'Cheap' Electric Guitars

'Cheap' Electric Guitars

Time was when there existed a huge disparity between the ‘name brand’ guitars and the ‘cheap’ guitars. Lately, that gap appears to be narrowing quite a bit. Cheap guitars used to be built with the junkiest hardware, Lauan plywood bodies, and the weakest pickups ever made. Many of them weren’t even considered playable by experienced players, and in their opinions, couldn’t even be made playable due to the poor workmanship and low quality standards. It was easy in those days to distinguish between the low-end of an American company’s product and the best of the Asian offerings. Nowadays, though, we’re seeing some good stuff coming out of the upstart brands from Asia, while the American companies’ import lines still seem stuck in that old mindset.

A case in point is Gibson’s Epiphone imports, such as the SG Special, LP Special II, ‘Junior’, and such, in the under-$200 range. These guitars, while generally quite playable once set up right, still use laminated wood for the bodies and the cheapest tuning machines they can find. The bodies are often very inconsistent in density, and thus inconsistent in sustain and tone, even among the same models produced in the same lot. If one is careful to choose between several units on display in a store, he can often find ‘the good one’ from among the lot, and be satisfied with what he got for his money. My Epi ‘Junior’ is such a one. There were about 10 of them in the store that day, and I spent a good hour playing them all, unplugged and plugged, and walked out with the best one for my $100. I’m still happy with it. The same can be said of the low-end Fender ‘Squier’ brand. Both these brands’ low-end guitars are produced in Asia or Indonesia, and the quality is inconsistent to say the least.

'Spectrum' Model 90BP Electric guitar

'Spectrum' Model 90BP Electric guitar

Right before my birthday, and as my sister-in-law was planning a visit, she told me about some guitars she’d picked up really cheap at Kohl’s (of all places!), and asked if I’d like one for my birthday. Never one for turning down a FREE GUITAR, of course I said, “Sure!”

I wasn’t expecting much, thinking it was probably along the same lines as the ‘First Act’ guitars they sold at Wal-Mart. When she arrived and presented me with this guitar, new-in-box, I really didn’t know what to expect. But once I got it out of the box and examined it, I quickly discovered that she actually got quite a bargain for the $50 clearance price (the mfr’s. webstore prices it at $129.95).

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