Old guy here. There are 4 categories of expectations that should be addressed at any price range. First is features. This is where less expensive guitars are WAY improved over years past. The low cost guitars of years past had crappy pickups (and rarely active), horrific tremolos, poorly made tuners, and other issues. This is by far where the biggest improvement in the low end has occurred. Second is closely related, and that is playability. Every new guitar, barring the absolute cheapest sub $250 guitar, should be playable after a good setup. This does not mean that your expectation at the low end should be a perfectly set up guitar out of the box. Third is finishes. Most guitars are CNC manufactured, so the quality finishes should be much less of an issue than in the past. That doesn't necessarily mean perfection, but bindings, veneers, fretwork, should all be reasonably well seated and fixed, given current manufacturing processes. Fourth is where the other 3 categories meet, and that is Quality Control (QC). This is where the expectations on more expensive guitars is totally warranted. Expensive guitars should be either flawless, or demoted to B-stock. For the lower-end overseas manufacturers providing less expensive guitars, flawlessness is not a reasonable expectation for the first-world consumer, because the QC staff in overseas plants are often people who cannot even afford the guitars they produce, let alone play one. This is where American production should produce a more tightly quality-controlled product, at a much steeper price. People also need to understand that if you are paying up for 'hand-crafted', you may be getting workmanship that is not as accurate as a CNC machine, because humans are more flaw-prone than machines. You should be getting better QC, but not necessarily better workmanship. Regarding pricing of new guitars... I personally have found features, playability, and finishes all greatly improved across the board in lower priced guitars. Rondo music is a perfect example... $500-$600 gets you neck-though, EMG85s or Blackouts, a Floyd than stays in tune, quality tuners, decent electronics, and quality fretwork. Good luck finding that in the 80s or 90s at that price, even without taking inflation into account. I think the place where you won't see much improvement despite the higher cost is in the older-style name brand guitars - Strats, LPs, ESs, Gretch, and other various niche semi-hollows. Because these are legacy style guitars that were basically cemented 40 years ago. Barring Lace Sensors or some other alt pickup, is there really any fundamental difference in the Strat of today vs the Strat of 40 years ago? Any fundamental difference in the LP of today vs the LP of 40 years ago, other than our own internal nostalgia? I have a $3000 Gretch, and it's a great guitar for what it is, but it's a throwback. The crappy tuners and baseball bat neck are intentionally old-school tech. The Bigsby never stays in tune (because of course it doesn't, it's a Bigsby). This old technology did arrive to me in 'flawless condition', as I would expect any new $3000 instrument to be. If you spend $2000-3000 for a guitar, I would expect a flawless instrument. But if you spend $700 on an overseas knockoff, is flawless really a reasonable expectation? Playable yes, but flawless? I don't expect flawless at that price. If I'm paying $700 for a guitar I expect that I will have to set it up... then I will play it, drop it, ding it, wear the bridge where my hand touches, scratch the back with my belt buckle, spill some beer on it, etc. I expect when it arrives not to have marks, chips, or dings on the front that can be seen from 6 feet away, but does a hairline scratch that requires a magnifying glass and good light to see really matter? This is where I diverge from some people here.