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Does Cost = Quality aka You get what you pay for?

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(@andy-kirkbride)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 9
Topic starter  

Hi all,

I was reading a post the other day about "most under-rated guitars" and it got me thinking, does the cost of a guitar necessarily equal its quality? I personally have 2 Gibson electrics that ir in the low 1000$ range. I also own a B.C. Rich that was about 3-400 dollars. I am relatively new to guitars, so I cant really tell a diff. in play quality. What do you guys think? I look in a guitar center catalog, and I cant believe ever high level player owns a 2000 and up gibson, fender, or custom shop guitar. What do you guys think of sub 1000 guitars? Are they all crap? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Andy.

Gibson Ls Paul Studio (Black)
Gibson Flying V (Faded Cherry)
B.C. Rich Warlock (Green Tribal)
PRS Paul Allender SE (Purple Sunburst, Bat inlays)
Dean V Acoustic

Peavey VK 100 Head
Peavey Half Stack

Digitech DeathMetal Pedal
Boss Multi-Effect Pedal


   
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(@dogbite)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348
 

the guitars in a GC catalog don't even begin to be high end.
yes, there are very expensive guitars made. 2000 dollars isn't even close.
I played a 6000 dollar acoustic. and yes, it was really a lot better than my 1200 dollar Martin.
that kind of stratosphere is way too impractical a place for me. so to be real, yes, money and quality do matter, but
there is value in any range price.
I love old Harmony acoustics from the 1930's and 1940's. most were painted because the wood was so crappy.
they used to go for under a hundred years ago, but now everybody wants one and the price has shot up.
inexpensive Fender Squires, the low end entry model, has become a cool guitar to have to swap parts on.
the prices haven't changed much because there are so many of them. so putting a money value on guitars isn't that clear cut.
the GC catalog has specific price ranges and groups guitars into them as a marketing strategy I sense.
I can't really believe the descriptions they put under the pictures; they ALL sound like great guitars.
the signature guitar series in the several thousand price has always mystified me. I don't see why I would want a guitar built for somebody else, specifically. I could never play like them.???
there is a qualitative difference in Fender, for example. the American series is a top notch, pro guitar. the low end Aria and Squire cannot compare in build quality. ( now there is another topic of sound and tone, but that is way subjective).

when looking at guitars and price it is best to look at the build quality; the craftsmanship.
to me a good guitar has good craftsmanship. the person that made it, assembled it, whatever, took care paying attention to all the parts. it shows in the guitar when I take it down off the rack.
it feels right. the knobs turn easy and level. the fret ends are smooth, for example.
those guitars I have found tend to be more expensive.

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(@citizennoir)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

For the most part - Yes, cost = quality.

What is quality though?

In Fender MIA vs. MIM: the MIA's use better quality materials (though, this difference is narrowing over the years).
Are they built better than MIM's though?
I've seen plenty of cases where the MIM quality was much better than a MIA.
(Don't even get me started on American work ethics! :roll: )

Gibbos are WAY overpriced with continuing lack of QC....
While their Chinese made (probably made by Samick) Epiphone line has some of the most consistently good quality guitars that I've seen.
I'm continually blown away with Epiphone fit/finish/playability right out of the box - both electric and acoustic.
Material wise - Epi's cut many corners.
Still, they sound pretty darn good, especially for the price.

I personally have an 88 MIA Strat.... If you really wanna know; I think it's a piece of junk.
I also have a 71 Strat that happens to be the finest example of Stratocaster I've ever seen/heard/played.
In fact, the finest electric I've ever played.

I guess, the thing is that they make many different guitars to please everyone's needs.

Are you a beginner? You probably don't need a 1000 + guitar
Are you young? You probably cant afford 1000+
Did you sell your 1960 Strat years ago, and regreted it ever since? Can't afford a real one - buy a RI from Fender's custom shop.
A touring musician? Maybe you record with vintage guitars, but want something replaceable (less than a Grand) to take on the road.
Maybe you record with vintage guitars, and want to play a similar one on the road - RI
Maybe you're a Seattle grunge player and want a cheap pawn shop guitar that needs the pups held in with electrical tape.
Maybe you're one of those people that have to have every type of guitar concieveable - Buy the cheaper imports just for looks, and fill a room with 'em!

I guess it depends on how much time in the saddle you have with guitars.... I'm sure that many people would (and they do) think my 88 Strat is a wonderful guitar.
I also used to own a 60's Gibbo SG ('66?).... Everyone loved that guitar; I thought it was the worst guitar I had ever played!
I have an early 60's Harmony hollowbody electric.... terrible build quality; Fantastic Tone!
It's a bear to play though, and very tempermental - I LOVE IT!

Knowledge is power - and that is true when it comes to guitars.
KNOW what you might be buying.
KNOW what it is that you like/dis-like about guitars.... the materials, the construction, everything.
If you have a Les Paul jones (Different than John Paul Jones), than find out as much as you possibly can about them on paper, then go out and play a ton of them - and KNOW what it is that you are playing.
That helps to train the ear for tone.

As for the RI type guitars, they are usually more expensive because they use older production techniques....
Not quite as cheap and zippy as production line builds.
With old Fenders, things like handwound pups, old style cloth covered wiring, one or two piece premium ash bodies with the old routings, nitro lacquer finishes, the old plastic (like the 50's Tele black pickguards) are going to jack the price up.
If those things matter to you, than I guess they are worth it.

Conversely, NO - don't think for a second that a pricey guitar means it's a great guitar!

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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(@nicktorres)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Right up until $1742

at $1743 you really get diminishing returns on your dollar


   
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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

I have a Fender MIA Strat and a Korean-built Burns Marquee. You'd never tell, from looking at them or playing them that one cost twice as much as the other. There is some difference in sound as the Strat has Texas Special pickups installed, which are hotter than standard pickups.

As for Chinese-built Epis, they are all made at a purpose built, Gibson-owned factory. Samick is a Korean company that used to build most of Epis guitars - the serial number prefix would tell you which factory had built it. Epi also used to have a European factory in the Czech Republic, whose guitars were said to be of better quality than their Asian counterparts. They have the prefix 'B', if I remember correctly.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
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 Cat
(@cat)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1224
 

For the most part - Yes, cost = quality. What is quality though? Ken

That's pretty much it...you need to set your personal definition of "quality".

If you are just going by a rule of thumb...okay...well known, long-time brands will at least take some guesswork out of the hunt for a good one. Still, if you go after rack after rack of guitars you'll come up with something that's just right (ya know...like Goldilocks!)

Be aware that there's heaps of stuff that's got absolutely nothing to do with the playability or the sound that might cost the greater part of manufacture (IE: Gilt Lilly on "news")...

Take a knowledgeable friend along...

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

I had a quick look at concert guitar prices from the classical guitar dealers

£7,700 is USD 11,100 at an exchange rate of 1.45 and that will get you a guitar made by somebody I've never heard of. If you want a Ramirez, or a Smallman, expect to pay more than £15,000 - $21,000

And, if you look at them, they'll look no different to the "£100 specials" in the high street.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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My local luthier (M.Chouard) will make you a classical guitar - with prices starting at EUR 8000. As Alan said, it won't look 10 times as good as an 800 EUR guitar. What you pay for is M. Chouard doing all the work by hand, with hand tools. Each guitar is totally unique.

He also makes and repairs violins. He has a piece of a particular wood that the best bows are made from. To get a hand-made bow, made from this wood and with no fancy trimmings, will set you back over EUR 2000.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

A more expensive guitar will have, one way or the other, higher costs for the manufacturer. This could be because production capacity is low, production speed is slow, expensive materials are used, more manual labor is used, inhouse research was required or whatever. How much 'better' the guitar is depends on what you're looking for. Guitars, and espescially electric guitars, are relatively cheap, you often see many of the world's greats playing on $2000 guitars. A halfway-decent pro violinist will readily spend atleast five times that. There is a group of 'official luthiers' here and a fully hand-made violin will take often atleast a year with pricetags from E15,000. My violin is dirt-cheap at E700 or something. But when my teacher bows an open string on both it's super obvious which one is more then 10x more expensive, her's is much more warm, wider, thicker, just more beautifull in general. Then again, a violinst needs one violin, I'm sure Nick could have bought one instead of the boatloads of guitars he's got. :p

In general, for under $1000 you can find truckloads of great guitars with quality parts and excellent playability. Noone 'needs' an expensive guitar but if you can afford it and notice the difference (or the knowledge of playing an expensive guitar makes you happy, just as valid!) by all means go for it. If you don't have piles of money laying around or you don't quite notice the difference just use what you've got.


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

the link is not as strong as one might assume. to begin, quality has many dimensions such as materials, design (timbre, feel, ergonomics, efficiency ...) reliability, durability, craftsmanship, unit-to-unit consistency, quality control, workmanship and customer support. there are now many effective "hands-off" ways to achieve excellent results in many of these aspects. and "hands-off" means automated => lower cost. even low margin Asian manufacturers have mastered the production of very good, high-quality, yet economical guitars, whereas Gibson still relies on "quality through marketing." quality tends to have a stronger correlation to maker and brand than price.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@lue42)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 356
 

My personal experience... I'd put my Schecter S-1 (30th anniv. model) up against any current, non-custom shop guitar. Build quality, components and materials are fantastic. Real SD pickups, sperzel locking tuners, tonepros bridge, ebony fretboard, beautiful inlay work, etc... all for $800-850 new (I got mine for $500 used). It is Korean made, and boy do they ever do good work. If you ever have an opportunity to buy one of Schecters 30th anniv. guitars (there are 5 different models) for a good price... jump on it (especially the C-1). You will not be disappointed. And, next time you have the opportunity, give a Schecter guitar a try.

There are a lot of "cheaper" brands out there that have really good guitars (ie. Schecter, Agile) and there are a lot of expensive brands that are definitely not worth the money.

It comes to what sounds (and looks) good to you, and whether you want to pay for the brand name, and the little "made in U.S.A" logo. I am not saying some US guitars are not worth it... but, there are deals to be had on guitars that are just as good as US guitars.

My Fingerstyle Guitar Blog:
http://fsguitar.wordpress.com

My Guitars
Ibanez Artwood AWS1000ECE-NT
Schecter S-1 30th Anniversary Edition
Ovation CS257
LaPatrie Etude
Washburn Rover RO10


   
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(@gchord)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 151
 

I played a Robert Johnson repilca from Gibson a few years back.For $2000,my $350 Epiphone blew it away,in feel and in sound.There's some that say a Yamaha plays just as good as a Martin for the buck.Not taking anything away from Martin,but in some cases you have look at the models. A $500 laminate Martin will not be built or sound like $3000 D-45 model.


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
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by today's standards and expectations, I would not expect RJ's guitar to have especially good tone or be easy to play.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@lue42)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 356
 

I agree about Yamaha -vs- Martin...

One of the biggest regrets I have is selling an old Yamaha FG340 acoustic... now that I have a better ear (and appreciation) for a quality instrument, I now realize that I gave up a very very good guitar. I honestly have not played anything like it since. But, selling it was the first domino to where I am today in my playing... and, looking back, it was the right decision.

But, I sure do miss it.

My Fingerstyle Guitar Blog:
http://fsguitar.wordpress.com

My Guitars
Ibanez Artwood AWS1000ECE-NT
Schecter S-1 30th Anniversary Edition
Ovation CS257
LaPatrie Etude
Washburn Rover RO10


   
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(@u2bono269)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1167
 

maybe I'm still in the honeymoom phase, but I was pretty impressed with the jump in quality between MIM and MIA Fenders. The body wood is better for one. I can easily see the seams and count 6 pieces of wood on the MIM, even through the paint, whereas on the MIA it's a wonderfully bookmatched piece of nicely figured alder. The overall quality of neck wood appears higher as well, although I base that solely on how it looks. The finish is far superior. The hardware better. So yes, I feel like I got a comparable deal...I got what I paid for.

http://www.brianbetteridge.com


   
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