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James Allen

love and hate

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So, I am a member of the PRS, Gibson, and Fender forums. I have noticed an interesting thing over the past few years when comparing each company's lower end guitars to their higher end American guitars.

 

The fender forum members almost unanimously have respect for and often love the Mexi strats, etc.

The PRS forum members might look down a bit on the PRS SE line but do accept that they are great guitars for the money.

The Gibson forum members almost always look down on the Epiphone products.

 

Why is this?

 

Now, I did see a thread a while back where some of the Gibson forum members were discussing that modern Epiphone quality seems to be getting better and there was some love spread around.

 

My own experience is thus: I owned an Epi dot for about 10 years. Was a beautiful cherry burst. It looked great and played well. The only downside was that the stock pickups were MUDDY. Had to change them out.

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Maybe that stigma goes back to those days when the Epiphone quality standards were not what they've been elevated to in the last half a dozen years. In the past, it was common that they had sub par electronics and hardware, improperly cured wood, horrible factory setups, etc. (I Suppose the same could be said about the USA products too right)

 

anyway, maybe it's just where People have some bad experiences, and those tend to stick around in peoples opinions longer than the good one experiences do.

 

then again, snobs do exist...

just sayin...

 

I've got a bunch of both, (5 USA Gibsons, 4 Imported Epiphones, one is an Elitist Country Gent - it's fantastic.)

 

So for me, no issues with any of my Epiphones (all of them are archtops of one ilk or another), and no one that I know that plays, has a disparaging word for them when they try them,, of course, they are all properly setup, and cared for.

 

Also, I agree with you're general consensus especially with the Fender products (I too lurk in the Fender Forums), the MIM and Squire brands don't seem to have the same negative vibe floating around them as you say, for example Epis do.

 

regarding PRS, will have to take your word for it, I've never owned one, just have had no interest in pursuing one.

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I think there are likely a number of reasons.

 

But as noted... I have some Epis I'll match against anything made by any "guitar factory" in the '60s and '70s, both a cupla Dots and a cupla AE instruments. The more recent ones have pups and wiring to match anybody's.

 

I think there are a cupla factors that are sometimes "real" and sometimes "snobbery."

 

First, most guitars as I see it in the '60s that were below Gibson prices were brands that weren't all that good. The old Harmony brand, for example, tended to be overengineered to make up for lesser quality woods. Plus they made all sorts of crap for hardware stores and mail order that was horrid.

 

Epi as I saw it in the early '60s was not given much credit or even considered much. And if it was, the metal "nameplate" on the peghead was seen by "us" as proving that all Epis were horrid. Nothing was worth buying in my circles other than a D-28 or a Hummingbird. Gotta be Martin or Gibbie.

 

When the Beatles and electric Chicago blues seemed to hit "my" generation, it was too late and Epi was the "it ain't a gibson or a fender or a martin so it's crud."

 

The Gibson corporate vicissitudes of that time period probably "helped." Epi wasn't given much love. Gibson was "the old gold standard" and Martin was the "traditional guaranteed collector folkie" guitar. Fender was the up and comer.

 

Again, we're not talking quality even then - but the same silliness that we all tend to have when it comes to looking at guitars. Don't, please, take that as insulting anyone, but just noting how stuff happens in marketing of any sort.

 

Squire was the "pretty good import but you should be embarrassed with one on stage." In short, forget what "we pickers" may think about the overall quality - and it's quite good - "we" are unlikely to play a "squire" on stage.

MIM is not figured into this, and the whole question is beyond most people's comprehension since a MIM is branded the same as the MIA Fender unless you're a fender student or "nut."

 

Martin even gets away making Martin-branded fiberboard guitars in Mexico and the Martin name still carries a cachet among those who think they've gotta have a Martin no matter how it's made. As long as the necks don't bow, they're still a "Martin" to those who can't afford a D-18 and they don't want an D-18 anyway because it's not the grail, the D-28. Yeah, I'm a cynical old man.

 

Gibson? Consider this: "Nothing else is as good as a Gibson."

 

What does that say about its high quality mass-produced brand that sez "Epiphone?"

 

IMHO the Epi is at minimum today as good as any non-US Fenders and Martins. Frankly I think many could be sold at two to three times their price tag with a Gibson branding - and be praised as the good entry models for Gibbie just as the entry models of Martin and Fender branding are often praised.

 

On the other hand, Gibson especially, and Fender partially (MIM seems a bit dishonest), are pretty honest about their "non-US mass production brands." So neither Squier nor Epiphone get the good vibes in the US as if they were branded "Fender" or "Gibson" with low-end model designations such as Martin does.

 

So... it's marketing and perception. The guy who wouldn't play a Squier on stage will happily do so with a fiberboard MIM Martin. Sheesh. And some of the Squiers are incredible bargains if you like the Fender neck and concept of a given instrument.

 

<sigh> BTW, head to the Epi forum and note how folks in Oz are major Epi fans even paying a heck of a lot more for 'em than those of us in North America and Europe.

 

m

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IMX there has been insignificant differences (gross generalisation) between the quality of build-quality - wood-wise - of any USA Fender Strats built from the '50s through to the 2000s and the 2011 MIM Strat I bought that year.

Some of the older ones were better than others but they were all quite similar. Even most of the CBS-era ones were fine.

The MIM, in point of fact, has probably a better build-quality than anything other than my old '64.

TBPH my Squire Tele is nowhere near as well made as my (ex-) Fender USA R-I Tele Custom but I simply prefer the feel of the Squire over the r-i. Call me nuts.

Electronics have been discounted and are therefore null-and-void here.

 

My Epi LP was a lovely guitar - really! - but in terms of attention to detail and finesse on the craftsmanship front it is not nearly in the same league as any of the quartet of LPs I currently own. Not even close.

I was stunned by the number of admittedly tiny and often sonically unimportant differences between the two brands. But the Gibsons are exquisitely crafted with a quality of finish the Epi couldn't hope to match.

 

If we are discounting the electronics side - and we are - then there is, IMHO, a much greater difference between Gibson and Epiphone than between Fender USA and Fender Mexico.

As is frequently the case, God really IS in the detail.

 

Just MHO.

 

P.

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Not for nuthin.. But where are these discussions with Gibson guys hateing Epiphones? I've posted Epiphone stuff here a few times and I don't recall anyone saying they didn't like them becausevtheyveere Epis. I guess I'm just not seeing them.

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Not for nuthin.. But where are these discussions with Gibson guys hateing Epiphones? I've posted Epiphone stuff here a few times and I don't recall anyone saying they didn't like them becausevtheyveere Epis. I guess I'm just not seeing them.

I haven't seen them either Searcy. I think Epiphones can be good... but like with any company it varies from guitar to guitar.

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I think in some ways we're talking marketing more than quality per se.

 

One point on Epi finishes is that they're entirely different from Gibsons. Playability? That's a different thing.

 

I've personally always wondered why we didn't have some Mexican company or two jumping into the guitar biz because it's a nation with as great a guitar tradition and heritage as the U.S. - if perhaps not more.

 

m

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Getting back to answer your OP from a different angle;

 

I think the Gibson forum members in almost all cases could be described in exactly the same terms as the PRS members you mention; "look down a bit...(on Epi)...but do accept that they are great guitars for the money."

I would count myself in their number and I know I am in a position to be able to justify this viewpoint without any doubt.

I also suspect many first-time Gibson buyers in the USA could have found a Gibson to be within their (or their parents') budget and, never having owned one at all, might not be quite au fait with how good Epi guitars are. For the money.

There is also the hurdle of 'foreigners' to consider. Compared with the other brands you mention Gibson seems to have a greater number of forumites who would buy ONLY from the USA on a matter of principle.

 

Lastly, James - and certainly not wanting to start a bunfight - you mention your experience with a good, but muddy-sounding, Epi Dot.

Do you have any lengthy experience of a similar Gibson with which you could draw a comparison?

 

P.

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My experiences spread across a wide quality range with Gibsons, Epiphones, Fender USA, Fender Mexico and Fender Indonesia. In contrary, I didn't find any weaknesses on Fender Japan and Ibanez Japan instruments.

 

The most horrible - and I mean really horrible - quality problems I experienced with both Gibson Custom Shop and Gibson USA. Then follow Fender Indonesia, Epiphone - I don't know the countries in this case -, Fender Mexiko and Fender USA. However, it is interesting which problems were or could have been solved without refretting and refinishing. Those of Gibson would have not, and those of Fender Indonesia would have required wood repairs and refinishing.

 

On the other hand, Fender Mexico made three guitars of mine where simply nothing was wrong, and Gibson USA two of my basses without any problems - but sadly also those two basses with the biggest troubles on instruments I ever kept in the end.

 

However, there were countless things which had to be repaired - yes, repaired, as I call glueing-in bushings, sanding down nut seats, resoldering of contacts or setting wood plugs repairs. These things had to be done on the majority of those brand-new guitars I finally went with!

 

I love all my instruments regardless of company and factory site, they all are properly set up, play nicely and sound very decent. But this wouldn't have been possible without correcting or redoing lots of things going beyond adjustments, hence repairs.

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If you don't know guitars, if you don't know brand names...strange things happen.

 

I went into the nylon section at GC today and I played a guitar. I didn't bother to look at price I just played it (this is how I keep myself from having expectations) and it felt good...this was a $200 item. I took another item, I played it a bit and it was meh...this was a $500 item. Both similar in size and stuff. I've had the opposite happen and thought, "well duh, that's a $2000 guitar." Sure, set ups are a thing, but overall you can tell when something is good and will only need pups or "my choice strings" or the set-up.

 

The true musician knows reputation is handy in looking, but the last word is how the item sounds and feels to you.

 

If you're looking strictly for an INVESTMENT then gtfo, go play with your portfolio or something.

 

Keyboards though, that's a positive correlation. The electronic equipment industry will charge you more for better things. Without looking at prices I can tell a $500 from a $2000 from a $4000 item. Guitars are flexible and they can appreciate in value. I mean, an OLD plastic guitar that was once considered a trashy cheap item can become a prized instrument that still functions. That's so cool!

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If you don't know guitars, if you don't know brand names...strange things happen.

...

The true musician knows reputation is handy in looking, but the last word is how the item sounds and feels to you.

...

+1

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Yeah I don't think Ive seen anyone dissing Epiphone much on here.... I mean we all like what we like...

 

I think for me maybe its the fact that Epiphone even though are licensed copies, they are still copies.. My first ever guitar was a Tanglewood LP copy.. after a short while with it I realised it was annoying me having a copy of a guitar that I really want... So when I came to my next guitar it HAD to be a Gibson Les Paul nothing else would do... And that was probably down to Slash and Jimmy Page more than anything else :) . They had Gibsons, I wanted a Gibson :) If they had played Epis id have probably wanted one of those.

 

 

As I say, its not about whats good and bad so much.. Its more about what you want and like, and expect.

 

But isn't that the reason some people hang around the Epi section more and some the Gibson one.. Cos we are sharing and talking about the guitars we like the most.. (amongst other things :))

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So when I came to my next guitar it HAD to be a Gibson Les Paul nothing else would do... And that was probably down to Slash and Jimmy Page more than anything else :) . They had Gibsons, I wanted a Gibson :) If they had played Epis id have probably wanted one of those.

 

 

Haha, so true. When I got my LP I had no idea what it was besides solid and cool sounding. I got into Joan Jett and wanted a Melody Maker so bad....until I played one of the new ones and I was like, "lame." I wanted a Mustang for Kurt Cobain until I played one and I was like, "lame." I still want a duo sonic for Liz Phair (and cus its like 2lbs) but I'm sure it will be a repeat of the mustang.

 

I think the members here are lots less about "being cool" and more about sharing tips and stories and finds and stuff...that's what makes us cool, not 'cus we got "primo" gear. Go to N'Olans, you'll see what a Harmony in the right hands can do.

 

I have noticed though, in guitar shops, the people who like PRS are way more likely to turn up their noses at a cheapie. Fender people are so layed back...except SHREK. SHREK is not into MIM Strats [flapper] You snob you [lol]

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Haha, so true. When I got my LP I had no idea what it was besides solid and cool sounding. I got into Joan Jett and wanted a Melody Maker so bad....until I played one of the new ones and I was like, "lame." I wanted a Mustang for Kurt Cobain until I played one and I was like, "lame." I still want a duo sonic for Liz Phair (and cus its like 2lbs) but I'm sure it will be a repeat of the mustang.

 

I think the members here are lots less about "being cool" and more about sharing tips and stories and finds and stuff...that's what makes us cool, not 'cus we got "primo" gear. Go to N'Olans, you'll see what a Harmony in the right hands can do.

 

I have noticed though, in guitar shops, the people who like PRS are way more likely to turn up their noses at a cheapie. Fender people are so layed back...except SHREK. SHREK is not into MIM Strats [flapper] You snob you [lol]

LOL...

 

I wonder what happens to people who grow up really liking Jack White and go out and buy one of those Airline Guitars for their first haha :)

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Not for nuthin.. But where are these discussions with Gibson guys hateing Epiphones? I've posted Epiphone stuff here a few times and I don't recall anyone saying they didn't like them becausevtheyveere Epis. I guess I'm just not seeing them.

 

Same here. I've seen way more hate on this forum for MIM Fenders compared to MIA ones.

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For what it's worth, my least expensive guitar is an Epi PR5e.

 

It's also the guitar I've played out more often than any other guitar since I got it. In fact, let's see, about 2 1/2 years, out only about 10 times, twice with full hollow full archtops, all the rest with the little Epi. I wish it had the shorter scale, but...

 

In the late '70s I played weekends a cupla years with a Harmony H65 which I still have. It has a neck like a ball bat but is oddly easily played - perhaps because the scale is just a tad over 24 inches. It worked quite well for what was considered classic rock, classic country and rock-country like CCR.

 

http://harmony.demont.net/guitars/H65/189.htm

 

Yeah, were I do have a pure "jazz piano at a linen tablecloth dinner" gig, I'd use one of my current archtops. But... This one I did a trio that was great fun, guitar, bass and drums.

 

m

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Well, nobody seems to be saying it, so I will.

 

It depends on what you are doing with them. Again. I know when I take my Fenders and Gibsons out, I expect them to get through the night with relatively few, small problems if any, and usually none. Most working guitar players know what works and what holds up through whatever you can give it. My one Epiphone has only gone out a couple times, I don't even have it at home now so I couldn't really compare it to the others. My one Squier has never left the house and I probably wouldn't take it out if I was gigging again.

 

So that's all the fundamentals of working with guitars, and that could lead someone to have strong opinions as to which is better.

 

The other part of it is generational I think. I am from a time when there were basically three guitar makers, all here in this country, and they made all of their guitars in this country. Now, all three make them elsewhere as well as here. That can make for some strong opinions as well. Fender, Gibson, CFMartin, even Ovation, them names mean American Guitars to me. Many others think of them as American Guitars too.

 

But there isn't anything wrong with any other stuff. I've owned quite a few Mexican Fedners too. I recently expanded my Ibanez experience by playing the second one in my life, a Candy Red Destroyer on sale at the GC. meh. That makes two for me in 53 years!

 

rct

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Generational thing? Epis were US made through most of their history.

 

And you didn't mention either Harmony or Kay that put out massive numbers of guitars.

 

Gretsch and Guild also were American-made and apparently there are some that still are - and apparently nobody's making all that big a deal about which is made where - except folks like us. <grin>

 

The Eastman jazz guitars, at least, are awfully nice-playing instruments too, btw, made by men in the Orient ... uhhhhh.... east... uhhhh... China. <grin>

 

m

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...

I think the members here are lots less about "being cool" and more about sharing tips and stories and finds and stuff...that's what makes us cool, not 'cus we got "primo" gear. Go to N'Olans, you'll see what a Harmony in the right hands can do.

 

I have noticed though, in guitar shops, the people who like PRS are way more likely to turn up their noses at a cheapie.

This all is so true. The best gear is what helps us translating the desired expression in the first place. The other way round a skilled and experienced player will be able to bring out personal style using instruments commonly considered as inferior, too. In contrary, posing with whatever name on the headstock won't help a mediocre but snobbish player.

 

...

It depends on what you are doing with them. .... I expect them to get through the night with relatively few, small problems if any, and usually none. Most working guitar players know what works and what holds up through whatever you can give it. ...

So that's all the fundamentals of working with guitars, and that could lead someone to have strong opinions as to which is better.

...

rct

That's what I do, and luckily there are some guitars which work for me. My strong opinions are less around brands than designs. I found out relatively early that there has to be one saddle per string adjustable for intonation, and that the only vibrato that really works for me is a Floyd Rose. Therefore many Telecaster and most Stratocaster models won't do it for me, but the very thing is that knowing what I want I got what I need.

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LOL...

 

I wonder what happens to people who grow up really liking Jack White and go out and buy one of those Airline Guitars for their first haha :)

 

I read those Eastwood guitars are made in the UK? Could be wrong though...

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I'm of the opinion that there is good and bad from all manufacturers, irrespective of the factory location. My MIM Sambora Strat (CAR) plays infinitely better (to me) than my MIA Deluxe Strat did.

 

Having played a few Epi LP's, I've found good and bad at all price breaks. Same with Gibsons. I saw a Traditional II that must have been a Friday afternoon guitar as it was really not in the same league as even the LPJ in the same shop.

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Well, nobody seems to be saying it, so I will.

 

It depends on what you are doing with them. Again. I know when I take my Fenders and Gibsons out, I expect them to get through the night with relatively few, small problems if any, and usually none. Most working guitar players know what works and what holds up through whatever you can give it. My one Epiphone has only gone out a couple times, I don't even have it at home now so I couldn't really compare it to the others. My one Squier has never left the house and I probably wouldn't take it out if I was gigging again.

 

So that's all the fundamentals of working with guitars, and that could lead someone to have strong opinions as to which is better.

 

The other part of it is generational I think. I am from a time when there were basically three guitar makers, all here in this country, and they made all of their guitars in this country. Now, all three make them elsewhere as well as here. That can make for some strong opinions as well. Fender, Gibson, CFMartin, even Ovation, them names mean American Guitars to me. Many others think of them as American Guitars too.

 

But there isn't anything wrong with any other stuff. I've owned quite a few Mexican Fedners too. I recently expanded my Ibanez experience by playing the second one in my life, a Candy Red Destroyer on sale at the GC. meh. That makes two for me in 53 years!

 

rct

 

I just want to say that i consider myself a Gibson man now as I've owned one since '06. But for 5 years before that I was gigging a few times a week with my Epi G-400 as my primary guitar and a Hamer LP double cut copy. I never had any problems with my epiphone during a gig in 5 years. That thing was a work horse and I still trust it to be a reliable back up.

 

On a similar note, during that same time period, the other guitarist I gigged with played a MIM strat which also never had any problems.

 

This being said, I would still go with Gibson over Epiphone but I have much love for my G-400 and I'm hoping to get myself an Epi semi-hollow soon.

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I agree that in many cases, it is an individual guitar thing once you get past the electronics and the neck shape (i.e. constants). I'm obviously not a gear-head and don't spend my Saturdays in a GC playing everything on the wall, and when I'm ready to buy a guitar, I don't really research it that much. I wanted a good deal on a jazz box and thought that I was going to drop a grand on a Godin 5th Ave. Kingpin from a highly respected mom and pop shop. When I got into the store, I noticed an Epi Joe Pass, which I have heard mostly good things about. I played it and liked it. Looked down the neck and noticed the frets were very uneven and there was more relief on the treble side than the bass, which concerned me. I spotted an Ibanez AFJ91 (made in China) on the wall and played it. It was about the same price as the Epi ($600), looked good, had a flat neck, sounded sweet, played great, so I walked out of the store with it. Part of the problem with buying any guitar is that you never have enough time to find all of the glitches while you are in the store (and if you're like me and you're gassing bad for a guitar, it's nearly impossible to walk out of a store empty handed), but you always have time to look at the primarily important features. Since I've had it (about six months), I have noticed some minor flaws, but still think I got a great deal when I compare it to prices of similar US products. And isn't that what this thread is really all about- forgetting brand reputation/image and getting a good deal?

 

Being that guitar consistency within the same brand is often an issue, even with companies like Gibson, I have found (and some of you might disagree, based on your experience) that buying from smaller stores is usually safer than buying from larger, even though you might pay a little more. Most of the smaller stores carefully inspect guitars coming in the door, and often, before they even come into their shop. They know their reputation rests on selling a higher quality product.

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Looks like PRS got left on the wayside on this topic.

 

I own 2 Epis an Ultra and a SG, both very good guitars. Also own two MIM Fenders, once again very good guitars.

 

But I also have a Korina PRS Se and a Hog Se. IMO the PRS Ses are a leap above both my Epiphones and MIM Fenders.

 

And I have to rate the Hog Se as about even with both of my LPs.

 

In regard to foreign guitars with American brand names. My 1989 Fender Strat MIJ is the best guitar in the house (32 guitars)

 

I prefer made in USA, but the quality gap in tone, playability and looks is just about closed with foreign competitors

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