Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

China vs Korea


Recommended Posts

I'm quite new to this forum so sorry if this has been discussed previously (although I couldn't find it anywhere!)

 

it is quite common to consider the old Korean production as qualitative better than the actual Chinese or Indonesian ones.

Apart from broad generalizations, this should be evident in particular series (eg PR series vs. DR series) and explain the quite flourishing vintage market of these ’80 and early ’90 babies.

 

Are we “Korean Epiphones” lovers somehow justified to keep on looking for these models or not? Do these models have any technical added value in terms of materials/manufacturing methods/quality?

 

I would be glad to know your opinion about it.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have indeed heard that the Korean Epiphone guitars were very good. I'm sure that is true. I only have the Chinese made Masterbuilt AJ500R, and the Indonesian made AJ220sce, and based on these two guitars, and the extraordinary tone and quality I have found in them both, I expect to sell both my $3300 Martin, and my $3000 Taylor 815ce. The $299 AJ220sce and certainly the Chinese Masterbuilt $599 guitar compete completely with both of those high priced guitars, and I simply can not warrant keeping them now. haha...I'll sell them to some sucker who believes he must spend thousands for a good sounding guitar. I'm not a sucker any more..lol! So if your Korean Epi is even better than what I've got from China and Indonesia..KEEP IT!!!! It is priceless from any practical point of view. And I just bet it looks and sounds great!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I cant really speak for acoustic guitars becuase most of my experience is with electrics. I can tell you though, that the first five years of the Korean guitars were very, very sketchy. Epiphone was on the right track and I agree about the Norlin years. And IIRC, the first couple years in Korea, Gibson/Epiphone was still owned by Norlin. 1968-1985, I believe. Epihone started production in Korea circa 1982/83.

 

Even the first three years after Henry J took over Gibson, the Epiphone line was still inconsistent. I have an S-500 (Strat style guitar) from 1986. The body is laminated and the routing is very very bad. However, the neck is one of the best I've ever played on. Many guitars fell into this inconsistency. They claimed the wood to be "solid tonewood" which meant that it could be anything the decided to use that day, be it laminated mahogany, alder/mahogany, low-grade solid mahogany or whatever. On top of that, the pickups were always some new experimental type that never caught on. There were many varieties, from the Tech-II, Vantage, I-Series and whatever else. It wasnt until about 1989 or 1990 that Epiphone really started to get a good grasp on the direction they were going in. And some of the things I've mentioned even carried on into the early 1990s. There was alot of experimenting going on to determine the direction of Epiphone guitars. Even with acoustic A/E guitars in the 1990's there was a lot of different preamps used. There was the Epiphonic V, Epiphonic VI, Electar and a couple others that ultimately didnt make the cut.

 

If you look at the Chinese guitars, you will notice that is hasnt taken nearly as long to get the kinks worked out becuase Epiphone has already found its direction. The only real hurdles they faced were getting the Chinese production up to snuff and people overcoming the stigma of Chinese products. Epiphone figured it all out in Korea. Now all the Chinese have to do is replicate the process...which we all know Chinese are very good at that. lol. It will take less time to get up to the quality of Korean guitars in China than it did in Korea...if they arent there already.

 

Like I said, this is from the perspective of solid body guitars for the most part. But I think the idea still applies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why should the quality of a guitar made at an OEM-plant be better

 

than a guitar made in one of their own two factories ?

 

Why rate the country or the factory ?

 

rate the guitar itself #-o

 

 

 

Well, the point of my topic was to compare the general quality of the manufactures, comparing indeed similar guitars (eg PR 200 vs DR 200).

Musicians tend to consider the productions of Epiphone guitars as put in a order of quality where USA>Japan>Korea>Indonesia>China: now, I think we all agree on the position of the first two countries on the top of this list (ok there are surely exceptions, but as exceptions they confirm the rule, don’t they? J). But I am actually looking for evidences, or opinions (possibly based on facts) that confirm or deny the Korean superiority on the Chinese production, a fact which is maybe less unquestionable (although it seems to have a certain influence on the market of these products)

 

 

 

By the way, as far as I know all the products coming out of these factories are OEM, I am not talking about fakes or imitations (but I may misinterpretate the concept of OEM products here)

 

 

 

Thank you!

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Musicians tend to consider the productions of Epiphone guitars as put in a order of quality where USA>Japan>Korea>Indonesia>China:

 

Pretty much goes for all guitars. Back in the 1960s we considered the MIJ guitars as pure junk. After production shifted to Korea those MIJ guitars started looking alot better. Then came the shift to Indonesia or wherever and folks started to look more kindly on the Made in Korea guitars. And so on.

 

In terms of the Made in Chian guitars, my take is that intially they were far from the best built instruments to ever grace a music store's walls. But over the years, well those Chinese boys sure seemed to have learned a whole lot about guitar building.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have mixed feelings. I resent that the Chinese can make a better cheap guitar than we do. But man, some of them sure play nice. The fretboards are usually rough and the nuts suck but with a little time and elbow grease they are downright scary.

 

I never held that same resentment towards the Koreans but for some reason I could never EVER get comfortable with a typical Korean guitar neck. I can't put my finger on it; I've examined the frets, tweaked as needed, replaced nuts, buffed boards.... there's just something not right there. I was never one to analyze the shape of a neck and I get all flustered when people start talking about C shaped necks or D shaped necks or God knows K or W shaped necks.... something is lost there between you and me. But bottom line is that as much as I like some Korean guitars (the Epi Emperor for example) I just can't get used to the shape.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have mixed feelings. I resent that the Chinese can make a better cheap guitar than we do. But man, some of them sure play nice. The fretboards are usually rough and the nuts suck but with a little time and elbow grease they are downright scary.

 

I never held that same resentment towards the Koreans but for some reason I could never EVER get comfortable with a typical Korean guitar neck. I can't put my finger on it; I've examined the frets, tweaked as needed, replaced nuts, buffed boards.... there's just something not right there. I was never one to analyze the shape of a neck and I get all flustered when people start talking about C shaped necks or D shaped necks or God knows K or W shaped necks.... something is lost there between you and me. But bottom line is that as much as I like some Korean guitars (the Epi Emperor for example) I just can't get used to the shape.

Its weird that you have such a problem with the neck shapes, but I'm wondering if it really has anything to do with the country of origin. I have a 1986 (korean) S-500, a Korean G-310, and Chinese PR4-E & '61 SG Special P90 and they all have very similar, if not identical neck shapes. Though, the S-500 being much older, has a bit of a beefier neck, but still the same shape. They are all "D" shapes, BTW. My daughter's Indo SG Junior has a "C" and I can tell the difference. It is much rounder like a baseball bat. Unfortunately, I dont have any other "C" shapes to compare it to. But betrween my Korean G-310 and my Chinese '61 SG Special, I cant tell the difference with my eyes closed.

 

I agree about the rough fretboards though. That is one thing I have noticed compared to the Korean guitars. The Korean (and Indo) fretboards are baby-bottom smooth and slick...at least all of the ones I have owned, which has been about 10 so far. The board on my '61 Special is pretty rough, while the board on my Chinese PR4-E is much smoother. Luck of the draw, I guess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Within the last cupla years I've picked up four Epis. Most recent was an AG220sce. Before that a Masterbilt AJ500me; before that a PR5E about a year ago. About a year or so prior a Dot.

 

All but the dot are AE.

 

My take is that the craftsmanship at the Chinese factory is fine - I think we'll likely get what we expect, which is something that looks decent and is playable; electronic stuff should be functional and (the plastic bits) should hold up to adult usage as opposed to child's usage regardless of the player's age.

 

OTOH, I do tend to question some of the woods a bit. I've seen a number of Epi acoustics in stores, and I've not gotten two that have have had some questions about them when I got 'em.

 

The Masterbilt buzzes on two frets on the D string - although that seems to be smoothing out and one might make a case that my 10s are too light anyway, thus causing the neck to do what wood does. I got it used and somebody stripped the truss rod on an otherwise nice new guitar, so that's not a help to me.

 

The first AJ220sce could not by any technique I know get so it'd play on the top three strings that were flat on the frets. It started with just the top two strings and then got worse. Sweetwater took it back and sent another that works fine, albeit with a different setup entirely - and I think a higher bridge.

 

That PR-5e and a PR-4e both were just fine - and were designed with lower action that seemed to encourage my kinda fingerstyle playing. I even use 9-42 on the PR-5 and it's aok. I gave away the 4.

 

To me we're talking three different things comparing Korean to Chinese - and in full disclosure, I tend to be pro-Korean in a lotta topics of discussion.

 

First, my understanding is that the Korean factories were not doing Epis as much to Gibbie/Epi specs as to modifications of their own factory design output. Whether that's good or not good is subjective, assuming equivalent care in build and QC.

 

Second, the question of craftsmanship. My hunch is that Gibson probably feels more comfortable with more direct input into a manufacturing operation and they'd certainly have an advantage in formation of their own jigs and other "build" equipment.

 

Third - and this is where it gets "iffy." That's wood and other equipment supplies. I do wonder about some of the wood used on the acoustics, especially woods having to do with the neck itself.

 

For what it's worth, my Dot seems to be about as high quality as one might even wish for on a far more expensive guitar. Up to a 335? Not really, but... if it lasts as well as friends' 335s, it'll be mine and being played until I croak - and after that I really don't care. I don't see the necks on the AEs as near that quality, btw.

 

I never saw what I'd consider fingerboard issues, but then... I really don't look at fingerboards much when I'm pickin' or when I'm watching somebody else pick.

 

m

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

The build quality on my Epiphone SST Classic is terrible. It was made in Indonesia. I've tried three of them, and they all suck. I had to chose the best of them, but still not impressed. The sound won me over. The action was wicked high (I fixed that) The bridge comes with dings and scuffs so I don't have to scuff it myself. The builder should know to sand WITH the grain, not AGAINST it. Also, the laminated body is crap. On the inside the laminate crummy pieces of broken wood. I'll add pictures tomorrow.

 

That said, my teacher bought a new Epiphone Nighthawk. I like it, and he loves it.. I want one. :) It was also made in Indonesia.. NO defects what so ever. Its perfect. This teacher also has an Epiphone Chet Atkins Classic guitar. Its about 14 years old. Again, it is PERFECT!

 

So I think it is a hit or miss. Maybe the SST Classic is harder to build? Or maybe they don't care. But with the NH, they much care, because every NH I see is perfect. The NH sounds great too!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think any factory will have some compromises made in terms of cost and quality.

 

I've a hunch if some of those Chinese - or Korean or whatever - folks were given the opportunity to produce a true Gibson/Martin/Taylor high end quality guitar with high end materials and time for construction, they'd do far better than what they do with $100-$1,000 level instruments.

 

OTOH, I've a hunch that given the economics outside the US - Mexico included - that most of the workers see themselves as better-quality cabinet makers than luthiers. Most, but not all, I'll wager. Certain individuals will have greater pride in whatever they do than other individuals; it often shows up in stuff like guitars regardless where made.

 

I do find it interesting that one must consider that the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans have had a long tradition of producing fine cabinetry and stringed musical instruments that predates colonization of the Americas. I don't know the degree to which modern times have removed that thought from the minds of either factories or workers.

 

EDIT: Got to thinkin' about this one. I doubt you could buy a wooden "jewelry" box for $100, and yet the $100 Epi is overall excellently made compared to stuff you'll find outside the music industry - and that's just the "box," and not the other joinery and stuff. Compared to the $25 or so guitar I started on in 1963, and updating the value of a dollar, that Epi is three or four times better than I could buy back then for the same money.

 

m

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...