When is 'Better' Just a Perception

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by ejko, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. ejko

    ejko Member

    Messages:
    30
    Joined:
    May 12, 2007
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    This is a bit long, but it might be fun so hang in there... In the Raleigh area a few weeks back, the results of a scientific experiment regarding perceptions of wine were released. A large cross section of people were asked to judge 5 different red wines. Each bottle was completely wrapped to hide it's identity. In front of each bottle was a sign indicating its price, with the five bottles ranging from a low price of $8.00 through a high price $50.00. The kicker in this was that the lowest and the mid-priced wine were actually used twice; once with their real price and again with a false higher price. The results? You guessed it. Most peoples ratings of the five wines followed exactly in step with the price on the sign in front of each bottle, even though two of the samples were actually less expensive wines than indicated!

    So what does this have to do with guitars? I've often wondered whether the perception of a boutique guitar being much better than a guitar from one of the bigger name manufacturers was in fact real. Reading the wine story got me thinking about this again. Unfortunately I don't have enough guitars to conduct my own experiment, but just for fun what do you think the results would be of this experiment...

    We'll take three groups of strat-based guitars. All three have 3 single coils and where pickup options are available, the standard single coil configuration is used. All are alder (or comparable) bodies, natural finish, maple neck, satin neck finish and rosewood fretboards, hardtails with 10 gauge strings.

    Group 1 are imports such as G&L Tribute Series, Squire, etc.

    Group 2 are USA-built big names such as Fender, Carvin, etc.

    Group 3 are boutiques such as Suhr, Grosh, Anderson, etc.

    All are played through a quality amp such as a Swart. No effects are used.

    People of various skill levels (novice - intermediate - advanced) are brought in blindfolded and randomly handed different guitars to play and rate.

    Your thoughts on the results???


    ejko
     
  2. xhavepatiencex

    xhavepatiencex Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2006
    Location:
    portland, or
    Unlike wine where anyone can drink it and be a judge, not everyone can play guitar. I would imagine most people that have been playing for awhile and have owned or at least played some very nice guitars could pick the ones that have a higher build quality. As far as sound goes.... whats a good or bad sound anway?
     
  3. guitarfish

    guitarfish Member

    Messages:
    4,014
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    I'd probably "fail" the blind test. I am what you could call a traditionalist. Part of the fun for me is owing a real Fender, a real Gibson, even if it's been surpassed by a copy.

    It's the same as someone wanting to own a real Corvette or Mustang. I'm drawn to those brands because that's what my heroes were playing 30 years (and still are).
     
  4. phoenix 7

    phoenix 7 Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    24,686
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2005
    Location:
    Ohio
    I think that Group 3 ARE, in general, better instruments. However, in a blind test, I think a lot of people would nonetheless prefer groups 1 and 2.

    I don't think people realize to what an extent their perception is influenced by other factors -- preconceptions, prejudices, etc. I did some blind tests on my own a while back and was astounded by how much my preconceptions had totally influenced my perception of what gear sounded "best."
     
  5. Tonefish

    Tonefish Member

    Messages:
    5,280
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I am
    First of all, I would love to be in a test like that. I know I could pick the "better" guitars. There may be some on the fringes of the groups that could go either way and that other players may put into different groups than me, but having guitars in each of those groups, the difference is discernable and a lot less subjective than wine to the average person.

    I expect that amps and pedals would be harder because they too are a bit more subjective.
     
  6. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

    Messages:
    25,245
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2004
    Location:
    Canada-GTA
    I think the most telling result of this test is that people actually enjoy the more expensive goods more. If someone tells you that you are sipping imported Chateau de Poox and it is known to be premium priced and respected you WILL appreciate the opportunity to savour that experience and and enjoy it more.

    Likewise, the chance to play a vintage Fenson that looks and feels like the real thing because it is, and/or something that is worth xx,xxx on the market will force you to raise your estimation of the experience.

    So, saving the cash and purchasing the dream rig will enhance your pleasure, regardless of how it sounds to someone else, YOUR experience is 'better.'
    The placebo effect is real.

    There is no such thing as an objective experience.

    There....cool theory, huh?
     
  7. c_mac

    c_mac Member

    Messages:
    3,667
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2004
    Location:
    Iowa
    Of course you could.........stud. :rolleyes:
     
  8. ejko

    ejko Member

    Messages:
    30
    Joined:
    May 12, 2007
    Location:
    Cary, NC
    I think ToneTerrific is on the money. At the end of the day the only thing that really matters is that you perceive the difference to be real.

    Now the problem for those of us with chronic GAS is that the feeling only lasts a few months...


    ejko
     
  9. RvChevron

    RvChevron Member

    Messages:
    2,467
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2002
    Location:
    Hong Kong, China
    Need to have the same pickups. I'd like to see how it'd turn out.

    Not a wine drinker but if you give me cheap, mid price and high end Champagne or scotch or coffe or earl grey tea, I can pick out all three catagories for sure!
     
  10. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,496
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Location:
    Montclair, NJ
    Even without external influences (such as those price signs) shaping ones opinion, how could "better" be anything other than perception. What is objectively better about a guitar or a sound. How you define the test or standard is in itself an opinion. As tone says, there is no such thing as objective experience. It's also much more emotional than rational. I often go back and forth between two extremely different guitars, in functions, sound and value (a Dearmond M75T and a Gibson ES-335). My rational self knows damn well the Gibson is the better instrument. But the vibe, the emotional pull and connection I feel for each one is more equal. They both fascinate me. Both inspire me musically. So which one really is better? Strange business, this gear lust.
     
  11. XKnight

    XKnight Member

    Messages:
    11,095
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2007
    Location:
    Republic of Texas
    I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to distinguish the tone between a custom made guitar and a name brand production model if they have similar pups.

    However, even blindfolded, I think I could differentiate the custom guitar usually based on the finish work. Particularly the fret edges and the feel of the neck.
     

Share This Page