#1
Following advice given here I took my new used guitar into a music store for a full "setup". He looked at the guitar and said "It definitely needs a setup and strings. It will make a huge difference."

That got me thinking, what difference could it possibly make? I have some fret buzz so I get that, but what else?

Then I started thinking what is the difference between my $100 used guitar and $1000+ guitar. Is there really a difference? I'm not talking about accessorizes like extra pickups but the quality of the sound. Being a noob I am just curious. Could a casual listener tell the difference?

Ed
#2
It depends on how badly it was set up when you took it in.
Then I started thinking what is the difference between my $100 used guitar and $1000+ guitar. Is there really a difference? I'm not talking about accessorizes like extra pickups but the quality of the sound. Being a noob I am just curious. Could a casual listener tell the difference?

Well, pickups and 'quality of the sound' are very significant factors, but really it isn't a matter of whether or not a casual listener can hear a difference, it is a matter of whether or not you can. You should care about how good you sound otherwise you would be a pretty crappy musician.
Quote by TheSennaj
And well yes, I'll enjoy the carpal tunnel and tendonitis, because trying to get one is clearly smarter than any word you have spoken thus far.
Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Feb 6, 2014,
#3
If your guitar is all out of whack, yes, a setup will make a huge difference. A proper setup will make it easier to play and give more consistent playability across the neck.

And yes, there's really a difference between cheap guitars and expensive guitars. Obviously that's a vague statement, but so was the question. In general, something like a USA Strat will be far more comfortable, playable, and sound better to anyone with a bit of guitar experience when compared to a $100 Squier Bullet or whatever. Casual listeners at least in my experience can tell a difference (if prompted) but often don't care enough for it to matter. Of course, most people don't have the casual listener in mind when they buy a guitar. They buy one that plays and sounds great to them so that it's a quality tool and a productive aspect of their music making.

If you're brand new to the guitar, chances are good you have no idea what a good or a bad setup feels like yet. You'll figure that out soon enough, and you'll start to hear better and worse tone as your ear develops, too. Right now, yes, I bet a Squier and a Custom Shop strat would probably sound and feel fairly similar to you, because they all just feel like "a guitar." As you learn and practice, you'll be able to hear and feel more nuance and perhaps begin to recognize the differences.
#4
Remember it's not just the guitar that makes a difference, the amp you play through and your playing technique makes a huge difference. Also small things like the plectrum you use etc. will make a difference.
#5
Sound depends mostly on the amp a $4000 will not sound much better then a well set up $100 guitar through a cheap amp like a line 6 spider.
#6
When starting out, it seams you can play on anything and it will probably sound the same. I believe the feel of playing the guitar is the difference. The setup will make it easier to play. Also a nice fret work is nice. Most of the cheaper guitars feel a little rough when you bend a note.
#7
If you have a really good amp, you will be able to get a good sound out of a crappy guitar, but the thing is there will probably one or two tones you can get that will sound good, and you won't be able to do anything else. A more expensive guitar on the other hand will sound good with a much wider variety of tones. If you have a crappy amp no guitar will sound good.

A setup will not only make your guitar feel better to play, but it will help with things like fret buzz and also intonation. That being said you can totally do it yourself, you just have to figure out what you're doing.
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#8
Quote by mhanbury2
Sound depends mostly on the amp a $4000 will not sound much better then a well set up $100 guitar through a cheap amp like a line 6 spider.

I would partially disagree with this. If one has bad playing technique, it doesn't matter how expensive an amp one has.

That said, if one has good playing technique and a good quality guitar, then one is definitely going to notice the difference in tones between different tiers of amps.
#9
I agree. The whole "amps make a bigger difference" is only accounting for sound. When it comes to playability, the guitar is far more important than the amp.
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#10
Depending on the condition of your guitar, a setup can do any or all of the following: better tone by adjusting things like the pickup heights and saddles, perfect intonation, and better playability.
#11
There's definitely a huge difference between a $100 and $1000 guitar, in both feel AND sound.

However, once you get up to around $1200-1500 dollars, that's about as good as any guitar is going to sound. A guitar that costs more than that is usually because you're paying for the craftsmanship, or the name.
#12
And sometimes, exotic materials.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#13
many times all you are paying for is the exclusivity at the higher level.

there's a point of diminishing returns that comes long before the casual listener's ability to tell a difference. my opinion.
I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
#14
Thanks guys. So what I heard was as soon as I get my guitar back I should expect to sound like Eddie VanHalen?
#15
Quote by stardaddyed
Thanks guys. So what I heard was as soon as I get my guitar back I should expect to sound like Eddie VanHalen?

Unless you play as good as he does, and you have the same amp and the same guitar, no. Setting up a guitar to make it play well won't magically do that. It'll just make guitar play better and sound more in tune. Those are huge factors when playing guitar, but they are nowhere near the full story.
Quote by TheSennaj
And well yes, I'll enjoy the carpal tunnel and tendonitis, because trying to get one is clearly smarter than any word you have spoken thus far.
Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Feb 7, 2014,
#16
When we speak about guitar quality, we are not only discussing pickups, frets, bridge, etc, etc... Of course, these make a huge difference either in playability and sound, but these are interchangeble. We could simply buy a crappy guitar and get some SDs pickups, a FR bridge, change tuner, frets, scallop the neck, all going to an all tube amp.

However, I'm pretty sure our tone would still be unpleasing. That's because wood and how the gutar is made play the biggest role.

First, we need to know that some wood are more expensive then others. Not because they are better, but because they are harder to find, or to work with, or are heavier... For example, Mahogany and Rosewood.

BTW, different woods sound different.

Another thing that needs to be taken into account is how the guitar is put together. Is it one piece? Set Neck? Bolt-on? Glueing a neck is much more difficult than bolting it on.

Getting a guitar together badly will directly influence sound. Cutting and putting together require precise work and quality control. This costs money.

How many pieces your guitar body will be made of? And your neck? Getting a single piece of wood into a guitar body/neck is extremely difficult, expensive, and trashes a lot of wood. But the best guitars will be made of fewer pieces.

A shoddy guitar will be made of lots of pieces of wood. This affects tone, and sustain. But is cheaper and easier to make.

Not to even mention that guitars with tops use 2 kinds of different wood.

Then you have different finishing, etc...

I hope I could make my point. I'm sorry, but english is not my native language.

If you take all of your metal parts out, still there are a lot of factors that could change the quality and price of a guitar.

BTW, here's something for you to notice:

Crappy guitars NEVER have transluscent finishing/painting. That's because you would notice that there are many chunks of glued wood instead of one or a few solid pieces.

Instead, if you take a good transluscent/transparent finishing guitar, you could see that there are 2 or three pieces, only. Some manufacturers even use this to add to the finishing.
#17
Quote by YellowCat

How many pieces your guitar body will be made of? And your neck? Getting a single piece of wood into a guitar body/neck is extremely difficult, expensive, and trashes a lot of wood. But the best guitars will be made of fewer pieces.

Fewer pieces made in a guitar, making the guitar sounding better is a myth.

John Suhr did an experiment once were he took a guitar body made entirely from one piece of mahogany and tested its resonance by hitting it with a machine and measuring its frequency response. He then cut the body in half and glued it back together. He tested the 2 piece body with the same test and found that there was no difference in frequency response using the finely calibrated measuring equipment he used.

John Suhr is a legit guy when it comes to building guitars, so I'm inclined to believe it. The only difference between a 1 piece body and a 2 piece is cosmetic.
Quote by TheSennaj
And well yes, I'll enjoy the carpal tunnel and tendonitis, because trying to get one is clearly smarter than any word you have spoken thus far.
Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Feb 8, 2014,
#18
What about three pieces, though?
I agree that the difference is probably negligible in any case, but when I was doing materials studies we'd find (this is very general) that having a sandwich layer was superior if the inner layer was stiffer, but weird things would happen if you had a strong layer outside two softer ones. It seemed that in some cases the softer material would compress, and if it was between two stiff layers (like the glue in a 3 piece) the softer pieces would not be able to compress properly, and the strength of the whole would suffer. So we found strange things like a wood-fiberglass sheet had more stress than fiberglass-wood-fiberglass, which seems counter-intuitive since you're adding "reinforcement" with that second fiberglass sheet. Plus, as you increase the number of body pieces, you rapidly increase the amount of glue as a percentage of the body mass.

Long story short, you're probably right but if I were doing that test I'd want to do it with a 3-piece instead of a 2-piece to see if it handled vibration/compression differently.