Assuming the lower end guitar is set up correctly, frets level, no problems with the neck or pots, and they both have the same after market pickups, is there really a huge difference between the two? Let's say you have two strats, one is a squire and the other is an american standard, let's say they both have the same bridge, and pickups and they're set up correctly, will the american strat really play and sound 900 dollars better?
Probably not.
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If you're actually able to play the guitars, you'll be able to tell.

Recorded, maybe not.
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That depends entirely on what $900 is worth to you. To me the answer is a definite yes.
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900$ better is subjective. It also depends on the specific guitar.

My 200$ Pacifica that I modified a bit feels much better than my Musicman Silhouette that costs 1.6k to me.
However, my 2.3k Les Paul Trad feels muuuuuuuuuuuch better than my 900$ Studio.
It's all in the specific guitar and your perception.
Simple and not exactly helpful sounding answer when it comes to more expensive guitars being "worth it": It just depends on you.

To me it was 100% worth spending 850€ on an American Special Strat, while some are happy enough with their Squier Classic Vibes, Mexican Standards OR they buy an American Standard, Deluxe or even Customshop because they can't or don't want to settle on anything lower.

When it comes to your "test":
Once you put that much effort into improving a cheap guitar, I highly doubt that it makes much sense after all buying a cheap guitar in first place. The upgrades to get the hardware, electronics and overall setup 'equal' to the American Strat would probably cost more than the cheap guitar itself...

After all I still think that there will be a difference, in my experience cheap Strats and Teles tend to sound generally thinner than more expensive models.

Feel-wise it's hard to say. You might prefer the one or the other, in terms of neck-profiles and comfortable-ness there is no wrong or right. I can imagine that a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable with a Customshop Gibson 50's neck, on the other hand many are not comfortable with a Prestige Ibanez' paper thin Wizard neck. Still both are quality guitars.

Summary: The test you wrote about might be a nice idea, but there's practically no reason to upgrade a cheap guitar to hell and back. The rest is subjective.
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Sound? Unless there is something wrong with the guitar, propably not. Whatever difference there is is most likely buried in the mix. Feel when you play? Yes but even that depends. You may get lucky with cheap guitars, get a one that just happens to be from good piece of wood and everything is built spot on, only electronics and frets and so on are from cheap materials. It could very well be great guitar, "diamond in the rough", needs a little bit polishing to make it shine.

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Last edited by MaaZeus at Apr 9, 2013,
I don't know what "$900 better" looks, feels or sounds like, and I can guarantee that no thread on this forum will ever answer that question. The whole point is that you've got to decide what you want to pay for.

To me, yes, I'd gladly pay for a MIA strat over a Squier. But that's my own opinion and budget, and there's nothing preventing someone else from reasonably coming to the opposite conclusion. So the question isn't particularly useful, especially once you start adding all of these caveats about putting the same bridge and pickups on the squier, frets level, perfect setup, etc, all stuff that simply doesn't happen on a stock Squier. Once you've paid for all of that you're closer than not to a used MIA strat anyway. So even monetarily there's not $900 between those guitars.

Also... diminishing returns for sure play a part. But just because something isn't $900 "better" when it costs $900 more doesn't mean it's not worth it if that's what it costs to get some improvement, and that improvement is worth it to you. Paying double the price for a 10% improvement is perfectly justified if you actually need that 10% improvement.
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I have a 500$ Ibanez S with aftermarket pickups and a 200$ no-brand-name guitar with the same pickups and a Floyd Rose to replace the crappy licensed floyd it came with.
In terms of quality I can honestly say they are exactly the same.

So from experience, yes a cheapie guitar can sound and feel as good as a more expensive one.
However, you are more likely to get a bad example of a cheapie guitar because of poor quality control. Also cheapie guitars often come with cheaper hardware that breaks more often with regular use. Case-in-point I had to replace the bridge on the no-name guitar because the knife edges wore down after about 5 weeks of use. The floyd is still going strong after 2 years of intensive use.
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If they're both set up properly, they should play about the same.
And if they have the same pickups, they should sound about the same.
Last edited by peskypesky at Apr 9, 2013,
I've never really come across a higher end guitar I thought was not better than it's lower end equivalent. I can't imagine myself ever buying an Epiphone as main guitar also, now that I've had Gibsons. The gap is huge and worth it to me.
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I think a cheap guitar can be made to play and sound as good as an expensive guitar. But that's assuming that the cheap guitar was made from nice woods and doesn't have any glaring flaws, like a sloppy neck pocket. Squiers have pretty soft fret material too, so that's a downside.

Lets do the math though, and see how much you're really save by upgrading a cheap guitar.

fret work = $100
new pickups(name brand) = $150
new tuners = $70
new bridge = $100
new electronics = $30
new nut with install = $50

Those prices will definitely vary based on location and choices, but I think that's probably average cost in the US. So you spend $500 on a $200 guitar for a total of $700. You've saved $200.

Now here's the catch. You may have saved money, but if you try to sell it, no one will pay you for those upgrades. So your guitar may have cost $700, but it's only worth $100, if even that.

Is it worth the trouble? Not to me. However, buying a used MIM strat and upgrading it with cheaper, but better parts(like GFS) isn't a terrible idea. But I've done that and realized that I should have just spent a little more on a used MIA strat, partly for that extra fret, but also for the resell value.
Last edited by W4RP1G at Apr 9, 2013,
It may play and sound like a Fender but it will always be a Squier.

It's like buying a polo short and sticking a laurel reef on it. It doesn't make it a Fred Perry.

Can I tell the difference in sound between an MIM and a MIA? Probably not. I'd still buy the MIA, though.
Quote by W4RP1G
Those prices will definitely vary based on location and choices, but I think that's probably average cost in the US. So you spend $500 on a $200 guitar for a total of $700. You've saved $200.

Most importantly, for $700 you can have a used MIA strat, at least in the US.
The problem with TS's argument is that his assumptions are not realistic for a cheap guitar.
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It may play and sound like a Fender but it will always be a Squier

So the headstock dictates the quality of the guitar 100% (using "headstock" to represent the brand as a whole)?

The problem with the argument is inherent in the question itself. "Value", as far as playability is concerned, is totally subjective. This is why the saying "a diamond in the rough" still hangs around, or "one man's trash is another man's treasure". How about "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"? These sayings may seem obtuse or useless, but they remain valuable to remind us of subjectivity.

In other words, there's no way to determine any of this.
Last edited by SteveHOC at Apr 9, 2013,
Quote by W4RP1G

Lets do the math though, and see how much you're really save by upgrading a cheap guitar.

fret work = $100
new pickups(name brand) = $150
new tuners = $70
new bridge = $100
new electronics = $30
new nut with install = $50

Those prices will definitely vary based on location and choices, but I think that's probably average cost in the US. So you spend $500 on a $200 guitar for a total of $700. You've saved $200.

None of my Squiers have needed fretwork. I have 1 Squier Tele and 5 Squier Strats.

And I don't know where you're getting your parts, but you can do a whole lot better.

You can get a great set of pickups for $100 or less.

Tuners cost about $29.

Bridge/trem costs about $37

electronics about $32

Tusq XL nut $10

for a total of $207 in upgrades.

If you get a set of pickups from Rose Pickups for around $60-65, you can shave another $35-40 off the total cost of upgrade.

for a total upgrade cost of $167.

and i guarantee you, you will have a sweet guitar.
Last edited by peskypesky at Apr 9, 2013,
No, you'd have a sweet guitar if you started out with a decent guitar to upgrade in the first place - which you might not if you bought a Squier. And it would still play like a Squier, which isn't always the best.

Anyway, this isn't really a productive argument. It's absurdly abstract and assumes a bunch of things that aren't really useful or true. I see our threadstarter hasn't come back yet so I think we can be done now.