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Does an USA made guitar automatically translate into better "all"?

p6x

Member
Messages
314
Have you ever been influenced by the origin of the guitar you set your eyes upon?

Has an overseas instrument ever made you weary of the quality of the product?

Why should a US made guitar be better than one made somewhere else?

When I was a kid, we went and visited traditional musical instrument manufactures where I was living at the time. Have you heard of Courtois? Couesnon? Selmer?

Those brands, and many others were artisan sizes, often family owned, with artisans taught their craft from early ages, such as 14 years old, with tradition, secrets and special tooling passed over the generations.

Selmer was mainly known as a brass wind and wood wind instrument manufacturer, but it ventured into guitars, especially when a gypsy named Django made the brand famous. Mostly known as Maccaferri.

In these factories, each worker was making art-craft. Working on one instrument from beginning to finish. Tradition and ability passed on from the early age. Dexterity learned over the bench, failure after failure under the close supervision of the master builder.

Brands that you could rely upon, long time before globalization even set sail. When purchasing one of these instruments, bearing that label, you knew they would be perfect, or rather, reflecting the character and imagination of the luthier who made it.

Fast track today;

I visited the Gibson factory in Memphis, in 2018. Just before it closed down and all the works transferred to Nashville.

What I saw there was completely different. Not incompatible with quality. But most of the employees did not need to have any specific "luthier" training or skill to operate machinery, most of it CNC.

Mainly the job would consist in changing blanks.

I am not trying to imply these people did not like their jobs, or were uninterested or unskilled. I am describing what I saw. CNC machines have almost all replaced or substituted other requirements.
I am not including so-called "custom shop" in this description. Simply, mass production of musical instruments.

Out of all that automation, the guitar painting was still a manual process, and the guy doing it was really good.

Thinking about it, what is the difference in operating these machines across different countries? are people in China, Indonesia, Korea, Czech Republic, Vietnam, not as capable to operate such machinery?

So what does mean "US made" for me? does it mean better quality? better craft? better artistry? better tone?

To sum it up, does it mean a BETTER guitar in all meanings of the word...
I don't think so;

To me, the epitome of guitar making is down to the individual artisan, whoever he maybe, wherever he maybe; not the country where the instrument is made.

My "Brand X" instrument made here is just as good and reliable as my "Brand X" instrument made there. It is (often) made using the same machinery, the same blanks, the same parts.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
41,833
As we've talked about many times here, there probably isn't such a beast as an all US made guitar any longer when you consider wiring, hardware, pickguards, etc. That doesn't even include the tooling used to make them.

Most of us grew up when the superior guitars were made here. That's simply not the case any longer and hasn't been for a while. However, nationalism can be a strong emotion, and confirmation bias is difficult for some to overcome.
 

RRfireblade

Member
Messages
2,766
This is endless discussion so all I'll say is that US made used to mean, of a handful of generally handmade, high end benchmark companies. And yes, that was "a" standard for quality.

However, the field has changed dramatically across all fronts and more info is required to accompany "US" made in order to determine that distinction.

Lastly....overall and of known mainstreams, truly US made still carries solid weight and presumed quality along with it. My experiences of 50+ years and probably 1000+ instruments still support that. The common flaw with posts like the OP is that machines have ALWAYS done the brunt of the work during guitar construction, that is nothing new and it not the sole judge of the final product or any indication at all of the number of highly skilled hands that it still requires to take that instrument to the upper levels of quality.
 

fretless

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,374
I think quality has much more to do with the quality of the wood, hardware, etc being used on the build rather than the nationality of the people making it. As the majority of guitars built overseas are more “budget” guitars there are considerable differences in the quality of the electronics, wood, bridges, tuners, etc so that the cost to make the final product to the manufacturers is much lower and as a result the product can be sold at a target price point.
 

John C

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,003
I think quality has much more to do with the quality of the wood, hardware, etc being used on the build rather than the nationality of the people making it. As the majority of guitars built overseas are more “budget” guitars there are considerable differences in the quality of the electronics, wood, bridges, tuners, etc so that the cost to make the final product to the manufacturers is much lower and as a result the product can be sold at a target price point.
Agreed; the larger USA companies make the conscious choice to use less expensive materials on their models made outside of the USA to have instruments across a range of retail prices. That being said the process of building the instruments is similar no matter where they are built, as would be the expertise of the employees on the factory lines.
 

fjblair

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
13,186
It(MIA) doesn't mean what it used to, but the very best guitars are still made in the United States in my opinion. That said I have guitars from Japan, Mexico and China that are excellent examples of build quality.
 

Benz2112

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,727
I dont think US made necessarily means better, but a lot of the imports we receive are set to a price point. If a guitar HAS to be $500 retail in the US, and you are using the least expensive labor, but still have to cut a few corners, you will likely have a more budget oriented instrument.

Japanese brands have gotten away with selling higher end pieces for a high end price for a while now, now you have Chinese and Korean guitars like Eastman, Reverend, Duesenberg, that all have respect from discerning players, and still cost less than if they were made here. The price point of the instrument gives us a lot more context here. Look at PRS, on one side of the factory they make $4,000 guitars, on the other side they make $1,500 guitars (approximations), the hardware and building techniques used dictate the price point drastically, especially considering that the nexus between SE and S2 prices are closer than S2 and Core.
 

Phil3

Member
Messages
617
Depends on the brand, simple as that!

A nice Japanese made Ibanez with likely be a 10\10 every time, a Japanese made Epiphone.... eh... maybe not so much.

A USA made PRS, probably going to bring you joy, a Gibson.... eh.... I wouldn't order one online... ya know? I still don't trust their QC after recent years.
 

Eireguitar

Member
Messages
93
I think that's an American phenomenon. I've certainly never heard "made in America" being said as some kind of signifier of high quality manufacturing. I mean in the way that Japan or Germany are spoken about.

But it terms of pure heritage, it's nice to get a guitar from the original source of Fender or Gibson or whatever.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
41,833
It(MIA) doesn't mean what it used to, but the very best guitars are still made in the United States in my opinion. That said I have guitars from Japan, Mexico and China that are excellent examples of build quality.
What about Vigier, Huber, Teuffel, Springer, Roukangas, Gustavsson, Mayonnes, Skervensen, Hartung, et al? Those builders are easily on par or better with their American peers.
 
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fjblair

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
13,186
What about Vigier, Huber, Teuffel, Springer, Roukangas, Gustavsson, Mayonnes, Skervensen, Hartung, et al? Those builders are easily on par or better than their American peers.
Yeah I'm not familiar with those builders, so my opinion could well be misinformed.
 

Tommyd8

Member
Messages
46
Anyone, anywhere is capable of producing a POS ..
Would need to be a little more specific in the OP's question as to level of guitar quality we are talking about here..
jmo
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
41,833
Yeah I'm not familiar with those builders, so my opinion could well be misinformed.
No worries.

Some fun and interesting guitars by those guys, with more than a few, Gustavsson and Springer in particular, strongly influenced by Gibson.
 

amstrtatnut

Member
Messages
12,290
My Gibson LP is easily the best guitar I've owned. I currently own 10, a variety of US built and import built guitars. I like them all but the LP takes the cake. Ymmv and probably does.
 

VintagePlayerStrat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,203
Not many things "automatically" translate to better when it comes to well made guitars.

The outside of USA stuff is high quality right now and has been for some time. The USA stuff is also very high quality, and I'd say generally worth the more pricey materials and build process.

I own both. I do find my USA Fenders and Gibsons to be pretty dang flawless. But after a good set up and some tweaking, so is my MIM Muddy Waters Tele. I just wish the Muddy didn't have such a thick poly finish but it is a durable finish and looks forever new.

Pick what inspires you to make good music. Where the guitar is made is not the primary factor.
 

Json

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
156
To me, what really differentiates a good guitar from a great one is fretwork. I have not seen EBMM or PRS level fretwork on any import guitars. If you know of any import brands that do (on a consistent basis), I’d be curious to know who they are.
 

howdy-doo

Member
Messages
307
Not necessarily, but generally speaking if a brand places its factory in the US they also choose to build their higher ticket guitars from there. Yes the higher ticket price is caused by the higher wage in part, however recently (from what I've noticed anyway) it can also be the difference between getting the rosewood board over the Indian laurel, the once piece back compared the 3+. This isn't necessarily a factor of if the worker is more skilled, just that the company has decided the minimum requirement for that guitar spec is higher than the one made outside the US.

Of course these are all generalisations and won't be true in some instances but for the most part I belive what I wrote above to be true. Throw in to that higher quality parts, hand wiring instead of pcb with a potential extra amount of time allowed with each step of the build process (this might not be true but I'd imagine since there's usually less higher ticket guitars being made that entry/mid price that they'd have more time) and you end up at a higher guitar cost.

It's up to you at the end of the day whether you think the difference in materials some use between factories, different electronics etc means a better guitar but but to some (myself included) it generally does. Now when you talk of brands outside of the US that are aiming their guitars at something like a US gibson of Fender, like eastman for example then that is a bit different, but when I've looked recently even their per guitar prices are climbing up toward the cost of a US made guitar.

I hope that answers the question, I think I got sidetracked a little!
 

Ron Kirn

Platinum Supporting Member
Vendor
Messages
6,713
Most of the hardware comes from Asian manufacturers... the wood, is just wood, and it's shaped on CNC machines using Carbide tipped bits.. the carbide comes from pretty much the same place... so the parts, the "stuff" used, is pretty much the same relative to the differing price points.

then it comes down to the guys that asemble then set them up... there's talented and some less than talented.. but where they're assembled has little to do with it.

r
 




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