Are They Really Worth It?

Discussion in 'Fender Custom Shop Tele Forum' started by rockinstephen, Dec 15, 2015.

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  1. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2008
    It sure is a generalization but every time i picked up a (fender) custom shop guitar I was unimpressed. Besides obvious problems like rattling saddles, badly adjusted necks etc. (which shouldn't happen on 3 k guitars IMHO) I never thought that they sound or play superior to the production guitars I have. In my town there is a big store with a huge selection in their "custom shop room" and I go there from time to time just to see if I find something special. I never did so far.
    The relic finishes may be a reason to get into them for some but personally I find them rather exaggerated.
  2. Lobomov

    Lobomov Friend of Leo's

    Jul 15, 2013
    You're in Germany, so those guitars have traveled across the world to get to you. That they are badly adjusted isn't really something to blame Fender for, but the shop(s) that you frequent.
  3. Tele2

    Tele2 TDPRI Member

    Jan 8, 2005
    Another angle here is that CS offers certain guitars that are not in the non-CS line up: case in point the Nocaster. Sure the AVRI 52 Tele or the Baja Tele are almost the same, but if you wanted the exact specs of a Nocaster I don't think that's possible unless you go CS (experts, please correct me if I'm wrong).

    Sure, one could mod a production line Tele to be 99% like the Nocaster or go with a parts-caster and get something equal to or technically better than what the CS makes, but we're back then at the modding a Ford to be a Mercedes analogy. It's ultimately not the same thing and if you go to all that trouble, perhaps the real answer is simply to buy CS and be done with it.
  4. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 12, 2010
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    I'd like to see the studies. It's odd since wine tasting is done "blinded", i.e. without benefit of the taster seeing the "label".

    Me, I can't tell the difference from a Vintage '54 Bordeaux and a generic from Napa Valley. However, I can tell the difference in quality between an MIM and a Custom shop.

    So, my answer to the OP is that if you've played guitar for any length of time you can spot the difference in quality and feel and it's not close.
  5. SmokeyRoach

    SmokeyRoach TDPRI Member

    Dec 21, 2015
    Worth it? Well if you have a roof over your head and your kids have clothes to wear and food in their bellies and you like guitars then yes, it's worth it. I've never tried a better guitar. I have a Fender am vintage 54 from 2014 that I think is as good though. My am standard doesn't come close, not by a long shot.
  6. grolan1

    grolan1 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 13, 2010
    Somewhere in the middle of the flippin country
    I've had a couple CS years ago (15-20), one was a 50's Strat, the other was a 60's Strat. They both were better than an currently made Fender at the time... not over the top better but better. They were a lot less to buy back then as well, both were bought used, kept for a couple of years and sold them for at least if not more than I paid for them.

    Forward to today's guitars... I do think things have come a long way for Fender... not all but there are a few that are really nicely made. I do not have current experience in today's world with any CS guitars, but I do have plenty of experience in the 'lower' model Fender lineup. These are as good as the CS from 15-20 years ago. I feel they are more then enough for my playing ability and needs. Would I turn down a CS guitar today for a killer price... nope!
  7. xtrajerry

    xtrajerry Doctor of Teleocity

    Jan 3, 2012
    Lehigh Valley, PA
    If it's worth it or not usually depends upon the amount of available funds at that moment.
  8. christhebrit

    christhebrit Tele-Holic

    Mar 12, 2013

    I keep discovering new ones, but Noah's Mill, Corner Creek and Eagle Rare are pretty special.
  9. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

    Sep 1, 2009
    Kelowna, BC, Canuckistan
  10. tealsixtysix

    tealsixtysix Tele-Meister

    Sep 6, 2015
    Massachusetts USA
    CS guitars are worth it. So is Booker's bourbon. YMMV.
  11. Alex W

    Alex W Friend of Leo's

    Aug 29, 2003
    In my tube amp coccoon.
    People don't buy a $200 bottle of wine because they think it will be 5 x better than a $40 bottle. Luxury items like wines, sports cars and high end guitars present diminishing returns on value.

    And Booker's bourbon is indeed worth it.
  12. dmarcus30

    dmarcus30 Tele-Holic

    Sep 29, 2010
    By the sea, California
    I've played some that were great and some that were terrible, from both Gibson and Fender CS.
    I do my own research and then commission builds with a really great tech who is also a master woodworker. We can create something you could not buy off the shelf and I enjoy the whole process of researching and then sniping parts on Ebay.

    I have an "Esquire" that cost about $1100 and it just slays any CS and even some masterbuilts I've played.

    If I were to buy any guitar off the rack now, I'd make sure I had time to play every axe there. Sometimes the planets align and a cheap guitar will turn out to be a flame-thrower.
  13. TeleTown

    TeleTown Friend of Leo's

    Oct 10, 2010
    Twangers Medows USA
    I used to think so, but after gigging with my custombuilds for the past 10 yrs. I will never pay 3 to 4k for a decal again.
  14. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

    Dec 3, 2014
    Toowoomba, Australia
    My take on this is that what you buy is mostly mojo, which comes in various forms, including them name of the headstock. That's the reason someone will pay $20 million for a beat-up old Strad violin, or $140 million for a bronze statue that looks like someone took a blowtorch to it.

    I'm a sucker for mojo, and I think it daft trying to justify it on performance grounds.
  15. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 12, 2010
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    The bottom line to me is that you either perceive it to be worth the difference or you don't. No one can make that determination but the purchaser.
    So, if a MIM or American Standard can be set up to your preferences and plays as well as you desire then you're set. Put another way, if you A/B an American Standard vs a Custom Shop and don't discern a difference than it's not worth it.
    If you're one of those who has the skills and crafts (or know someone who does) to create a Tele that is set up to your exacting specs then you're not going to feel that a CS is worth it.
    Simply, if a Squier Classic Vibe checks all the boxes then why pay more?
    I can tell the quality differences in many non guitar items, such as a car or a pair of dress slacks. It's not difficult to spot differences in your knowledgeable
  16. tomasino

    tomasino Tele-Meister

    Jun 5, 2014
    Is it really worth it?

    For me the answer is "not anymore".

    My Warmoth Thinline and USACG Strat guitars that I've had PLEK'd, are every bit as good (if not better) than my Masterbuilt CS Strat.
    N' for about a 1/3'rd of the price. Plus they instantly have "mo deepa mojo".. :cool:

    I can't imagine buying another CS guitar. Paying all that money and waiting all that time.
    No thanks.
  17. JackStraw

    JackStraw Friend of Leo's

    Mar 22, 2008
    In The Pines
    I'd have to agree with this. I've owned three custom shop guitars all bought used for under $2000 and thought they were definitely worth the money paid but any more than that? No.
  18. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Are they worth it...

    "Worth" is tricky.

    Are they "good"? Absolutely.

    Are they better than model X? Probably. It depends what you compare to, and what you like.

    Are they worth the MONEY? Ah, here we go. Thing is, we don't play money, we play guitars. We're all from different walks of life, ages, and financial circumstances. Income is relative, but the cost of a CS is fixed (give or take).

    In my opinion (only), CS are better than any other Fender model, *except* the new PVs, where the gap has closed to be nearly insignificant (to me). That said, PVs aren't offered with relic or 'closet' finish treatments. Also, they don't come with certain other features like quartersawn necks, which while available on CS, are not necessarily indicative of "higher quality" on their own. They're just a feature that you may prefer.

    No matter where we are financially, there is a range of instruments available to us. Stuff we want but can never-ever afford, all the way down to stuff we wouldn't start a fire with. I used to buy the cheapest lookalike I could find, that I could then incrementally dump all my free cash into, to somehow make it into something better. Something it never could be.

    I've learned to ignore the stuff way out of my range, and to wait, save, and stretch just a bit, to get the guitar right at the top of my range, because it's what I really want, and will require no "upgrades". In the long run, I find that to be more enjoyable, and less costly.

    OP, I realize this probably doesn't answer your question, but the things that each of us like about guitars is very subjective. Some may focus on pickups, while I feel those are so easily replaced if necessary (and the others sold). It's almost (almost) like not buying a guitar because it comes with strings you don't like.

    The things that are most important to me, and that CS models generally provide where most other models do not:

    Finish. Must be thin nitrocellulose lacquer, tastefully applied. No "bad" bursts; no orange peel; no belt-sander, "gravel road", or sandpaper relic work.

    Frets. Must be well leveled and dressed. NO sharp ends. Tiny vintage type frets. Ideally stainless, but Fender doesn't offer that, sadly.

    Neck profile. I can play a variety of necks, but nothing too skinny. Modern Cs are incredibly generic and boring.

    Weight. Lightweight.

    Resonance. I like the guitar to vibrate when played. The opposite of the heavy guitar with endless sustain.

    Old-shoe aging. Not sure if that's a technical term. Gibson VOS nails it. I suspect Fender Journeyman does, too. Nothing else from Fender achieves that feel, IMO.

    The aging is a nice to have, but if it's going to be run of mill relic, I'd just as soon have NOS and age it myself over the decades. The other items are showstopper must-haves, and generally CS guitars satisfy these needs.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
  19. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2010
    I would estimate that a bit over $1000 is enough to buy the best possible parts equal to whatever quality is typical of CS Fenders.
    The point of custom is not IMO that it is inherently better, but simply that it is custom. This is true in kitchen cabinets or furniture, clothing, jewelry, or anything you might have custom made.
    The problem with expecting someones size or personal taste to prove that one thing is better than another is that when we judge a product by using it for its intended purpose we are not judging its quality; we are judging its function, and our judgement is dependent on our expectation.
    You have to go very very cheap to find a guitar that does not function properly, and indeed any guitar that intonates properly can be made to record top quality sound if you replace enough parts.

    A flatter fingerboard radius can play easier with lower action, but is not better.

    A hotter pickup may have a warmer sound and increased sustain, but that does not make it better.

    Even a nut and fret ends that have had meticulous hand shaping by the highest paid CS or local tech are not actually better; they still work the same as properly done factory finish should.
    A thinner nitro finish may cost more and even look nicer, but who is to say that it is better beyond personal taste?

    A guitar that does everything you need at a price you can afford (and rarely needs adjustment and the parts hold up) is better than another one that does the same job and is too expensive for your budget.

    Yet if you expect custom made to your specs with lots of delicate hand work, all done by the same person, the factory guitar may not meet your expectations, so it is genuinely not as good.
    If I don't care about things you care about, your favorite guitar may not impress me, even if every detail has been given more attention by more highly skilled workers.
    To suggest that my not liking something is a measurement of its quality is pretty ridiculous, but it is a staple of internet hit making.

    When the lowest price guitars are cranked out by underpaid unskilled workers using randomly selected lumber that has not been adequately seasoned, there will be a good deal of variation between samples, and some will be pretty good.
    Some will also be pretty bad, and still others will be pretty good for a while before the neck warps as the green wood seasons, or the pot metal parts corrode and screws freeze and strip when you try to adjust the action.

    I would put guitar comparisons more in the area of clothing and shoes than cars and whiskey.
    A guitar has to fit your physical needs and expectations, as well as your stylistic and detail expectations.

    A $100,000 car will do many things better than a $10,000 car, but a $4000 guitar probably won't DO anything better than a $400 guitar, even if it fits your needs and expectations better.

    I almost never find a guitar I would buy at GC, even if the $1000 models were on sale for $250, I would not take them home, because they don't meet my idiosyncratic expectations.
    But I can't afford CS prices so I buy select vintage and new parts to make what meets my expectations, which takes a lot of time and energy.
    CS guitars are not required for functional quality, and criticizing them for not working any better than factory guitars just misses the point IMO.
  20. 1300 E Valencia

    1300 E Valencia Friend of Leo's

    Dec 13, 2010
    Fullerton CA
    Much depends on experience and skill level. Can Perlman tell the difference between the Stradivarius and the Yamaha. Of course. He's skilled, and he's been playing a long time.
    Ultimately, no matter the price tag, if you can't tell the difference, there is no difference. You're the one playing it, not Perlman.
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