When the new 2012 G&L Legacy Tribute models walked in the door, everybody had to stare really hard at the headstock to make sure that the guitar wasn’t a USA model. When we compared it to a USA version of the same guitar hanging on the wall, the only thing distinguishing the cherry-red Tribute from its big brother was a mint-green pickguard.
Fans of TheToneKing.com will remember that not long ago I did a brief series of vids called “On the Mark” where I talked about the differences between manufacturer’s ‘top-shelf’ brands and their counterparts. Well, since then, they have become harder to tell apart.
ESP and LTD have been doing it for a long time. Aside from some dramatic cosmetic differences, the ESP and LTD lines are essentially the same guitars.
Fender has always been somewhat of an enigma in this regard. I know guys that swear up and down that Mexican-made Strats play way better than their American-made counterparts. Of course, the Japanese Strats aren’t bad, but the Korean and Indonesian models are one step above firewood.
Gibson seemed to learn their lesson back in the 80’s and 90’s when players were forsaking the Gibson label for their less expensive Epiphone counterpart. Since then, Epi’s don’t seem to be nearly the same quality.
PRS still keeps a schism between PRS and SE’s. There’s a huge difference between the two in everything from feel to finish. The one caveat is that the quality of the SE’s is almost too good for an import guitar.
Other manufacturers are taking advantage of the increase in quality of their import brands. Little known companies like Garrison Guitars are significantly raising the prices of their guitars, some even by 100%.
It makes me wonder if the Made in the USA thing is going to matter much in the next couple of years. When they were talking about releasing their IPO, Fender had mentioned that they were going to significantly concentrate on emerging markets in China and India. I know that these countries are always going to have a demand for US made guitars, but the price of a US made Fender is way out of the range of your average Chinese or Indian citizen. Were they contemplating flooding these markets with cheaper guitars?
There’s no debating that the shift in manufacturing is moving away from the US. Even companies like US Music aren’t manufacturing as much in the US anymore. But does that mean that the US guitar is going to become scarce? Or are their Japanese or Korean counterparts going to be just as good?
I have no idea how G&L is planning on selling one guitar for over $1,000 dollars when you can get one that’s almost as good for half the price. Hell, I have no idea how any of these companies are going to approach the whole globalization thing in the next couple of years. Either way, things are definitely going to change. It’ll be interesting to find out what the future of gear will be and what the US’s place will be.
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