Want an LP style guitar for my 50th birthday - Thinking Ronin, Grosh, Ian Anderson, McInturff or an R9. I'm normally a strat single coil player and I only play at home - Any thoughts, advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated!!
Well I'll jump in and chew the fat a little and, as a caveat, I'll just tell you what I would do if I were looking at a wide field like that, especially as I've only played Grosh and an R9 from that list.
I'll list a few angles to approach it, presuming you can't demo some guitars by those builders at stores/etc in your area (usually the most surefire way of going about it; but as a lefty myself, I'm sympathetic if you can't):
1) Historical accuracy of LP measurements and appointments: How keen are you for that vintage scale length, wood choice/thicknesses, bridge+tailpiece, etc?
2) Shape and style: How original are you aiming for in terms of look and feel? Your list, and a number of other fine folks who make appearances here at TGP, build the full gamut from traditional to wonderfully reinterpreted.
2) Price: What you pay now of course matters as does, potentially, resale value. Which is all basically to say, if you're not going to be able to try and buy, then there is always the outside chance that the guitar doesn't speak to you. Happens with even the best builders, so it's not a bad idea to get comfortable with what sort of haircut (if any) you'd be taking if you decided to give it back to the marketplace.
3) Wait-time: I'm not up to speed on the current wait times for most of the boutique builders, but near everybody's got one—some minimal, some brutal. But that cuts both ways because a builder with a long waiting list means that your guitar, when its done, maintains a premium in resale since the second buyer could jump the waiting list. Which is to say, you have more than just money to use as capital when you buy a nice guitar from some of these guys—you can sometimes use time itself which then gets priced into the guitar. So figure out how much patience you've got!
4) What guitar would you build?: I think of this as the sort of fuzzy what-do-I-want machine. Start building the guitar from scratch. And get particular. Would you do a wrap-around tailpiece? Pigtail? Would you do a classic ABR-1 bridge, say, TonePros or Callaham? (Callaham, for being steel, fails an arbitrary traditional purity test but color me a willing apostate. I love his ABR bridges). Do I want dot inlays or do I want block MOP. And then questions of shape and binding, etc. I think if you start doing this and start with specific hardware up, you'll begin to see what guitar you want, and whether that's traditional or more reinterpreted.
4) Style of builder: Do they use carbon rods in the neck for added stability? Are they winding their own pickups or using well-respected boutique winders? There are no right answers....well, there are always some right answers....but these questions become as much a matter of choice for you as anything since the build quality at this level is universally superb. And in some cases, like boutique pickups winders—it's possible to do a little A/B'ing on their own terms, which could at least increase your knowledge of what is going into the final product.
So basically my thoughts are simple, and hopefully just to the good side of useless:
I would say cast an even wider net, Briggs and Rist come to mind, as does of course Gil Yaron. And a lot more, but if you start looking at all these things and rank them from most traditional to most reimagined you might start getting somewhere. Because mapped out as such you might find yourself drifting one direction or another. And at that point I think you need to just start having that gut feeling about what's going to excite you the most; the kid in the candy store moment. And figure out what seems the most feasible in terms of cost and wait list. These are all great guitars and you will find all sorts of positive reviews from them online. Without having a shot at all these guitars, I can't give you anything more specific but I would recommend you to come up with specific questions. For instance, if you can describe your playing style it's possible somebody similar can tell you what a killer time they're having playing one of your list guitars in that style. Any of these builders would also be thrilled to talk tone with you and help get you what you're looking for. So in a phrase, if you can't try, make a (well-informed) impulse buy. From a list like this, luck would be hugely on your side. Good huntin'!
I've been through more than a dozen R9s. A bunch of PRS. Finally got a Tom Anderson Bulldog and sidestepped all the rigmarole. Bought an Amberburst with a vintage Strat style term. I don't need anything else in a Les Paul style guitar. This thing is amazing!
Most of the builders you mentioned, Grosh, Ian A, McInturff, have at least a 6 mo. waiting list on their setnecks. (Grosh about 12 months, Ian ove a year!) So when is your birthday, and do you want to wait? If not, consider a Wildwood Spec LP,which is more expensive than the boutique guys you mentioned, but you can get it now.
BTW:My Grosh Set Neck, McInturff, and the Ian A I tried, are far better guitars IMPO, and well worht the wait.
Figure out whether you want a real LP or a LP type guitar and go from there. Different animals.
I liked all the Gibson R9, R8 etc.. guitars I have played. Some people can knock them all they want because of price or whatever. They are nice guitars.