Began thinking about expensive guitars...
I think we are all saying the "right" things here, but I do think we are (as a group) discounting the name brand thing... If marketing practices over the last 100 years have taught us nothing else, it has made clear that the name on the thing (car, clothes, guitars, boats, etc) DO MEAN SOMETHING.
In some cases the name brand immediately conveys a sense of quality or value - why else would Fender Squiers sell more than Yamaha Pacificas? Some would say that Fender markets more heavily than Yamaha, but I would disagree since Yamaha is an enormous company who's name is generally synonymous with quality (across all their markets). So why would people buy a Squier over a Pacifica? Because FENDER means something. It conveys MUSIC and music history. Yamaha means stereo receivers, motercycles, etc... I would guess that Yamaha probably has a better quality control system than Fender, but that's another argument.
Anyway... I think the question was the COST, not the name brand. I think the name brand comes into play with the under $1000 equipment. Do you pay $700 for the entry-level Gibson, or the tricked out Epi? Or do you spend $300 for an Agile and pocket the rest? Once you hit the $1000 level I think you are looking at individual preferences. Is there a sonic difference between the Gibson LP Standard and the Gibson LP Supreme? Probably not, but the Supreme is a heck of lot prettier. And also $2500 more.
I'm kinda just typing away here with no apparent direction, so I guess I'd sum it up as follows:
$50 - $300 = Money is an issue, and "bang for the buck" is more important than name brand. Quality is somewhat of a crap-shoot.
$301 - $800 = Name brand is of upmost importance. This is the most competitive segment of the industry. I also believe that quality varies HUGELY from $300 to $800. If you looked at overall quality (as a function of x% out of 100 are better made) more guitars at the $800 price-point will be better made than the $300 price-point.
$850+ = at this level the features of the guitar and personal preference are key.
$3000+ = Professionals and collectors only. Who knows what drives their decisions?
My personal option is that the more you spend (within reason) the better the equipment is. We all love to rag on Gibson and their poor quality record over the last 20 years, but one would think that a bulk of the people playing $1500+ Gibson guitars are proficient players or professional (gigging) musicians. If the quality REALLY sucked that badly, I think there would be a backlash in Gibson's core market.
"If the moon were made of ribs, would you eat it?"
I think the reason people like cheap guitars and bash the expensive ones is: the higher the price, the higher your expectations. I figure this because I read a lot of reviews that say "good guitar for the money." You buy a guitar for $300, it has a spot of finish missing off the back? Who cares? It's $300! You buy a $1500 guitar with finish missing off the back? Well now we have a problem.
Maybe we listen with our wallets as well as our ears.
Very few things are black or white. As is quite often the case, "it depends." Worth of anything is subjective, and as OWA points out, expectations change with price. Moreover, there are many dimesions to expectations.
-=tension & release=-
The only thing I can add this great discussion is what I experienced a few weekends ago.
As you all know, my main axe is my Epi LP Classic Plus. Love it. Well, my sisters boyfriend is an active musician. Plays guitar and bass in several different bands. Therefore he's got some good gear. While visiting, he told me to try out his baby, a Gibson LP. As soon as I put it on my lap I could feel the difference. The neck felt better, the frets were perfect and smooth. I then started playing it unplugged and it played like butter. I actually said "Wow!" out loud. I looked it over and the quality was very obvious. It was a thing of beauty.
Now granted, this is just one comparison. My $600 Epi compared to that one particular Gibson. I'm positive there are Gibson's out there that I wouldn't like as much as my Epi.
Anyway, all I know is if he ever sells that guitar, it's mine. :-)
Heck, if I ever play a guitar in a store like that, I'm buying it, no matter the cost.
"Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
all I have to say is that the majority of us reading this post, if given a blank check that we could only use to buy a guitar with could easily think of an exact brand, model, and color. And I seriously doubt that it would be cheap.
(for me it would be a PRS custom 22 in green)
just my 2cents
wherever you go, there you are.
If I hit the big lottery I wouldn't buy anything more expensive than "good enough." I don't see any point to it.
And I'd sure never believe ANY guitar is worth $80K. It's just a guitar. Pretty hard to convince me any guitar's worth $2K.
"A cheerful heart is good medicine."