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Thread: What is it about American-made acoustic production guitars?

  1. #1
    Senior Member dreadnut's Avatar
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    What is it about American-made acoustic production guitars?

    Boutique luthiers aside, what makes the tone of American-made acoustic guitars so special? I've played lots of nice offshore models, but they just don't seem to have "that sound" for me. It seems to me if they could achieve this they would be selling their acoustics for $3-4K too.

    Not trying to pick a fight about the quality and value of these other guitars, because there are lots of nice ones, and I own one, a "Loar 0" model. It was a great deal at the price, and obviously there are a lot of guitars being sold at those price points.

    But when I play my Guilds, or a Martin, or a Taylor, or a Collings, I hear something different. I can't define it 100%, but I know it when I hear it. The richness of the tone, the sustain...

    Is this a case of price being determined by overall quality, or is it perceived quality being determined by price somewhat?

    Of all the other manufacturers, I've always thought that Alvarez makes the best acoustics, they ring pretty nicely to my ears.
    TODAY is the TOMORROW you spent all day YESTERDAY acting like there was no.

    '76 D-25M
    '99 DV-52ABHG (gave to my son)
    '98 DeArmond Starfire Special
    Takamine Acoustic Flying "A"
    Crate CA-125D Acoustic Amp
    Fishman Loudbox Mini Acoustic Amp

  2. #2
    I have Japanese guitars that blow away American models. Country of origin isn't enough to determine anything.

    IMO the issue is the constant race to the bottom that our modern economy is based upon. People want to pay less, and companies from other countries can charge less due to different labor laws and/or practices. Thus, US brands are importing guitars (and everything else) because it's cheaper to do so.

    It's not that overseas guitars are worse; it's that people aren't willing to pay for the quality that once was standard and the easiest way for a company to deliver what people want is to source it overseas. Add to that the "good enough" mentality that is pervasive today and you get to where we are.

    This hit home for me looking at my Guild resonator. I think the MSRP for that guitar was positively absurd, and then I realized that it was almost the lowest-priced guitar in the catalog that year! The cost of producing in the US is very high and the average consumer isn't willing to pay it.

    The argument of "all else being equal, US-made is better" doesn't work because all else is not equal given the above.
    '70s: [ S70 | S300ADs ]
    '80s: [ X79-3 | X80s | X82 | X100 | X175 | S281 | BHM1 ]
    '80s: [ Detonator | Liberator + Elite | SF4 | AA ]
    '90s: [ S100 | X160 | X170 | X170T | SF3,5 | BB | NB | NB DX ]
    '90s: [ X2000 | X3000 | X4000s | DV72 | BHM1 | JF30-12 | Songbird ]
    '00s: [ SF3 | SF4 | B-90 | BB-90 | X160R | X500T | D55 ]
    '10s:
    [ Jetstar | R30 | D55 ]

    My Reviews: GADsGuilds.com

  3. #3
    As many may recall, when I joined LTG I had several non-cutaway Epiphone Masterbilts from the 2003-2010 production run. They were all produced in China and very well made. They sounded OK, but somehow they weren't that well balanced across the strings, and they didn't have the "richness of tone" that dreadnut mentioned. Mainly, the sound of the low E string was weak compared to the other strings. I never noticed these things until I compared them to a U.S.-made Guild. Granted, I'm comparing to an F-50R, and you can't get much better than that in my book, but still, that's the difference. That's "what it is about American-made acoustics."

    I've heard people (at AGF) claiming their MIC Guild is as good as an American-made Guild. I just haven't tried any MIC Guilds, so I can't argue against such a claim. I don't doubt the MIC Guilds are typically very good, and I'm occasionally tempted to pick up an F1512 myself... just because.

    Will be interested to hear what others more experienced than me have to say on this question....
    2018 Guild F512 Sunburst
    2011 Guild F50R Sunburst
    2002 Guild JF30-12 Sunburst
    2018 Gibson Ltd. Ed. Songwriter Deluxe 12-string
    2015 Martin GPC12PA4 12-string
    
1972 Epiphone FT-160 12-string
    2012 Epiphone Dot CH

    2010 Epiphone Les Paul Standard trans amber 

    2013 Yamaha Motif XS7

  4. #4
    I have another anecdote to add (I have a migraine and am fairly medicated so please forgive my excessive typing).

    When i was hunting for the perfect Brian Setzer guitar, I played a lot of Gretsches. This would have been five or so years ago, and there were (are) two major lines of Gretsch: The Professional and the Electromatic with the Electromatic being the lower-priced "import" version of the Professional. The problem with that statement is that they're both imports.

    The Professionals are made in Japan and are amazing.
    The Electromatics are made in Korea or China (sound familiar?) and are less amazing.

    To me the difference was profound, but I've met plenty of people who say that the Electromatics are "just as good". I generally attribute this to experience, as an experienced player would be able to tell the difference while a newer player may not, much like anything else where a beginner may not be able to appreciate the nuances of high-end gear until they get more experience.
    '70s: [ S70 | S300ADs ]
    '80s: [ X79-3 | X80s | X82 | X100 | X175 | S281 | BHM1 ]
    '80s: [ Detonator | Liberator + Elite | SF4 | AA ]
    '90s: [ S100 | X160 | X170 | X170T | SF3,5 | BB | NB | NB DX ]
    '90s: [ X2000 | X3000 | X4000s | DV72 | BHM1 | JF30-12 | Songbird ]
    '00s: [ SF3 | SF4 | B-90 | BB-90 | X160R | X500T | D55 ]
    '10s:
    [ Jetstar | R30 | D55 ]

    My Reviews: GADsGuilds.com

  5. #5
    Super Moderator Default's Avatar
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    From talking to a worker at NH, Fender was trying to move Guild upscale, and was overcharging for the guitars. Hence the price and the low volume. Fender did itself a disservice when it bought every guitar brand it could. When you have so many different brands where the price points overlap, you make decisions based of where you don't cannibalize your own sales. If Guild and Ovation were the only acoustic brands that Fender had, we would have seen better pricing, and had our D-25s.
    "Steve, you are a man of many goats."~ capnjuan

    "Alternatively, you could just go the ultra-relic route with it. Basically go for a look that says the amp was on fire and they put it out using belt sanders."
    (amps - I need a "99" & "50")

  6. #6
    Senior Member dreadnut's Avatar
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    Still, I can't imagine the American-made prices would hold up against the competition if their guitars were comparable. On the other hand, most US Guitar manufacturers are also offering offshore guitars in their lineups.

    I know that Mexico made Strats are selling for 1/2 or less of the price of US Strats, but are the US-made ones twice as good? I don't know because I'm not a Strat kinda guy.

    I love my Korean-made DeArmond Starfire Special, it's 20 years old and fire engine red. Twin DA 2K single coil pickups, Ernie Ball Power Slinkies. This thing really rocks, plays like a dream, even sounds great unplugged. Impeccable workmanship, flawless finish, binding, etc. I paid like $689 plus tax for it brand new, so I bought it at the highest price point they were at (I have a history of doing that. The people that got the real deals were those who bought the older stock Korean made DeArmonds at blowout prices, about half what I paid, when they discontinued the line and some stores had a mix of Korean made DA's and the cheaper Indonesian made DA's) But I digress.

    Wonderful guitar, but not a Guild Starfire. Probably worth about what I paid for it now based on what I see for sale. It is a semi-hollow body with a center block, and it's considerably heavier than the comparable Starfire III.

    I love it, but it ain't a Guild Starfire. I'm jonesing for a vintage Starfire II.
    Last edited by dreadnut; 08-10-2019 at 09:07 PM.
    TODAY is the TOMORROW you spent all day YESTERDAY acting like there was no.

    '76 D-25M
    '99 DV-52ABHG (gave to my son)
    '98 DeArmond Starfire Special
    Takamine Acoustic Flying "A"
    Crate CA-125D Acoustic Amp
    Fishman Loudbox Mini Acoustic Amp

  7. #7
    Gibson and Fender have destroyed the guitar landscape by buying up brands and killing them off or making them pale versions of what they once were.

    I have a friend that owned a guitar store and the VAST majority of guitar sales were beginner instruments. He couldn't afford to keep anything in stock other than Samick due in no small part to Gibson and Fender's minimum inventory requirements. He eventually closed up shop and moved across the street where they are now lessons-only.
    '70s: [ S70 | S300ADs ]
    '80s: [ X79-3 | X80s | X82 | X100 | X175 | S281 | BHM1 ]
    '80s: [ Detonator | Liberator + Elite | SF4 | AA ]
    '90s: [ S100 | X160 | X170 | X170T | SF3,5 | BB | NB | NB DX ]
    '90s: [ X2000 | X3000 | X4000s | DV72 | BHM1 | JF30-12 | Songbird ]
    '00s: [ SF3 | SF4 | B-90 | BB-90 | X160R | X500T | D55 ]
    '10s:
    [ Jetstar | R30 | D55 ]

    My Reviews: GADsGuilds.com

  8. #8
    Jimi Hendrix is the best guitarist. He wins every poll, only really put out 3 studio albums, and has been dead for almost 50 years. Opinions ya know...
    Last edited by JF-30; 08-13-2019 at 11:48 AM.
    2001 Martin J12-16GT
    2011 Martin D-28
    2013 Martin 000-28
    2014 Martin D-18
    2017 Martin D-35
    1987 Guild JF-30

  9. #9
    Senior Member dreadnut's Avatar
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    TODAY is the TOMORROW you spent all day YESTERDAY acting like there was no.

    '76 D-25M
    '99 DV-52ABHG (gave to my son)
    '98 DeArmond Starfire Special
    Takamine Acoustic Flying "A"
    Crate CA-125D Acoustic Amp
    Fishman Loudbox Mini Acoustic Amp

  10. #10
    Senior Member Guildedagain's Avatar
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    I once had a 70's Japan Yamaki D28 copy that while it looked like it had been owned by a hobo (I think it actually was, it was from a pawnshop in that bad part of town by the railroad tracks), sounded ummm possibly superior to my '72 D28...

    I sold it, of course, there was no way you could own both and not sell one, it was always going to nag me and I wan't going to sell the prestige guitar.

    I've had lots of Gibson acoustics, never kept any.

    Others, gone also.

    Just old Guilds now, for better or for worse.

    And a smattering of Stellas Silvertones Airlines and Harmony guitars, small and big, 6 and 12's, archtops, now that's some real unique American tone there.
    Last edited by Guildedagain; 08-12-2019 at 07:51 PM.

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