ubiquitous in school music departments. These are popular guitars, and for good reason.

Is there one beginner dreadnought to rule them all? Very probably. Let’s take a look and see how they compare.

Specifications at a glance

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Epiphone DR-100

Epiphone DR-100 (Image credit: Epiphone)
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Mudguards CD-60S

Mudguards CD-60S (Image credit: Fender)
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Yamaha FG800

Yamaha FG800 (Image credit: Yamaha)

Epiphone DR-100
Big voice, small price of a crowd-pleasing square-shouldered dreadnought

Price: $199 | Main characteristics: Select laminated spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sides, slim C-profile mahogany neck, 25.5″ scale length, 20 medium-jumbo frets, rosewood fingerboard, rosewood bridge, premium die-cast tuners 14: 1, Gloss Finish (Ebony, Natural, Vintage Sunburst), Hard Case or EpiLite Cover Sold Separately

Mudguards CD-60S
The Big F puts a solid spruce top on this budget stunner

Price: $199 | Main characteristics: Solid spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sides, Fender “Easy-to-Play” mahogany neck with rolled fingerboard edges, 25.3″ scale length, 20 frets, walnut fingerboard, walnut bridge, die-cast chrome tuners under pressure, gloss finish (black, natural)

Yamaha FG800
A hardy perennial, a loyal workhorse and a well-finished acoustic

Price: $139 | Main characteristics: Solid spruce top, nato back and sides, nato profile C neck, 25.56″ scale length, 20 frets, rosewood fingerboard, rosewood bridge, chrome die-cast tuners, matte finish

Features and construction

It should be a fair fight, with each guitar sporting a full-sized, square-shouldered dreadnought body shape. There are no electronics for us to worry about; it’s about tone and feel, the fundamentals of guitar playing.

In an ideal world, we would look for solid wood rather than laminate, but there are pros and cons; laminate is less expensive, and you could argue that depending on how well it was built, it might be more durable. Either way, it keeps the prices on the bright side of respectable and we’re more than ok with every guitar here using laminate on the back and sides.

We have the Yamaha FG800 with its laminated nato, or so-called Oriental Mahogany, while the Epiphone and Fender opt for laminated mahogany to showcase the solid spruce tops. The DR-100 may only have a laminated spruce top but, tonally, it fishes in the same tide, following the acoustic design principle that says a shiny spruce top and resonant sound is best complemented by the fuller, warmer mahogany tone.

Here the Fender CD-60S really impresses. It has the solid spruce top, plus the mahogany, and some player-friendly features that are nice to see at this price, such as rolled fingerboard edges to make it a bit more accommodating, while Fender’s Easy -To-Play neck profile won’t be too exaggerated for most players.

That said, there isn’t much of a difference in comfort between the CD-60S and the DR-100’s slim C-shaped neck; both are designed for beginners and smaller hands, while the FG800 has a nice full C-profile neck that fills the palm nicely. We love that all have understated finishes. After all, these are entry-level acoustic guitars; it’s much more important to focus on fundamentals, feel and tone.

Headstocks of three beginner acoustic guitars

(Image credit: Yamaha/Epiphone/Fender)

Yamaha’s FG series has been in production since 1966 and has been carefully developed over 200 different models. The FG800M we have just feels classy. It looks classy too, with the nice, understated matte finish, and the neck the most “grown-up” profile of the three. The fret work is flawless, the action and configuration of the synthetic urea nut and compensated saddle are impressive, while the bound fingerboard delivers the knockout blow.

Yamaha updated the FG800 in 2016, introducing a new scalloped bracing pattern that promised a classic balanced dreadnought sound, with the all-important low-to-mid boom giving a bit more juice.

This idea is also applied to the CD-60S and DR-100, the former featuring quarter-sawn scalloped X-bracing on its spruce top and the latter opting for a wide X-pattern. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about it. Variations of the X pattern have been the industry standard since CF Martin pioneered it in 1843. The idea behind scalloping bracing patterns is that by reducing the amount of loose lumber on the table d harmony, resonance is improved.

Playability and Tone

You could say the DR-100’s medium-jumbo frets and thin, tapered neck give it a contemporary feel, but it’s seriously undercooked. On an entry-level acoustic, which most players will be just starting out on, this is a stunning feat of guitar design, which is a big part of why the lowly Epiphone is one of the best acoustics. popular all the time.

Not only that, but its tone is excellent for a dreadnought. The brightness of the spruce lightens the load, but there’s a nice commanding low-mid that will suit any style, whether you’re a strummer, hybrid picker or a budding fingerstyle whizz. That’s the beauty of the dreadnought; he plays the percentages.

On the tone side, the CD-60S will do the same. Upgrading the CD (Classic Design) Series to include a solid wood top version like this was a masterstroke from Fender’s ever-inventive R&D brain. Again, we’ve got a classic dreadnought sound – and, it has to be said, a well-configured instrument with perfect intonation – but with a bit more high-end sparkle that works really well to bring your playing to life. fingering.

This is a mass production model, but we love the care and attention that went into it, the feel of the walnut fingerboard and a neck that does as advertised – it’s easy to play. The Yamaha FG800 is also a mass production model, but it has even more of a premium feel.

You could pay more and get a high gloss finish version, but we love the satin feel of the neck. It will allow you to play comfortably for hours, and the tone? Well, there’s real depth to the boom here, a breadth to the FG800’s tonal spectrum that makes for a truly authoritative acoustic. In terms of shooting for that archetypal dreadnought tone, as pioneered by Martin, this comes closest and might have you pausing to check out the logo on the headstock.

Verdict

Epiphone DR-100

(Image credit: Epiphone)

You could argue for any of these three acoustics. In terms of price, value, and what they offer in terms of tone and playability, anyone would make an ideal acoustic for anyone beginning their journey as a guitarist.

As always, there are tradeoffs between price and quality. The Yamaha FG800 is the most expensive of the bunch, and yet excellent value for money. We’d be inclined to come out in favor of the FG800, because of its class.

It would definitely be a great investment for a young player who has been playing for a few months, who is totally obsessed and serious about their instrument, and who may be looking for a more qualitative option to take their game to the next level.

The tone of the FG800 is certainly comparable to more expensive acoustics. This, combined with a superlative finish, would make it a no-brainer.

But in light of super-value options like the DR-100, or even the CD-60S, we might narrow down the choice between the Big F’s CD-60S or the DR-100. With its solid top, the Fender probably has the edge when it comes to sound, perhaps with a bit more volume and depth.

But the DR-100 is great acoustics in its own right. With an unbeatable price in this category and a super fun neck designed for beginners and anyone who might be agnostic to the merits of acoustic guitar, overall we’d go with the DR-100. However, if you were to stick the names in a hat and pick the winner by chance, you couldn’t go wrong.

The essentials of beginner’s equipment

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