This is a guest post by Paul Holmes of www.yournextguitar.com.
Todays’ volume manufactured guitars, whether made in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe or the Far East, tend to be of very good quality, both in terms of materials used, production methods used and their sound and playability.
If you are looking for an acoustic then $450 for example will buy you a great utility guitar that will last for years.
Your $450 guitar, whether acoustic or electro-acoustic, will most likely have been made in the Far East where quality raw materials, manufacturing techniques and expertise are all now readily available (many of the US manufacturers have set up factories over there).
This was not the case 20-30 years ago (excepting Japan, which has always made excellent quality guitars being highly sought after now).
‘Premium’ guitars from the East…
Recently a number of these $450 guitar brands have started to move into the ‘premium’ and ‘custom’ end of the acoustic market, offering guitars with a street value of well over $1,500. This is good news for them and their dealers, but would you buy one?
Acoustic guitars, like cars, have premium brands that all musicians aspire to – Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Guild etc. (notice how they are all US brands like premium car brands are all German).
So if you had $1,500 or so, and could buy a Martin or a Taylor guitar (albeit a standard/entry level model, possibly not made in the US but in Mexico) or a top of the range ‘lesser’ brand what would you do? Will they sound the same, play the same and last the same? Will you get as much pleasure out of one compared to the other?
You most likely will, but one thing is for sure; if you buy the ‘lesser’ brand, a little voice in the back of your mind will keep telling you that you should have bought the premium brand. The logo on the headstock, like the logo on the radiator, count for everything, especially in the second hand guitars market – just look at what the pro’s play.
Comparing like for like…
Perhaps it is time for a blind test; take the premium brand guitar and the so-called lesser brand guitar, and do a head to head sound and playability comparison review, but take off all identification first so that the musician/reviewer can concentrate on the guitar itself and not who made it.
I would bet that there won’t be much difference, either in build quality, playability or sound, and it will all come down to personal preference. Many of the guitar magazines do reviews on these acoustics and rarely give them 10/10. Is this because they are not 10/10 guitars or because their pre-conceptions tell them that it can’t possibly be a 10/10?
I have a 12 year old $450 acoustic guitar that does not have the right name on the headstock. I have played it nearly every day since I got it from the local music store, and to me it sounds good, plays great and feels comfortable – and it is good that the brand is moving up into premium territory.
I still want a Taylor though…
Paul Holmes writes for www.yournextguitar.com – When he’s not writing about guitars he’s an avid collector and player of guitars. And he still wants a Taylor…