#1
It's always baffled me when people in this forum describe certain guitars as being better built, or of much higher quality than a rival in the same price bracket. It's just that other than obvious things such as ill fitted necks, rough frets, dodgy electronics or badly applied paint, I can't really see what people are going on about.

I've been on this site for nearly 6 years now and it's always talked about, but in that time I've owned about 30+ guitars and tried out countless others, and in truth, I very rarely see any issues with any of them. In terms of new guitars I don't think I've ever tried one that needed a fret dress, rewire, had bad paint or anything. I've had guitars that have stayed with me for that amount of time and have never had anything go wrong with them. In fact the only guitars that have ever failed have been the guitars I've rewired myself.

A friend of mine has a japanese standard series ESP horizon, and I adore that guitar. Everything fits perfectly, the finish is amazingly well done, the electronics feel expensive when you're playing with them and small details such as the nut fitting completely flush and feeling perfect where it is means it feels like a high quality guitar. In truth though, any mid range jackson I've ever tried feels similar. They all feel very very well put together, and the hardware is often similar, if not the exact same.

I'm not trying to go down the route of saying that if you get a $500 guitar and put nice pickups in it'll be the same as a $3000 guitar, but I am wondering just what everyone thinks quality is, because even cheap guitars today feel very very well built and I just don't know what about them you would describe as being 'not quality' other than obvious damage or properly badly made guitars.

TL DR: I don't want to start a flame war or try to call people out for talking rubbish, but I'd like to know what you mean when you personally describe a guitars quality. I honestly think that there is no such thing as a badly made guitar at the moment. Even the lowest of the low end squier guitars usually have pretty tightly fitting neck joints. I mean they're all made by computers, if it comes out wrong once you reset the computer then it comes out right every single time.
#3
Quality is very subjective. You perceive quality as how well they're put together and the quality of the hardware. I would agree that by that definition most guitars have quality. To me, those are an absolute minimum for any guitar.

When I think about a "quality" guitar, I think about high quality wood, hardware, electronics, nice finish, good tone, plays well, stays in tune, etc. Not all guitars meet these criteria, for example my Squier. It may be put together well, but it's not made with high quality wood or components, it doesn't play or sound well, and it falls out of tune easily. My two main electric guitars meet all of these criteria, so they are higher quality.

Like I said, quality is subjective so I'm sure there will be people who agree and disagree with me, but that doesn't make them wrong. Your definition of quality depends on what you're looking for in a product. That's why different companies, like guitar manufacturers, put out different products to satisfy the requirements of different customers. If everyone had the same definition of what "quality" is, then there would be very little differentiation between products.
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#4
For me, high quality usually boils down to the following:
  • High-grade and lightweight wood, using as few pieces as possible in the case of bodies.
  • Pickups chosen to suit the wood and construction of the guitar.
  • Hardware and fittings made of decent and appropriate materials, e.g. steel or brass instead of zinc, graphite composite instead of plastic, actual mother-of-pearl instead of swirled plastic pearl-effect, etc.
  • A thin and flawless finish, and I do mean flawless. Note that this does not necessarily mean 'fancy'.
  • Everything fitted correctly and cleanly. This includes but is not limited to clean and precise routing, screws inserted perfectly vertically, all control knobs equal height (flat top) or contoured evenly along the body (carved top), no excess glue around binding or inlays, etc etc etc.


So to me, as an example, most Gibson and Fender MIA production guitars are not truly 'high quality' as their bodies can sometimes be made of slightly heavier cuts of wood (or even be 3-piece bodies, occasionally), the hardware and electronics are typically jack-of-all-trades stuff and it's not uncommon to see the occasional rough patch in the finish, a bolt-on join that's not as tight as it could be, a jack not tightened right, and so on.

Also, price does have to be considered. £3,000+ guitars do not cost that simply because the company said "**** it, let's see if anyone will pay this". A lot of people (especially around here) complain about ''overpriced'' guitars, not understanding that guess what, not every beginner is supposed to have a PRS Private Stock guitar. The Gibson Custom Shop is not intended for 15-year-olds to play in their bedroom. If you're a professional and need this professional quality, these prices are not all that high; in fact anyone with a regular, average-salary job can comfortably buy a Fender, PRS, ESP or Gibson Custom Shop once a year, if they wanted to.

As such, I tend to find the following price bands give a good representation of where 'low-end' stops, hwo the mid-range is split up and where 'high-end' comes in:
[ist]<£400
£400-800
£800-1,200
£1,200-2,000
£2,000-£3,500
£3,500+
Under and up to £400, you're never going to get good wood, wisely chosen stock pickups or completely clean fittings. £1,200 and more and you should at least be getting really good base construction, even if you may not be getting the flashiest-looking guitar. Once you start paying over three and a half grand there is no reason to accept anything but absolute perfection.
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#5
Interesting. Thanks for the opinions guys. Would you say in your opinion that the definition of quality is often connected more closely than it should be to functionality then? I feel that much of the time, this forum gets the two mixed up through word association.

For example, you two both have a very different definition of quality. Whereas Jimmy Page Zep looks at quality as a case of how functional is this guitar and would give advise for high quality guitars based on what the most functional guitar is, if you were asked about the quality of a guitar Mr Flibble then you would be advising a guitar that was perfectly finished, but possibly of similar functionality.

Though both definitions are correct as it's open to interpretation, I'm wondering if many people on this site are being guided away from what they really mean by defining what they want improperly.

Just curiosity anyway.
#6
Functionality and quality are entirely different to me. The most 'functional' guitar would be a Line 6 Variax guitar with the finish on the neck sanded down and a recessed Floyd Rose and Tremol-No installed. The highest quality, I've already detailed.

That's not to say that a guitar can't be high quality and functional, just that I would define the two things seperately. 'Functional' implies a range of common features for versatility combined with the most comfortable and fastest-feeling neck (though comfort and speed are of course entirely subjective to each player and utterly impossible to define for the masses). 'Quality' implies finesse; the worth of the parts used and the time, technology and experience that has gone into making the item.
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#7
Yeah, I understand what you mean with it. What I was getting at is more that someone who is in the forums and is asking for a really high quality guitar, may simply mean that they want a guitar that you would deem of average quality, but is still highly playable. Many of the things you mentioned have a very small effect on playability, but are often found in guitars of high quality because like you say, they are not mutually exclusive.

Essentially, I've been playing with my friends ESP NTii standard series and have been thinking about getting one because it's the nicest thing I've ever picked up. Despite having tried one though I decided to read some reviews and some people have been saying that other guitars such as the SL1 are much better quality guitars. I just wondered what at that sort of level would actually be considered higher quality, because I wasn't sure that a guitar would feel more playable in my hands than the ESP, so wondered if my definition of quality which seems to be largely playability based, matches up with other definitions of quality.

I think I'd have to change my search parameters to amazing functionality, average quality =D I'm simply not that bothered about most things on guitars as it turns out. Anything with better actual quality than my friends ESP is something I don't know that I'd justify spending the money on.

Thanks for the input.
#8
I think what you're talking about there is the bedroom players' perception of 'high end' vs what actually is the most expensive, master-crafted instrument in the world. Lots of beginners look at a standard production Gibson or Fender as being 'high end' but when you look at the overall range of guitars in the world you'll see that the American Standard Stratocaster and Les Paul Standard are actually pretty much just in the middle, or if anything slightly below the average.

I suppose a simple way to break it down would be this: let's call Custom Shop guitars and hand made instruments the 'high end'. MIA and MIJ production guitars can be the middle. MIK and below make up the 'low-end'. So the ESP Horizon NT2 is, really, mid-range.
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#9
... These talks are for low -end guitars. When you pay up to 2000$, you'll set it to fire if guitar have bad sound or bad quality. But if you talk about cheaper ones, then the matter changes. Some chinese factories even forget to glue the neck to the guitar, or wire the pickups or etc. And people want to see a good price/performence. And some brands do good work for lesser prices then others. You talk about japanese ESP's and else...... YOU DIDN'T FIND PROBLEM MAYBE BECAUSE THEY ARE HAND MADE?
#10
really the quality and such depends on playability and the sound your looking for.

you need pickups with the right output for the styles your playing, good cuts of wood, good construction of the neck and neck pocket and neck angle, where the bridge is set and if its set properly on the body (not too much to the left or right of where it should be), and the quality of the the other mechanical parts (tremolos, pots, etc).

a cheap floyd rose will have a shitty bridge block that wont sustain as well, and wont hold up to use for very long because of the knife edges. in my experience like right out of the store it didnt feel right or hold up, and to me, im VERY sensitive to gear quality. for me, a better guitar will make me play a thousand times better just because im not fighting the instrument to make it do what I need it to.

a lot of cheap strats have shitty bridge blocks as well, but those can be replaced for brass or steel relatively inexpensively.

tuners can be cheaped out on, although on most name brand guitars they're similar to grovers and decent enough IMO.

fretwork is a HUGE one, cheap guitars have shoddy workmanship in this area often, and its a few hundred to change that and youd need a good, REAL technician with proper equipment to do so. it wont allow your action to get low and if its bad enough, could buzz even with excessivly high action, although thats usually only an issue with really cheap stuff. most of the time its at least playable, even if you cant get the action super low.

when it comes to pickups its mostly down to taste, but cheaper pickups usually arent potted, which means even with humbuckers you can get tons of annoying harmonic squeals with high gain settings that even noise gates cant really stop. if you want to play metal, something high output could work very well, or something with mid-high output like the standard set of Duncans could work well for a variety of music.

but say, if you want to get an authentic vintage single coil sound, your stuck to low-mid output single coils for the most part, although the biggest part of that is really your amp. with something high wattage you could work it with high output humbuckers because you could control how much the amp drives, but it wont sound like single coils... but what im getting at is stacked humbuckers or rails can alter the sound rather dramatically just by the extra output they send to the input.

for example, its hard to plug in a guitar with humbuckers to my class 5 and get a clean sound at all. even on 4 or 5 the input is too pushed to keep clean and drives the preamp. but the same is not true with my JSX at 120/60 watts.

so really, quality is pretty subjective in some respects, but I consider a guitar to be of good quality whether I like it or not based on the quality of workmanship and quality of components.

you could hand me an ibanez Prestige or japanese custom shop model and I still wouldnt like it because the neck is too thin. I tend to play with either proper technique or thumb over the neck, and for me, they're just not right, as when I keep my thumb behind the neck I have to get my wrist in a bad position to play semi-comfortably.

still great guitars though, and many people work amazingly with them
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#11
Quote by MrFlibble
I think what you're talking about there is the bedroom players' perception of 'high end' vs what actually is the most expensive, master-crafted instrument in the world. Lots of beginners look at a standard production Gibson or Fender as being 'high end' but when you look at the overall range of guitars in the world you'll see that the American Standard Stratocaster and Les Paul Standard are actually pretty much just in the middle, or if anything slightly below the average.

I suppose a simple way to break it down would be this: let's call Custom Shop guitars and hand made instruments the 'high end'. MIA and MIJ production guitars can be the middle. MIK and below make up the 'low-end'. So the ESP Horizon NT2 is, really, mid-range.


I don't know that I like the term bedroom player as such but I take your point =D

I think I have the answer I was looking for anyway. Quality is different to playability, and though quality actually means the construction and build, some people use it to refer to how good a guitar is overall, without necessarily including things the more intricate details.

I remember hearing somewhere a rule called the 80/20 rule, and its a (really rough) way of explaining that to get the extra 20% you often have to give 80% in return. Ie. you can get a brilliant guitar, very well made from what you define as the mid range such as an ESP, but to get the remaining 80% of quality that they don't manage to get, you'd have to pay 80% more for it, simply because it's so time consuming or difficult to make that change.

Anyway, for my intents and purposes I think I would be happy with the mid range. I don't know that there is anything on the ESP that would ever bug me about it, or make me consider that it is not of high enough quality for what I need.
#12
Quote by MrFlibble
I think what you're talking about there is the bedroom players' perception of 'high end' vs what actually is the most expensive, master-crafted instrument in the world. Lots of beginners look at a standard production Gibson or Fender as being 'high end' but when you look at the overall range of guitars in the world you'll see that the American Standard Stratocaster and Les Paul Standard are actually pretty much just in the middle, or if anything slightly below the average.

I suppose a simple way to break it down would be this: let's call Custom Shop guitars and hand made instruments the 'high end'. MIA and MIJ production guitars can be the middle. MIK and below make up the 'low-end'. So the ESP Horizon NT2 is, really, mid-range.


although i can't completly disagree with most of what you are saying i think some of your views get off the subject a bit. the OP wanted to know about what comes down to as perceived quality and how that works in your opinion. of course opinion is really what it comes down to. is it possible for what you consider to be a "low end" guitar to actually sound and feel as good (or at least reasonably close to) what you define as a high end guitar? in my opinion the answer is (at least potentially) yes. a good guitar is a good guitar. i can't really go with the idea that a Fender AS strat or a Gibson LP Standard are slightly below average as both guitars have been used for years on many of rocks (and other genres) greatest recordings. they both set the standard by which most (solidbody's at least) guitars are judged by. the Custom Shop and hand made stuff really kind of falls outside of the norm for most players. are they "better", most of the time i'd have to say yes but not all of the time. how much better really is very debateable and may not be enough to be perceived as truly better.

OP i think when doing comparisons it really is about your taste as to what is "better". at times there are obvious hardware issues that can be pointed out or cosmetic things. sound and feel on the other hand is subjective.