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Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

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Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby John Egan » Sun Dec 23, 2018 7:57 pm

As well as Sound-on-Sound, I subscribe to The Guitar Magazine and, of course, the Christmas edition has the usual round up of gear.
In terms of electric guitars, these are arranged in the above categories. This year "premium guitars" over £2,000 are listed, mid-priced guitars between £1,000 and £2000 and affordable up to £1,000. Am I the only person to be somewhat surprised by these prices.
In that case, only Fender's Custom Shop guitars are eligible to be called "premium" and precious few of Gibson's standard ranges (however you define that these days). Many manufacturers whom I have so far regarded as makers of professional equipment would not get beyond mid-priced.
Don't misunderstand me, I have a great deal of respect for this magazine, but I do find this a surprising breakdown. Even these days I would have expected £500, £1,000 and over as the break points. Am I being unreasonable ?
What do you think ?
Regards, John
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Ramirez » Sun Dec 23, 2018 8:10 pm

I agree, I’d also go with £500 and £1000
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby CS70 » Sun Dec 23, 2018 8:39 pm

John Egan wrote:As well as Sound-on-Sound, I subscribe to The Guitar Magazine and, of course, the Christmas edition has the usual round up of gear.
In terms of electric guitars, these are arranged in the above categories. This year "premium guitars" over £2,000 are listed, mid-priced guitars between £1,000 and £2000 and affordable up to £1,000. Am I the only person to be somewhat surprised by these prices.
In that case, only Fender's Custom Shop guitars are eligible to be called "premium" and precious few of Gibson's standard ranges (however you define that these days). Many manufacturers whom I have so far regarded as makers of professional equipment would not get beyond mid-priced.
Don't misunderstand me, I have a great deal of respect for this magazine, but I do find this a surprising breakdown. Even these days I would have expected £500, £1,000 and over as the break points. Am I being unreasonable ?
What do you think ?
Regards, John

Well, it's not that off. Most Fenders and Gibsons electric guitars aren't really "high end", just solid, well-built everyday musician tools.. Nowadays the "premium" guitars are these where a luthier has significantly participated in the construction (spending hours, which are expensive. and reflect on the final price) or premium brands where the standards for materials attention to detail and quality control are much higher (the only "big" name which comes to mind there is PRS, which is actually a quite small operation). Say, a Suhr is a premium guitar because there's one luthier who's basically built it and puts his name on it- and that guy is generally pretty good at building guitars. That as opposite to a generic factory worker.

When it comes to acoustic guitars, Gibson still does more high end stuff (Fender, not so much), in the sense that there's a individual luthier supervising and perfecting the construction, for example finishing the bracing and tuning the soundboard and a wood stockpile which is significantly good. Still, for brands like Santa Cruz and Collings, again there's (almost) a person building the entire guitar.

Then there's the one-off guitars, which price is usually quite high for the same reason - time used by an experienced person, and materials.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby BJG145 » Sun Dec 23, 2018 8:41 pm

January's Guitar World gives Epiphone's £90 Les Paul SL a Gold award.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Humble Bee » Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:04 pm

BJG145 wrote:January's Guitar World gives Epiphone's £90 Les Paul SL a Gold award.

For very different reasons... :thumbup:
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby John Egan » Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:26 pm

CS70 wrote:
Well, it's not that off. Most Fenders and Gibsons electric guitars aren't really "high end", just solid, well-built everyday musician tools.. Nowadays the "premium" guitars are these where a luthier has significantly participated in the construction (spending hours, which are expensive. and reflect on the final price) or premium brands where the standards for materials attention to detail and quality control are much higher (the only "big" name which comes to mind there is PRS, which is actually a quite small operation). Say, a Suhr is a premium guitar because there's one luthier who's basically built it and puts his name on it- and that guy is generally pretty good at building guitars. That as opposite to a generic factory worker.

When it comes to acoustic guitars, Gibson still does more high end stuff (Fender, not so much), in the sense that there's a individual luthier supervising and perfecting the construction, for example finishing the bracing and tuning the soundboard and a wood stockpile which is significantly good. Still, for brands like Santa Cruz and Collings, again there's (almost) a person building the entire guitar.

Then there's the one-off guitars, which price is usually quite high for the same reason - time used by an experienced person, and materials.

Hi CS70,
Yes, I agree with that. I don't have any problem with a luthier putting a premium on his products to reflect the skill, time and effort he has put in.
What bothers me is the likely impact on the young beginner who is confronted with the implication that these are the products he must have before he can play at the highest level. I know that manufacturers will pedal this kind of line and that magazines need advertisers and that the guitar magazine market is crammed to bursting with publishers competing for the advertising market.
Once upon a time (dons rose coloured bi-focals) you could rely on any Fender or Gibson or Ricky or Guild which was not a "student" guitar to be of high quality and capable of supporting a professional player. In the case of acoustics, you would have expected any Martin dreadnought to be a professional product. The added bling of the high end appointments did not give you a better sounding or playing guitar, just a prettier one. I remember what it was like trying to get the cash together to buy one of these quality instruments.
For the last twenty or thirty years, it has been possible to buy good quality and very playable instruments for relatively little money. The "Premium Guitars" label set at over £2,000 threatens to set young, talented players back to a similar situation to the early 1960s. I guess this is why it offends me.
Regards, John
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Music Wolf » Sun Dec 23, 2018 10:05 pm

A <£500 category wouldn’t have gone amiss.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby John Egan » Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:05 pm

Like Ramirez and Music Wolf, I thought that up to £500 would be a good category boundary for the affordable section.
The earlier comments about the Epiphone Les Paul were interesting. That kind of review could encourage a lot of youngsters. I think it's unusual to find such a reasonably priced guitar getting a gold award.
Regards, John
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:48 pm

A 'premium' guitar IMO costs, as a minimum, Fender/Gibson custom shop money. I have a couple of friends who builds 'premium' guitars which mostly cost £3k and up. When I were a lad, properly decent working guitars cost two or three months wages, now that's two or three days, the quality of budget guitars has improved so much. A Yamaha Pacifica costing £200 is perfectly capable of sustaining a jobbing guitar player from function band to orchestra pit for as long as he can resist the pull of the posh kit. And sub £500 guitars have build quality way better than the Fururama my dad spent 3 weeks wages on when I was 12.......

I'd have had four bands, budget (<£200) affordable (<£500) mid-priced (<£2000) and premium (>£2000).

£1000 guitars are only 'affordable' by a relatively small section of the population.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:48 pm

bizarre double post event.......
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Wonks » Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:05 am

It's just an arbitrary decision made by the magazine editorial team that allow them to put the guitars they really liked at the top of a list. I wouldn't worry too much about it as any cost category like this is going to be someone's personal choice. There's no real price difference between a £980 guitar and a £1020 guitar, but one (by TGM's reckoning) is 'affordable', whilst one is 'mid-priced'. Likewise a £1990 guitar is 'mid-priced' and a £2010 is 'premium'.

All of the guitar review magazines seem to have a 'gear of the year' issue at Christmas, which means that they can trot out old reviews and photos for an easy life and only have to review a few new items, which to me is a rather pointless exercise as I've already read all the gear reviews.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Music Wolf » Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:08 am

Wonks wrote:All of the guitar review magazines seem to have a 'gear of the year' issue at Christmas, which means that they can trot out old reviews and photos for an easy life and only have to review a few new items, which to me is a rather pointless exercise as I've already read all the gear reviews.

I was thinking the same. I don't know why I buy the Christmas edition :protest:
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby Wonks » Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:43 pm

I expect it allows them to work on the January edition (or maybe even the February edition as they are normally at least a month ahead) without having to work long shifts because of the Christmas shut-down.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby arkieboy » Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:39 pm

I think it - at least in part - reflects Guitarist's (coughs) older, more affluent readership. Lots of the reviews in the mag rank as aspirational/gear porn in my classification of prices.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby John Egan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 5:59 pm

arkieboy wrote:I think it - at least in part - reflects Guitarist's (coughs) older, more affluent readership. Lots of the reviews in the mag rank as aspirational/gear porn in my classification of prices.

I hadn't thought of that, but you could be right. Mind you, their "premium" selection wouldn't really appeal to the traditionalist. I certainly fall into the older category, though sadly not the affluent one. Personally speaking I like to see decently built guitars which sound good and look acceptable (which excludes relic finishes - I prefer to relic them myself by playing them). If I do buy a guitar, it's usually the sound which persuades me.
Regards, John
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby CS70 » Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:17 pm

John Egan wrote:What bothers me is the likely impact on the young beginner who is confronted with the implication that these are the products he must have before he can play at the highest level.

Totally agree - it's a sad truth of the music environment that it's very gear focused (but it's not alone: photography kit, cars, fishing rods... very little is spared actually), the implicit assertion being that if you will have that piece of kit or gear you'll be able to make much better music, pictures, racing times or catch more fishes. Whereas, beyond a certain fairly low quality level, the quality of playing is all and only about the development of the individual skills and voice - something that can be bought only with the currencies of dedication, time, and realistic self-appraisal, and ain't no exchange to dollars for that.

That kind of trap is something that a little less experienced young person is very likely to fall into, because it's so appealing.. and of course magazines and businesses that deal with gear have a big interesting in propagating it, explicitly or not.

And of course the customer contribute.. after shelling out for a premium instrument/lens/car/fishing rod one's got to believe that it will have an effect on the result, because otherwise one's an idiot. :D Add the aspirational crowd which likes the idea, and all the biases built-in in our brains, and there you have western consumerism in a nutshell (and GAS of course).

Once upon a time (dons rose coloured bi-focals) you could rely on any Fender or Gibson or Ricky or Guild which was not a "student" guitar to be of high quality and capable of supporting a professional player. In the case of acoustics, you would have expected any Martin dreadnought to be a professional product.

It's stil so, more than ever! Fender and Gibson do excellent electric guitars, but these days, even low-cost guitars are more often than not good and some astonishingly good. The only area where questionable choices can be made is the wood cut selection, really - the Asian manufacturing might is perfectly able to shell out very well finished metal part for relatively little money, and electronics in an electric are so simple (even I can understand them!) that even some shoddy soldering can be fixed by anyone.

And it's been so for quite a while: I've posted it before, but check out Joe here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9v5e1TTwts (I love the ending.. "it was a little painful on this guitar"). That was over 10 years ago.

The "Premium Guitars" label set at over £2,000 threatens to set young, talented players back to a similar situation to the early 1960s. I guess this is why it offends me.
Regards, John

Well the guitars are premium, but the thing to preach is this: a premium guitar makes not a premium player, and vice-versa. :-)
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby John Egan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 7:08 pm

Well said CS70, couldn't agree more.
The problem I have with Fender and Gibson is that they have implicitly devalued their standard product ranges by proliferating the Custom Shop; Masterbuilt; True Historic; Even Truer Historic and Ultimate Historic Down To The Last Fingerprint (OK, so I made the last two up) models.
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby arkieboy » Tue Dec 25, 2018 7:13 pm

John Egan wrote:I certainly fall into the older category, though sadly not the affluent one

As do I!

Thankfully I already have my Les Paul and Strat from significant birthdays. Would like a string through body L6S though ...
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby John Egan » Tue Dec 25, 2018 7:50 pm

arkieboy wrote:
John Egan wrote:I certainly fall into the older category, though sadly not the affluent one

As do I!

Thankfully I already have my Les Paul and Strat from significant birthdays. Would like a string through body L6S though ...

Yes, my purchases have been made over the course of nearly 60 years and mostly second hand.
The L6S is an interesting guitar. I haven't seen one for years. Didn't they have Bill Lawrence pickups ?
Regards, John
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Re: Electrics - Premium, Mid-Priced and Affordable - Whose Wallet ?

Postby arkieboy » Tue Dec 25, 2018 8:34 pm

John Egan wrote:Didn't they have Bill Lawrence pickups?

Indeed! Mike Oldfield used one for 'Incantations' and 'Platinum' and Santana was also a user before he developed the SG2000 with Yamaha, which I'd like to own too while we're digressing. The 20yo me coveted them and they don't cost the earth second hand these days - I don't think I'd take them on the road, but I'm sure I'd find an excuse to record with them.

(back on topic) But again that shows just how silly some guitar prices are these days: for much less than any of the guitars listed in the premium category you could buy two once-popular but now unusual guitars that you could use to strike out on your own, kickstart your guitar collection, or just noodle along to your favourite albums.

Mind you, that 20yo picked up one of these when you couldn't give Gibsons away ...

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