guitar cost-performance curve: finding the sweet spot

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Jupiter, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. endzone

    endzone Friend of Leo's

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    I have found the way to beat the curve is to buy used. I paid $1600 for a blonde figured top 335 a year ago. It was a good buy. They go for $3000 at MF, but there's no way I would pay that as I see that price way past the "knee" that you have illustrated.

    I have a mid 80's Japanese Squier Tele that I paid $200 a few years ago. I upgraded pickups and put a Callaham bridge/saddles on it and have less than $400 in it. It is probably a better playing/sounding guitar than my Tele Custom that I paid $2000 for. I would get rid of a lot of other more expensive guitars before the Squier.
     
  2. 7171551

    7171551 Tele-Afflicted

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    Very interesting topic... I look forward to reading many more replies, as hopefully it will provoke a lot of discussion...

    Here's my I hope vaguely relevant contribution...

    In the past week I have swapped/traded two of my three Strats: A 2010 Olympic White, Maple board, US Standard, virtually unplayed... and a 2011 Olympic White pearlescent, Rosewood board, US Deluxe, also virtually unplayed.

    I have kept my oldish Highway 1, with the finish down to the wood in a few places, Sunburst, Maple board...

    Hard decision to make, based eventually on a mix of sentiment, economics and an assessment of "playability" for want of a better word... Everyone who has played this entry level American Strat has found it to be a good one... everyone, not just me! Nice neck, great Strat tones... Roadworn looks... It feels "just right" and plays great!

    The Delux offered more tonal options with the S1 switching, but it didnt sound any more like a Strat- if that makes sense? I originally planned to keep it, as I had acquired it at a very good price, but ultimately, I didnt like the colour scheme and could actually make a buck or two moving it on...

    Also, it felt like just what it is- another mass produced commodity from Fender, albeit with expensive hardware! There will always be another, which, if I wait till the new production year, will be the "latest, greatest, new improved model" from Fender...

    This also applied to the Standard, plus...

    This guitar somehow didnt sound or play as nicely as either of the others, and would probably have responded well to a proper set up. It made no connection with me and sounded kinda weedy and... well, easy decision to make: move it along!

    Possibly this anecdote gives more insight into the deranged mind of a hopelessly addicted guitar collecter than to the subject at hand, but for me these Strats seem to illustrate that the OP's theory has some merit...

    just my opinion..
     
  3. D_Schief

    D_Schief Tele-Holic

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    Generally agree with most of the folks here:

    For me, it's around $800-$1,200.

    It's different for everyone because percieved value is subjective, and no one is looking for the eact same thing.

    And, by the way, I personally believe you can take a decent but not expensive guitar and get into "kneel down" territory with a good set up and a nice set of pickups (and maybe a new bone nut, or maybe a new bridge plate and some three-piece brass/steel saddles, or vintage cloth wiring and new pots and switches, or neck inserts.) And definately a Bigsby. ;)

    On to amps and pedals!!
     
  4. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Now add in the mods, and what they paid their techs to keep those things performing at a suitable level. I take a guitar like an 80's MIJ Squier, which I think we can all agree is HIGH above current Squier quality, and then have a world class tech do a fret level, nut work, full set up, etc., I think I'd have a pretty well performing and giggable instrument. I know if I pulled a new Squier off the shelf, I wouldn't.

    But let's see- 80's MIJ Squier guitars are pulling as much as $400-$450 these days. Add in $75 for a fret level, another $25 for nutwork, or $40 for a new nut... Plus, what are people getting these days? About $60 for a full setup? I hear some guys charge $75. That's quite a bit more than a new off-the-shelf $200 Squier. And a MUCH nicer guitar from the ground up.
     
  5. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I feel the same. I can easily live with and play guitars in the $800-$1200 range. but I buy them used. I currently have two amazing American Standard strats. I paid $400 for one several years ago, and $600 for the other back in February. They are a '95, and an '08. So, for the price of one new one, I have two amazing used ones. This leads some people to argue "look, they are bad guitars, they don't hold their value at all!" But I think we all know these are not typical deals. I tend to shop really hard, and really carefully, and I don't mind things being a little beat up as long as they function top notch.

    Some people get really uptight about nicks, dents, scratches, etc. I really could not care less. I actually like banged up stuff. It still works just fine, and saves me a couple hundred bucks usually.:cool:
     
  6. notdave

    notdave Tele-Afflicted

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    They're still Squiers. You're not going to quibble about that I hope? :rolleyes:

    Keep on picking those nits. Then go and speak to the people, on here, who believe that if it's not MiA it's ****. Just like our young friend, to whom I addressed my reply.

    There's a few on this thread, just to start you off.

    http://www.tdpri.com/forum/telecast...eles-substantially-better-than-mim-asian.html

    A search will throw out dozens more similar.
     
  7. D_Schief

    D_Schief Tele-Holic

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    Amen, brother! And once you reach critcal mass in the number of nicks and dings (which you will if you're giging), you can quit obsessing about the fact that your fancy guitar has a few nicks and dings.
     
  8. kelnet

    kelnet Telefied Ad Free Member

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    This is it exactly. If I had the money, my point of acceptable cost would be much higher than it is.
    I just bought a CV Strat for $200, and I'm very happy with it. However, if I had Warren Buffet money, I sure wouldn't be looking at CV Strats.
     
  9. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    A lot of the cost of all high end guitars is the set up and attention to details. My CS Nocaster was a great guitar, but it was still two pieces of wood screwed together in the same manner as my Squiers. In total, probably $200 in materials and the rest is time and profit. Lots more attention to detail, but I learned how to apply those details to my other guitars myself and have turned a bunch of low buck guitars into awesome players that no one would consider junk.
     
  10. a.miller

    a.miller Tele-Meister

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    This is very true. Until I became "professionally" involved in how guitars play, and the the wide range of adjustments that are necessary have a great-playing instrument, I really had no idea why certain guitars cost more than others.

    That being said, I'm sure there are a bunch of weekend warriors with $4k guitars that are not setup and play poorly; (conversely) there are a number of $250 guitars out there that have had quality fret work, nut work, and action adjustments, which make them solid instruments.

    Like one of the above posters said, acoustic guitars are a different bag all together.
     
  11. Revv23

    Revv23 Friend of Leo's

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    Am i your young friend? I dont really see your point. Those aren't standard squires. Go play a mia and then a squire off the shelf and tell me if its worth the extra 400. If it isnt to you, fine.

    I never said that mia or squire isnt fine, they are far from ****. I just prefer better guitars. At least we are friends. :shrug:
     
  12. McGlamRock

    McGlamRock Friend of Leo's

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    Amen!!! I played a friend's Gibson ES-175, and whatever he's been doing with it, he's certainly not been playing it! It was so neglected and poorly set up I wanted to call guitar services on him! Oh well, some people collect stamps- I guess if you're wealthy enough collecting guitars can be a fun hobby.
     
  13. kelnet

    kelnet Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Hell yeah! Have you not looked around at all since you joined this forum?
     
  14. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Now we're getting to the flyspeck and pepper part.
     
  15. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

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    The point about fret dressing, levelling and set-up is an interesting and complicated one. Certainly the performance of a given instrument is heavily dependent on how well the guitar has been adjusted. It seems reasonable to assume that a more expensive guitar will have the fret ends well-dressed, the frets will be level, the relief will be reasonable (of course people have their own preferences about that), etc. It also seems plausible to me that the fretwork on a $4000 tele would not be a whole lot better than the fretwork on a $2000 one--simply because for 2 grand, I'd expect the fretwork to be impeccable already. So if we're talking about performance, that's a place where you could look when trying to locate the kink in the curve. At what price point with Fender teles does the fretwork become impeccable? How about other brands/makes/etc.?

    On the other hand, set up and fret dressing costs me nuthin', because I do it myself for the fun of it. Of course, I've spent a few hundred bucks on files, thickness gauges, magnifying glasses and all that stuff, so it was expensive for the first guitar, but free after that. . And some of that stuff just falls into the maintenance category for me.

    I'd be interested in trying to articulate the concept of performance a little better, not that it would eliminate subjectivity from the discussion, but to clarify what we consider relevant in choosing a guitar.

    Frets should be well-seated, competently leveled and crowned, and polished. Fret ends should be smooth and consistent. After that, as far as performance is concerned, frets are pretty much covered, aren't they? This ought to get us some useful discrimination, since it's obvious that below a certain price point frets are NOT leveled at the factory.

    Nuts should have appropriate string-spacing (so that the string doesn't go off the edge of the fretboard) and height (so the guitar doesn't fret sharp on the lower frets), slots should not bind or buzz or allow the string to pop out under normal playing, and the edges of the nut should be smoothed and polished a bit for comfort. There's room to argue about nut material (bone? brass? tusq? tagua nut?), and locking nuts or roller nuts for trems, and there's the Buzz Feiten thing to look at, but it's not hard to argue that once you have those first four aspects taken care of and you're using almost anything besides plastic, performance improvements are somewhere between minimal and imaginary. This will also get us some useful discrimination, because it's obvious that at a certain price point, you get a plastic molded nut that's only had the most cursory attention.

    I think you can do this kind of analysis for all of the elements of an electric guitar, and you can make a reasonable argument for the location of a kink where most elements relating to the performance of an electric guitar cease to change much as you go up in price.

    You can leave mojo, the magic of having the right sticker, etc. out of it. I'm not saying that those things are irrelevant to the idea of value, but the cost-performance curve is about a more limited set of factors.
     
  16. AndyLowry

    AndyLowry Friend of Leo's

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    I'd have to put it in the USD 800-1200 range as well. Granted, I only have one in that range, so I probably don't know what I'm talking about.

    And, for the record: my Squier CV Thinline plays maybe a little better than my $850 guitar, but that's after a new bridge pickup and compensated saddles. Come to think of it, the various repairs and modifications bring it up to about $600, so it's not so far out of the "knee" after all.
     
  17. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    The knee is going to be a very individual thing. Considering that BB King or David Gilmour can get better results out of a broom stick and a rubber band than I can out of a Fender Custom Shop, for me the knee is going to be about $17.99, and will be found in the O-Cedar rack.
     
  18. McGlamRock

    McGlamRock Friend of Leo's

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    here is a link to what the almighty wikipedia site with a list of George's gear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Beatles'_instruments#Harrison

    here is a website with a breakdown of Jeff Healey's supposed rig: http://www.uberproaudio.com/who-plays-what/224-jeff-healeys-guitar-gear-rig-and-equipment

    and to answer the first question on anyone's mind who reads this: yes, I'm very bored at work
     
  19. CrisHendrix

    CrisHendrix Tele-Afflicted

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    For me its the mim std, imo the perfect starting point for a workhorse guitar, with a proper setup and choice of pickups the leap to mia is hardly (if at all) noticeable

    Also have a squier that I love but honestly it feels slightly lacking, I think maybe because of the basswood body.. for a guitar to hit that knee imo there should be no discernable lack of quality, & imo that starts at the mim line

    Pay for more and you're often paying for a better looking cut off wood, a better paint job or some type of gimmick that really doesn't help the actual playability of the guitar in a substantial way
     
  20. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

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    No, that's a very different issue from what I'm getting at. I'm trying to talk about the quality/specs of the guitars. David Gilmour is going to get better results from a Fender Custom Shop than he's going to get out of a broomstick and a rubber band.
     
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