• TGP is giving away a Strat, Tele, and Jazzmaster. Click Here for full details.
    Click Here to upgrade your account and enter today!

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

Aehn

Member
Messages
28
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.
Many decades ago, it used to mean better quality, but ever since the 80's when Japan began doin lots of quality guitars, it is not the case anymore.
 

Jynx

Member
Messages
324
I prefer Japanese guitars to USA guitars. I'd rather play an Ibacnez or ESP to a Gibson or Fender. And my Schecter C-1 SLS Elite is just quality through and through.

I'm not from the US, though, so I don't really have the patriotic attachment many here might.

Thinking of going Dutch at some stage with an Aristides.
 
Last edited:

InkStained

Member
Messages
3,741
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.
Really? PRS-Maryland isn't better than Cort? Suhr isn't better than Artland Music? Taylor isn't better than Aiersi?

If your argument is that US-made guitars are more expensive, and you prefer to find value in the price tag and there only, I guess I'd agree.

What I notice that the 'foreign-is-better' brigade usually gets away with sweeping statements whereas those who prefer American guitars are called on those statements.

Globalization *has* lowered prices and made the instrument more widely available. That's not nothing. But that's as far as I'd go.
 
Messages
169
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.
Note that both "made in Japan" and "made in Germany" were originally labels put on products to inform the buyer that they had come from a (former) enemy, so rather ironic that they have evolved into marks of quality.

Electric guitars are an American thing (Rickenbacker, the first; Fender, the game-changer; Gibson, combining them with acoustic tradition). It's more about better quality control to protect that heritage, whereas the made-in-Taiwan guitar has no such heritage and is aiming at a lower price point. However, there are good small companies everywhere, and Takamine has managed to emerge as a respectable brand of guitars produced similarly to, say, Gibson. On the other hand, while Fender amps are respected, the classics are English: Marshall, Vox, Hiwatt, Orange. Drums: Japanese, German, English, American. Electronic keyboards? Japanese, German, American. Effect units? The world leader is probably Boss, and is Japanese. So it's more of a guitar thing. Certainly "made in USA" is not in general a symbol of quality with respect to, say, cars or clothes.

Despite the name, the German manufacturer Warwick has managed to enter the top-level market. There are lots of brands, but the classics are still Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker. Warwick is now comparable in terms of basses, and PRS in terms of guitars. To a lesser extent, Music Man (also American) has made some inroads, but probably not as much. So it's not just made in America, but also the heritage of the brands which came out in the 1950s or earlier. Similarly for acoustic guitars with Martin.

Having said that, in 1986 I bought a pink paisley Fender Telecaster which was made in Japan. It's a fine instrument and I am told that they are now sought after. Nevertheless, I also plan to buy an American Original 50s Telecaster, even more so now that there is the possibility that they might move away from ash. (For me, it's the 50s Telecaster, with the maple neck and heavier ash providing more sustain on a guitar which is already heavy, while for the Stratocaster and Precision Bass the 60s models, with alder bodies and rosewood fingerboards.)
 

rizla

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
938
I have a few MIJ guitars that are high quality. The PRS, Suhr, TA's CS Fenders etc Ive had were all equal in quality to the MIJ guitars.
The best Gretsch I had was MIJ.
Like a few other posters here I have no emotional attachment to the USA or any of its products. I also have no brand loyalty but do have favourites, MIJ Yamaha being one.
 

Guitarworks

Member
Messages
10,165
OP, you're forgetting that US guitar companies are subject to far more financial pressures to increase prices than many offshore mass-producers - taxes, fees, licensing, permits, insurance, employee benefits, government regulation, union contract negotiations, distribution, etc., etc. The price of the product includes all that; the end consumer is on the hook to pay for it. Then of course, the owners, executives and upper management types aren't going to be denied what compensation to which they feel they are entitled for having taken the necessary risks to start and maintain the company. They aren't going to leave that money on the table either. So does the price of a US instrument equate to high quality? Not necessarily. But it does most certainly equate to a long line of people standing with their hand out expecting their compensation.
 

gunslinger

Member
Messages
2,966
An American made guitar tends to use better parts. A lot of imports use cheaper parts such as "licensed Floyd Rose" bridges. Plastic nuts. No name pickups. Which may or may not be bad. But still. And mystery woods. Here's the deal. Every time you buy a cheap guitar you just encourage them to make more.
 

Black&Blue

Member
Messages
539
Nope. Consideration for craftsmanship and quality control exists wherever someone takes pride in their works and wants to be their best, no borders. The only difference between an average American and everyone else is cultural bias, hubris, and false entitlement. If you're focusing on American import products made overseas, that's an intentional, premeditated business decision that talentless money-loving fools make to satiate investors and patrons into giving them their money...that profit goes to the American executives and other investors...low cost production, high profit turnover. Does ANYONE actually fundamentally understand of how this current economy works?
 
Last edited:

Davy

Member
Messages
1,385
Really? PRS-Maryland isn't better than Cort? Suhr isn't better than Artland Music? Taylor isn't better than Aiersi?

If your argument is that US-made guitars are more expensive, and you prefer to find value in the price tag and there only, I guess I'd agree.

What I notice that the 'foreign-is-better' brigade usually gets away with sweeping statements whereas those who prefer American guitars are called on those statements.

Globalization *has* lowered prices and made the instrument more widely available. That's not nothing. But that's as far as I'd go.
Why PRS vs Cort etc.? You know that most countries have guitar manufacturers right? It's not just the US, China and a couple of other Asian countries. I'll put my UK made Brook Taw against anything in it's price range. I tried shed loads of Martins and Taylors and the Brook came home with me. Sometimes foreign is better though what better is will be subjective in many respects. I've had various Gibsons which were, overall, really poor quality for the money but I own a Suhr which is flawless. No single country builds "the best" and there are loads of very high end guitars built all over Europe. See DerekDs post below for some ideas.

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.
 

rickt

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,009
I have guitars made in America, Israel, and France. They are all top notch quality using the finest grade material. It doesn't have to be American to be best in class.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
41,833
Really? PRS-Maryland isn't better than Cort? Suhr isn't better than Artland Music? Taylor isn't better than Aiersi?

If your argument is that US-made guitars are more expensive, and you prefer to find value in the price tag and there only, I guess I'd agree.

What I notice that the 'foreign-is-better' brigade usually gets away with sweeping statements whereas those who prefer American guitars are called on those statements.

Globalization *has* lowered prices and made the instrument more widely available. That's not nothing. But that's as far as I'd go.
Why would you intentionally cherry-pick premium brands made here and non-premium brands made elsewhere? That is called using a strawman argument.

Why don't you take the dozen or so brands made elsewhere I mentioned a few posts later and compare say, Huber, Springer, or Gustavsson to Gibson, Suhr, or PRS? Then we'd be talking apples to apples. They are just as expensive and as well made.

Also, what is the foreign-is-better brigade? You've made a number of erroneous assumptions with my post and seem to have an axe to grind.
 

xzacx

Member
Messages
1,514
Such a silly discussion every time it comes up. US-made guitars are often superior to their overseas counterparts, but not because they’re made in the US—it’s because they’re spec’d higher. Brands like Fender (the easiest example) offer models built overseas specifically with lower specs to be more affordable, so yes, they’re often inferior and made with lower-grade parts. But if you look at small/independent luthiers, then no, US-made guitars are no better or worse than the skill of the people building them, because in theory they aren’t being build to price points.
 

poppunk

Member
Messages
645
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.
The two EBMMs I have come a lot closer to "all US made" but we could find a few parts on them that weren't manufactured in the US (ignoring where the raw materials came from). The bridges and pickups were built in-house. The pickguards are cut from a US partner, the tuners were made by Sperzel (Cleveland if IIRC). I don't know where they spin their PCBs, source their wire and potentiometers, or get their fretwire, but the bulk of those guitars are straight US manufactured. Admittedly that's rare even smaller manufactureres than EBMM, but it's probably one of the reasons the prices are high for a production guitar.

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.
There are some products that are super high quality and made in the US. But I'd agree we don't have the across the board manufacturing reputation that those two countries have. But I think once you pull out the Japan, South Korea, and Tawain group (we're probably closest to South Korea) you're often going to get a better product out of US manufacturers than other SE Asian ones outside of those. That's because it's generally not an absolute race to the bottom on price efficiency, because that's not what the US does with manufacturing.

As an American, I'm glad that when I buy American things it goes to other Americans. This is the place I live, and it is admittedly selfish. It's not such a big deal for me to buy things from countries that have at least somewhat functional democratic systems; there's a spectrum of countries with varying levels of issues. But I'd rather that money be going to countries that don't have straight totalitarian governments, particularly when they're bent on regional or global domination of others.

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.
I think Reverend and Yamahas get close (Japanase Yamahas generally are great), but this is also a big line for me. The first tier US production makers (by sales, AKA Fender and Gibson) aren't as variable as the cheaper imports on fretwork, but percentage wise they seem to whiff enough it's noticeable. EBMM and PRS never seemed to get dogged on this front and that lines up with my personal experience. And when you get to the real expensive less production makers like Suhr and Collings they're obviously very consistent, but you're often paying prices double of EBMM and PRS so they better be.
 

InkStained

Member
Messages
3,741
Why would you intentionally cherry-pick premium brands made here and non-premium brands made elsewhere? That is called using a strawman argument.
The oranges-to-oranges comparison is impossible because there *is* no 'oranges-to-oranges' comparison. That's not a 'strawman argument.' That's *the point.*

Ok, ok: Find the Chinese/Korean/whatever equivalent of PRS/Suhr/Taylor, since you're big on arguments. We'll compare.
 

nl128

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,103
CNC machines just do some of the heavy lifting. You can’t put a piece of wood in a CNC and have a guitar pop out the other end.

the OP’s argument sounds like a rationalization of some sort.
 

InkStained

Member
Messages
3,741
Why PRS vs Cort etc.? You know that most countries have guitar manufacturers right? It's not just the US, China and a couple of other Asian countries. I'll put my UK made Brook Taw against anything in it's price range. I tried shed loads of Martins and Taylors and the Brook came home with me. Sometimes foreign is better though what better is will be subjective in many respects. I've had various Gibsons which were, overall, really poor quality for the money but I own a Suhr which is flawless. No single country builds "the best" and there are loads of very high end guitars built all over Europe. See DerekDs post below for some ideas.
Great. I'm glad you've found a non-American instrument you like (although from your perspective, it may not be a foreign instrument at all.)

I'm betting your EU producer adheres to labor-quality-environmental standards that are similar to American OSHA-EPA-standard/ domestic expectations.

And you didn't say what model you owned, but I bet you thought you were paying for quality and were willing to do it. And that's my point.

Since we're talking about similarly adorned/spec-ed instruments, I'd be happy to compare US vs. off-share at this level, as well.
 

FoundIt

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
63
I have had some fine guitars from lots of countries. The only thing MIA signifies to me is that I will have an easier time selling it at some point, and will recover more of my original investment generally, because some people believe it means something more. I just think every guitar is different. Some pieces of wood have magic in them, and it doesn't matter which CNC machine finds it. I pick it up, play it, and decide if I like it better than the previous one, regardless of where either was made.
 

Ron Kirn

Platinum Supporting Member
Vendor
Messages
6,713
A lot of imports use cheaper parts such as "licensed Floyd Rose" bridges.

But what if those maling the licensed FR components are using higher quality materials? Does it mean that the Licensed Floyd is a higher quality inferior product? o_O

r
 




Trending Topics

Top