Fender Custom Shop Vs MasterBuilt

Discussion in 'Fender Custom Shop Tele Forum' started by Amon, Nov 25, 2019.

  1. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    Hi guys,

    yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a resident CustomShop floor clerk at Rockinn, downtown Tokyo.

    the staff there are all guitar geeks who own multiple custom/vintage tele, which probably cost at least 3-5 months worth of salary a pop.

    even though the floor had at least 7-8 true vintage and over a dozen masterbuilts, when I asked what he recommended, his response was "meh". And I thought wow, 8 vintages, a dozen masterbuilt, plus easily another dozen of customshops, and the guy feels I shouldn't waste my money on any of those, and rather come back in a few weeks to see whatever's being prepped at the maintenance workshop.

    Kuddos for raw honesty, but I was fairly shocked, and asked him why he felt that way. His reply was that basically every masterbuilt they had in store at the moment were made by weird or not-that-popular Master Builders. He then followed by saying that in his experience (12 years on the CustomShop floor) some Master-builders rock, and some really really don't, and sometimes unnamed Custom Shop models are much better than some Masterbuilts.

    I was wondering what you guys feel about that outside of Japan.
    I'm assuming/expecting Fender lovers to respond to this though, so if you're not, or feel that custom shop prices are just a marketing scam, please don't respond lol

    I know it's a subjective topic, but personally I work and get paid on an hourly wage system based on my specialized skillset, so I understand and agree that high skill costs a lot per hour, and the total can easily skyrocket.

    I watched a beautiful vid on youtube, of a young carpenter building himself a thinline from scratch. He starts the video saying it took him 130 or 140 hours total. I'm sure professionals don't need nearly so long, but even if you paid that kid at minimal wage, that would already cost over a 1000 bucks, without material or hardware. And I'm fairly sure anyone confident and skilled pays himself decently enough to make it expensive quickly. Heck, if I had to hire myself for 130 hours, I'd cringe lol

    I also remember watching the making-of of those Games of Thrones fenders, and the guy saying it took them 19 hours of laser engraving to get the dragon scale feel right. Of course it's automated, but it also means the Head of Design at fender needs to come back 19 times, check, rethink, enter new specs and launch the machine again. No wonder it's beyond expensive, that dude ain't cheap.

    Now disclaimer, I'm not saying expensive sounds better. I'm only saying that skilled staff cost, and that prices make sense to me.

    I also see some dudes on reverb who seem be making super dank customs for under 1500buckw, in exotic woods too, but I'd love to see whether they're still sustainable financially 10 years from now.

    I also had the chance to visit the ESP custom shop in Tokyo last month. Every single piece of wood I liked (body wood) was marked between 2000 and 6000 USD, just for the wood. Ugh...


    so I guess my question here is, is there such a gap between Master Builders at Fender? Can a Custom Shop model not designed for anyone in particular beat something designed for you for twice the price? Are some builders not popular (enough that it becomes common knowledge?)?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  2. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Holic

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    One guitar geek’s “meh” is another’s holy grail.

    What did you think about the masterbuilts, custom shop, and vintage Fenders you tried at Rockinn?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  3. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    Hi, I didn't try anything. Partly because nothing interested me visually speaking, but also of course because of his surprising position.
    I mean there were A LOT of serious bucks guitars there, so not even a "maybe this one..." took me by surprise.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
  4. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Holic

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    If I was the owner of that store I would fire that clerk for not putting 20 guitars in your hands.

    Even if you didn’t like how any of the guitars looked you might have learned something valuable about their playability and sound that would help you in the future.

    Some people don’t like playing guitars they know they can’t afford. I don’t have that issue because I want to know what a well-made guitar feels like. Plus it’s free to try them.

    I like Custom Shop Teles very much. Just not enough to ever buy one though.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  5. Lobomov

    Lobomov Friend of Leo's

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    So what masterbuilders rock .. and more interestingly which ones suck? :D
     
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  6. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    I know right?

    happens often in Japan though: most of the time, the staff doesn't feel involved in the shop's income, and there is also basically no sale bonus or performance based bonus.
    So the staff often either feels neutral, or thinks they should be on the side of the customer. More often than not, it's a blessing from a consumer point of view, compared to annoying clothing shop staff who rush to ask you "can I help you?".
     
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  7. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    right LOL
     
  8. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    You could just find a nice piece of wood and neck and have someone that knows what they are doing put them together for you and save a few grand. I don't buy into the whole custom shop and masterbuilt thing. Especially with a tele. I might consider a used custom shop if it played and sounded great and wasn't priced much more than assembling a nice partscaster.

    The benefit in them is in resale value but who buys their ideal guitar only to then sell it down the track?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  9. Lobomov

    Lobomov Friend of Leo's

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    I had a modded us std that I thought was the **** ... One day on my way to rehearsal I went by my local guitar pusher with my guitar over my shoulder. It was still early, so store was almost empty and I could A/B it vs. their stock.

    My modded US standard outperformed all the regular stuff, but was smoked by the custom shop stock .. Sure there was one or two CS tele's that wheren't stellar, but as a rule they where just in a class of their own.

    Bought a CS tele next time one showed up at a good price used and haven't looked back since (see avatar)
     
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  10. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I notice the difference between standard and custom shop too but that's because of the finishes and rolled fretboard edges and setups mostly. The wood varies with all the models but the custom shop probably gets allocated nicer wood. A qtr sawn neck on a nice body can be put together and finished nicely without having to pay a fortune for it. The convenience of shopping for custom shop is handy though and the loss on resale will usually be less than on a no name partscaster. It is dearer if you have to buy multiple qtr sawn necks and bodies to trial before picking the best combination but other than that you get the same results for much less if you can trial those parts before buying.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  11. TokyoPortrait

    TokyoPortrait Tele-Afflicted

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    Hi.

    Yes, it’s odd. I too have found, in certain situations, that sales / service staff can be surprisingly candid. Including Ochanomizu (guitar town, for want of a better term).

    But, in other scenarios, very much buyer beware.

    Pax/
    Dean
     
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  12. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    Sounds to me like that salesclerk just didn't want to be bothered. Did you look like a "tire kicker" who would just waste his time? If I was in the market for a new guitar, I would never.....repeat NEVER, go by what a salesperson said about a guitar. While appearance IS important to me, FEEL and PLAYABILITY are the most important aspects of whether I like or dislike a guitar.
    And, BTW, I would also NEVER consider a Custom Shop Fender.....I could have Ron Kirn or Bob Logan (or someone else) build EXACTLY what I want at a fraction of the price.
     
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  13. El Marin

    El Marin Tele-Afflicted

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    I have tried Custom shop, Master builts, Standards and whatever... many times


    ... I find that regarding to guitars, and more to Fenders, you must TRY them, maybe you have big money and end with a cheaper one because that particular guitar "calls you"

    That happened to me... 21 years ago and still is my #1

    Don't believe a salesman... believe your fingers, ears and heart
     
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  14. DrPepper

    DrPepper Tele-Afflicted

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    Meat the new boss,
    same as the old boss...
     
  15. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    All I can imagine is "attention to details". I have a couple other hobbies that also use wood and where "handmade" is a big (expensive) thing. Nowhere as deep as the guitar world, but still, it translates fairly similarly.

    what I retained most from conversations with Japanese staff is how half of them won't pay more than a grand or so for guitar, but are okay spending whatever it costs to have it set up by famous veterans. Typically guys who handle still-active famous band guitarists.

    In my case, I just fell into the hole, so a custom build is something far far away, but some Custom Shop tele do look drool-inducing. And I understand that a 200 year old exotic wood top is gonna kick my piggybank in the nuts.

    Right now I'd rather buy 5 guitars and explore tonality then a custom shop model, but it always comes down to income anyway.
    Most friends I have with similar hobbies always break down into whether they make enough to afford what they want. Most of the time, those against expensive handmade can usually not afford them. When I say afford, I mean that the expenditure doesn't really put any pressure on their lifestyle or the next few months of finances.
    I know if I was broke I'd only have one tele right now lol

    I guess the more you play and try out guitars, some guys will realize even cheap guitars play just as good, while others will zero in on details and ways to get closer to perfection. Right now I enjoy both roads. I have a 200 bucks bacchus that feels and sounds dope after a decent setup, but I also cannot deny that my momose with an extra zero globally screams craftmanship.
    The irony being that the momose pups are boring as f*ck while the P90 on the bacchus universe is dope LOL
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  16. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    how would you describe the "smoked by"?
     
  17. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    agreed, especially ochanomizu.
    I'm guessing they see so damn many people walk in like tourists everyday. (a big number of them actually being tourists) with no intention of buying anything.

    what is the weirdest in Ochanomizu is how they advise foreigners to buy random MIJ models, while telling most Japanese customers that Fender is "just a brand(like Mickey Mouse™️) and push them to buy anything made in Japan that isn't Fender. And yet, when you ask them whether they own any of those brands (Tokai, Bacchus, Momose, ESP,..) most of them will look away and remember some urgent task to do. Very disappointing customer service. The only guitar shop I found helpful there is the ESP shop, the staff being hired by and working for ESP.

    The most disappointing place is the most high-end guitar place, farthest away from the train station. Those people won't lift an eyelid unless you're asking about a 5 or 6K dollar guitar. So very un-japan-like (and I've been here 15years, speak the language and "behave properly")
     
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  18. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

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    since I don't remotely have the skills to properly showcase a guitar, especially not a Custom grade, I let the staff's fingers speak for themselves lol

    I wouldn't buy anything because of what the staff said about it, but it is interesting to hear opinions from people who spend their work time handling 5 to 20K guitars, and who own a couple 10K guitars on their own.

    Most people have warned me that non-fender customs will lose at least half the value upon resale, and I find myself surprised at the number of custom-builts that end up on the 2nd hand market. You'd assume a perfect specs guitar would be the one you keep (after spending 8-10grands on it) but I guess most of those are either people who stretched their budget to make it happen, or have enough money that it doesn't really matter.

    I do wish Fender customs would lose a tad more value though, I bet there would be more sales. 5K for a second custom is still a choking-sound price for me right now.
     
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  19. CV Jee Beez

    CV Jee Beez Tele-Holic

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    I've played my friends master built Tele by John Cruz and my team built Nocaster and Caballo. Nothing jumps out at me in terms of a distinct and instantly recognizable difference. I get the feeling that if I scrutinized details and minutiae, there would be a difference in build quality.

    The question of is it worth it may have to do with how discerning the user is. For me, it's probably lost.
     
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  20. Woollymonster

    Woollymonster Tele-Meister

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    Having owned both, I DON'T think there is a gap at all in terms of playability, accuracy, and tone.

    My prior Master Built was a Yuri Shishkov Strat that was very plain by his standards. It did have a beautiful Brazilian board. The fit and finish were impeccable. Incredibly accurate low action and the sweetest sounding Strat pickups I have ever played through. So tone maybe. Unfortunately, I could not get along with the sub .80" neck carve and sold it at a slight loss. Had that neck been in the high 8's or 9's, I would still own it today.

    I currently have a CS '51 Nocaster and a CS '55 Strat. Both came from Wildwood. My experience with Wildwood is a Custom does not leave the floor unless it is perfect. Was the MB worth the $2000 up charge? Individual call but I think so. I guess it was a low end MB.

    Yuri
    [​IMG]

    '51 Nocaster (new)
    [​IMG]

    '55 Strat
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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