The Epiphone 220SCE is a part of the popular AJ (Advanced Jumbo) series of acoustic guitars designed to cater to the needs of both beginners and more advanced players. The 220SCE is amongst the more affordable in the line-up and is perfect for beginners and intermediate guitarists looking to buy a new guitar or upgrade from a cheaper one.
Unlike cheaper electric guitars (for the most part), a cheap acoustic might be a nightmare to play. This electro-acoustic shines here as it provides great build quality and playability at an affordable price. The factory-fitted pickups and electronics mean that it is also stage-ready.
In this review, we’ll be taking a closer look at what the Epiphone 200SCE offers, including a detailed rundown of the design and build quality, pros and cons and finally, how it stacks up against some of the other acoustics in the same price bracket. Hopefully, this review will give you clarity if you’re on the hunt for an electro-acoustic guitar and narrowed down to a few guitars, including this one.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Design and Build Quality
The 220SCE is based on the Advanced Jumbo design, which is about the same size as the dreadnought guitars but with a single cutout for easy access to the higher frets. It has a deep and wide sound chamber perfect for a deep, loud, and resonating tone. The 220SCE is available in 4 colors and features a polyurethane finish. The guitar looks gorgeous in all 4 colors, and the build quality is excellent, with flawless finishing. Despite the affordable pricing, the guitar looks premium, and the attention to detail is outstanding.
The body is made of laminated mahogany for the sides and back, which is a bit of a downer as I expected solid wood construction. The top, however, features a solid Sitka spruce with an X-bracing that provides excellent projection and depth to the tone with lots of harmonics.
The Advanced Jumbo design, which is the same size as a dreadnought, makes for a nice loud and warm tone, while the single cutaway gives you easy access to all 20 frets.
The slim-taper C-shaped mahogany neck is straight and finished in satin, providing great maneuverability and comfort. It’s paired with a rosewood fretboard and bridge that not only looks great but provides excellent sustain.
The neck width at the nut is 1.69”, which like most modern slim-taper necks, provides excellent playability. The nut, though, is made of plastic.
The headstock on the 220SCE is beautifully crafted like the rest of the guitar and looks fabulous in contrasting black. The truss rod nut is covered with a plate inscribed with “AJ”, while the top of the headstock features the brand name. The sealed die-cast Gotoh tuners are very high quality and add to the overall aesthetics of the headstock.
The guitar features Shadow NanoFlex under-saddle pickups, which is quite the highlight of this very capable guitar. The German-made pickup is very high quality and is known for its great sound output and tone. It’s paired with a preamp with a 2-band EQ, an inbuilt chromatic tuner, a phase reversal switch, and a dynamics slider.
You can pretty much tell the quality of an acoustic guitar by the craftsmanship and attention to detail given to the fretboard. Unsurprisingly, the bound fretboard is of similar or higher quality than the rest of the 220SCE. The fretwork is flawless, with perfect fret assembly and not even a single sharp end.
The C-shaped modern slim-taper neck profile makes the neck fast and enjoyable. The neck relief, action and pretty much the whole set-up were great out of the box, which is expected at this price range but not a given. Chording and playing notes is very comfortable, and the satin profile makes hand movements easy and fast. The narrow nut width also helps with playing complex chords or the lower strings but might not be very comfortable for someone with a large hand or thick fingers.
The Epiphone 220SCE produces a rich, deep, full-bodied sound thanks to the dreadnought shape. The solid top helps deliver an articulate tone rich in harmonics, while the deep mahogany sound chamber produces excellent projection and warmth when played unplugged.
The sound is even more pleasing when plugged into a decent acoustic amp. The tone is balanced, neither too bright nor too muddy, but it has a nice punch. You can use the EQ settings on the guitar to shape the tone further to your liking. It’s also very versatile, and you can easily do rhythm, fingerstyle, slap-and-pop, etc. When you turn the bass up, the chords sound full and punch, while fingerstyle sounds better with more treble. The guitar has an inherent punch or bass to the tone, which makes it sound very premium.
The Shadow NanoFlex pickup, unlike piezo pickups, is a man-made sensor that has more consistency than piezo pickups and detects the string and top vibrations much better. This reduces the harshness common with most piezoelectric pickups and produces a tone with many subtleties of an unplugged acoustic.
The phase switch on the preamp not only minimizes feedback when you’re playing with higher volume but also gives simple chords a nice depth and effect.
Overall, the Epiphone 220SCE is a premium-sounding instrument fitted with a great pickup and outstanding preamp. It’s versatile enough, but you’ll have to experiment with the many available settings.
The Epiphone AJ-220SCE is not a cheap guitar. However, considering the materials, build quality and finishing, the value you’re getting is high. You can still find serious contenders at this price bracket, like the Washburn Bella Tono and Takamine GD11MCE. However, both acoustic-electric guitars are smaller and have laminated-wood bodies like 220SCE.
I think this makes the Epiphone slightly better if you’re looking for a dreadnought. Also, both guitars have piezo pickups, which means the plugged-in tone might not be as good as this guitar. You can check out these guitars if you do not prefer a specific body design or pickups. But if you have narrowed your search to the AJ-220SCE, you can go ahead without any doubt. It’s one of the best guitars in the under $500 price bracket.
|Advanced Jumbo (Dreadnought), Single Cutaway
|Solid Sitka Spruce
|Body (Back & Sides)
|SlimTaper “C”, 12″ radius
|4 (Natural, Ebony, Vintage Sunburst, Mahogany Burst)
Pros and Cons
Let’s do a quick rundown of the pros and cons of the Epiphone 220SCE:
- Great construction, build quality and finish
- Solid Sitka spruce top
- Affordable pricing
- Outstanding fretboard and fretwork
- Modern C-shaped Slim-Taper neck
- German-made Shadow NanoFlex under-saddle pickups
- Well-balanced sound with excellent articulation and projection
- The side and back use laminated wood construction
Epiphone AJ-220SCE Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Epiphone AJ-220SCE checks all the right boxes as far as budget guitars are concerned. It’s crafted very well with great attention to detail, especially to the fingerboard, where many budget instruments lose points.
The guitar comes well set up and plays very well out of the box after tuning. Thanks to the solid top and high-quality under-saddle pickups, the plugged and unplugged tone is outstanding. The aggressive pricing makes it suitable even for beginners.
Overall, if you’re looking for a well-constructed acoustic guitar on the lower side of $500, that plays well and sounds great – the Epiphone AJ-220SCE could be a great choice. As a bonus, you get quality electronics and a truly beautiful instrument.
Is Epiphone AJ-220SCE a Good Beginner Guitar?
Yes, it is good for both beginners and intermediate guitar players. The great build quality and set-up would help a beginner greatly, while the electronics make it stage-ready. Even more advanced players can use it as their second/backup guitar for traveling.
What Does AJ Stand for in Epiphone?
The stands for Advanced Jumbo, which is the naming Epiphone uses. It is the same size and design as a dreadnought and, in the case of 220SCE, also features a single cutaway.
What’s the Difference Between Acoustic and Electro-Acoustic Guitar?
Electro-acoustic or acoustic-electric are acoustic guitars fitted with pickups and a preamp.
Can I Plug an Acoustic-Electric Guitar into a Standard (Electric) Guitar Amp?
Yes. However, we suggest using an acoustic amp for an optimal tone. Acoustic amps produce the natural tone of the acoustic guitar much better than a standard guitar amp, which is more suitable for tone-shaping and, even with all settings at neutral/low, still color the tone.