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Author Topic: Impressions of Squire, Epiphone, Electromatic electric guitars  (Read 5838 times)
L07 Shooting Star
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« on: March 13, 2016, 06:59:51 AM »

Fender, Gibson, and Gretsch among other major U.S. brands all market much less expensive versions of their guitars.  Usually, these lower end models are made in asia, and often in China.  I have had a fair amount of exposure to these guitars doing setups and adjustments on them for customers.  I have my own impressions about how well they compare to the American-made originals that they emulate.  I'm interested in others' experiences and impressions of these guitars.  Are they good value?  How much difference is there between the imports and the originals?

I'm not talking about copy guitars with other brand names.  I'm referring to the Squires, Epiphones, and Electromatics specifically.
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2016, 02:19:15 PM »

As far as comparisons to the higher priced "originals" goes, the originals are usually better (pups, wiring, tuners, and overall sound). And many times expensive guitars just feel good in the hands, like they are put together well.  But having said that, I have always loved cheap electric guitars, especially Squiers.  Sometimes you can find a great one that feels, though maybe not sounds, as good as an original.   I remember a Squier strat from about 1995 that I still wish I'd bought, but being young and broke there was just no way.  I've a friend who buys these kinds of guitars cheap on Craig's List, does a bit of work on them, and then resells.  He often finds great guitars for next to nothing.
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2016, 02:49:57 PM »

I haven't handled any Electromatics that I remember. As for Squier and Epiphone, just like their parent companies (Fender and Gibson), there are a range.  The dirt cheap models are often put together with inferior hardware...  plastic nuts, lesser tuners, bridges, and pickups.  Usually, the woodwork including finish is decent.  Sometimes there are minor things like fret ends sticking out, I've always wondered if it was poor environmental conditions where they are sold or poor control where they are made.  The higher priced examples usually have better parts and workmanship.

If you like doing that sort of thing, you can tinker and replace parts...  pickups, tuners, etc., and clean up fret ends and such.  In fact, I know a bunch of folks who like doing that.  Pretty often if you price things up, there is little to be gained money wise... but you can do things that you might not be comfortable doing with a much more expensive guitar.  In the end, you still don't have an American made <insert model> guitar.  You may end up with a really nice guitar, though.  

Ed
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2016, 03:53:15 PM »

I'm interested in others' experiences and impressions of these guitars.  Are they good value?  How much difference is there between the imports and the originals?

I had a Squire Strat once I bought on impulse and it was a really nice guitar. It started me on the highway to hell of putting together parts of Strats I got off eBay to create the two nice Partcasters I have now. For what appears to be a simple collection of parts there's an astonishing amount of options to choose from among the various Strat models.

For a $100 guitar the Squire was really good value for a kid's first Strat or a grownups occasional pick up and play. Compared to the Mexican strats the finish was thinner (thus easier to scratch and dent), the body slightly thinner, the hardware more than adequate and it sounded great. The parts aren't always interchangeable with the Mexi or USA Strats, however. On mine, the neck and setup was perfectly acceptable and it played and sounded great.

I'm a big fan of the Mexican strats as they're very close to the fit and finish of the USA strats, and share many of the same parts. So once you find out a kid's gonna stick with it and take care of one, the Mexi strat would last a lifetime, whereas the Squire one likely won't.
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2016, 04:31:16 PM »

Jeff Healey could certainly make one sing. His main guitar a Japanese Squier Strat with red single-coil Evans pickups.

For maybe only a few of you not familiar with Jeff give him a google and be prepared to be blown away. No better came from this county IMO and arguably any country. 
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2016, 04:48:29 PM »

The bone's of these guitars {Squire and Epiphone} have always been good{body and neck}.I've revamped a bunch with hardware upgrade with great results.As for the Electromatic's they always seem to be pretty good guitars out of the box.
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2016, 06:00:41 PM »

I own a lefty 1996 Fender Squier "ProTone" strat.  These were made in Korea for two years and were almost exactly the same as American Made Fender strats.   Google them if you want to learn more about these rare guitars.   I bought mine on ebay for $250.00 several years ago.  The best bargain I've ever made guitar-wise.  I have played American, Japanese, and others..  This is the best bang for the buck that you could possibly find.

I've also owned an Epiphone Les Paul.  It was ok but not anywhere near the quality of a real Gibson. 

The Epiphone hollowbody I had was wonderful after I replaced the so-so pickups it came with.

I also have a Gretsch G6196 Country Gentleman hollow-body which is amazing.  The less expensive Gretsch Les Paul style I picked up a few years ago is just adequate.  Nothing to write home about.
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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2016, 04:04:31 PM »

Last week I bought a lefty Squier Classic Vintage 50's Telecaster - pine body, maple neck, Squier brand pickups.

The guitar is finished and built to high standards. The neck is nicer wood than I've seen on many American Standards (I'm seeing many maple necks these days with lots of irregular grain and dark spots in them). The body is heavy for pine - looks like 3 or 4 pieces, but they're matched nicely - you don't see any obvious seams on top or back. I'd guess the guitar weighs around 8 lbs. or a hair more.

The pickups sound pretty good, but I'm never very happy with most stock neck Tele pickups, so I bought a GFS "Fatboy" to try in there... we'll see how it sounds, hope to get it installed this week sometime.

The guitar was set up pretty well when I got it, but I tweaked it some - but no more than usual on any new guitar I purchase. I will say that the set-up at the store was really bad while it was hanging on the wall, so I told them that it seemed like they just threw left-handed guitars on the wall without seriously looking at their set-up. They had their guitar tech (a great guy) go over it, and it was much better after that.

I got a great deal on this one - it had been in two of their shops for well over a year - maybe two years (and yet it was still in mint condition). They had an end-of-February "leap year" sale where some items with green dots were marked off 29% - this Tele was one of those! So I bought the guitar, a cheap gig bag, and paid the tax to the tune of around $325. I'm such a sucker - couldn't pass up such a great deal (I had almost bought this very guitar once before when they had it marked down to $320... but my price for the guitar only was around $285...).

My observation of the offshore (Korean, I believe) Gretsch guitars: fairly well put together and finished, but they still feel like toys compared to their upscale (Japanese made?) siblings. I haven't plugged them in, but acoustically they sound pretty lame...others can say more about their pickups, etc. Haven't touched a lefty, just fiddled with some upside-down right-handed models, so maybe that's part of my bias on those.

 

 
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2016, 05:14:07 PM »

I purchased an Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute Plus Outfit. It was upgraded with genuine 57 humbuckers and Gibson USA electronics , hardware and locking tuners. Came with a hardshell case. I wanted to try Epiphone before I spent some big money on a LP Standard. 1st impression..It is heavy, I took it to LO7 Shooting Star for a going over, it needed a fret leveling and he set the action real low. This guitar is one of my favorites, I love the pickups and it stays in tune and plays nice. I may have gotten lucky , but I am impressed for 1/4 price of a new LP.
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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2016, 08:11:44 PM »



......................................My observation of the offshore (Korean, I believe) Gretsch guitars: fairly well put together and finished, but they still feel like toys compared to their upscale (Japanese made?) siblings. I haven't plugged them in, but acoustically they sound pretty lame...others can say more about their pickups, etc. Haven't touched a lefty, just fiddled with some upside-down right-handed models, so maybe that's part of my bias on those.

 

 

I have a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby.  I bought it from Uncle Rob a few years ago.  I'm not sure how long Rob had it before I did.  He installed P-90s in it.  It was made in China and is an excellent guitar, well put together with quality parts, solid mahogany back, and carved maple top.  The only upgradea I have done to it was changing  the tuners to Gibson (Kluson) Deluxes, and installing a roller bridge.  I still have it's original Gretsch pickups, but I haven't installed them in anything, so I can't comment on how they sound.  It was my guitar of choice for playing rhythm in the last band I was in, over my Warmoth Telecaster and 1985 MIJ Squire strat.  Mind you, I am partial to P-90s and I didn't have my Forum V back then!

My MIJ Squire strat is also a very high-quality, nice playing instrument.  It is one of the very earliest squires made.  It was pretty good right out of the box when I bought it new in 1985.  I paid over $400.00 for it back then!  I have done a lot of upgrades on it including modern-style saddles, better quality tuners, and the complete wiring harness and pickups from a '62 Stratocaster (USA) model made in 1985.  With these upgrades, it is as good as any stratocaster you will find.

Some of you may remember, I swapped the cream pickup covers from the Gretsch with the black ones from the Forum V.
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2016, 01:24:00 AM »

I am pretty fond of my '83 Squire Telecaster.
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2016, 03:36:46 AM »

I am pretty fond of my '83 Squire Telecaster.
Thats when Squire's were made in Japan.
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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2016, 08:33:24 AM »

An American Standard Strat is what $1200 these days?  A Squire is $99 to $169 depending on model.

The American models are much better finished and have better electronics.  It is 10X the guitar? Of course not, the law of diminishing returns sees to that.

I think the best bang for the buck on an Electric is one of the Mexican Strats/Telles though.  Almost as nice as the US made ones, and much nicer than the Chinese or Indonesian made ones.   (on the used market they are not much more than a new Squire either)

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« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2016, 03:09:11 AM »

Mark, I had a mirror image (lefty) MIM Strat just like yours - put a black pickguard on it, and loaded it with Bill Lawrence pickups - sounded fantastic.

To me, the weakest part of the MIM's is the pickups - they're not very 3-D sounding. They're great for distortion tones, but lack a lot for cleans, to my ears. The only other weak link (that got better a couple years after mine was purchased) was the wimpy trem block. They did beef it up, but I still prefer a good American Vintage (six screw) trem bridge to the obviously cheaper MIM one.

Squier's are moving more upscale - the Classic Vintage Strats and Teles have a MAP price of $399. That started sounding more affordable recently when MIM MAP prices jumped from $499 to $549, then $599. But I like my Squier Vintage Classic better than the MIM Standard models... JMHO, YMMV, etc.
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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2016, 05:23:34 AM »

Never heard of a Classic Vintage Squire strat.  Do you mean a Classic Vibe?
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« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2016, 10:49:42 PM »

Never heard of a Classic Vintage Squire strat.  Do you mean a Classic Vibe?

Squier Classic Vintage 50's Telecaster

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« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2016, 12:11:00 AM »

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« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2016, 04:32:08 AM »

Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue is my main electric guitar.  So much better than my MIM Fat Strat at being what I thought a Fat Strat would offer me that I sold my Fat Strat.  No regrets whatsoever.

The MIM Fat Strat came wired standard strat wiring, which means a nearly useless tail pickup sound because of no tone control on the tail pup.  Fret ends sharp, crappy shielding (who am I kidding, there was none).

The Epiphone has a bound neck, lighter, way more tone control, curly maple top on a hog body, sustain for days - there is just no comparison to the MIM Fat Strat.  It's a GREAT guitar.  It's really too bad the model isn't more popular because it looks like Epiphone has pretty much discontinued it for all intents and purposes.  This is the danger of offering a great guitar that doesn't look like one of the classic shapes exactly or nearly exactly, because it is seriously worth double what I paid for it in terms of build quality and variety of tones.

MIM Fat Strat is 6 Benjamins, I paid 4 for the Epiphone.  Here's some pictures that Sweetwater took of my specific S/N before they shipped it to me - left out the photos which showed the S/N on the back of the headstock:

My Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue

For about 6 months just a couple years ago, they were offering these for 2.5 Benjamins! 
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« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2016, 05:55:32 AM »


True, the ad's title reads "Classic Vintage", but if you read the text in the overview, which is quoted directly from the Squire website, the guitar is described as a MIM "Classic Vibe" model.  No biggie, just semantics I suppose.  I follow these models pretty closely and have never seen an official model named as Classic Vintage.  Maybe there were some in the past, I don't know.

Here's a link to all the currently offered Squire Telecaster models.  http://intl.fender.com/en-CA/squier/guitars/telecaster/
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« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2016, 01:26:22 PM »

Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue is my main electric guitar.  So much better than my MIM Fat Strat at being what I thought a Fat Strat would offer me that I sold my Fat Strat.  No regrets whatsoever.

The MIM Fat Strat came wired standard strat wiring, which means a nearly useless tail pickup sound because of no tone control on the tail pup.  Fret ends sharp, crappy shielding (who am I kidding, there was none).

The Epiphone has a bound neck, lighter, way more tone control, curly maple top on a hog body, sustain for days - there is just no comparison to the MIM Fat Strat.  It's a GREAT guitar.  It's really too bad the model isn't more popular because it looks like Epiphone has pretty much discontinued it for all intents and purposes.  This is the danger of offering a great guitar that doesn't look like one of the classic shapes exactly or nearly exactly, because it is seriously worth double what I paid for it in terms of build quality and variety of tones.

MIM Fat Strat is 6 Benjamins, I paid 4 for the Epiphone.  Here's some pictures that Sweetwater took of my specific S/N before they shipped it to me - left out the photos which showed the S/N on the back of the headstock:

My Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue

For about 6 months just a couple years ago, they were offering these for 2.5 Benjamins! 
Very cool guitar, and different. Almost everyone has a Strat, but you have something out of the ordinary.  I would hang on to that one. 
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