How good are $300 and cheaper guitars, anyways?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Zalbu, Apr 28, 2018.

  1. Zalbu

    Zalbu More time than skill

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    The last time I bought a guitar was in 2012 and a lot has happened in the guitar business since then, especially in the budget segment. I've been thinking about replacing my old Schecter Omen-6 with a six string with a bit more modern neck and a regular hardtail bridge instead of the Tune-o-matic, and I'm interested in buying a cheapo guitar just to see how good they actually are, and maybe even use it as a modding platform to install new pickups, locking tuners and things like that.

    But is this a waste of money? Are cheapo guitars still firewood, even with how much guitar manufacturing has improved in recent years? I've heard good things about the Jackson JS22-7 guitars but how do the low end offerings from brands like Ibby, Schecter and Jackson look like today? Or are there any other brands I should look at?
     
  2. Strobe

    Strobe SS.org Regular

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    If you want cheap, go used. Cheap guitars have gotten a lot better in the last 10 years, but you can find excellent lightly used guitars on the cheap. It's really your best option on a budget.
     
  3. Sogradde

    Sogradde SS.org Regular

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    I might be wrong but I feel the overall quality of (cheap) guitars has declined over the last ~10 years. Back then, cheap guitars were bland but good workhorses and platforms to upgrade from. Nowadays, cheap guitars come with loads of features like band pickups/hardware, spectacular tops/finishes, etc. but the build quality suffers to compensate for that.
    Also the switch from korea to indonesia for the production of many cheap guitars did more harm than good imho. I owned a couple sub 1000€ guitars from Korea (still own one of them) and I hold them in the highest regards.

    So I'd agree on going with used guitar when on a budget.
     
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  4. Lasik124

    Lasik124 SS.org Regular

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    I think it depends from instrument to instrument.

    Not long ago I purchased and Agile Les Paul copy for $250 new and am very impressed by it. I felt like it resonated more then my Gibson LP. The pups also were no issue, which I thought they may be. :2c:
     
  5. Tortellini

    Tortellini SS.org Regular

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    If you’re wanting a seven, go with the JS22-7. Many people have bought that guitar and upgraded it with pickups that are worth more than the actual guitar. Why? Because it’s a great shell to build onto. Jackson makes some really good shit!!
     
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  6. blacai

    blacai SS.org Regular

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    There are more options, that's all. Some manufacturers have improved in the low range but in the end if you go for a random brand you are rooling the dice.
    I still have my Yamaha rgx420 and I paid 200€ for it. Really good one and better than most of schecter,Jackson and ibanez I have played lately in the 400-600€ range.
    New factories in Vietnam and Indonesia are building for popular brands. New Harley Benton are built in Vietnam and the quality has improved quite a lot,but don't forget you are buying a 200€ guitar... Don't go mad and say it's better than a 1000€ because not...QC and components are what they are.
     
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  7. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    The cheaper the guitars the less consistent the quality.

    One of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of production is to reduce the number of rejects.
     
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  8. Zalbu

    Zalbu More time than skill

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    I'm not on a tight budget per se, I've just always had a weird fascination with cheaper gear and I like not having to worry about treating the guitar with silk gloves when it's so cheap.

    I plan on getting the Jackson JS22-7 when I get the itch for a 7 string again but I'll probably be better off with getting one of the entry level Solars when they're back in stock again or something similar since I haven't heard a bad word about them yet.
     
  9. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    I disagree. I feel many of the Indonesian and Chinese models made today are built better than the MIK stuff 10 years ago. The finishes are less "candy apple" and things fit together better. Far better looking veneer tops and on most I feel the fretwork is pretty good. Speaking of the say 500-1000€ range here. Own one Indonesian Ibanez bass and apart from tiny bit of overspray on the top it's impeccably made.

    The budget end is still about the same. Saw a bunch of very low end Squiers recently that looked nice from afar but had very rough fretwork. Not something I would want for a first guitar without it getting run thru by a good tech to file the fret ends at least.

    If you are not buying your first guitar and don't have a lot of money to spend then used is the way to go.
     
  10. wakjob

    wakjob SS.org Regular

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    Yeah, if you are patient enough you'll get a good deal on a quality used guitar.

    I paid $275 for my MIJ Ibanez 7621...mint with case.
     
  11. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    My hypothesis:

    Guitar shapes/styles that have been around for a long time will usually always come out pretty good. They've been making so many strats and teles for so long that they can just crank these things out like its nothing and sell them for 100 bucks. But, when you start moving to a more specified style of guitar, the likelyhood that you'll get one less than nice is increased.

    My data:

    A few years ago I bought a Chinese Fernandes Strat new for $100 while I was a study abroad student, no flaws, no sharp frets, all level. The only crummy thing about it is the tuning machines and pups!

    edit: holy shit that was 8 fucking years ago
     
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  12. groverj3

    groverj3 Biologist/Guitarist

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    Go used.

    I got an MIJ DK2M for $300 and an MIJ DXMG for $250.
     
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  13. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    It probably helps that from the get-go the Strat and Tele were designed to be built as easily as possible on an assembly line by we minimally skilled and trained workers as possible.

    But when you add things like non-geometric inlay, real binding and certain construction types it's harder to get something good each time.

    The biggest factor though is how long has the facility in question been making guitars. Equipment has to be setup, tools need to worked in, staff has to be trained, a process needs to be finely laid out and a quality ladder needs to be established. That's why things tend to get better over the years.
     
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  14. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    Question! Question! What does non geometric inlay mean?? Like, just dots or blank? Because dots are just a drill press or something really simple like that?

    Also, is some binding fake? How can you tell? What is it? I had never heard of fake binding.

    This why I love this fucking site
     
  15. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Play every $300 guitar you like and take home the winner. The search should be fun.
     
  16. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Yeah, a simple dot or diamond/square is pretty easy to do, relatively speaking. Typically those are done with a simple routing template and use pre-made inlay pieces. No need to have an actual inlay artist cut complex shapes and cut special pieces from various materials to make a more complex design.

    Cheaper guitars often don't actually bind the guitar, instead employing methods that make the final product look bound. The most common is just painting on the binding or using thin plastic and just placing it along the edge without routing a channel for it and using the topcoat to level it all off.
     
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  17. gujukal

    gujukal SS.org Regular

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    I think it has to do with the dollar being a lot lower back in like mid 2000 which made the guitars quite cheap hear in Europe. But wages has probably gone up in Korea and Japan last 10-15 years so a lot of brands have moved to Indonesia and China and are offering more "exotic" guitars with cheaper quality but the same price tag as the old Korea/Japan workhorses.
     
  18. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I think it's worth considering that not every market has these cheap used instruments floating around. Where I am, you never see MIJ Ibbys pop up, and when they do, they're a lot more expensive than you would think from frequenting this site. We tend to get a lot of "Jay Turser" instruments on the low end of things and every one I've tried felt like garbage. And any Gio-level Ibanez I've tried has been less than impressive. But pick up an entry level Squier, for example, and they're perfectly serviceable instruments most of the time.

    Definitely gatta go with a +1 for trying out all the things you can get your hands on and just go with the one that wins.
     
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  19. Defmelonn

    Defmelonn SS.org Regular

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    Squire vintage vibe series are excellent. The schecter’s thAt are 249, they have a grey burst color and a fake yellow- red flame burst mape veneer on them play great. And the 200 dollar jackson dinky seven string is a killer instrument for the pricee
     
  20. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    IMO, it highly depends on the manufacturer and their experience and QC

    Theoretically it's possible to make a great quality $300 guitar. Overall a guitar is pretty cheap. Wood costs very little. Pickups are just thin wire and magnets which cost pennies. Your main cost is the man hours taken.

    Something like a strat is VERY simple. Multi-piece body, simple glossy colour finish, a pick-guard which can be pre-assembled, a simple bolt on neck which doesn't need a special angle. It's a well tested design, which is easy to make. The parts are all available super cheap, made from recycled Chinese scrap metal. But they work fine.

    A Les Paul is much harder. Set neck. Neck angle. Angled headstock. Binding. Flame top with a burst finish. It's more labour intensive.
     

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