Vintage Electric Guitars vs Boutique Makers

HowardLander

Member
Messages
16
Hi all

I am subscribed to Carter's Vintage Guitars (great store by the way) email list, so I get an email every few days listing their new acquisitions. Today one of the instruments they have for sale is a 1965 Telecaster that they are asking $15000 for. It's probably a fair market price, but it just got me wondering how, in a blind test, it would compare to the Tom Anderson Telecaster I paid roughly 4K for a couple of years ago. Don't get me wrong, I love old guitars: my favorite guitar to play is my 1952 Gibson LG 1. I was just wondering how these two would really compare, and whether or not I'd think the extra money was worth it purely from the point of view of a guy that plays guitars, not collects them. I hope I'm not going to start some kind of flame war here: I'm honestly curious what people who have more experience with vintage electric guitars think about this question.

Howard
 

zguitar71

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
453
If the two guitars are equipped with roughly the same specs on the electronics then you probably cannot tell the difference. The golden age of guitars is now. There are some killer guitars being made right now with consistency. There is something special about old guitars, I have guitars from the 30s, 40s and 50s and they are great but not any better than the boutique stuff. The things that are not perfect about vintage guitar are forgiven as quirky and those things don’t appear on the new stuff. I have my vintage stuff because I love the history and aged nature of them. If it was only about the tone and playability I would save some $$$ and go boutique.
 

Mtt02263

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
420
Vintage guitars often have a lot of vibe and mojo, but they aren't better built than modern guitars, especially boutique makers. I've played a ton of pre-CBS Fenders that were not spectacular instruments. It's the history and prototypical sound that the best ones have that makes them as sought after as they are.
 

Voxshall

Member
Messages
1,116
I see guitars as lifestyle products more than investments if a vintage instrument fulls you with joy more than a modern one and 15k doesn't seem like a big deal then go for it. I think your playing style has something to do with it too, Tim Pearce did a video on why he uses modern guitars over vintage to play fast smooth runs, I'm not into fast playing so much anymore so I'm the opposite modern guitars that play perfect do noting for me, I like guitars with character and a bit of fight, vintage guitars inspire me to write the type of songs I want to write and inspire me to play more, I get a bigger smile on my face from playing them, I think they feel better a really worn in guitar vs a new one.

I think the finish looks better on vintage guitars sunken in nitro thats incredibly thin, the nitro on the back of the neck is different to modern nitro, feels harder, smoother, less plastic, I have a preference for the way vintage guitars look each one ages in a unique way, there appearance tells a story of a life well lived. I don't mind putting bigger frets on vintage guitars and other than my preference for .103 wide frets I don't see any quirks in a vintage guitar, I had tuning issues before I got the set up sorted and 7.25 radius with a medium action is more comfortable for me anyway. The trem on my vintage strat is the best feeling trem I've ever tried, really smooth and loose and stays in tune great, with just the right amount of fight back.

Most of all I think the best vintage examples are still the standard every other guitar is judged by, modern ones get closer and closer and have there own advantages but they never get completely there on the same level of the very best vintage examples.

In hifi modern advancements increase sound imaging, and helps you hear different aspects in the music with perfect separation I am listening to music in my head analysing it all you hear the skullerton in perfect transparency, but the best vintage hifi speakers like Western Electric or Shindo Lab's which are modern made in vintage style you hear the meat rather than the bones, I listen while being more in my emotions on the vintage gear less in my head, with the modern hifi I can hear where they place the microphones and how the guitarist drops his pick on the floor the vintage hifi I can hear the musicians interacting with each other and the energy of the musicians in the room. People either prefer listening with their heads or with there emotions its easy to decide what is best for you once you understand your personal preference and modern vs vintage guitars are the same they are completely different experiences, which will suit you depends on your personal preferences. As for money some one with a lot of spare money might find the vintage one cheaper in the long run as they can sell it for more of a profit or less of a loss compared to getting a custom made modern guitar made for themselves. Others might look at the difference in initial cost. No right or wrong just depends on your preference.
 

singlecutarmy

Member
Messages
1,588
It's not about better at that point.

It's about what excites you more.

For most intents and purposes, ultra-modern guitars are sonicly and ergonomically superior to vintage designs, but people still play vintage designs because they get excited about them.

I'm well aware that a traditional les paul is ergonomically inferior to, say, a schecter with a carved neck heel, or a prestige with straighter string pull.

But traditional les pauls have that stupid thing in my head where they are the -true- version and the others are pretenders.

Decide for yourself what you really want, and whether or not you will be satisfied with one or the other.
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,958
The thing to understand with vintage prices is that the price tag is based on market economics, not quality. They cost what they cost simply due to high demand and relative rarity, so if you pick up a $15k Teke expecting it to be four times better than your Tom Anderson the vintage is going to be disappointing. They cost what they cost and if you want one that's the process of entry - beyond that you kind of have to weigh each on their own merit and forget about the price.

With that in mind I think it just comes down to what excites you more, and what's going to be more rewarding to play - they should both be very good guitars on paper. Head to head with money out of the equation some will probably prefer the vintage Tele and some the Anderson. You might well play both and prefer yours and be glad to have only spent $4k, but I guarantee the guy that spends $15k on that Tele wont walk away thinking damn, that was a waste of money. And neither of you will be wrong!

I play almost entirely vintage guitars. I don't earn a great deal of money but I love them and it's worth it to me to put any leisure money I have into the guitar fund and spend it on vintage gear. And yes I do play them and no, I don't care about what they're going to be worth in 20 years time - I'm into them for what they are, not what they're worth. It's a weird old game, vintage, but the guitars have a magic for me that new instruments simply don't match. I don't even think it's a tangible thing, certainly not magic wood or factory workers who somehow had a special recipe long forgotten and never replicated, it's just something about a guitar with its own history that means a lot to me.
 

Benz2112

Memba?
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,161
The only way to find out is going down to the store and plugging them in back to back. Whichever guitar does it for you is the "better" one. Boutique guitars and vintage guitars both get the aura of being really well built, but it just adds up to guitars made by small shops versus old guitars. There are amazing examples of both, but there is just no general rule.
 

TP Parter

Member
Messages
1,121
There are awesome guitars being made today, but no electric guitar I have played is the equal of my '71 LP Std. That guitar just rings like a church bell. I mostly use it with the coils split to a P90 voiced coil at the bridge and an alnico 5 single in the neck. Sounds huge, with incredible detail/clarity. The more neck I dial in, the more of acoustic like it becomes in the fundamental tone.
 

Tony Done

Member
Messages
6,178
It isn't about tone, it is about mojo. Which has more mojo for you, vintage or boutique? In terms of resale value, I would go vintage, or used boutique, but I think that the latter is more chancy.
 

korus

Member
Messages
1,225
This first clip is different from any other originals vs modern comparisons. They cannot sell anything used in clip. They compare their #1s to originals. They do not filter their reactions (a self admitted beer or 2). The clip is without a cut. The cable goes out of one guitar into the other.

Use good closed headphones and play it loud. This is how originals with all the original parts sound like. A difference in tone originals vs modern is obvious and not manipulated in this clip. Originals are not different. Originals are superior.

Some can hear that, some cannot. Listen and you will know if you can. If you compare any Fender CS or any boutique replica of originals the difference will be the same.


Also, this one is '66 Tele and the tone it had with only mod being brass saddles instead of original carbon steel ones.


And if that '65 at Carter's sounds like a regular Fender CS, and not like the one Davy Knowles is playing it is because it has hardware parts replaced with modern ones.

7:20 Davy Knowles plays original, Josh Smith plays boutique with 13s
 
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bluejaybill

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
920
The thing to understand with vintage prices is that the price tag is based on market economics, not quality. They cost what they cost simply due to high demand and relative rarity, so if you pick up a $15k Teke expecting it to be four times better than your Tom Anderson the vintage is going to be disappointing. They cost what they cost and if you want one that's the process of entry - beyond that you kind of have to weigh each on their own merit and forget about the price.

With that in mind I think it just comes down to what excites you more, and what's going to be more rewarding to play - they should both be very good guitars on paper. Head to head with money out of the equation some will probably prefer the vintage Tele and some the Anderson. You might well play both and prefer yours and be glad to have only spent $4k, but I guarantee the guy that spends $15k on that Tele wont walk away thinking damn, that was a waste of money. And neither of you will be wrong!

I play almost entirely vintage guitars. I don't earn a great deal of money but I love them and it's worth it to me to put any leisure money I have into the guitar fund and spend it on vintage gear. And yes I do play them and no, I don't care about what they're going to be worth in 20 years time - I'm into them for what they are, not what they're worth. It's a weird old game, vintage, but the guitars have a magic for me that new instruments simply don't match. I don't even think it's a tangible thing, certainly not magic wood or factory workers who somehow had a special recipe long forgotten and never replicated, it's just something about a guitar with its own history that means a lot to me.
Great post, and I totally agree. I have the good fortune to have a few vintage guitars, I've had them for many years.

Today I got my '63 strat back from a pro setup- I have not been enjoying playing it, lots of dead spots, kind of hard to play...

But damn, now that it's set up properly with a few tweaks to get the gremlins out, holy cow, it's truly a great experience. The tech was just raving about the thing. It reminds me of what the whole vintage thing is about.

As for now, I'm not sure that I'd pay the market prices on some of these things, there are a lot of great new Fender and boutique strats out there. I was fortunate to acquire the ones I have a very long time ago when decent new guitars weren't available. A great vintage guitar can be a transcendent experience (not to get too cork sniffy about it) but they come with idiosyncrasies that you have to deal with. Not for everyone.
 

Bluesful

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
38,868
I play almost entirely vintage guitars. I don't earn a great deal of money
This is the thing I'm trying to overcome.

I honestly don't know how anyone who isn't very wealthy can afford vintage guitars (not talking Melody Makers here - I mean Strats, Teles, LPs, 335s etc....).

I've always wanted a early 60s 335 so I recently opened a high interest savings account and am putting away a little into that whenever I can. Will probably take me a decade to get the $$$ together, but I'll get there one day.
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,958
This is the thing I'm trying to overcome.

I honestly don't know how anyone who isn't very wealthy can afford vintage guitars (not talking Melody Makers here - I mean Strats, Teles, LPs, 335s etc....).

I've always wanted a early 60s 335 so I recently opened a high interest savings account and am putting away a little into that whenever I can. Will probably take me a decade to get the $$$ together, but I'll get there one day.
The thing for me is I bought my home years ago when house prices were far lower, don't have or want kids and don't have expensive tastes other than gear, so I'm able to do the vintage one in a way people on my pay grade with kids and a recent mortgage are ever likely to be able to.

The other big thing that a lot of poorer vintage enthusiasts do is getting to know the vintage market to recognise when deals come up at significantly below market value and make a bit of cash each time - I'm not very good at it because I have a tendency to get attached to them, but there's a few people on here that are pretty good at it and I follow someone on Instagram who claims to have paid for a Burst by trading up over the course of a few years. I'm certainly in a position now where if I were ruthless about what I regularly play I could easily sell off half a dozen guitars I don't use so much that were bargains when I got them and afford an early 60s 335 with the proceeds.

Good luck with getting the 335! It'll be worth it...
 

Bluzeboy

Member
Messages
7,854
I honestly don't know how anyone who isn't very wealthy can afford vintage guitars (not talking Melody Makers here - I mean Strats, Teles, LPs, 335s etc....)
You save, you search, you save, you search. That said two things you MUST know before taking the vintage plunge.
You’re swimming with sharks. Know everything about the models you’re interested in (and I mean everything).
If you’re looking at places like Carter, Emerald City, Etc you will pay a premium but, generally the piece is what they say it is.
I’ve found mine from “local” contacts ( luthiers, other players, etc).
 

fescue

Member
Messages
905
It is subjective. Some old guitars are great, some far from it. Some will have same opinion of what’s being made today.
 

monwobobbo

Member
Messages
6,167
i think if you had a MIM strat or tele with a good setup and similar pickups that you might not be able to tell the difference in a blind test. boutique guitars tend to be build more along the lines of how you envision the way guitars were built back in the day. the reality of how they actually were made may not live up to the hype. we all seem to picture a group of master craftsman building guitars and that wasn't really the case at all especially with Fender.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
42,726
Most vintage guitars simply aren't worth their asking price to me. No doubt, there are some absolute gems out there. Guys who like'em, I say collect away.

I'm simply not interested in dropping $ that could buy me a decent used car. I'll stick with my boutiques, thank you.

Who is going to hear the difference live? Maybe a small handful of people. Maybe.
 




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