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Review: Epiphone EL-00 Pro Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The following content is related to the October 2013 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

The L-00 (along with similar L-0 and L-1 models) was one of the best flattop acoustic guitar bargains, from its introduction during the Great Depression all the way through the mid Nineties, when collectors discovered how truly incredible these “budget” guitars are.

Though the guitar had a small body, its light X-bracing, thin finish and high-quality materials added up to provide sweet tone, assertive output and incredibly even balance, which made L Series flattops a favorite of blues and fingerstyle guitarists like Robert Johnson and Norman Blake. In recent years, the price of an original L-00 has soared to the $4,000 to $7,000 range, but the new Epiphone EL-00 Pro brings the model back to its original low-cost/high-performance status and includes the modern upgrade of a built-in Fishman Sonitone preamp and Sonicore pickup system.

Features

True to the original, the Epiphone EL-00 Pro is built with a select mahogany body, solid spruce top, mahogany neck, rosewood pin bridge and rosewood fingerboard. With its 14th-fret neck-to-body juncture, bound top and back, and tobacco sunburst finish, the EL-00 Pro most closely resembles the 1937-’41 incarnation of the L-00. Modern improvements include a compensated bridge saddle, rounded SlimTaper D-profile neck and Grover mini-button 14:1 tuners.

The most significant modern upgrade is the Fishman Sonitone preamp and Sonicore undersaddle pickup. The preamp is mounted inside the soundhole, with master volume and master tone controls mounted at the edge of the soundhole near the low E string, which preserves the EL-00 Pro’s vintage acoustic aesthetics. In fact, it’s difficult to tell that this is an acoustic-electric guitar unless you peer inside the soundhole.

Performance

Like the original L-00, the EL-00 Pro sounds much larger and bolder than its small body suggests. Its bass is big but not overwhelming, allowing the mids and treble to share equal sonic stature. The Fishman Sonicore pickup and Sonitone preamp deliver warm, rich acoustic tone that perfectly complements the EL-00 Pro’s vintage vibe, which make this guitar a natural choice for fingerstyle and acoustic blues players.

The D-shaped neck profile is much more comfortable to play than the hefty deep V-profile necks found on the original models, and with its excellent fretwork and compensated saddle, the EL-00 Pro’s intonation is much more spot on, as well. Overall, the EL-00 Pro offers the perfect blend of vintage vibe and modern performance, making it the best acoustic guitar bargain since the original Depression-era L-00.

List Price $499
Manufacturer Epiphone, epiphone.com

Cheat Sheet

Based on a vintage L-00, the EL-00 Pro offers several modern upgrades, including a D-shape neck profile, compensated saddle and Grover tuners.

The Fishman Sonitone preamp and Sonicore undersaddle pickup deliver warm, rich amplified tones while preserving the guitar’s vintage acoustic appearance.

The Bottom Line

With its vintage looks, classic tones and modern upgrades, which include a Fishman preamp/pickup system, the EL-00 Pro is an incredible bargain for guitarists who love small acoustics with big sound.

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Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.