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$250 Guitar vs. $1000 vs. $3000+

EMediaPlays

New Member
I've said this many times on videos like this, but the tonal scale from $300-$3000 isn't that big of a gap. What you're paying for is either the feel of the guitar (fit and finish type things, longevity things like stainless steel frets, convenience things like quality bridges and tuners) or very specific features (special pickups like sustainiac/fishman/piezo, active electronics like EQs and boosts etc). In practice, I've picked up $300 Ibanez guitars with mojo and I've picked up $3000 Gibsons without.

Best advice any guitar play can ever take to heart is to always play a guitar before buying. This holds true across the price spectrum, but is more imperative the lower the price. You could reasonably expect a Music Man guitar to feel and sound good, but even when you get to that price range there is variance in the individual pieces of wood. This contributes to weight (balance, feel) as well as tone and resonance. Two 'identical' models could be very different to you.
 

AnswerInfinity

Inspired
I've said this many times on videos like this, but the tonal scale from $300-$3000 isn't that big of a gap. What you're paying for is either the feel of the guitar (fit and finish type things, longevity things like stainless steel frets, convenience things like quality bridges and tuners) or very specific features (special pickups like sustainiac/fishman/piezo, active electronics like EQs and boosts etc). In practice, I've picked up $300 Ibanez guitars with mojo and I've picked up $3000 Gibsons without.

Best advice any guitar play can ever take to heart is to always play a guitar before buying. This holds true across the price spectrum, but is more imperative the lower the price. You could reasonably expect a Music Man guitar to feel and sound good, but even when you get to that price range there is variance in the individual pieces of wood. This contributes to weight (balance, feel) as well as tone and resonance. Two 'identical' models could be very different to you.

Well said! I think what I learned doing this as well was that the amplification is going to be the much greater difference in sound quality than is the guitar.
 

mr_fender

Axe-Master
Consistency of tone and quality from guitar to guitar is typically pretty proportionate to price. There are definitely some diamonds in the rough at the cheap end of the price range, but it's usually a bit more of a crap shoot the cheaper you go. Higher priced guitars will usually be made from more carefully selected stock and have better quality control, etc., so you're odds of getting a lemon are usually lower. Like Budda said, there's always a point of diminishing returns though.
 

fcs101

Experienced
Very timely post as I just watched this last night. Good info here. It might be worth your while to investigate new companies striving to establish market share for good value.

 

JoKeR III

Fractal Fanatic
A cheap guitar through a great amp will almost always sound better than a great guitar through a cheap amp. Playability is a completely different discussion. Unless the player really doesn't care about how a guitar feels, there is a difference in the playability of a $300 guitar and a $3,000 guitar.
 

TSJMajesty

Power User
A cheap guitar through a great amp will almost always sound better than a great guitar through a cheap amp. Playability is a completely different discussion. Unless the player really doesn't care about how a guitar feels, there is a difference in the playability of a $300 guitar and a $3,000 guitar.
So true. I used to think I'd rather have a cheap guitar thru great amplification, but now I feel the opposite. Since the guitar is the start of everything, and feel in your hands is so important, I'd prefer not to fight a cheap guitar. For a beginner, the former would be better. But for an accomplished player, the latter.
 

skolacki

Inspired
I’m always watching the local Craigslist for guitars. I saw a listing for an LPJr style Hamer. Made in Indonesia. I bought it for $300. I also have a 2005 or 6 PRS singlecut trem and a Deluxe US Strat.
The PRS is my best quality guitar but this little Hamer has the best sustain and natural power out of all my guitars. Plays great sounds great. Rings like a bell unplugged. Playability is on par with the PRS and better than my Strat. I got lucky with it. Online they get great reviews. Now I want a US Hamer. No China guitars for me though. That’s where I draw the line lol.
 

JoKeR III

Fractal Fanatic
So true. I used to think I'd rather have a cheap guitar thru great amplification, but now I feel the opposite. Since the guitar is the start of everything, and feel in your hands is so important, I'd prefer not to fight a cheap guitar. For a beginner, the former would be better. But for an accomplished player, the latter.
Yep, it's a journey. After years of 'entry level' guitars, then learning how to upgrade them (tuning pegs, pots, pickups, circuit mods, etc...), I made the mistake of playing a PRS McCarty Brazilian. I immediately "got it", understood that there was more to a great guitar than just the way it sounds. Up to that point, I never really thought much about the playability of a guitar. I knew the benefits of a good setup and that there were certain things I didn't want, like fret buzz, and certain things I preferred, like neck profiles and nut width, but I never really thought that a more expensive guitar could play any better than any other properly setup guitar- it was eye opening.
 

AnswerInfinity

Inspired
Yep, it's a journey. After years of 'entry level' guitars, then learning how to upgrade them (tuning pegs, pots, pickups, circuit mods, etc...), I made the mistake of playing a PRS McCarty Brazilian. I immediately "got it", understood that there was more to a great guitar than just the way it sounds. Up to that point, I never really thought much about the playability of a guitar. I knew the benefits of a good setup and that there were certain things I didn't want, like fret buzz, and certain things I preferred, like neck profiles and nut width, but I never really thought that a more expensive guitar could play any better than any other properly setup guitar- it was eye opening.
Hell yeah man. My experience was bizarre in that my first serious guitar (only months into playing) was a PRS custom. This was in 87 when I think Paul had his hands on everything that was being made. To this day, I haven't even played another PRS that was that easy to play and - in those early years - I couldn't figure out why everything else felt so awful in my hands.
 

Joe Bfstplk

Axe-Master
Hell yeah man. My experience was bizarre in that my first serious guitar (only months into playing) was a PRS custom. This was in 87 when I think Paul had his hands on everything that was being made. To this day, I haven't even played another PRS that was that easy to play and - in those early years - I couldn't figure out why everything else felt so awful in my hands.
I first tried a PRS in a little hole-in-the-wall guitar shop off Route 166 in Toms River, NJ, in 1985 or 86. Really nice guitar, but I didn't really dig the knob pickup selector. Now I have finally got a US-made Custom 24, with a lever switch that does what the knob switch did. Funny how such a small difference (a 90 degree change in the axis of rotation of a switch) makes such a huge difference in how it works, ergonomically....

I’m always watching the local Craigslist for guitars. I saw a listing for an LPJr style Hamer. Made in Indonesia. I bought it for $300. I also have a 2005 or 6 PRS singlecut trem and a Deluxe US Strat.
The PRS is my best quality guitar but this little Hamer has the best sustain and natural power out of all my guitars. Plays great sounds great. Rings like a bell unplugged. Playability is on par with the PRS and better than my Strat. I got lucky with it. Online they get great reviews. Now I want a US Hamer. No China guitars for me though. That’s where I draw the line lol.

My first PRS was their $499 SE 24 Standard, the cheapest guitar they make, in a factory in Indonesia. All it really needed out of the box was $15 worth of work done to make the nut work better. Right out of the box, it's reasonably light, plays well, has a wonderful neck carve, and great sounding electronics. The shop did the nut work for me, and I did a few upgrades of my own, which started with an accident. I tried to get the knobs repositioned so that when they were full up, they read 10 instead of 8. They were SUPER TIGHT on the splined shafts of the pots, and the pull-pot tone control's shaft came out with the knob. So I replaced the coil-split pull pot and re-thought the wiring so it now has a phase switch and added series-parallel switches for each pickup. Got and swapped on Grover auto-locking Rotomatic tuners and Wilkinson WLS locking saddles. Maybe $150 total in improvements, and it is a fine guitar, sonically different from (different pickups and circuit) but on par with the Custom 24. It's not as drop-dead gorgeous as the Custom 24, but it is pretty and blue.

I had a USA Hamer Special from the mid '90s for a few years. Got it new on a blowout sale. Should've kept it, and maybe put better-sounding P90s in it. The Duncans were hot-rod ones, and a bit off what I like - the neck pickup was woofy, and the bridge pickup could only do George Thorogood sounds. An underwound neck one and vintage bridge one would have been perfect. Beautiful cherry red. Great feeling neck. Not too heavy. Should've kept it. Might have to look at the Indonesian Hamer....
 

skolacki

Inspired
I had a USA Hamer Special from the mid '90s for a few years. Got it new on a blowout sale. Should've kept it, and maybe put better-sounding P90s in it. The Duncans were hot-rod ones, and a bit off what I like - the neck pickup was woofy, and the bridge pickup could only do George Thorogood sounds. An underwound neck one and vintage bridge one would have been perfect. Beautiful cherry red. Great feeling neck. Not too heavy. Should've kept it. Might have to look at the Indonesian Hamer....

I’ve been watching those on Reverb. The Specials and the Artists. I want the P90s for sure. You’re not the 1st to say the Duncan’s are too hot in those guitars. My cheap hamer has a fat neck somewhat similar to the PRS wide fat. What was the neck like on yours?
 

Joe Bfstplk

Axe-Master
I’ve been watching those on Reverb. The Specials and the Artists. I want the P90s for sure. You’re not the 1st to say the Duncan’s are too hot in those guitars. My cheap hamer has a fat neck somewhat similar to the PRS wide fat. What was the neck like on yours?
Mine had a carve similar to the $499 PRS I have now. A little fat but not real fat, and normal width. It really felt great in my hands. I really could kick myself for letting that guitar go. Hell, even a pair of DiMarzio DLX P90-sized humbuckers would have worked, and I could have done the series/parallel thing to get it to play nice with my guitar rig, which was set up to work with my Strat with JB and Texas Specials (i.e., a kinda hot Strat). If I could go back 23 years and correct that one thing....

It looked just like this, except with black P90 covers:
https://reverb.com/item/42619905-hamer-usa-special-dc-p-90-1995-cherry

Here's it's twin:
https://reverb.com/item/28670221-hamer-special-1993-cherry
 

skolacki

Inspired
Mine had a carve similar to the $499 PRS I have now. A little fat but not real fat, and normal width. It really felt great in my hands. I really could kick myself for letting that guitar go. Hell, even a pair of DiMarzio DLX P90-sized humbuckers would have worked, and I could have done the series/parallel thing to get it to play nice with my guitar rig, which was set up to work with my Strat with JB and Texas Specials (i.e., a kinda hot Strat). If I could go back 23 years and correct that one thing....

It looked just like this, except with black P90 covers:
https://reverb.com/item/42619905-hamer-usa-special-dc-p-90-1995-cherry

Here's it's twin:
https://reverb.com/item/28670221-hamer-special-1993-cherry

Haha! That ones on my watch list. I’m not in a hurry. Great deals come around occasionally and I’ll be ready to jump when the right one comes around.
 

Budda

Fractal Fanatic
USA Hamers are great. I had a sunburst that's top 5 guitars I've owned - even the wiring was super clean. Probably should have kept that one, but I was on the crusade for "the best guitar ever".

My first good guitar was an SFX2 in metallic baby blue. It was actually a pretty solid guitar.
 

Muad'zin

Fractal Fanatic
Thing is though, with cheap but capable labor, and CNC routing a $3000 guitar is nowhere near as much better then a $300 used to be. It used to be that if you wanted a really good guitar you had to fork out the big bucks for a made in USA axe. Nowadays the workforce in China or Indonesia or Mexico is pretty well trained, their tools are good and CNC is the same there as it is in Fender or Gibson USA. Worker motivation is usually the biggest thing these countries lack, but then again are we still as well motivated to deliver quality work as we used to be? Now a cheap $300 entry level guitar from Indonesia is sure as hell ain't as good as a $3000 MIA guitar. But as has been said the difference is mostly in quality parts being used and salary. Not better skill or worker motivation. Now if you buy a $1000 guitar made in Indonesia, chances are you're getting a product that is probably better then your standard MIA guitar with as good if not better hardware too. And you're probably a long way towards that $3000 level quality too. It's basically what Ola Englund does with Solar guitars. Made in Indonesia guitars with quality parts and control made for Indonesian prices.
 
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