Are expectations too high on new gear?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by CrazyDean, Dec 18, 2017.

Are our expectations in guitar finishes too high?

  1. Yes

    62.5%
  2. No

    26.6%
  3. All guitars should be perfect, even my $200 Ibanez Gio.

    10.9%
  1. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  2. CrazyDean

    CrazyDean SS.org Regular

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    Everyone believes that their own expectations are realistic. The point of the thread is to question whether or not they really are, objectively.

    Also, what do you mean by "more expensive than it should be"? These companies aren't taking advantage of us. They have bills to pay, which includes salaries of their employees.

    As for the video, he's talking about "premium" features. Yes, when you want premium features, you pay premium price, and the manufacturer likely makes more money on these guitars vs a base model. However, this also allows them to sell their cheaper guitars at a better price, since they can make up their costs with these premium guitars.

    One thing that the video doesn't mention is the costs of time. Every special thing on a guitar, even a silly veneer top, requires more time spent in the factory. This means that they need to make more money per unit since ultimately, they can produce fewer per day.

    Even something as small as offering an extra color increases the time and costs per guitar. Sure, painting one guitar takes just as much effort regardless of color. However, when you have to paint 10,000 guitars, things are a bit different. Either you need to pay someone to clean out all the equipment every time the color changes, or you need to add another paint booth for each color being offered. Either way, it costs the company money.
     
  3. rami80

    rami80 SS.org Regular

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    I guess I'm the person whose post pushed OP over the edge to post this.

    The guitar was a Keith Merrow sig (mkii), to some the blemishes were minor, to me they ticked the hell out of me. I overpaid for the guitar because I'm not in the US, so dealers mark up as they wish. What angered me was how little care was taken when the guitar was made.

    Since that post, things I was worried would occur,did. The guitar keeps destroying string ball-ends for some reason, the Hipshot bridge has a stripped screws,the switch wobbles around, and the pot started screeching(which I hear is common).

    The point of my post is that when you see carelessness somewhere you can be dead sure you'll find more in other places. The post I made didn't show that the binding is full of tool-marks for example neither did it show how there are chips next to the electronics cavity because I've seen these issues on other guitars that I own and have sort of accepted them. But for f*ck's sake my made in India 400$ Jackson from 8 years ago doesn't have as many dings as the Schecter had.Hell, even the wiring is better! ( 4 grounding points vs 1, properly zip tied cables vs cables floating around in the cavity)

    If we accept this stuff, things will surely not get any better.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
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  4. WintermintP

    WintermintP Lead/Rhythm Guitar, One Minute Winter

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    @billinder33 @CrazyDean You must do well to remember that as I said earlier, even lower-end models, i.e. Epiphones, LTDs, etc, cost well over $1K, and $2K is actually where all of the midrange models lie. I can't help but completely disagree when people say everything improved price-wise. I would argue the polar opposite, i.e. the inflation worsened bigtime and we are forced to pay way more for guitars than we should, because each company can simply write a lot of markup, knowing that everybody else will do the exact same thing. This is not helped by the fact that the value of USD and CAD (I'm not exactly sure on USD but with CAD this is definitely the case) are crashing at a much more rapid rate than ever before.

    While it is true that a $700 overseas knockoff shouldn't be perfect, you must also keep in mind that something like that only costed around $500 a few years back, and we're now living in a world where we have to pay well above $2K for that same overseas knockoff. Maybe the pricing is slightly more realistic over in the States, but that's how bad it is here in Canada.

    WintermintP
     
  5. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    Here's a list of ESP/LTD Prices from 2004: http://www.jedistar.com/pdf/esp/ESP_2004_RETAIL_PRICELIST.pdf


    In 2004, an EC-400 had an RRP of £799 and came with EMG 85/81 pickups, an Earvana compensated nut, a pretty mediocre TOM bridge and that was about it in terms of features. It also had a flat top.

    $799 in 2004 is equivalent to $1072 today, by the Consumer Price Index.

    An EC-401 today has an RRP of $970, and the same guitar with a Floyd Rose has an RRP of $1141, according to ZZsounds.

    The guitar is pretty much the same, although it does now have a carved top, and the Earvana nut has gone byebye because nobody cared about them.

    How exactly has the practical cost of this instrument been inflated? The base model is actually slightly cheaper after inflation is accounted for.

    If they seem more expensive now relative to your wages, then perhaps you shouldn't be considering the price of guitars in isolation - I rather suspect this graph has much more to do with it:

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    I can't speak for non-US markets; however, as @GuitarBizarre alluded, guitars (aside from collectables) in most first world markets have DEFLATED over the last 40 years, as they have largely become mass-produced, overseas-manufactured, 'commodity' items.

    To keep the guitar market in perspective, over the same period in the US, healthcare has gone up in inflation-adjusted dollars approximately 10x, education between 15x-25x, and housing approximately 4x-5x.... It's likely that this is why 'everything seems so much more expensive these days', but it's really not the commodity items that are more expensive, it's that the things that are not captured in the core inflation statistics (housing, education, healthcare) are consuming a significantly greater portion of everyone's paycheck.

    By my quick glance at Reverb.com, median prices on new Epiphones are between $500-$750, and new LTDs between $900-$1250. My own recollection from the late 80's-early 90's is that equivalent Epiphones would have been around $450-$600 and ESP or ESP-equivalent guitars in the $750-$900 range. And that doesn't take into account the proliferation of popular modern Superstrat features like neck-through solid body construction, flame and quilted veneers, 7/8 strings, fanned frets, Sustaniacs, phase/coil-splits, locking tuners, etc. So guitars really haven't gone much up more (if at all) than any other commodity item such as computers, TVs, lawn mowers, power tools, etc.

    Similar to many other commodity consumer items, you can certainly cap out on some very high-end, premium-priced products (curved TV screens, gaming laptops, automated/robotic vacuum cleaners, etc.)... for instance, high-end Epiphones can be found in the $2500-$3000 range, and ESPs in the $4000-$5000 range, but that's not where the primary market is, and I would question the logic of the average wage non-professional spending that kind of money anyhow.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  7. WintermintP

    WintermintP Lead/Rhythm Guitar, One Minute Winter

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    But it is true that what used to be the highest average price for LTD models is almost the minimum price for an LTD nowadays... Also, I'm actually a working musician...

    WintermintP
     
  8. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    I agree that the pricing 'spreads' - the price difference between a manufacturer's lowest cost units and their highest cost units - for most established guitar makers has increased greatly. Mostly because the profit on a $4000 'custom shop' guitar helps compensate the manufacturers for the very thin margins on the low end units.

    However, it's dubious if that higher-priced guitar will be any more functional or well-built that something comparable that costs 25%-50% of the price. In many cases it won't be, or that the difference will be so marginal as to not justify the cost increase.

    Music is definitely a tough business for the working professional, so I do sympathize with the decisions you face regarding how to allocate money to your tools of the trade!!!
     
  9. Jacksonluvr636

    Jacksonluvr636 SS.org Regular

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    At the end of the day I am with Rami.

    Just a funny thing I wanted to add, why I am posting here again.

    I just bought my son his first guitar. It is a Viper Jr from Amazon and was less than $80.

    While it was not the most amazing playing guitar I have touched and by no means had any good hardware at all.....It...was still Flawlessly made for what it was.

    Why can I get that from an $80 low end child's guitar but not with a $1,000 import that may have better play ability and parts?
     
  10. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    I think we can't really compare US and non US prices. I mean most US companies will put out the models in a suggested price and then a street price plus if said guitar is bought from different states it doesn't have VAT like in EU and th eUK (don't quote me on the last bit and feel free to correct me). Some companies fluctuate prices depending on price exchange some are firm. The rise of internet shops and price matching across the EU and UK has actually managed to decrease prices but still some brands get the market suggested price just translated to the local currency, see Mesa Boogie.

    The thing is better hardware cost more money and add to the final price. A Floyd Rose 1000 bridge costs around £235 new and a pair of EMG81/85 about £150. Sure guitar manufacturers don't buy the hardware in that price but you cna understand the difference between tht hardware and Licensed Floyds and crappy whatever no name pickups. A difference bewtween grover tuners and no name ones. As other people have mentioned doing veneers and more strange finishes takes more time and money. If production is split between for 5000 guitars with different specs for every 500 of them vs 2500 of each with a basic solid color (numbers as an example) then the logistics of price per unit differs. Plus there is a specific profit that must be made to make a line fo guitars successful and depending on the complexity of the guitars will eat through specific areas.

    Then there is companies moving countries when labor cost rises to keep costs down which sometimes might actually hurt their business as there's always a teething period if the new factory does not have experienced people or pay ridiculous low prices per delivered unit. If said company doesn't QC the guitars they get delivered in their homebase and just distribute them directly from the offshore manufacturer to dealers then they just have to go by the contractors QC prowess. Which realistically no company invests the manpower to check the amount of low end and mid level guitars produced in their headquarters as it would increase the price of the final product. Schecter was famous in the past of doing that but I'm not sure they do that anymore.

    So for example the Jackson JS series and X guitars spec wise for the price are great value. They had a lot of issues when they were first out but the X series were around £400-£500 with EMG's, Floyd Specials, neckthrough and had various colors. If that costs retail that much, taking into account the parts, labour and the business logistics of things it doesn't leave a huge margin for profit for the companies and they seem to be able to get that profit from the volume of guitars sold.

    Mid level Schecters are more expensive now. Yes but they have better hardware and are more complicated to make as there's more variety in models, colours, number of strings, fretwire and diffculty working on said fretwire (see stainless steel). Plus they have the new flavor of pickups everyone is raging about. Which means different suppliers, different deals, different shipping costs and import duties to the countries guitars are assembled (I doubt sending Fishmans, Duncans and EMG's to S.Korea or wherever they're built now enter the country import and duty free).

    There are a lot of aspects and costs in the business side we're not aware off that wil dictate final price and outcome of the product involved. Should you ask for a functional guitar that is can be set up correctly and it doesn't look like it's being dragged on the factory floor? Of course and a new product should be a new product that plays well and can be set up correctly.
    Should you expect something that has the specs of high tier guitars with the price of mid level guitars to have the same level of QC detail as the high tier ones? I would say that's unrealistic. Now if distributors jack up prices in specific countries to whatever gives them a huge profit that's not the manufacturers fault.
     
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  11. WintermintP

    WintermintP Lead/Rhythm Guitar, One Minute Winter

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    I bought the EMG 89s directly when I installed them. The 89 is one of the most expensive models you can get from EMG and it's still just below $120 (to this day, still my favourite of all time). You can also get the ZW set for $200. Floyds average around $300 if you want to buy it directly. I would still say there is some markup and exploitation going on, from both the companies and the distributors alike, because several of these high end models still have no name stock pickups and some of them don't even have tremolos at all.

    WintermintP
     
  12. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    What are you even talking about here?

    How did you go from "EMG's prices have stayed the same" to "So clearly there's lots of markup and exploitation going on"

    In 2004, when an 89 was $143 List versus $120 now, EMG had no competition and could charge whatever they wanted. (See attched PDF of their 04 price list, directly from wayback machine and emgpickups.com)

    These days they charge $120, because Seymour Duncan, GFS, etc entered the active space and Bareknuckle and other boutique pickup companies have EXPLODED in popularity - EMG have also lost some very high profile endorsees, as the big-effects-board-guys of yesteryear have moved away from them, see Gilmour for an example.

    Pickups have always been extremely high margin, but sudden competition and a contraction in the market have forced EMG to compete, whereas in 2004, who else were you going to buy if you wanted an active pickup?

    The same cannot be said of guitars themselves, where we already discussed that in real, monetary terms, the actual instruments themselves have stayed the same or come down - just not to the same extent. Same mechanism - cutthroat competition and a shrinking market are forcing these companies to fight for your dollar every way they can.

    In 10-15 years, I can absolutely, positively guarantee you, you will pine for the amount of choice we have today at the pricepoints it sells at, because you're going to see a lot of the companies you take for granted now, close up shop, unable to compete in a massively oversaturated marketplace.
     

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  13. WintermintP

    WintermintP Lead/Rhythm Guitar, One Minute Winter

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    Let's take it from the top. By all that I meant that the EMG pickups themselves don't cost all that much so charging a shit ton extra for a pair of EMG pickups doesn't make sense. So again, there's plenty of markup being charged just for installing EMG pickups, because although it's quite difficult, it's far less difficult than soldering something else in.

    Okay, problem number one, I've never taken any guitar company for granted. If you look at the numbers themselves, the prices of the instruments actually increased objectively from roughly eight to ten years ago to now (or that's how it is in the Canadian market).

    Problem number two, I have no clue what you mean when all of you say that the prices have decreased or the build quality for each instrument at its price increased, because all I see is the polar opposite. Again, this might be because I'm in Canada and the CAD is doing so bad and/or the fact that the Canadian music retailers have literally no competitor so they get away with charging whatever extra money they want (because everybody does it), but again, I really can't help but disagree with such statements.

    WintermintP
     
  14. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    It doesn't matter how much you disagree with these statements based on feelings, I've now been quoting literally MANUFACTURERS OWN MSRP at you on two occasions and you've just completely, utterly ignored that.

    To take a phrase from you, lets take it from the top. All my calculations below are using http://stats.areppim.com/calc/calc_usdlrxdeflxcpi.php to compare 2004 prices to today's.

    The LTD EC400 range in 2004 had a $799 MSRP. That $799 had the same buying power as $1036 does today.
    The LTD EC400 range in 2018 has a $970 MSRP. You will note that $970 is less than $1036.

    An EMG of the same model *also* has an MSRP of significantly less in real terms - £120 today is equivalent to $92.48 in 2004 - When the same pickup retailed for $143 (The equivalent of $185.56 now).

    This is all based on the consumer price index, not your wages. If the cost of goods goes up, the consumer price index tracks that. It does not track whether your wages keep up with that.

    So the simple question to ask is - Are you presently earning 30% more dollars than you were in 2004?

    If not, things are going to seem more expensive, because each purchase is taking up more of your income than it did before.

    Now take a look at this page: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/stateMinWageHis.htm

    Basic minimum wage rates in the USA have increased from an average of $5.460625 in 2004 (Only including states with a minimum wage, and always using the highest value of minimum wage shown)

    to $8.3328 in 2017. An increase of 52.59791690511618%

    I chose to focus on minimum wage here in order to eliminate the effect of the 1%. If you chart AVERAGE wage growth in the USA, the increase is from about $15.50 to about 22.20, using eyeball measurements on this chart, using the custom date range of 2004-01-29 until today: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wages

    That's roughly a 43.2258064516129% increase in the average wage in the USA.

    The numbers are not lying to you here - Guitars now, according to the consumer price index, now cost LESS than they did 14 years ago, whether you're earning the average minimum wage or the average wage in general.

    If CAD is fucking you over, that's your business, but the general pricing trend in the largest guitar market on earth is the exact opposite of what you're describing and you cannot simply state that your personal experience is relevant to the majority.
     
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