Are all Epiphone Guitars Made in China? Masterbilt Guitars?

Back in Epiphone’s early history their first line of guitars were made in their Long Island factory in the US.

Today you will find that many Epiphone guitars are now made in China, and the quality has improved substantially since they first started making them there.

Although most of their guitar lines are made in China, that’s not the case for all of them as they still produce certain models in Indonesia.

Since 2020 Epiphone has also started making some high-end guitars in the US again.

Map of China and Epiphone guitars

When Did Epiphone Move to China?

Most Epiphone guitars are now made in Quingdao, China – where Gibson opened two factories in 2004.

The main GQ factory has a capacity of around 700 guitars per day, with their staff having an average of 10 years of experience (at time of writing this article), and their quality control staff around 12 years.

Are Epiphones Made in China Good?

Early models produced in China varied in quality, and at that time Korean and Indonesian-made Epiphones  were preferred.

As the Chinese factories improved their processes, they soon came to match the earlier Korean standards, and from around 2006 onward most people agree the Quingdao-made guitars are as good as any.

Most owners of Chinese Epiphone guitars say that spending a couple of hundred dollars on a good setup, tuners and sometimes pickups will turn them into a pro level guitar for far less money.

China has certainly improved their guitar manufacturing over the years, and it’s largely due to the oversights of Lloyd Williams and Scott Lewis who brought their Gibson experience to China.

They achieved higher quality by mirroring the processes that were used in the US at the Quingdao factory, and trained staff in essential skills.

In an interview, Williams was asked to talk about the Epiphone employees who make their guitars…

“…When a new employee starts on the line they are assigned a mentor. Depending on the skill level for their position they will apprentice from 60 days to one year. Once they have passed their apprenticeship and mastered their skills they in turn become mentors for the next new employee. 

But, we have very little turnover so most of our folks have been with us for years. All of our senior managers and supervisors started on the shop floor and worked their way up the old fashion way (like Scott) by learning to be master craftsmen with strong leadership skills.

We also have Epiphone Master Luthiers who are dedicated to teaching critical skills such as neck jointing, buffing and final setup.”

Some recent guitars made in China are the Epiphone sg 400 tony iommi, Epiphone Les Paul Modern (2021), Epiphone 59 Les Paul Standard, and the Epiphone Les Paul Classic.

Other Countries Epiphone Guitars are Made

Epiphone Guitars Made in Taiwan

The Epiphone EP Series were produced in Taiwan from the late 1970’s until mid 80’s.

Some examples of acoustic guitars produced in Taiwan were the Epiphone Norlin EPI Model C-12 Classical Guitar (1970’s), and the Epiphone Norlin Epi d-14 Acoustic Guitar (1980’s).

Are Epiphones Still Made in Korea?

Production of Epiphone guitars was moved to South Korea in the 80’s where Gibson employed contractors like Samik to produce their guitars.

Some guitars produced there were the Epiphone B.B. King Lucille Archtop Electric Guitar, Epiphone S-300 Strat, and the Epiphone LP Gothic in 2004.

In 2005 Epiphone ceased making guitars in Korea, with a limited run of LP style guitars. Their main production stopped in Korea in around 2002.

Epiphone Guitars Made in Indonesia

Samik still make some Epiphone lines such as Masterbilt in their newest Indonesian factory.

Which Epiphone Models Are Made in Japan?

In 1970 Epiphone stopped producing guitars in the US, and moved its factory to Matsumoto in Japan, and for 5 years only produced rebranded Matsumoku company-designed guitars.

From 2002 to 2008 Epiphone produced a range of high quality guitars named the ‘Elite Series’ made by Terada and FujiGen in Japan, using higher grade woods, bone nuts, and hand-rubbed finishes.

In 1970 Epiphone stopped producing guitars in the US, and moved its factory to Matsumoto in Japan, and for 5 years only produced rebranded Matsumoku company designed guitars.

From 2002 to 2008 Epiphone produced a range of high-quality guitars named the ‘Elite Series’ made by Terada and FujiGen in Japan, using higher grade woods, bone nuts, and hand-rubbed finishes.

Some Terada made guitars were the Epiphone ES 930J (1991),  Epiphone MOD Sunburst, and the Epiphone Emperor J (1989).

A couple of examples of Epiphones made later in Japan are the 1999 LPS-80 Single Cutaway Standard, and the EPIPHONE Les Paul Standard. Many of the later models were made for the Japanese domestic market.

Which Epiphone Models Are Made in the Usa?

In 1993, a limited run of Rivieras and Sheratons were produced in Gibson’s Nashville factory, with the company’s Montana plant also building 250 Excellente, Texan and Frontier flat tops.

The current USA Collection includes:

  • Epiphone Frontier Acoustic
  • Epiphone Texan Acoustic
  • Epiphone Casino Archtop

Where Are Epiphone Masterbuilt Guitars Made?

In 2020 Epiphone started making their high-end Texan acoustic guitars in Boseman, Montana – the first US-made Epiphone acoustic in many years.

Epiphone Masterbilt Texan Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Masterbilt guitars were also made in Indonesia by Samick up until about September 2019, and since 2017 production runs started in China.

The Indonesian Masterbilts are considered to be very high quality, while many of the early Chinese models can be hit or miss. The Chinese Masterbilts can still be very very good quality, especially newer models.

Here’s a few Masterbilt models, and where they were made:

Indonesia

  • Epiphone Masterbilt Deluxe
  • Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-45ME
  • Epiphone Masterbilt DR500MCE

China

  • Epiphone Masterbilt DR-400MCE
  • Epiphone Masterbilt J45

Conclusion

Many Epiphone Guitars are now made in China, where Epiphone employs a few different manufacturers in locations like DaeWon, QingDao, SaeJun, and Unsung.

The quality of Epiphone’s Chinese made guitars has become quite good over the past few years, and with most guitars you can expect an instrument well worth the price tag.

You won’t find the highest quality guitars in their lineup since they are mass produced, but they are still highly playable and affordable guitars that look great, and are a great gigging choice.

Current Chinese Epiphone Guitar Models:

  • Epiphone ES-335
  • Epiphone ES-339
  • Epiphone Explorer
  • Epiphone Firebird

Les Paul Series

  • Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy
  • Epiphone Les Paul Custom
  • Epiphone Les Paul Modern
  • Epiphone Les Paul Muse
  • Epiphone Les Paul Classic
  • Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn
  • Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60s
  • Epiphone Les Paul Studio
  • Epiphone Les Paul Special
  • Epiphone Les Paul Junior
  • Epiphone Les Paul Standard 50s

SG Series

  • Epiphone Prophecy Extura
  • Epiphone Prophecy SG
  • Epiphone SG Modern Figured
  • Epiphone SG Standard
  • Epiphone SG Custom
  • Epiphone SG Muse
  • Epiphone SG Classic Worn P90s
  • Epiphone SG Special P-90
  • Epiphone SG Standard 60s
  • Epiphone SG Standard 60s Maestro Vibrola
  • Epiphone B.B. King Lucille

Flying V Series

  • Epiphone Flying V
  • Epiphone Flying V Prophecy
  • Epiphone Dave Rude Flying V

Artist Series

  • Epiphone Jerry Cantrell Wino Les Paul Custom
  • Epiphone Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom Origins
  • Epiphone Jerry Cantrell Les Paul Custom Prophecy
  • Epiphone Brendon Small GhostHorse Explorer
  • Epiphone Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom Origins 7-String
  • Epiphone Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard
  • Epiphone Nancy Wilson Fanatic
  • Epiphone Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior
  • Epiphone Emily Wolfe Sheraton Stealth