Epiphone USA Collection FT110 Frontier: What is it?
The Frontier is a US-built dreadnought with star power that might challenge people’s perceptions of Epiphone simply being Gibson’s more accessibly priced sibling brand.
In build, spec and tone, and indeed price, the Frontier is nose-to-tail a high-end acoustic guitar. The price tag and that square-shouldered dread’ shape might call to mind flagship Gibson acoustics such as the Dove and Hummingbird, but the Frontier predates both of those designs and quite possibly played a role in inspiring their design.
Certainly, the Frontier belongs in such company. It's stunning. Here it arrives in a sumptuous Vintage Sunburst, its antique stain giving it a pre-1960 look. The pickguard is beyond cool, a ‘lariat and cactus’ detail on tortoiseshell that is going to elicit an involuntary gasp every time you take this guitar out of its case.
The body comprises solid Sitka spruce on the top with solid flame maple on the back and sides. Under the hood, Epiphone has deployed a lightweight scalloped bracing, and an LR Baggs VTC under-saddle pickup with the preamps controls for volume and tone mounted discretely in the soundhole.
The Frontier’s maple neck is topped with an Indian rosewood fingerboard that’s inlaid with slotted rectangular MOP blocks. Built-in Bozeman, Montana, the same facility where Gibson’s acoustics are made, the finish is impeccable, with the nitrocellulose lacquer letting that sunburst stain really pop through the gloss, and there is some crossover.
The Frontier is equipped with similar Kluson keystone-style tuners as you might find on its Gibbo cousins, such as the Dove. The fingerboard is carved in a familiar 12” radius, with the Frontier boasting a scale length of 25.5”, again, like Gibson’s Dove. It has a 'Belly Up' bridge of Indian rosewood, with TUSQ bridge pins and a bone saddle to match the nut.
Where the Frontier distinguishes itself from its Gibson counterparts is in its sunburst stain, with the dark colours hewing closer to the edges of the instrument. It's nicely complemented by multi-ply black and cream plastic binding.
Epiphone USA Collection FT110 Frontier: Performance and verdict
The Frontier is a good fit for all kinds of styles, with a roomy 44mm nut width that makes chords and fingerpicking a little easier, and a big boxy body that makes strumming a high-volume, soul-stirring activity. There's a lot of volume to the Frontier, more than your average dread’, but the power doesn’t overcook the sound. There’s a wonderful level of detail and a good balance across the frequencies.
For a maple-bodied acoustic, the Frontier does a good job of muting the metallic brightness that can come over as harsh to some ears. There’s a weight to the low-end, a warmth and sweetness to it when you apply a more gentle touch, big noise if you hit it with an open G haymaker.
• Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Hummingbird
A convincing and grown-up Epiphone take on Gibson's most-famous acoustic, the Inspired By Gibson Hummingbird bears the sonic hallmarks of its illustrious US-built kin. All at a more attainable price.
• Gibson Montana Hummingbird
The Hummingbird has a discography that would rival any other guitar in history, and to this day it remains the most-loved acoustic in Gibson’s lineup.
Pleasingly, the LR Baggs VTC pickup and preamp faithfully translates all this musical information when going through an acoustic amplifier. It’ll really sing on stage, and under those lights, it will look spectacular.
This is an aspirational instrument. Yes, Epiphone’s bread and butter lie in entry-level guitars and a range of Chinese-built electric guitars and acoustics that close the distance between their more affordable US Gibson counterparts. But there has to be room in the lineup for Epiphone originals, and for a few high-end treats to remind us that, back in the day, there was a greater parity between the brands.
A guitar like the Frontier is a worthy flagship instrument. As with the finish, the factory setup is exemplary, with the neck’s medium C profile one of those Goldilocks patterns, not too deep, not too slim. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s certainly got songs in it.
MusicRadar verdict: An exquisite, aspirational dreadnought acoustic with unbeatable looks, and a big, bold voice and a feel that lends itself to whatever style takes your fancy.
Epiphone USA Collection FT110 Frontier: The web says
"The classy-looking Frontier would look great slung around the neck of any superstar, fingerpicking a singer-songwriter number in the studio or bashing out a bluegrass rhythm. It’s exceptionally well made and plays great, plus it sounds polished and well rounded, whether plugged in or not."
Epiphone USA Collection FT110 Frontier: Hands-on demos
Epiphone USA Collection FT110 Frontier: Specifications
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: 14-fret dreadnought acoustic
- TOP: Solid Sitka spruce, scalloped bracing
- BACK/SIDES: Solid flamed maple
- MAX RIM DEPTH: 118mm
- MAX BODY WIDTH: 405mm
- NECK: Mahogany
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- TUNERS: Gotoh ‘keystone’, gold plated
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43.82mm (1.725”)
- FINGERBOARD: Indian rosewood, bound, with split rectangle inlays, 12” radius
- FRETS: 20 medium
- BRIDGE/SPACING: Indian rosewood with bone saddle/54mm
- ELECTRICS: LR Baggs Element VTC, with soundhole volume and tone, endpin jack
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.70/3.74
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: None
- LEFTHANDERS: Yes, £3,610
- FINISHES: Vintage Sunburst, Antique Natural
- CONTACT: Epiphone