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

  1. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    Perhaps. But I maintain that comparing a regular production domestic guitar to an import instrument in a shop is not comparing similar items. I base my claim on several factors including: the absence of domestic production at the import price point; the expectation that any country's domestic production would be superior to its export quality production; and the fact that most of the imports are built to specs provided by (in this case) an American company.

    But ultimately I am more interested in opinions that can be supported objectively and I didn't see this heading in that direction. But if it is only me, then Never Mind.
    IMO there is no way this discussion can be resolved objectively because the variables are too, well..., variable.
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  2. #42
    Senior Member adorshki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    Perhaps. But I maintain that comparing a regular production domestic guitar to an import instrument in a shop is not comparing similar items. I base my claim on several factors including: the absence of domestic production at the import price point;
    The "gotcha" there is something we all seem to readily agree as being the whole reason the imports are here in the first place:
    We can't build an instrument of equal quality here at the price point.
    We (domestic guitar makers) have to offer some advantage to justify a higher selling price for US built instruments.
    The argument is that the "regular production imports" offer quality very very close to "regular production domestic quality", but that somewhere the "regular production domestics" seem to offer some slight advantage in to tone (to the OP as well as others who posted in this thread), even at the cost of a higher price tag, so to speak.
    The OP was expressing his opinion that in general he does perceive a subjective intangible of better tone, but I also cited tangibles in terms of construction techniques and materials that have been supported by owner input, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    the expectation that any country's domestic production would be superior to its export quality production;
    I humbly submit that that assumption itself is only supported by specific instances cited on your part and may not necessarily apply in the framework of "regular production" or as general rule at all.
    I could cite instances where countries specifically export their BEST stuff because they get more hard currency for it, but that gets close to the edge of the international economics/politics rathole.
    Anyway, just saying I don't think it's a valid generalization that countries keep their best stuff for domestic use, although it may be true in specific cases.
    Last edited by adorshki; 08-14-2019 at 11:52 PM.
    Al
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  3. #43
    Senior Member dreadnut's Avatar
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    Just seems to me if they could offer a guitar at the same price range of a nice higher end Guild - Martin - Collings, i.e $3,500-$5,000, they would do so.
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  4. #44
    Senior Member adorshki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dreadnut View Post
    Just seems to me if they could offer a guitar at the same price range of a nice higher end Guild - Martin - Collings, i.e $3,500-$5,000, they would do so.
    Ah, the converse.
    Good point.
    In the case of US-owned "captive brands", obviously that would tend to cannibalize sales from the domestic-builts.
    Now I think I'm getting what Frono meant by the best stuff not being made available for export.
    In this specific industry it may not be so much a matter of "choice" as finding suitable sales venues.
    Remember all the grousing about how difficult it was to find US Guilds at music shops?
    Imagine what an Asian maker'd have to go through finding somebody to distribute their "high-end stuff", and shops with already-stressed inventory budgets willing to stock it.
    One would think that their US brand customers could offer ready made avenues, and then a light goes on:
    It may well be that "non-competition contracts" are signed by the Asian makers to gain the volume contract manufacturing business...and the US maker also protects their domestic production from yet more competition at their required price point.
    Non-competition clauses aren't illegal, only price-fixing is.
    It could well be that in the streets of Beijing you could find guitars built with every bit of the tone and materials quality of a "good" US-built and save a bundle if the name on the headstock didn't matter.
    It did just occur to me that their cost of materials would probably be higher, though: they don't have the domestic wood resources, for a start.
    Last edited by adorshki; 08-15-2019 at 12:35 AM.
    Al
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  5. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Cohen View Post
    Gary, I second your opinion about Japanese guitars. I have an "Epiphone Elitist" Byrdland from 2004. Wow. It is a Japanese version, produced for Gibson, of the Gibson Byrdland, which by the way cost double. Production quality is IMO just the same as the Gibson. So go figure!
    The Terada factory in Japan built Rich's Epiphone Elitist Byrdland, and they can build a production-line guitar (acoustic or electric) as good as any production-line guitar made in the USA. I have three instruments made by Terada. The one acoustic is a nitro-finished replica of Paul McCartney's '64 Epiphone Texan, made in 2005 for his Adopt-A-Minefield fundraiser. It easily holds it's own against similar USA competition.

    I'm sure there are other factories around the world that can also build an instrument up to world-class standards. But as previously mentioned, it all comes down to mass-producing instruments at a particular price point, and having a market in which you can successfully sell your product. USA-made production guitars have essentially had the upper end of the market locked up forever. There's no incentive for anyone else to try to break into that market, so indeed, you will rarely see the finest example of a Pac-Rim company's capabilities on the global market.
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  6. #46
    Senior Member Grassdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobouz View Post
    The Terada factory in Japan built Rich's Epiphone Elitist Byrdland, and they can build a production-line guitar (acoustic or electric) as good as any production-line guitar made in the USA. I have three instruments made by Terada. The one acoustic is a nitro-finished replica of Paul McCartney's '64 Epiphone Texan, made in 2005 for his Adopt-A-Minefield fundraiser. It easily holds it's own against similar USA competition.

    I'm sure there are other factories around the world that can also build an instrument up to world-class standards. But as previously mentioned, it all comes down to mass-producing instruments at a particular price point, and having a market in which you can successfully sell your product. USA-made production guitars have essentially had the upper end of the market locked up forever. There's no incentive for anyone else to try to break into that market, so indeed, you will rarely see the finest example of a Pac-Rim company's capabilities on the global market.

    I always wondered why we never saw any more production runs of those early 2000's Epiphone Elitist acoustic models which were so well received. Maybe there was some some of non-competition contract (as Al mentioned) after that initial run of those guitars. I've been watching for one of those Epiphone Elitist J-200 models for what seems like years now and they just never seem to come up for sale. The Reverb listing from one of these two years ago states "2002-2005 Japan made Epiphone Elite J-200, a very rare guitar from an era of production that exceeded the quality of Gibson instruments, so much so that Gibson ordered Epiphone to discontinue this guitar after only 3 years of production."
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  7. #47
    I'm sure most folks here are familiar with the story of Fender execs inspecting the first shipment of guitars from Fender Japan (Fuji-gen Gakki at the time) in mid-1982 and being embarrassed 'cuz those guitars just plain outclassed what they were making in Fullerton. The higher-end Ibanez guitars made by Fuji-gen and Terada at the same time are also Grade A by any standard. It was a brief golden period when that firm was going all-out in quality terms and yet was still able to set prices below the US big boys due to labor costs.

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  8. #48
    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dreadnut View Post
    Just seems to me if they could offer a guitar at the same price range of a nice higher end Guild - Martin - Collings, i.e $3,500-$5,000, they would do so.
    As a counterpoint, it seems to me that if they could actually sell a $3,000-$5,000 guitar in the American market the market would be saturated with them. Why couldn't they sell them? In addition to the social, political and economic factors that are going to have me Moderating my own posts fairly quickly, it may be that they are already selling as many domestically as they can make so they don't "need" to in order to be profitable? It may be that the American market at that price point is saturated or too small to be worth the effort? It may be as suggested in the OP that there is something a MIA guitar has in tone that they lack.

    what makes the tone of American-made acoustic guitars so special?
    Possible answers.

    They are not special or unique if the global market for instruments is considered and the comparison is not limited to MIA and imported into America instruments.

    If the comparison is explicitly limited to instruments in the current US market then the answer is not about the instruments but economics - MIA instruments have a special tone because they were designed and built for a higher price point than the non-MIA guitars.

    The question, IMO, becomes much more interesting if MIA instruments at the same price point as imports is considered but AFAIK there are none which reinforces my opinion that the specialness is expensive.
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuball48 View Post
    Frono: You are correct----again.

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