Here’s my Epiphone PR-5E review.
This isn’t a Martin OM28, it isn’t a Taylor 712 either. But then again it costs something like a tenth of the price of those icons and the PR-5E has been going strong for over 20 years in various incarnations so it must have something mustn’t it? So what has the PR-5E got that makes me love it?
The Epiphone PR-5E Stunning Looks
What it has is good looks – that Florentine cutaway is really distinctive and makes access to the top frets a breeze. Not for me – I seldom venture above the fifth fret – but lead guitarists will love it.
The hardware is possibly the best of any guitar in this price range. Gold Grover machine heads are what you’d expect to find on an instrument costing a lot more than this. The fingerboard inlays – a white snowflake design – also add to the the quality feel.
The Impressive Epiphone PR-5E Sound
But what really impresses is the sound. This is a slim guitar but I’ve played it at several “Unplugged” nights and it puts out a surprising volume – more than enough to carry to the back of the crowded room. That must be down to the spruce top and hand-scalloped bracing. The sides and back are mahogany and the natural finish on mine looks lovely under stage lights too.
But the guitar really comes into its own when it is plugged in. I remember the early days of amplifying acoustic guitars – pickups wedged across soundholes etc. At best they sounded like very cheap electrics and at their worst they sounded like very, very, very cheap acoustics. Nowadays it’s possible to plug in an acoustic guitar and it sounds like – well, just like it does when unplugged but louder! I’m no electronics expert but I’m pretty sure that the credit for the Epiphone PR-5E’s faithful reproduction of it’s original tone is down to the German designed Shadow electronics. Cheap electro acoustics – and some guitars a lot more expensive than the Epiphone PR-5E – use piezo electronics which can be quite harsh and pick up mainly the string vibrations. But when you listen to an acoustic guitar your ears hear not only the sound of the strings vibrating but also all those subtler tones from the vibrations of the top and body of the guitar. That’s what gives each guitar its own distinctive sound. The flexible NanoFlex (the clue’s in the name!) pickup in the Epiphone PR-5E picks up these vibrations too and that’s why the sound is so good. It sounds like it does unplugged but……more so! It’s a really full sound, the electronics don’t color the sound – they only emphasise what is already there.
It sounds good recorded direct too (although I usually mic and mix the two channels) and a little bit of chorus and reverb gives it an amazing sound.
Epiphone PR-5E Controls Reviewed
I have an on-board tuner on my other guitar – an Ovation 12 string – and it is about as useful as an ash tray on a motorbike but the tuner on the Epiphone PR-5E is a joy. Nice bright LEDs that show green or red and make tuning a breeze, even on a dark stage. One nice little feature is that pushing the tuner button while unplugging the guitar will get rid of that loud “pop” that makes the sound guy wince every time it happens. A small thing but just another feature that lifts the Epiphone PR-5E out of the crowd.
The usual volume and tone controls – Bass, Treble and a slider for “Dynamics” – are there. I have to admit that I rarely touch the latter in practice. Maybe a change of strings will call for a tweak in the sound or maybe I’m plugged into a PA with a boomy bass and then it’s nice to be able to get the sound right easily. There’s also a Phase switch. Again – I’ve never needed it but it is a mark of the “professional spec” aspect of the PR-5E that the option is there when needed. Another nice little plus point is that the Epiphone PR-5E has its electronics powered by a small watch battery which is smaller, lighter, cheaper and longer lasting than the normal 9 volt PP3 batteries.
Epiphone PR-5E Pro’s
The sound – both unplugged and amplified
The appearance – it really does look a lot more expensive than it is
The balance – my Ovation is neck heavy and with a big bowl-back it is uncomfortable to play for long either sitting or standing but the PR-5E is light, slim and beautifully balanced and comfortable for a complete set.
The price – ask people to play it and then guess how much it costs and they always guess at a sum way higher than the actual price. Interestingly, those with really expensive guitars are the ones that guess the highest.
Epiphone PR-5E Cons
The lead plugs into the strap button and that button is slim making a leather strap difficult to fit without enlarging the hole in the strap (NOT recommended) or fitting a little gadget I’ll tell you about in another review. A woven strap isn’t a problem.
Better memorise where each of the tone/volume controls are. You’ll never see the labels on a dark stage. Not a feature unique to the PR-5E but twirling the volume control when you meant to tweak the treble won’t make you best friends with the Sound Engineer.
No XLR output. Probably the only thing that stops this being regarded as a true professional instrument. However, plenty of extremely expensive guitars don’t have this so it’s hardly the end of the world.
Epiphone PR-5E Best Acoustic Guitar Review Conclusion
The Epiphone PR-5E is my main guitar for both live and recorded work. It isn’t a Martin or a Taylor but I don’t have that sort of money and even if I did I am no-one’s guitar hero. I am a singer/songwriter not a guitar virtuoso – I’ll leave the wildly expensive instruments to those that can do them justice. I need an instrument that sounds good and looks good and if that instrument looks and sounds way better than the price suggests so much the better. The Epiphone PR-5E is a guitar good enough for the pros (have a look at how often it appears in the hands of top musicians) but priced reasonably enough for enthusiastic amateurs.
Where to buy the Epiphone PR-5E Electro Acoustic Guitar
The Epiphone PR-5E comes out with an overall score of 8.3. That’s a great score for a guitar at this price. It scores 8 for it’s acoustic sound and 8.5 for its amplified sound. A guitar costing thousands might score 9 but do you really want to pay ten to twenty times the price of the Epiphone PR-5E to get that extra 0.5? Have you got that much money? You have? Could you send me some of it?
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