Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

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Le Chat Noir
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Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Le Chat Noir » Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:27 pm

I thought I'd ask how everyone on here feels about the practical differences between budget guitars and expensive ones they've owned, based on real life experience rather than internet hearsay and country of origin prejudice. I'd love to hear from the people of the Orange forum as I respect your opinions, hopefully it could be an interesting area of debate! Please read my post in the friendly way it is intended ;)

Personally I've never been particularly snobby about who built my guitars or where they were made. Whilst of course I've sometimes dreamed of owning expensive Gretsches, Gibsons etc, and have nearly bought such guitars on many occasions, I do wonder if it's really worth it for an average gigging musician like me - or if I'd even feel comfortable jumping around on a stage with a really valuable guitar round my neck. I've mainly gigged a pair of Fender US Standard Teles over the past few years, which I don't really count as expensive as I got them used for very decent prices - they are pretty much no-frills workhorses that will survive most bad treatment, but I have to say I'm often just as happy to grab something cheaper like my humble Chinese Vintage VS6 SG copy. In some applications the cheap SG even sounds better to me! I've found that pickup and electronics upgrades seem to make a huge difference and a few mods to a cheap guitar can make it sound on a par to guitars costing far more.

In this age of CNC machines making the technical side of guitar production very consistent across the world, what do we pay for with expensive guitars? Aesthetic flourishes? Attention to detail, e.g. nice rounded fret edges etc? The name on the headstock? A gesture of support to the labour force of, say, the US over China?

Personally though I love to look at expensive, pretty guitars as much as the next man, when I hit a stage I generally see them as a practical tool. What I really require is a good, solid axe that will sound the part and be reliable. I don't really notice stuff like slightly unfinished fret edges or little aesthetic impurities because I'm too busy rocking out! Perhaps at the end of the day I'm what you'd call an 'unrefined' player, and more nuanced guys may really benefit from the little things that make a top guitar more special.

My opinion is ultimately that these days if you're a tinkerer like me who enjoys modding and doesn't mind not owning a name brand then you can get some really great, perfectly serviceable guitars for very little money. This is just an opinion though and I'm sure lots of you will say you'd never go back to a cheap axe when you've got much nicer ones!

Finally, as a lefty I don't get to walk into guitar stores and directly compare a load of different guitars, so I often have to rely on buying unseen and hoping for the best - perhaps righties who have had the chance to play a lot more instruments will feel differently to me!

This thread is not intended as a rant, a gripe, a 'my cheap guitar is better than your expensive one' so please don't take it to heart - I'm just genuinely interested to see how those of you who have owned and played guitars of all price brackets feel about this :)
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Eddie Famine
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Eddie Famine » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:07 pm

I have, have had, and played some really nice Gibsons, Ricks, and PRS's through my OR50. But my $300.oo Danelectro just breaths fire! I love that sound. It's fretboard is rough, doesn't stay in tune well, action is kinda bad, but it Rocks. I keep it in G tuning for the most part now, but sound wise I'd put it up to a $3000.00 guitar. Wild Generalization Coming! I think you are better off with a cheap guitar and good amp, than a good guitar an cheap amp. Well you're really better off with good both, but you know what I mean...

Icarus
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Icarus » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:16 pm

Well I have an epi LP custom which was £450ish(i don't remember now) that I've had a for a long long time, loved it and played it to death years ago. I now have a Gibson '68 RI LP custom which cost £2800 and a US standard Tele which was £1000. The Gibson is night and day compared to the epi, build quality(got lucky on that score), tone, feel, the neck, joints and all the way around. It's just a much nicer guitar and definitely worth the extra money.

The Tele on the other hand is still the one I pick up first for rehearsal and any playing I may do at home. The weight, the no frills build and the tone.

Do I think the Gibby is worth £2000+ more than the epi? Hell yes!
Do I think the Gibby is worth £1800 more than the Tele? Nope.

Dunno what this means apart from, if your comfortable with your guitar and love playing it, it doesn't matter how much it cost :?:
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DiabloS
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Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by DiabloS » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:49 pm

My experience has been that I like the "cheap" expensive guitars! :lol: Meaning faded Gibsons, Highway One Fenders, etc. I've found a lot of just plain cheaper guitars that I've bought always had something that needed upgrading, pickups, tuners, etc. By the time I've spent money doing that, I usually told myself I could've just bought a faded Gibson and leave it stock and I'd be happier with the guitar and have better resale. I don't care to pay much more into a guitar purely for cosmetics though.. i.e. dot inlays are good enough for me if the guitar plays/sounds good.
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GuitaristZ0S0
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by GuitaristZ0S0 » Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:56 pm

^agreed! I love my PRS CE24. Thee same specs to a custom 24 but it has a bolt on neck instead of set in neck. And I supposed I don't have a ten top but when its black, whoo can tell the difference?!
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baytamusic
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by baytamusic » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:16 pm

It really depends. There are some good values out there: Hagstrom, MIM Fender, MIJ Fender, G&L Tribute, Squire Classic Vibe, Epiphone and others. But really, there is a difference between a Classic Vibe Jazz bass and a MIA Jazz, or a Epiphone Les Paul to a Gibson. It's fairly obvious to me especially from a sound stand point. I'm talking stock straight out of the box. With anything though, there are duds and there are diamonds in the rough. Would I rather play an Epiphone than my Gibson? No. Have I owned both and played them side by side? Yes, and the Epiphone doesn't sound as good. Same with Squires I've owned compared to Fenders. Some of it is feel due to finishes too. Higher end guitars have better finishes and tend to feel more solid and professional. My 2 cents anyways.

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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by tacky » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:48 pm

I see only one good thing in expensive guitars = most of them are more comfortable to play than the cheaper ones in studio/home setup, and maybe calm live shows. But in wild heavier music shows, I'm not so sure. Like Le chat noir said, I wouldn't feel comfortable as well running around on stage with 2000 euros worth guitar, and that probably would affect my stage presence. And in the end people come to live shows to see a live show, not perfect album copy sound. And personally I don't see a huge difference in sound between 500 euro and 1000 euro guitar. I think that most important in buying a cheap guitar - don't go too cheap, cause difference between 150 euros and 500 euros worth guitars will be huge, but difference between 500 and 1000 will be mostly in feel of neck, and even that won't be so noticeable. At least from my experience...

Le Chat Noir
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Le Chat Noir » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:50 pm

DiabloS wrote:My experience has been that I like the "cheap" expensive guitars! :lol: Meaning faded Gibsons, Highway One Fenders, etc. I've found a lot of just plain cheaper guitars that I've bought always had something that needed upgrading, pickups, tuners, etc. By the time I've spent money doing that, I usually told myself I could've just bought a faded Gibson and leave it stock and I'd be happier with the guitar and have better resale. I don't care to pay much more into a guitar purely for cosmetics though.. i.e. dot inlays are good enough for me if the guitar plays/sounds good.
That's a very good point. There are definitely some more stripped-down mid to high priced guitars where you're more paying for solid quality components off the bat rather than aesthetic glitz, compared to others where you're paying more for choice tops, fancy binding etc. It's one reason I've always liked Fenders and been prepared to spring for MIA ones. I didn't mind spending a bit more for my Teles as everything about them was no-nonsense good quality - though I've still modded them a load over the years... new pickups, nuts, graphite saddles, Electrosocket jacks etc ;) The stock Fender machineheads are fine though! :P

Interestingly in recent years I've noticed quite a few budget lines starting to use good pegs though - Grovers seem to be appearing on some budget lines, e.g. Agiles.

I forgot to mention that the only time I've consciously traded down in a big way was selling my MusicMan Stingray and getting a MIM Fender Jazz - I liked the Stingray's sound and it was quite obviously a much higher quality bass allround, but I could never get on with its huge fat neck!
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by jason41224 » Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:54 pm

i've never spent more than $500 on a guitar. but it was the right guitar...both my partscaster teles play a whole lot better than any fender i've played. now, G&L might be a different story, but i haven't had the pleasure of playing one (unfortunately).

i think Gibsons are terribly overpriced, but the new stuff they're doing is quite refreshing. i've been seriously considering picking up a 60s Trib Les Paul
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by bclaire » Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:43 pm

Depends. Until recently (past 5 or 6 years) I had never paid over a thousand dollars for a guitar. So any Gibson or Fender I had up til then was a "cheap" guitar. I think there are some less expensive guitars out there that are every bit as good as an expensive one. Or that can be tweaked to be as good (thinking MIJ instruments with upgraded electronics).

That said, I paid $1500 for a used Les Paul Classic 1990 that is a great guitar but needed some work to play better and sound better. I paid $1000 for my Duesenberg that is a really great playing and sounding guitar. And my second Gibson J-100xtra is a beautiful sounding and playing guitar but the under saddle pickup installed by the factory STILL isn't right. (Sending it to a friend who works for Fishman at some point in the future who says they can fix it).

Ditto, I too have a 64 Danelectro that is a killer guitar that I paid $325 for... and my quad of MIJ reissue '54 Fender Esquires are all some of the best made guitars I've ever played. So it all depends... however, I've played some Gibson Historics that I would never buy in a million years. Stupidly overpriced IMHO. They're good guitars but just not THAT good...

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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by ryanmaiden » Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:03 pm

In my experience, more $$$ = better form, function and feel. The price difference is definitely not proportional to the tone difference, but is to the playability and feel. Like anything, there are diminishing returns as you get above the $1000 US mark. Fretwork is something that should definitely improve as price increases. If I'm paying US$1000 or more for a guitar, I expect to be able to bend all over the neck with no fret height issues killing the notes.

I currently have a Gibson Les Paul Studio and a Warmoth super-strat, they are both what I would call "upper mid range guitars" price wise (everything is expensive in New Zealand, even the sh*t brands), but they feel and play great and I don't see any point in going beyond these, unless I wanted something that looked more stunning. But my guitars take a fair beating when I play, so a nice finish and all that lovely binding and attention to detail would be ruined within months. But I still GAS for a black beauty, even though I know what would likely happen to it in my hands.

Good hardware is key to function. It's pointless having some sweet Seymours in your guitar if the tuners can't keep it in tune. I find a lot of the mid range brands have picked up on this and now use well-known aftermarket hardware such as Gotoh to improve function of the instrument.

So if you can find a reasonably priced guitar that feels and plays great with good quality hardware, then it's worth every cent.

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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by jax510 » Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:13 pm

My first electric was a somebody (gary? greg?) bennet...it was cool at first but as time went on it started to warp, and the only adjustments I could make were to the truss rod which didn't always solve the problem unless I wanted really high action. I let my brother play on it and in the last year I noticed that the pick guard is coming up on edges as though the size of the guitar changed a little and now the pickguard does not fit. Anyways, after that guitar became consistently annoying I walked into our local music store and saw a Gibson SG Faded with moons for the fret inlays and fell in love with it. It definately sounds better than the cheap guitar (which could be pickups, wiring, etc but it also feels way better than my first guitar.) It has lasted longer than the cheap guitar and has more options for adjusting, so I would say that buying at least an intermediate guitar is definately worth it in the long run. I have played some really really nice guitars that friends have owned and for me the differences were not as drastic, though they did have qualities I liked. Also financially an intermediate guitar would be easier to replace if you are worried about damaging it while playing live/gigging/traveling.

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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Borderline Productions » Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:21 pm

I think there is a price threshold below which a guitar is less likely to deliver. That seems to be getting lower. I have an expensive electric. It is unbelievable, but is less likely to leave the house (studio) than a cheaper guitar that sound fine (but not as good as the expensive one) live. There are bargains out there and for a live performance guitar they should be pursued. For the studio and pure personal enjoyment, a more expensive guitar is more likely to fill that niche.
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Ohara » Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:08 pm

do yourself a favor, cover the head stock of the guitar, or play in the dark, and listen to the guitar and the sounds it makes, this is the most important part to me anyways. I have always loved expensive guitars, have owned a few and sold most of them off.

I believe there is a certain price point you have to pay when purchasing a guitar, this only makes sense as the quality of the components makes a difference for tuning and holding up during performances, but this can all be upgraded and in most cases a lot cheaper than buying a guitar that already has the components, plus you get the fun of making the guitar more an extension of you and your personality as opposed to having the same guitar that 35 other guitarists in a five mile radius have sitting in their bedroom.

I don`t believe (in most cases) that spending thousands of dollars on a guitar will necessarily mean you will have the best guitar you can buy. I have played 5 grand Martins, and Gibsons and stood there shaking my head wondering how in the world they stay in business selling such pieces of crap, but I have also played expensive gibsons and martins that sounded like the heavens opened up and shone down upon me. The flip side is that I have also played a lot of inexpensive guitars that sound, play and feel just as good as the super expensive ones.

Ultimately I believe a guitar when it is the right one for anyone will let that person know. Doesn`t matter what name is on the headstock if it makes you smile when you play it, and sounds like heaven to your ears.
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Les Paul Lover
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Re: Cheap v expensive guitars - your real world experiences!

Post by Les Paul Lover » Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:41 pm

Bleh.


I typed a well thought out, long answer, posted it a while back, come to check the answer and it's not there. :x

Boody misposted.

Anyway, what I was gonna say's been said now.


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