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...but it's Japanese

groundmeat

Member
Messages
101
Why is this a thing now? Suddenly if it says "Made in Japan" on it, that somehow makes it special. Perhaps the quality of certain Japanese made guitars have improved lately, but I'm noticing this trend in the used market as well. Pedals that no one was wowed by in the old days are going for higher prices just because they were made in Japan.

Case in point. I'm browsing the Guitar Center site and I come across this 1991 Ibanez RG that's supposedly made in Japan. There's nothing particularly special about it. I'm no expert on classic Ibanez guitars, but from looking at the back of it, the neck is not one piece. It's got a scarf joint kinda like my 90's Joe Satriani signature, with the retainer bar and locking nut that bolts down from the rear of the neck, headstock is straight, not angled.

So perhaps they have it mislabeled and it's not a Japanese Ibanez, but if it is, then almost nothing makes this guitar more special than a Korean made model from that period. Perhaps a bridge made out of steel rather than zinc or something would be an improvement over a Korean model, but that doesn't give me a reason to desire a Japanese Ibanez from the 90's any more than Korean one. A bridge can be replaced easily.

I've mentioned it elsewhere, but I have a 1984 BC Rich Mockingbird NJ (Nagano Japan) and it's a pretty horrible guitar. There is no reason to respect the craftsmanship of that ugly thing. I wouldn't use it as a canoe paddle much less as a musical instrument.

So... what's the deal with the whole Japanese thing? Comments, facts, expert analysis?
 

Yamaha 350

Member
Messages
6,811
Why is this a thing now? Suddenly if it says "Made in Japan" on it, that somehow makes it special. Perhaps the quality of certain Japanese made guitars have improved lately, but I'm noticing this trend in the used market as well. Pedals that no one was wowed by in the old days are going for higher prices just because they were made in Japan.

Case in point. I'm browsing the Guitar Center site and I come across this 1991 Ibanez RG that's supposedly made in Japan. There's nothing particularly special about it. I'm no expert on classic Ibanez guitars, but from looking at the back of it, the neck is not one piece. It's got a scarf joint kinda like my 90's Joe Satriani signature, with the retainer bar and locking nut that bolts down from the rear of the neck, headstock is straight, not angled.

So perhaps they have it mislabeled and it's not a Japanese Ibanez, but if it is, then almost nothing makes this guitar more special than a Korean made model from that period. Perhaps a bridge made out of steel rather than zinc or something would be an improvement over a Korean model, but that doesn't give me a reason to desire a Japanese Ibanez from the 90's any more than Korean one. A bridge can be replaced easily.

I've mentioned it elsewhere, but I have a 1984 BC Rich Mockingbird NJ (Nagano Japan) and it's a pretty horrible guitar. There is no reason to respect the craftsmanship of that ugly thing. I wouldn't use it as a canoe paddle much less as a musical instrument.

So... what's the deal with the whole Japanese thing? Comments, facts, expert analysis?
Japan factories have gotten so good. But they still produce a turd also ever once in a great moon. FGN makes amazing guitars. But it depends like I have always said. it depends if the worker dose his job well. If he thinking of a lady all day, or playing with his kids, and going out for a drink the work might suffer. :dude

So some live by Japan guitars. But in the 1960's and early 1970's you could not give away a Japan guitar. But they also make Teisco reissues and they are made great. But no one wants them either? :rolleyes2::drool

Japan dose make fine guitars. So does Korea, Indonesia, America etc.. Country of origin dose not matter much anymore these days.:rolleyes2::aok
 

nl128

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,102
I believe it’s because out of the eastern countries that manufacture gear the Japanese Built items are usually known to be of a higher quality.

there’s always exceptions like the guitar you’ve mentioned but I think most people associate Japan with quality when it comes to music gear.

in my experience most post 1980 Japanese built gear I’ve came across has been very impressive. I’ve owned a few fender JV guitars that were really nice IMO.
 

txguy

Member
Messages
117
Old Ibanez 90s Rgs are collector items to some. And the big diff back then is the hardware that came with the Japanese vs the Korean models. Edge with replaceable knife edges. If it’s that greenish looking one...it’s over priced and it’s a 570 not a 350.
 
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groundmeat

Member
Messages
101
Old Ibanez 90s Rgs are collector items to some. And the big diff back then is the hardware that came with the Japanese vs the Korean models. Edge with replaceable knife edges.
I think my JS100 from 1995 was Korean, and the bridge/nut was AWFUL. It worked okay when I first got it, but after a few string changes, the chrome plating on the nut locks gashed through to the crappy zinc cores, and the cheap potmetal allen screws rounded out to where you couldn't lock them down with enough pressure. I ended up having to use pliers to grip the outside of the screw with all my strength and turn it. And at that point, the locks deadened the strings immediately, so I got to where I left them off and never used the bridge at all. Allen screws in the bridge were the same way. They rounded out and I had to use pliers to lock the strings into the bridge. I believe it was called the Lo-TRS II system. WORST BRIDGE EVER.
 

txguy

Member
Messages
117
I think my JS100 from 1995 was Korean, and the bridge/nut was AWFUL. It worked okay when I first got it, but after a few string changes, the chrome plating on the nut locks gashed through to the crappy zinc cores, and the cheap potmetal allen screws rounded out to where you couldn't lock them down with enough pressure. I ended up having to use pliers to grip the outside of the screw with all my strength and turn it. And at that point, the locks deadened the strings immediately, so I got to where I left them off and never used the bridge at all. Allen screws in the bridge were the same way. They rounded out and I had to use pliers to lock the strings into the bridge. I believe it was called the Lo-TRS II system. WORST BRIDGE EVER.
Yeah the edge is a much better system. Personally. I’ve moved to the hard tail Rgs. They are cheap. Doesn’t matter were they are from besides the pickups. I have Japan prestige hardtail with a lot of nice appointments but I also enjoy the rg 321. Can be had for 150 used.
 

jvin248

Member
Messages
4,874
.

Age of the observer is vitally important.

If you are old enough to remember when seeing "Japan" on any product was a mark of shame for low quality/cheap products -- then it's confusing.

Kids who grew up since the 90s knowing only the Lexus brand believe all things Japanese are high quality.

Japan was the first recognized Asian guitar source -- so they are naturally vintage. Players can get a vintage MIJ from the 60s or 70s for low cost. When guitar age is important for some brands like Fender and Gibson then the perception trickles down to others guitars of similar age.

A few Japanese sources in the early 80s produced better guitars than Gibson or Fender in that period. The Matsumoku sewing factory made guitars in the early 80s, before their factory burned down, that had no equals for two decades. However, by the time the quality improved for more of the MIJs factories the costs had gone up so high the sub-contract builders (Samick, Cort, etc) moved factories to Korea to start with low wages there. A few MIJ factories remained to build like custom shops in the US which added to the quality perceptions. Great guitars but you'll pay great prices.

MIK started making poor cheap guitars and got better over a decade, along with costs, so the move to China. China had a couple of move waves from the coasts to the interior chasing lower wages and taxes, and why any random MIC can be good or poor. Check out Eastman Guitars to see MIC that matches any high marketed guitar quality anywhere, but high prices too.

Again, as quality improved with a more experienced factory and better machines, costs went up and the sub-contractor factories moved to Indonesia. Indonesia has had the fastest ramp from terrible guitars to now they can make as good as anywhere (Fender/Gibson/etc spec out the hardware to use and price points to hit). Indonesian Squiers are the best produced Squiers in decades, consistently good from guitar to guitar on a rack you test like good fretwork, but Fender keeps the necks skinny and the hardware cheap.

For me, I avoid all MIJs because the price is getting high enough that fakes are starting to show up. Compounded with this is Fender MIJs had so many different product variations that few players or dealers can spot what is real, what was modded/swapped, and what is really fake. I focus on later MIKs and MIIs if looking at acquiring an import guitar, high quality and still low prices.

.
 

slowerhand

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,147
Most gear coming out of Japan is made very well, what more can I say? I have owned / currently own some very expensive boutique guitars and vintage guitars. For some reason I end up playing my Japanese guitars much more often. In part it's because I don't have to worry about putting a ding on them, but that in itself wouldn't be enough if they weren't very nice to play in their own right. And in terms of workmanship (fretwork, tight neck pocket, flawless finish, etc.) my Vanzandt, K.Nyui, Crews Maniac Sound, Navigator, etc. guitars are every bit as nice as American boutiques costing 2-5 times as much, and in some cases nicer. That's not to say that everything coming out of Japan is great (as a European living in Japan, I get annoyed myself at Westerners who have a blind adulation of everything Japanese), but for guitars and music gear in general, the quality is pretty obvious.

PS: a scarf joint is not really a marker of low quality. Maybe we think that way because we associate it with budget guitars, but from an engineering point of view, it makes a lot of sense.
 

Jabby92

Member
Messages
3,414
I find most Japanese made from the 00s and 2010s to be all excellent/above average. No experience with the 80s/90s (have heard good things, some bad). I've had good luck with MIJ Fender, Ibanez Prestige, ESP Japan and also some odd Japanese only brands that are high end.
 

markmann

Member
Messages
937
This isn't a new thing, Ever since gear started getting produced in other countries MIJ became more desirable and that's been for many years. Also, I have owned two MIJ guitars since the mid 70's and they are excellent.
 

MikeMcK

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,775
@jvin248 nailed it. I was born in the '60's and can remember people asking who in their right mind would ever buy a Japanese car. But in the guitar world, a lot of this came from the fact that American companies were focused on cost-cutting and efficiency, and had been for a while before eventually reacting to foreign imports with their own Japanese guitars.

I think the big shift in attitudes came in the mid-'80's when Fender's Fullerton plant shut down for revamping and the Japanese plants building Squiers were tasked with making Fenders for awhile. In a now-famous quote, when the first MIJ Fenders showed up in Fullerton for inspection, "the guys almost cried" because they were so much better than what had been coming from Fullerton just prior to that.

A lot of the same thing happened in the set-neck world... I can remember as a teenager playing a gig on a borrowed 175 that restored my faith in Gibson until the owner pointed out that the headstock didn't say "Gibson", it said "Greco". Same thing with the Yamaha SG series... I had the chance to play a bunch of them next to Les Pauls circa 1979, and there was no question as to which guitars felt and played better.
 

groundmeat

Member
Messages
101
Yeah the edge is a much better system. Personally. I’ve moved to the hard tail Rgs. They are cheap. Doesn’t matter were they are from besides the pickups. I have Japan prestige hardtail with a lot of nice appointments but I also enjoy the rg 321. Can be had for 150 used.
Yeah, I tried out one of the RG321 mahogany oil stained ones back in about 03 or 04 maybe, and I really liked it. I think at that time, they were pretty new and they were using the Gibralter style bridges on them. A year or two later they starting putting the downgraded regular fixed bridges on them. I wasn't using my floyd style trem anyway, so a fixed bridge was what I wanted. It was a great cheapish all purpose guitar. But I never had the 350 to buy it at the time (might've been 450, can't remember) Haven't come across any used 1st series RG321's with the better bridge on it. I've seen plenty of the later ones with the regular fixed bridge. And that bridge makes all the difference I think. Maybe at some point I'll get one of the later version RG321s with the cheap bridge and naked mahogany finish and try putting some steel Fender vintage style saddles on it to make the strings ring better. I want something I can hand paint some kinda psychedelic scenery on, maybe swap out the pickups for something less "metal" (like some Pearly Gates hums) or maybe even try something crazy like shoehorning some Jazzmaster pickups into it. Been wanting a Jazzmaster for a while now.

The rg 6003 model seems very comparable to a 321 and 421. Played one of those at a guitar center a while back. Other than the piss poor setup on it and the kinda sharpish fretboard edges, it seemed like a great candidate for a cheap customized experimentation guitar as well.
 
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groundmeat

Member
Messages
101
Old Ibanez 90s Rgs are collector items to some. And the big diff back then is the hardware that came with the Japanese vs the Korean models. Edge with replaceable knife edges. If it’s that greenish looking one...it’s over priced and it’s a 570 not a 350.
Yeah it was teal/turqoise colored. The back of the neck looks like a Korean neck. I don't recall ever seeing any Jap Ibanezeseseses with a scarf joint like that.

Furthermore... maybe I'm wrong, but weren't the top shelf Ibanez guitars US made back then? I was thinking they had their Korean budget models, then maybe a few Japanese mid-grades, and the "premiere" or "premium" logo ones (or whatever the hell they said above the Ibanez logo) were US-made.
 

LaXu

Member
Messages
5,663
For Ibanez specifically the main thing that makes the old Japanese models better is the trems. Edge/Lo-Pro Edge Floyd Rose type trems are just miles and miles better than the Lo-TRS 2 crap they peddled back in the day. I don't know what the situation is now.

There's a lot of current and older guitars coming from Japan that are well made but of course there are some duds in there too.

I currently own guitars/basses made in USA, Japan, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Poland and Finland. They are all good, country of manufacture does not mean much by itself.
 

Gclef

Member
Messages
2,295
Japan beat out America in quality during the 70s and 80s. It stems from there, and the fact that they have been consistently high quality since.

American (gibson is a favored whipping boy here) guitar quality can be all over the place.

Add marketing to that and you get high prices.

I dont get it either.
Kinda like 70s fenders and gibsons. People are paying 3 to 5 grand for 70s boat anchors with changed parts instead of a new suhr/anderson/etc. For the same money.
 

Guitarworks

Member
Messages
10,161
It's because enough reverence has been given to Fender MIJ, Edwards, Tokai, and ESP guitars over the last 40 years by enough people. Once a phenomenon manages to establish enough momentum, sellers want to cash in on it. So it gets mentioned constantly at every opportunity.
 




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