Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

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Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by hamo »

I was remembering earlier about the one time I was in the market for a new guitar, and my wife was in the Rock Shop with me. I was looking at pretty modest $800-1k guitars mainly, and she said something along the lines of "why not just buy that one, it's only $300" or some such, pointing to a bottom end LTD. I probably mumbled some vague protest about the materials and manufacturing not being as good.

In the end I wound up buying the pirate Epi LP Studio, which was $800 down from $1300, this was probably around 2008. In hindsight, I paid more for the novelty value than the things I'd been protesting about to my wife's query - build quality and materials.

All this got me thinking, what do you guys reckon is the sweet spot price wise for a new guitar? I mean, at what point do you think you stop paying for quality and start paying for brand and marketing? And are there any niches where this shifts? Like brands that belie the big names and give you better bang for buck?
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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by robthemac »

I think there's as much variability within a price bracket than between price brackets.
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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by Lyle »

To throw a number out there I'd say somewhere in the 1.5-2k range. That will get you a very good guitar (I'm thinking MIM fenders, higher end Epiphones, Musicmans Sterling range etc.) that should be good to go gigging without any upgrades needed.

After that I dont think you're just paying for brand/marketing but you start getting diminishing returns. A US made instrument is probably going to be better quality but is it worth the extra cost? Maybe for some people.

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by hercules »

As someone who works in a marketing-related field...answering that question is a bit like trying to get flour back out of your gravy. 'Value' is both cumulative and fluid; there's no way to separate it back into its constituent parts.

There's no point at which quality and marketing are separate, IMO. Most Squier, Epiphone, Ibanez, PRS etc. come from either Samick or Cort factories. Chuck some Cort stickers on a PRS and it'd halve in "value", but put Epiphone on a Greg Bennett and watch it double in price.

The only cautionary tale I have is that we're far less rational than we think. If you have your heart set on a particular guitar, rational thinking goes out the window...and that's OK. Sometimes paying a few hundred dollars more for the thing we actually want is totally worth it, because you're less likely to sell it or have regrets. My 2c.

Side note, some of the psychology is quite interesting, too...we–and especially men–try to justify emotional decisions with 'logic'. The muttering about materials and workmanship is a way of presenting "but I don't want that one" as rational rather than emotional. I'd wager that your wife recommending a $300 guitar would have tarred anything remotely the same price, regardless of how good it was. Why? Because in that context her advice (get a cheap one, they're all about the same) is in opposition to what you actually want to buy (a more expensive fancy guitar).

Could probably write on this topic for hours, but I won't unless invited. Bill Hicks and all that.

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by Kris »

One related observation from the rise of social media is a lot of it is prestige related. Social media points by instagram flex.Theres people in some groups im in who have 200k worth of gear and never even recorded a single note. Everyone has different needs and expectations.
But to answer-id say 1200 gets you a solid workhorse.If it feels good to play and holds tuning-thats the majority boxes ticked!

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by Litterick »

Godin make quality guitars in Canada and sell them for less than equivalents from the Asian lines of the big names.

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by Danger Mouse »

hercules wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 1:23 pm As someone who works in a marketing-related field...answering that question is a bit like trying to get flour back out of your gravy. 'Value' is both cumulative and fluid; there's no way to separate it back into its constituent parts.

There's no point at which quality and marketing are separate, IMO. Most Squier, Epiphone, Ibanez, PRS etc. come from either Samick or Cort factories. Chuck some Cort stickers on a PRS and it'd halve in "value", but put Epiphone on a Greg Bennett and watch it double in price.

The only cautionary tale I have is that we're far less rational than we think. If you have your heart set on a particular guitar, rational thinking goes out the window...and that's OK. Sometimes paying a few hundred dollars more for the thing we actually want is totally worth it, because you're less likely to sell it or have regrets. My 2c.

Side note, some of the psychology is quite interesting, too...we–and especially men–try to justify emotional decisions with 'logic'. The muttering about materials and workmanship is a way of presenting "but I don't want that one" as rational rather than emotional. I'd wager that your wife recommending a $300 guitar would have tarred anything remotely the same price, regardless of how good it was. Why? Because in that context her advice (get a cheap one, they're all about the same) is in opposition to what you actually want to buy (a more expensive fancy guitar).

Could probably write on this topic for hours, but I won't unless invited. Bill Hicks and all that.
I'd be interested in learning more. I remember when Steve Jobs died and many mourned the loss of a revolutionary who changed the world, but that didn't work for me. He took existing products, worked on the user interface so they could be easily operated by your grandmother, then flexed his true skills and turned them into something you wanted far, far more than you needed.

As an engineer I like making things work and if I do it properly, easy to use, but I'm not in sales and I don't understand marketing.
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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by jimi »

Danger Mouse wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 2:41 pm I'd be interested in learning more. I remember when Steve Jobs died and many mourned the loss of a revolutionary who changed the world, but that didn't work for me. He took existing products, worked on the user interface so they could be easily operated by your grandmother, then flexed his true skills and turned them into something you wanted far, far more than you needed.
:lol:

I've been saying Apple are a marketing company rather than a tech innovation company for years and I stand by it.


Also I love the Bill Hicks reference.

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by hercules »

I'd argue Apple is a good example of both tech and marketing because that all-important grandmother-friendly UX is how you appeal to the middle of the bell curve. Success is about repetition, especially getting multiple return purchasers. Apple wouldn't be worth shit if the "thing you wanted" actually sucked in use.

Value is a really fascinating subject. I bought a stupidly expensive tee shirt because I like it and like the story behind it (one of 200 in the world); I'm happy with the value (rarity, quality, the story I can yarn about to other insufferable people like me) and thoroughly DGAF what anyone thinks. Some people perceive good value as "I want to pay as close to the price of the raw materials as possible", and get personally chafed at the idea of production costs, profits and especially marketing raising the price. And quite a lot of people see good value as "when someone else is getting screwed".

I think places like The Rockshop get this quite a lot...everyone fantasises about getting the deal that is really an up-yours to faceless 'corporates'. Like the idea of being able to import something for a few hundred cheaper than retail; on its face, it seems like better value. But from another perspective, the value of those extra few hundred dollars might be being able to try it out, not dealing with the risks, easy returns, CGA, etc...or "peace of mind".

It's also why things like DemonFX clones and some knockoffs get rabid supporters; there's plenty of satisfaction from buying something that purportedly teaches someone else a lesson, especially if they aren't 'local'. Ironically, that is marketing too...

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by The Scarecrow »

Personally, I've found that there's too much variance. I've had most luck these days with instruments between 500-1k, but then you've got stuff like Artist in the sub-$500 range which is almost on par with the previous bracket I've mentioned.

My two PRS' are both SE's, but I rate them over most of the USA one's I've played. One cost $1800 new, one cost $500 2nd hand. Realistically, if I was selling them now, they'd both go for somewhere in the middle.
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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by JustMatt »

hercules wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 1:23 pm As someone who works in a marketing-related field...answering that question is a bit like trying to get flour back out of your gravy. 'Value' is both cumulative and fluid; there's no way to separate it back into its constituent parts.

There's no point at which quality and marketing are separate, IMO. Most Squier, Epiphone, Ibanez, PRS etc. come from either Samick or Cort factories. Chuck some Cort stickers on a PRS and it'd halve in "value", but put Epiphone on a Greg Bennett and watch it double in price.

The only cautionary tale I have is that we're far less rational than we think. If you have your heart set on a particular guitar, rational thinking goes out the window...and that's OK. Sometimes paying a few hundred dollars more for the thing we actually want is totally worth it, because you're less likely to sell it or have regrets. My 2c.

Side note, some of the psychology is quite interesting, too...we–and especially men–try to justify emotional decisions with 'logic'. The muttering about materials and workmanship is a way of presenting "but I don't want that one" as rational rather than emotional. I'd wager that your wife recommending a $300 guitar would have tarred anything remotely the same price, regardless of how good it was. Why? Because in that context her advice (get a cheap one, they're all about the same) is in opposition to what you actually want to buy (a more expensive fancy guitar).

Could probably write on this topic for hours, but I won't unless invited. Bill Hicks and all that.
I invite it.

I love how marketing and psychology are so beautifully related, and not necessarily for better or for worse.

Infact I love the art of marketing in general, but have a distaste for consumerism, so I am not sure how I would get on in the industry.

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by jimi »

What do CV squiers cost now? I've got a CV tele that was about $5-600 2nd hand, around $1k new?

Its a great guitar. Neck is comfortable, pickups are good enough that I havent run out and replaced them. Nothing I can complain about really, aside from the pickup selector being where I keep bumping it, but thats Tele design issue, not something related to its price point.

It doesn't go toe to toe with my more expensive guitars, but they're LP/335 style guitars so it isnt apples with apples anyway.

Point being, I reckon that $1k - $1300 range gets you a whole lot of guitar now. If you're happy with that its great. Of course, some people are happy with a Nissan Tiida, other people want an Audi, and we all know that being able to drive isn't a requirement for driving a german car.

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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by Slowy »

I agree with pretty much everything said here so far. But I'm going to make an attempt at Hamo's original question.
With brands like Godin, Eastman, Reverend, Epiphone and Fender/Squier available, anyone wanting a working tool should find something to be happy with in the $1- 2.5k range, possibly a bit more for an acoustic.

I buy guitars to use and I never buy retail or new (too expensive and I much prefer them to have some miles on the clock.) The electrics I own cost me from $500 up to the currently most expensive at $1300. I really enjoy all of them and I'm quite chuffed how little they actually owe me. ( I can be quite snobbish about quality as I perceive it).

Acoustics are a different matter. My 'work hack' Taylor was a heavily discounted $2000 and the Lowden somewhat more. I never actually sought to buy the Taylor. It showed me over a period of time that it could do anything; and do it happily. It became indespensable to me and I've never regretted it for a moment.

And here's where logic gives way to something very subjective. I have a strong affinity for Lowdens; always have. It's like George Lowden looked across at me and said, "I'm going to build that boy a guitar". I call mine my 'communion guitar'. I only play it when I have a couple of hours spare. It takes me 10-15 minutes to warm up and get the feel, but once that's happened, whole hours just vanish. I've never lost the sense of joy and wonder at playing such a masterpiece instrument. I consider it one of life's great gifts and if you're ever lucky enough to find something that speaks to you in this manner, it's worth every cent you pay for it.
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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by foal30 »

In 30 years and a bit more of playing my grand total of new instruments is 2

It’s impossible to separate brand name from sale $

I will be well in the grave before that changes. If ever

Furthermore if I spend x$ on whatever then I will have a bottom line resale x$ so the system regenerates from there.

There’s no question that today’s “budget” Bass will be of a higher construction quality than my generations “budget” Bass.
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Re: Guitar prices: what's the sweet spot?

Post by foal30 »

No offense either Hamish but I don’t take my Wife guitar shopping nor do I expect a conversation from her regarding what she does with outdoor furniture, cars, plants or anything related to Christmas

And probably many other things
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