kharn_tb
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Join date: Aug 2008
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#1
I've been noticing while out and about that it seems like companies are trying to change the perception of their lower end instruments.

Epiphone is adding little touches to make the lower end models look more like the higher ends with the 2 screw truss rod cover (even though its still a special II). Ibanez has expanded the Gio line into the $300 plus level, Schecter and ESP make fairly respectable lower end models (they at least play well even if the electronics might be a little murky), and I will admit I had an Affinity tele that felt as good as an Am standard (once again murky quality pups).

Are companies trying to make their product lines at the lower end better to try to get people to buy them and make them last when starting out, as well as gaining more market share by creating a lifetime customer. Or are they just trying to make the worst products look better so they sell a bit better to those with 100% disposable incomes and cash strapped parents with budding guitarists?
W4RP1G
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#2
It's a competitive market. If Yamaha makes better cheap guitars than Ibanez, then Yamaha will dominate that market. The consumer benefits from it the most.

As far whether or not they are actually getting better, I'm not sure. Cheap guitars usually feel like cheap guitars to me. Some feel better than others, but a Gio still doesn't compete with the better Ibanez lines.
samuraigoomba
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#3
The economy is bad. People don't have 1,000+ to spend on a guitar. A lot of people can only spend 300-400 dollars. I think a lot of people are also becoming more aware of the quality issues with cheaper instruments, and they want a cheap guitar with quality features. One need only look at the used market for Agile (where they cost just as much as the new ones) to see that people are willing to pay for a lesser brand if it has the specs they want.
GaryBillington
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#4
Cheap guitars these days feel a lot better than cheap guitars did when I started playing in the 80s, so I'd say things are improving.

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leigh596
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#5
Id say so, if you had a budget of around £400, you could buy a squier, maybe change the pickups and a few bits of hardware, and youd have a guitar that plays amazingly for a very cheap price. Chapman guitars are giving out alot for a low price too, theyve really got some nice guitars and are growing quickly
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#6
With the expansion of these companies I think they they are able to afford to produce better guitars for cheaper which is why they are adding the extra features and can still keep them at a resonable price.
whether they are doing this for the good of the customers or just because of market demand/competition I don't mind because cheaper guitars are getting better.
I think one of the things that will haver to halt this progression of cheaper instrument will be the fact that manufacturers will want a defining line between their cheap stock and their high end stock eg ESP vs LTD. But that line seems to be getting thinner and thinner with the improvement on cheaper guitars without the same step forward being done on high end guitars.
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dannyalcatraz
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#7
Agreed on the interaction of the economy and competitive market.

ESPECIALLY since the younger brands out of Asia are pressing hard to make a name for themselves. I've seen brands like Radix and Swing put out some guitars that are quite reasonably priced using some fairly decent hardware & electronics, for instance. I haven't bought one, but I have to admit to being tempted.
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Aralingh
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#8
Quote by leigh596
Id say so, if you had a budget of around £400, you could buy a squier, maybe change the pickups and a few bits of hardware, and youd have a guitar that plays amazingly for a very cheap price. Chapman guitars are giving out alot for a low price too, theyve really got some nice guitars and are growing quickly


Just... no...
dumbface12
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#10
Sorry to get a bit off topic, but guitar companies are not as competitive as most would perceive. I visited Martin Guitar Factory and the tour guide said that whenever a guitar company have a new idea they usually share it with other guitar companies.

Back to the original topic, my thoughts are that if you make cheaper guitars better then beginning guitarists won't start on crappy cheap guitars but rather decent cheap guitars and if your beginning playing on a better guitar that's built good then you may want to play the guitar more than if you had a crap guitar that makes you in turn sound like crap.

So, guitar companies are probably making better cheap guitars so there are more guitarists that will eventually get good enough to buy a more expensive guitar. Just my two cents.

Edit: to the post above Squier Guitars are actually pretty good especially the vintage modified series, which some say are better than Fender MIM guitars.
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Last edited by dumbface12 at Nov 23, 2012,
SteveHOC
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#11
The Squier VM line is quite good for the price. I see epiphone stepping up a bit more these days as well. They aren't trying to compete with Gibson, being of the same parent company, but I'm guessing they realize how easy it is to make quality instruments on the cheaper side of things to compete with smaller brands who are turning out decent guitars.
Dempsey68
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#12
my ibby gio GRG170DX was my first guitar and it still plays lovely!

great 'budget' end guitars the ibanez gio series
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Minimallamb
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#13
My first guitar was a Squier Standard Tele and I still love it, I prefer it to the Affinity ones and i enjoy playing it as much as my MIM Jaguar. Could do with some new pickups though. If you look as the materials used, its a solid alder guitar with a mpale neck and it feels comfortable to play, so theres no reason that with good electronics it cant sound similar to other alder bodied guitars
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kharn_tb
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#14
I had a nice solid affinity for 3 years and I loved that thing and before that I had an Epi LP Special II. When I had went out to shop for cheap guitars I had looked at another Special II (more then SG then the LP) and was amazed at how much the quality had improved in the 4 years since I bought the LP version.

I think it is that they are trying to improve things especially with the lower end stuff as some had stated just better access to materials and crafting materials that lowers the prices to allow for the betterment of the lower end guitars. I just didn't know if it was a business ploy to make them look better or trying to cater to a customer by getting them to love their product then when its time to upgrade you have a good customer.

Yes I will admit the Gio is a very good guitar for the price, and preforms well, even better then a higher end Ibanez that I've had before. I was just wondering if this was looks or a genuine upgrade as time has went on.
monwobobbo
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#15
Quote by GaryBillington
Cheap guitars these days feel a lot better than cheap guitars did when I started playing in the 80s, so I'd say things are improving.


totally agree. i started in the late 70s with total shit japanese made guitar from the 60s which was total garbage. a wahl-mart 1st act was custom shop compared to that guitar. as production methods have improved so has the quality of what can be produced cheaply. the market also has way more brands and models available than it did 20 or 30 years ago.
Hou-Tex
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#16
Ill compare my newest guitar to the more expensive guitars I have owned which was an American Strat about 10 years ago at about $1000. My new cheap guitar is a Jay Turser JT300 that cost me $120.

Yes the Strat was better, but not 9 times better.

Cheap guitars have come a long ways since I started picking in the early 60s.
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MaggaraMarine
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#17
Quote by Hou-Tex
Ill compare my newest guitar to the more expensive guitars I have owned which was an American Strat about 10 years ago at about $1000. My new cheap guitar is a Jay Turser JT300 that cost me $120.

Yes the Strat was better, but not 9 times better.

Cheap guitars have come a long ways since I started picking in the early 60s.

The prices aren't like that. I mean a $1000 guitar isn't "twice as good as" $500 guitar. (I don't know how you would even measure that.) You need to pay for the slight improvements more and more when you are looking at the highest end guitars. Because people are willing to pay for them. If you find a guitar that you love and it fits you perfectly and it costs $2000 but you could get a guitar that you aren't completely happy with for $1500, which one would you buy? The $2000 guitar isn't 1,3 times better than the $1500 guitar but you might still buy it because you are completely happy with it. A good musician will pay for the smallest differences.

But I don't think the high end guitars have got any better. It's just easier to make cheaper guitars nowadays. Cheaper models have got better but high end has stayed the same because guitars are only guitars, they still use the same technology as 40 years ago (unless it's a Firebird X or something). It's just easier to make cheap models because of automation.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Nov 24, 2012,
MrFlibble
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#18
The guitars coming out of China and Indonesia are getting better as those factories do more business and brands entrust them with better materials and put more money into them. The factories in Korea and Mexico have been pumping out high-quality stuff for years now, only the sub-par materials really hold them back; given that it's cheaper for a manufacturer to suport the Chinse factories rather than Korea or Mexico, I expect in a few years time the Korean and Mexican plants will be dead or dying and China and Inodnesia will have completely taken over everything other than the true "high-end".

I wouldn't say that companies are trying to change cheap guitars, in the sense that they want to give something back to players and want to put out the best product possible at the cheapest price. Large companies can't think and act like that, they have shareholders to answer to. What you're seeing is simply the natural evolution and improvement of the cheaper factories as they are relied on more.

Remember, there was a time when the cheap, low-end beginner stuff was all coming out of Japan. Now Japanese guitars are considered professional-quality and some people even favour them over the instruments that come out of North America and western Europe. They didn't get there because brands like Jackson, ESP and Kramer wanted their cheap Japanese instruments to be better, they got there because over time more people outsourced to Japan, those factories were able to grow in size, the workers became more experienced and better trained, they bought in better machinery and materials, etc.

So, it's not really the companies that are trying to make cheap guitars better, it's the factories that the big manufacturers employ.


edit:
I think it's worth pointing out too that quality over time is relative. Up to the 70s, American and European guitars were still being built very well with only the very best parts and with very strict quality control (almost too strict, a few companies ran themselves out of business by wasting so much time and materials rejecting perfectly acceptable instruments), whilst the Asian factories had just started up and were only capable of making the absolute worst junk. These days not only has the low-end improved but the high-end isn't as grand as it once was either. What we now call a "high-end" American Fender or Gibson standard model was, at one point, considered very average; the true modern "high-end", Custom Shop guitars and the like, are about the same quality that a barely-above-average guitar was pre-1972. So not only are the low-end guitars better in their own right, but compared to the high-end of each time they're much closer too. The falling quality of expensive guitars makes cheap guitars seem much better than they really, objectively are.
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Last edited by MrFlibble at Nov 24, 2012,
MegadethFan18
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#19
I don't think it's so much they are trying to make them better it's just the advances in technology allows them to make better guitars (and also reduces manufacturing cost).
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#20
Good topic. My first guitar ever was a Lyon by Washburn I got in the early 90's. It was made of plywood, and the trem eventually warped. The fingerboard had a knot on it and the frets were all sticking out.

I have a newer Lyon made in the mid 00's and it's made of better material--solid wood body (not sure what kind) and it's not painful to play. It's still a cheap-o but it's better than it's predecessor.

I'm not even sure if Washburn still makes the Lyon line...I haven't seen a new one for sale in a long time.
W4RP1G
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#22
Quote by nickdohle
What Epi has a 2 screw truss rod cover?

I don't know if that's true or not, but the TS's thought process seems to be that a 2 screw truss rod cover means they are trying to fool people into thinking that they are as good as Gibsons, which is just ridiculous.
MrFlibble
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#23
Gibson have dabbled, at random points in time, with putting 2-screw truss rod covers with 'Gibson' written on them on the cheapest Epiphones - Special-IIs, Juniors, etc. Why they do it, I've no idea. My only guess would be that perhaps they were surplus and it was deemed more efficient to send them to be stuck on junk Epis than it was to have Epiphone make more 'correct' covers.
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kharn_tb
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#24
Quote by MrFlibble
Gibson have dabbled, at random points in time, with putting 2-screw truss rod covers with 'Gibson' written on them on the cheapest Epiphones - Special-IIs, Juniors, etc. Why they do it, I've no idea. My only guess would be that perhaps they were surplus and it was deemed more efficient to send them to be stuck on junk Epis than it was to have Epiphone make more 'correct' covers.



I had just saw it out of the corner of my eye when I had went to sell and was walking around looking for the joke Ibanez (RG5SP1 I always look for it), and they had the Special IIs with the bell shaped cover with 2 screws in it. I had owned a special II a few years ago and it didn't have the cover and a few topics on here talking about counterfeits that had taught me about that. Thankfully the cover actually said Special II, so they were being honest. Actually that is the only way I identified it so easily, as I don't look at Epi products too readily due to that thing. I doubt anyone would try to fake a special II though, and I found them on the GC site with 3 screws easily visible in the picture, so they may have changed it.
Hou-Tex
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#25
This is a great topic.

I think it serves notice to the two big manufacturers that we have alternatives and the name on the headstock is not the most important thing anymore. Somewhere along the way they lost sight of they're customers and are putting out overly priced, inconsistent guitars as far as quality goes.

Smaller companies like Godin should see this as an opportunity. Unfortunately, most buyers, like voters can only see two choices.
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nickdohle
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#26
I have an Epi Special II with a Gibson truss rod cover. But it has three screws. Just says Gibson. I have seen whole bunch like this. Never with two screws though
krehzeekid
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#27
I think that cheap guitars now are GENERALLY improving- there are a fair number of decent guitars for very little money. Additionally, there seem to be fewer genuinely unplayable guitars.

there are obvious reasons for this, such as increased consumer awareness (internet reviews affect sales), improved production techniques, increased market size (more profits to make), more competition and whatnot. Also, making a decent cheap guitar if you're Ibanez, Fender or the like could help you sell a better guitar (or 2) to that guitarist a couple years down the line. Essentially, selling a better guitar for the same price as an inferior one means you should sell more guitars.

That being said, I think the bottom end of the market is still crap. Better budget guitars have definitely gotten better in the last decade or so, but truly cheap instruments are still precisely that. Additionally, I think that part of the perception of better budget instruments can be attributed to the fact that there are simply more of them: you'd be inclined to think that budget guitars are getting better simply because you see more good cheap guitars- this is, however, probably just a result of their being more guitar makers running about.

anyways, if you do your research, you can get a decent guitar at any (reasonable) price. That does not mean that you can get a beast of a guitar on the cheap, but you can definitely find a decent guitar on a very reasonable budget.
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jeffo46
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#28
A lot of today's lower budget guitars from companies such as ESP, Epiphone, Ibanez, and squier just to name a few, are putting out top notch product today that IMO, are in some cases, just as good as their USA made counterparts. It's too bad that some of the tone snobs tend to thumb their noses at the mere mention of names like squier, etc.
Hou-Tex
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#29
I have been fairly impressed with some of the Jay Turser lines. I just picked up a Strat copy, JT-300 and yes, it needed some set up help, but it's a fairly good guitar considering it cost me $120.
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SteveHOC
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#30
Quote by jeffo46
A lot of today's lower budget guitars from companies such as ESP, Epiphone, Ibanez, and squier just to name a few, are putting out top notch product today that IMO, are in some cases, just as good as their USA made counterparts. It's too bad that some of the tone snobs tend to thumb their noses at the mere mention of names like squier, etc.


I mostly agree with this, maybe not the equating of these guitars to the MIA counterparts, but I figure that most casual players or beginners are finding good quality in the "lower end" brands. When it comes to tone, the amp and choice of effects has so much to do with what one hears that the guitar itself (except for the pickup configuration) has less to do with the actual "tone" of the guitar than the gear it's plugged into. Unless you're getting into the hollow VS semi-hollow VS solid-body guitar discussion, these guitars can be pretty easily manipulated to capture the "higher-end" tone.

I have a fairly wide-range of guitars from the $300-1,200 range, and the best advice for the player looking to buy on the cheap is to make sure that the individual guitar you're playing feels good in your hands. The quality always varies from guitar to guitar, but one can never really make sweeping statements about the quality of an entire brand. It would seem that the "cheap" guitar quality has gone up recently, and it really does benefit the consumer in virtually all ways. "Cheap" guitars may only be fractionally worse than the more expensive counterparts, thus driving the market price down on the "expensive" guitars due to the decreased gap in quality.

Edit: This may also better the QC in some of the higher end guitars - or at least the perception of better QC (as there has been much talk about that on these boards). Let's not get into the discussion on whether or not there have actually been issues in QC with the higher quality brands, but acknowledge that these concerns have at least been expressed in past years.
Last edited by SteveHOC at Nov 25, 2012,
57Goldtop
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#31
A lot of good points in this thread. But I think there's something even more obvious - there are simply more guitarists in the beginner / intermediate range than in the above-average / professional range. I don't have any exact numbers in front of me, but based on what I see in stores and online, a company like Fender sells A TON more Squire and MIM guitars than higher-end MIA guitars. So it makes sense for Fender to start putting more effort into those guitars to make sure their customers are happy and stay brand loyal with their next purchase.

And it's not just the overall quality with the lower end stuff. Have you noticed how many different options there are in those lower price ranges now? It's really smart for companies to do that. It gives consumers a lot more "steps" in between the beginner stuff and the nicer stuff, so they create a natural path of upgrading as your skills and budget increase, and over time they sell a lot more guitars.
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Last edited by 57Goldtop at Nov 27, 2012,
samuraigoomba
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#32
Yeah, that's very true. Most beginners don't want to move up to $1,000 dollar guitars immediately, and I have noticed a lot of brands have several intermediate steps to move customers up without giving them a reason to try other brands. A lot of people start with low-end epiphones, and then there's the LP Standard, the Black Beauty, the SG-400 up into Gibson budget models like the Studio.

I suppose it makes sense for the company. One of the reasons I've heard people complain about Agile is they want higher-quality instruments than Agile is willing to make ($1,000 and up). Sure, there's custom guitars, but the guy's usually slammed with orders for those. If you leave a niche in the market untapped, it's going to go to your competitors. This may be why so many big-name companies make absolutely horrible starter-pack guitars. If they don't do it, some other company like First Act will make those millions every christmas. :|
Shadowofravenwo
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#33
I think they are making better budget guitars. Those Epiphone Standard Plustop Pros are really nice guitars.

And lets be honest, how many people true need (not want), but need pro level gear? HOw many people really have the skill and space to maximize those instruments?
dannyalcatraz
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#34
There was just an article in GP or GW about this subject, including a shooting of about a dozen or so.
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alhaq369
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Shadowofravenwo
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#35
Quote by dannyalcatraz
There was just an article in GP or GW about this subject, including a shooting of about a dozen or so.


What did they conclude? I don't think it is in the current GW.
dannyalcatraz
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#36
Just checked, and its the Dec. 2012 Guitar Player (cover featuring Jimmy Herring), and they tested 8 guitars.

Their take: cheaper guitars are indeed getting better. Of the 8 tested, the Epiphone Dot Studio and Karamer Baretta Special earned "Editors' Pick" rating.*

Concerns on the group were things like absence of fretboard markers, pickup quality (too bland, too hot, or to hollow), and bad setups, all fairly minor considering what you're getting.


* The surprising thing was that the Cort KX5 and ESP LTD M-103FM did not earn that status despite having "No concerns"- perhaps they didn't have enough positives in comparison.
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alhaq369
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Shadowofravenwo
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#37
Very cool. I think it's safe to assume that stock pickups are ok at best in most sub 1000 guitars. They have to keep the price down some how.