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Author Topic: What about these Chinese and Orient made guitars ?  (Read 12792 times)
Tony Burns
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« on: June 12, 2008, 01:20:03 PM »

Not trying to offend  - dont think their terrible guitars or anything like that - but it seems their taking over for the main reason their cheap - not better. Im proud of the fact i saved a bit to buy my Martin and other guitars - and to me they sound steps above these invasion guitars . . i know their many fine instrument companies like Yairi etc ( im not trying to ofend the Master luthiers from these places -) i really dont like sweatshop guitars from any where !  what are your thoughts ?
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boyds
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2008, 01:31:45 PM »

I don't know...The Chinese Guild GADS are pretty nice guitars. I for one am thankful that the market offers a nice playing, feeling and well built guitar for less than the cost of a month or two's mortgage! It certainly opens up the choices for those of us who can not or will not pay the higher prices for the Martins, Taylors, Larrivees, etc.  I say keep them coming! bigrin
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2008, 01:48:45 PM »

The Eastmans are quite nice. And I almost never hear anyone say a cross word about Blueridge but I don't like their pegheads for two reasons: (the over-the-top inlay, plus the fact that the 5th string actually touches the 6th string machine post)
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mrrinse
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2008, 01:56:41 PM »

Give the low cost of production in (and transport from) places like China, it's hardly surprising to see these guitars winning out in the lower end of the market. Often they're incredibly cheap, and some are brilliant value for money. But pay more, and you tend to get more. So the cheap ones won't compare too well to a Martin :) But they probably stack up well against a guitar made in the West at the same price point. To an extent, this works across the price range - e.g. Eastman guitars, Yairi. So I find it's usually best to assess each guitar on its own merits, regardless of country of origin (or brand, construction technique, etc).

That said, I'm not sure I'd be so happy owning a guitar if it was produced in, shall we say, unsavory conditions. However, to be a responsible, consistent ethical consumer requires a lot of effort and research - and often money! And it'd be pretty hypocritical not to buy a guitar because it was produced in a sweatshop but, for example, still wear  trainers made in Jakarta (certain major sneaker brands had a habit of bumping off employees who were active in trade unions, etc, etc) or drive a car/use petrol (even putting aside the environmental impact of fossil fuels angle, what the oil companies are up to, e.g. in places like the Niger Delta, is pretty horrific), etc, etc. And whilst there thankfully a finally a growing trend for environmentally, ethically and socially conscious consumerism, there's a long, long way to go. (No doubt I'm as hypocritical as the next person. Still, you've got to start somewhere.). But I digress!

To be a bit more helpful(!), a few comments on some of the eastern made acoustic guitars I've played or owned (though it's true that Japanese guitars don't exactly fall into the sweatshop category!):

Yamaha APX-7CN (Japan) - nylon string. Well made. Accurate. A bit characterless (as are all of the Yamahas - acoustic or electric - I've played. They somehow feel a bit sterile). Great plugged in tone, but not so great acoustically.

Eastman jazz guitars (China) - played a couple. Phenomenal. And for that price, compared to competitors, all the more remarkable! Not played their flat tops, but I'd image they're worth checking out.

1966 Yairi classical (Japan) - beautiful tone. Bags of character. A bit worse for wear these days, so accuracy is poor.  Think this was one of his earlier models - craftsmanship isn't outstanding (and the 9th fret marker is on the 10th!). But it's still a lovely guitar.

Takamine G230 - I bought it in Malaysia, but I think this was made in Indonesia. Good value at the price I paid, though don't really know how it would stack up against the competition in the same price range.

Digressing again, if you're talking about buying a new acoustic guitar, my experience has been that once you start spending $1000+ you can (but don't necessarily) start getting a really greata guitar. The 03 series, for example :)
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« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2008, 03:02:03 PM »

I own quite a few MIJ acoustics...and electrics...but since this is about acoustics, I`ll stick to those...mostly...
The vast majority of mine are older Yamahas going back as far as the mid 1950s and they are from the Dynamic series...I`ve posted lots about them here so I`ll not repeat myself, I`ll only say some of those are among the best I own. If folks above have only experienced the laminate Yamahas I can see why they may classify them as characterless...though there are plenty of players on many sites I visit who would disagree...my all solid Dynamics are outstanding...and still great value for the money I pay for them over here.
I too own several Yairis...all of them nylon strings made by Sadao and not Kazuo...the earliest is a 1961 figured mahogany the latest is a 1971 rosewood, I have 7 Sadas now and all are outstanding, some with the blue labels others with the hand written labels. I have seen some listed on line here as being from the late 50s, so evidently he was building as far back as then...one nice thing about his...he dated the lables so theres no confusion as to when they were built. One thing...the ones sold under his name today should not be confused with the older models `cause you know, he died and isn`t building any more.
I own 2 MIJ Morris steel string acoustics too...one is all solid and a real beauty...the other is an S-61 with laminated sides, a very nice acoustic/electric.
I see Viet Namese made acoustics called Ayers in this city...they look great new but I wanna see how they`re going to hold up in say 10 years time.
I don`t own any MIC or MIK acoustics so I can`t really comment...well i could but I`d be making stuff up.
I will add though...my Yamaha electrics...all are high ends and fabulous guitars...as well made as anything I see where I am living and I`d sell my MIA Fenders off before selling my USA II, Pacifica 10th anniversary, my Mike Stern 1511 or either my SA-220 or SAS-1500...certainly pro level instruments even though I am not even close to being a pro.
I`d say the very best MIJ acoustics are totally unknown outside the country and one reason may be because people abroad might have a great deal of trouble paying the asking prices and another reason, Japan has over 120 million people...they don`t really need to sell overseas...there a huge domestic market. The Morris I spoke of above retailed for $2000.oo...`course I hate paying retail and I got it for less than half that...but it certainly is worth the retail price, top of the line in every way.
I say go used...thats what I have been doing for years now and have really lucked out.
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knowspicker
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« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2008, 03:07:43 PM »

The Eastmans are quite nice. And I almost never hear anyone say a cross word about Blueridge but I don't like their pegheads for two reasons: (the over-the-top inlay, plus the fact that the 5th string actually touches the 6th string machine post)

That was my Blueridge problem. I couldn't handle the strings [on my 5 and 2 both] touching the E's tuning post. I returned it and go a Larrivee.  bigrin

I do really like Takamine and the Guild GAD series is very nice.
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tuffythepug
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2008, 03:51:53 PM »

I don't know about the majority of the Chinese imports but I have to say that the Guild GAD line is pretty darn good.    I couldn't justify paying over $3,000 for a Gibson J-200 when I could get the Guild GAD-JF30 equivilent for less than $1,000.   I haven't been able to find any flaws in the fit, finish, playablity or sound of this beautiful flamed maple guitar.  Life is all about compromise, it seems.
If I had the money I'd always buy American and buy the top of the line all the time.  However, the reality of my financial situation dictates that I search for the best quality I can afford.   I have Gibsons and Larrivees too so I'm not strictly a price shopper obviously.
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Danny
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2008, 05:37:09 PM »

Some are nice guitars, but I don't know how long they will stay nice, time will tell. Not many Asian made ones just "grab" you like the Larri's etc. though.
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Tony Burns
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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2008, 02:22:17 AM »

Ive noticed in the blue book of guitar values - allot of the orient made guitars go very reasonable on the used market , yet guitars like Martins and Gibson hold allot higher value used - Ive played a Baden and recently some Eastmans that seemed like fairly decent guitars for the money - just wondering how they will stand the test of time - I'm always figuring you take a hit on something if you don't keep it for a long time ( unless you buy it right and buy it used ) I know what you mean about blueridge - for some reason the inlay on the head just seems too over done and ugly - and they don't have a track record yet - but Ive played some dog Blueridge guitars and some good ones - guess it just a hit and miss thing - thou I'm betting in the future they will be better ( probably like all guitars ) Hope no one took offense about this post - I mean no harm , and it really is hard to tell what will be around in the years to come !
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Danny
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« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2008, 02:58:24 AM »

       The earlier Blueridge had even more elaborate headstocks. I was just told that the man who got them started had moved on. Don't know the time frame to this ,but it could make a quality difference when a key person is removed from a company. I do think some of the Blueridges sound exactly like Gibsons. Danny
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Caleb
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« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2008, 03:11:41 AM »

There's nothing wrong with imported or Asian-made instruments.  Some of them are very, very good guitars.  The Blueridge guitars are as good as most USA-made instruments and the Eastmans are better in most cases.  Any guitar built with good materials by someone who knows how to build will last.  Some folks seem to think that just because they are made in China (or wherever besides the USA) that one day they will just all-of-a-sudden fall to bits.  Nonsense.

BTW, I live in the USA, so that makes my Larrivee an "import" as well.
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Novalis
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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2008, 07:11:10 AM »

I wish this wasn't the case: about a year ago I played a couple of Korean-made Epiphone hollow and semi-hollow electrics side by side with a couple of American made Gibsons. The sad fact was that two of the Epiphone guitars were better constructed and one of them sounded nicer than the much more expensive Gibson. Sure, the Gibson might hold it's value, but I'd buy the Epiphone before I'd spend money on the Gibson.

Granted, maybe the Gibsons I tried out were duds and not representative of the Gibson electric line, but the Q.C. folks at Gibson could take a lesson from the Q.C. folks in Korea. Based on that one experience, I'd take the Korean guitar over the American guitar.
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sneaky
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2008, 09:03:39 AM »

just added another old Yamaha Dynamic #50 to my collection. It has a 3 digit serial number...the guy who runs the Dynamic site here says they`ve never seen one with 3 digits...earliest they have registered is a 4 digit 11** and they think it`s mid/late 50s...so who knows how old mine is...we can guess it`s no older than Jan. 1951 as the site says thats when Yamaha applied for the Dynamic patent...point is this...the latest #50 is n great shape, no neck damage nor body wood cracks at all though the lacquer has crazed and checked all over the entire body...so I`d venture to say they were building some good guitars 50 years ago as they are still holding up very well...not sure about current MICs or MIKs , time will tell.  Not to say all Dynamics are in such great condition...I own a couple of rare ones that do have top cracks...but I`ve glued them and am willing to live with the cracks because they just sound so dang good...not talkin` Trigger damage here...but they wouldn`t win any beauty contests.   
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Danny
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« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2008, 02:44:30 PM »

There's nothing wrong with imported or Asian-made instruments.  Some of them are very, very good guitars.  The Blueridge guitars are as good as most USA-made instruments and the Eastmans are better in most cases.  Any guitar built with good materials by someone who knows how to build will last.  Some folks seem to think that just because they are made in China (or wherever besides the USA) that one day they will just all-of-a-sudden fall to bits.  Nonsense.

BTW, I live in the USA, so that makes my Larrivee an "import" as well.
   I respectfully disagree with they won't fall apart. However you want to say it they can show major defects that were not apparent at first. I have so many guitars that I don't know how many I have and at least a dozen have left the house this last year. So I see many "trash" asian gits that started out looking and playing fine. I could tell you specifics but I don't have the time. Kelley's Blue Book reflects this in the pricing of some of the really poorly made ones.
      Even in playable shape a Fender 12 string with the v-notch in the headstock is only worth $30 - 50.
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Caleb
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« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2008, 04:14:54 PM »

   I respectfully disagree with they won't fall apart. However you want to say it they can show major defects that were not apparent at first. I have so many guitars that I don't know how many I have and at least a dozen have left the house this last year. So I see many "trash" asian gits that started out looking and playing fine. I could tell you specifics but I don't have the time. Kelley's Blue Book reflects this in the pricing of some of the really poorly made ones.
      Even in playable shape a Fender 12 string with the v-notch in the headstock is only worth $30 - 50.
Well, there are going to be turds in any catagory, but for the most part the new MIC instruments are very nice.  Now I'm not talking about the crap you see sold in Wal-Mart stores for $100 to "get Junior started on guitar", and I'm not talking about the ones sold in Guitar Center for $200.  I'm talking about some very, very nice higher-end stuff like Eastman is putting out that is built completely by hand...even moreso than any American maker.  There are also fine offerings, like has already been pointed out here, by Epiphone in the $300 - $600 range.  Takamine makes some nice instruments that willl last.  In fact, I have a Takamine that I paid $269 for in 1993 that is and always has played better than my Larrivee. It doesn't sound better, but it's a tank and it will last.  I know a Bluegrass musician who plays for a living that exclusively uses Blueridge guitars these days.  And he plays an Eastman mandolin.  Face it, if these people were making terrible instruments, they would be out of business.  And anyone who thinks that just because someone was built within our shores is quality is a bit naive IMO. Does anyone remember the absolute junk that Gibson was putting out in the 70s and 80s, acoustic-wise?  Many of those instruments were and are still not even playable.  JUNK! But they sold to naive consumers thinking they were getting quality.  The Chinese guitar makers will surpass the American makers very soon if folks aren't careful.  While we are resting on "tradition", they are innovating and moving forward.  The stigma is for the most part gone in imported instruments.  The USA makers know this and if they aren't already, they should be concerned. 
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Danny
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« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2008, 04:33:32 PM »

               Good points about the guitars you named. But still they all vary.
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« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2008, 04:42:02 PM »

  I'm talking about some very, very nice higher-end stuff like Eastman is putting out that is built completely by hand...even moreso than any American maker. 

There are luthiers in the U.S. that build guitars with no power tools. The truth is though, and this is especially true in a factory setting, that power tools and CNC machines improve the quality. Why have an factory worker hand sand the bottom of a brace when a CNC machine can do it more precisely? In mass production factory guitars I'll take precision over hand made anyday.
People like to use the word 'hand made' when talking about their guitars but do they know what benefit this has? Do they think there are non-hand made acoustic guitars that go down an robotic automated assembly line?
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Caleb
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« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2008, 04:48:53 PM »

There are luthiers in the U.S. that build guitars with no power tools. The truth is though, and this is especially true in a factory setting, that power tools and CNC machines improve the quality. Why have an factory worker hand sand the bottom of a brace when a CNC machine can do it more precisely? In mass production factory guitars I'll take precision over hand made anyday.
People like to use the word 'hand made' when talking about their guitars but do they know what benefit this has? Do they think there are non-hand made acoustic guitars that go down an robotic automated assembly line?

I agree.  I'd rather have a CNC'd precision cut myself, but folks seem to think that a magical exchange occurs when things are cut by hand.  I have a completely handmade instrument.  The reason I know is because I made it by hand. The inlay work is nowhere near the precision of CNC inlay work.  Granted, it was my first build and I'm sure there are folks who can inlay -- by hand -- better or as good as a CNC machine. 

My main point was/is that folks like Eastman are building instruments in the olde world fashion, and sadly they get lumped in with all the other slackers knock-offs in some folks minds.  And yes, there are also still smaller shops in the US that build like that, but factories like Gibson, Taylor, Larrivee are far from it.  Nothing wrong with that, but the fact remains.

Bottom line:  I'd take a fine MIC instrument as long as it played and sounded fine and I'd be happy to own it. I just happen to have found a great Larrivee and that's why I own one. 
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patrickgm60
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« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2008, 07:23:04 PM »

I'm not sure the term "sweat shop" applies to the MIC guitars being named here. Does anyone have current info as to working conditions of Chinese guitar factories? If not, I would not assume that the guitars are being made under "unsavory" conditions. (Although, that was a safe assumption not so many years ago..)
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Danny
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« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2008, 08:12:51 PM »

I'm not sure the term "sweat shop" applies to the MIC guitars being named here. Does anyone have current info as to working conditions of Chinese guitar factories? If not, I would not assume that the guitars are being made under "unsavory" conditions. (Although, that was a safe assumption not so many years ago..)
                Most of China is under a class system. Some "haves" and a whole lot of "have nots"

         What is the ? mark in your sig. after the Gibson L. If you have a S/N I could possibly help you determine the model and build year. Danny
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Too many guitars... But I keep thinking one more may just do it.
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