Should You Invest in a Low-Cost Guitar?
Most consumers equate price with quality, which is why most guitar players, or those interested in becoming guitar players, shy away from buying cost-effective instruments. There is a stigma against these instruments that they won’t play as well, won’t sound as good, or will hinder the improvement of musical craft.
The second stigma against these guitars is that they are often foreign made and more likely than not from China or Korean. Until recently, you may have had a good case to stay away from these guitars. However, reputable companies have moved into the market have started manufacturing low cost guitars outside of the United States.
There is a huge market for guitars that are around four hundred dollars and of course with that large demand comes the expectation of a certain level of quality. Guitar manufacturers make more from this market than they do on higher end guitars. Higher end guitars are great for professionals and growing brand recognition, but they are hardly affordable for the average Joe.
What should comfort consumers about brands like Epiphone that make inexpensive guitar models is that they are owned by Gibson. In fact, there are many inexpensive brands that are owned by renowned companies like Gibson and manufactured abroad. These companies are injecting quality into a market that used to comprise of mass manufactured rubbish.
Even Fender has made great headway into this market with its decision to buy Jackson guitars. Today, almost every single Jackson guitar is manufactured in India or Korea. What’s more is, the guitars are often also designed in these countries. Even BC Rich guitars and numerous Ibanez models are produced in Korea.
Of course, there are a number of reasons that companies have taken to manufacturing guitars abroad which includes lower taxes on materials, lower labor costs, and less restrictions on businesses and manufacturers in general. Of course, low taxes and lax restrictions are not the only thing that account for the lower prices. The other factor that largely has to do with the lower prices is the quality of the parts that are used and the process that was used. If the guitar was hand made, it is far more likely to cost a great deal more. The man hours and labor involved are far greater than a guitar that is produced on an assembly line.
Does this mean that the guitar is of greater quality? That can’t be determined for sure. There is certainly something to be said for an instrument made by the hand of a master craftsman. However, an assembly line offers precision that the human hand can’t achieve.
Of course the quality of the parts can vary greatly from guitar to guitar and result in a variety of different sounds. This includes everything from the wood used in the guitar body and neck as well as the finishes used on the wood and all of the metal hardware parts. Higher end guitars tend to use more expensive and royal woods like rosewood, alder, and mahogany. On the other hand, less expensive guitars tend to use, of course, less expensive woods, like plywood and pine.
One of the most expensive parts of a guitar can be the electronics and the hardware inside the guitar. This includes almost everything that is metal, but most especially the pickup which can be one of the most expensive components of a the guitar. Inexpensive guitars tend to have cheap stock pickups, tuners, and bridges while higher priced guitars tend to have name brand electronics that often even use precious metals like gold. To put in perspective how expensive electronics can be, consider this: one Seymour-Duncan pickup is likely to be more expensive than an entire guitar that is produced abroad in a country like India or one of the Koreas.
Of course, if you’re a professional musician then you probably don’t want a mass produced guitar. However, if you don’t make your living with an instrument than you don’t need to spend a fortune on one. If you are on a low budget, as most of us are these days, you can still get amazing brands for cheaper prices if you consider buying from a foreign manufacturer. Keep in mind that you can even get a well known guitar, no more no-name pieces of garbage!
You can get a Squire, BC Rich, Fernandes, Epiphone, Ibanez, and even more well respected brands for around two hundred dollars or even less. All in all, the decision is up to you. If you’re just picking up the guitar, I highly recommend getting a less expensive one. If you’re on your second or third guitar, you might want to consider upgrading.