View Full Version : What IS the difference

02-26-2002, 08:18 AM
Hey guitarists,

Please answer a question for me: Electronically and constituently, what is the difference between a new $99 dollar guitar and a new $3000 guitar?

I never really understood. I know all the principles of electronics behind pickups, switches, dials, etc. In fact, I've made simple pickups myself using copper wire, a bar magnet, and some other simple elements. The electronics that go into guitars aren't very complicated, even when you have elements like sustainers. In fact, with minimal electronics knowlegdge and good woodworking skill, any of you can make your own electric guitar, which is what I'm doing right now. The basic electronic blueprint that goes into most every guitar follows the same general pattern.

So, despite my understanding of the electronics and mechanics, I still can't see what makes some electric guitars $100 and some $3000 dollars. If anyone knows, please inform me.


02-26-2002, 08:52 AM
Well you can start with different woods used.The type of wood,how old it is etc. Then there's that custom colour and on the topic of custom, the Signature Series-made to the specs of your guitar hero, likely to be a collectors item in the future.I guess then there's the pickups-manufacturer,specific type etc.
Anyway, that's a start...

02-26-2002, 09:17 AM
yep, the custom made ones that may become a collector's item...I can see why those would be expensive. But wood really doesn't make a difference in the way your guitar sounds, unless it's super crappy wood.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

And also, is anyone curious about this price differential besides me?

02-26-2002, 10:18 AM
Oh yes, wood matters a lot. Different woods accentuate different tonal ranges and what not. With a multithousand dollar instrument you're paying for a few things: high quality wood, better workmanship, better hardware, better pickups, name brand (often times, yes), and the economics of scale - Squire can crank out thirty Strats a lot cheaper and a lot more quickly than PRS can make one high end guitar.

02-26-2002, 10:35 AM
You honestly can't see the difference between top of the line and bottom of the line? And you are building a guitar? Well you are going to find out the difference real soon.

02-26-2002, 10:38 AM
Gosh, I'd kill for a PRS guitar, however they don;'t pay teachers enough money. That's why I should go into accounting to support my addiction. http://members.home.nl/guusslotman/rockon.gif

Yes, the body is very important when purchasing an electric guitar, because if you're like me, then it's safe to say that you're constantly searching for the perfect sound. However, for a lot of guys, they're just concerned with how loud they can play!!! So if a Squire makes you happy, then by all means, don't let me stop you from reaching the gates of heaven!


02-26-2002, 11:44 AM
hey hey...

no need for diatribe...obviously, i can TELL the difference between a $100 and $3000 guitar.

pstring...that's not really helping because you didn't answer my question...

I'm asking, component-wise what elements are different and what makes them different. e.g. how exactly is the pickup wiring in a squier different from the pickup wiring in a much more expensive guitar, like a washburn cts??

02-26-2002, 01:00 PM
this is complicated to explain :), for the electronics side..

Pickup specs on the web.
http://www.provide.net/~cfh/pickups.html... this sort of thing.

Jason Lollar has bits/info for building your own pups and winder-


The following place is a great site to start for general pup info..just follow the pup links, if they work.


this is quite thorough on pickups but some people love potted and copper wound others like formvar ,etc,etc.

Raskolnikov is bang on about the woods.

with electronics better makers have better parts and YES a Gibson Pot does respond/is made better than a Kramer one :D- I've got both..Tolerances and material used i guess. Even the quality of the wire or type of capacitor, and of course the sheilding/earthing points can make a big diffrence.

I have friends who are woodworkers and will tell you that there is mahogany and there is mahogany and then there is special mahogany.. you get the point...

BTW.. I recently found out that pstring has built guitars so if you play nice you may get some good info :)

02-26-2002, 04:46 PM
WOOD: The stuff starts from very very cheap (those Maple/ ply wood thingier), to stuff that is ridiculously expensive simply because the woods are either rare, or they're classed as endangered (so they dont cut them down)... and the companies know if your picky enough to want like Brazilain Rosewood, than your normal (i dont know what the normal type is called) rosewood, then your pretty serious, and willing to spend spend spend... so up and up and up goes the price...
I dont know why pickups range from like $14 to $150... Anyone explain this difference?
Oh, and if your guitar is handmade then you got to put on huge labour costs ... It takes around 40 hours to make a solid body electric (depending on the complexity)... So at minimum wage that's gonna be a big number (more than $99)...Now these lutheirs aren't gonna charge you than less that 7 per hour... do you see? Oh, and back to wood again, some woods are bastids to work with, so you want to decent lutheir, who'll charge you and arse and a leg...
In general, I can see why guitars go up to $2000, but anything above that, it's either a collectors item, or your paying too much for the label, or it's very rare...

02-26-2002, 04:54 PM
I do not think it comes from the wiring...

My custom made LAG took several months to complete, because the wood had to dry (it guarantees that I'll still be able to play it in 30 years) Actually, the wood was already in stock, but still, the most renowned luthier are known to have some rare or exotic woods in stock (which are becoming scarcer, hence the price)
Then, everything was done by hand. EVERYTHING! So in the price, I had to pay for the guy who put love and dedication and craft in the instrument, everyday for two months (he didn't work on it all day long, because it has to dry and everything...)

Does it make it better than a machine made guitar? Hell, I have played those for years before I could afford this one... And I'll tell you, my tone is now much easier to get. Staight into an amp, and there you go... Before, finding my tone was a never-ending quest...

Anyway, I do believe in the "soul" of an instrument, and my guitar has a soul... I do not think any of my other ones do have a soul... I have bought a very fine Epiphone Archtop, and even though it sounds and plays great, it doesn't have a soul... Sounds weird...But I guess that's how I think...

02-26-2002, 05:34 PM
I know what you mean. My four string and my Strat both definately have some soul. It's not easy to put a finger on, but it's there. It seems to be something that instruments pick up over time.

Led Zeppelin
02-26-2002, 05:51 PM
Also labour, it's gonna take longer to have a guitar hand-made than to have it made by machine - and it's gonna be more expensive for wages etc.

02-26-2002, 10:35 PM
Unless the wood is some extremely rare and exotic variety, you can buy all of the best bits and pieces for less than US$800. From there, its a matter of how much you're willing to pay for having someone craft an instrument the way you would do it yourself, if you had the skill, time, patience, etc. A big part of getting your money's worth from such an instrument is having enough experience and insight to be able to identify what you need.

02-26-2002, 10:59 PM
yeah the choices of wood and electronics makes a
world of difference.but ive found that even 2 strats
have different feel about em. the shape makes a lot o
difference too. you can always rewire differently
( hendrix was famous for meddlin with his wiring ).
ya could get lucky n find a nice cheap guitar. i had
a epiphone bass that was killer and cheap. also had a
old ( real old ) harmony that was unbelievably nice)
but usually ya get what ya pay for .i always choose by
response i guess . if i like the way it feels n it
does things i like it buy it lol

02-26-2002, 11:02 PM
oh and i should mention.i have a $3000 alembic and
theres no bad notes on it. couldnt make it sound
bad if i played with my feet. if ya got the money
definitely check out the high-end stuff. best money
i ever spent was on the finest instrument i ever
played .

02-27-2002, 09:39 AM
Well Mr. Crowley, you heard all about components such as wood, pick-ups etc, needless to say that top of the line stuff, cost top money, but there is more than just material costs involved, the experience of the builder is the most important ingredient, the man that knows good wood from so so, can do that fancy abalone/ gold inlay , build the perfect feeling neck, can spray the perfect finish, who can build the customer the perfect guitar that sounds great now and will sound as good or better in 30 years and still play great, like you he built his own guitar, 30 or 40 years ago, and he kept building and learning, and if he can sell guitars now for $3000, its probaly because they're worth it, Craftsmanship, if you ever get a chance, take a look at a custom built Archtop, some of which can make $3000 look like small change, those things are as much a work of art as a guitar,,, peace, love, happy motoring....

02-27-2002, 10:34 AM
My opinion!
Anyway if i was buying a new guitar i would go by
how the neck and finger board feels plus do the pickups
sound good through my amp Also the balance of the guitar,
when holding it.(These things are important to me)
As for a New $100 dollar guitar they play cheap feel cheap,
sound cheap to a (Pro)


02-27-2002, 02:50 PM
Originally posted by educatedfilm

I dont know why pickups range from like $14 to $150... Anyone explain this difference?


Now i aint an expert, but .. the quality of material used in the bobbin- bit the wire goes round- {plastic,crappy plastic,formvar} the type and quality of magnet [Alnico II,Alnico V,cheap korean] the type of wire/ insulation of the wire, type of poll pieces [steel poles,screws,magnetic material] and the expertise in knowing how to put these together - quite apart from the winding [scatter,machine] and thickness of the wire used [giving the output]- are what you really pay for in buying a pickup.

This is apart from calculating resonant peaks,etc.

See Seymour Duncan for this.

The last link in my earlier post gives loads of detail, and i wish i'd found it months ago..

Makes you think that they are not so expensive in the end :)

Ok,this is a bit basic and i know you know some of this stuff, - but that's why i think they vary.

Basically due to what kind of sap is winding it, a good designer or a poor underpaid asian feller.

02-27-2002, 05:30 PM
heh.. I know about differences in prices of material things like ceramic magnets(?)... what i dont understand, is why there is such a huge difference, the materials used as small... It's not like trying to biuld a guitar out of ONE piece of wood.. I asked about a piece of mapel big enough to make a guitar body in one piece (remeber this is cheap mapel), and it was 65!!!!! but if you made it from more than one piece (3 pieces infact) it would cost 20...
Is it anything to do with the "vintage is god" hysteria alot of guitarists suffer from?... heh... Seriously though, poeple are told the something is hand wound an immediatly assume it's higher quality... Ok, that may have been the case with crappy designs... Where the human could make judgements and fix problems, unlike a machine simply designed wrap wire.. but You give a machine a decent design and it wins hands down everytime... then again the labour costs on winding a pick up must be astronomical compared to the material costs...
then again it maybe supply and deman... We deman it... and then ask politly hoping that by being nice to shop owner he might give us 10% off (or easier to haggle at least)..

02-28-2002, 04:28 AM
Originally posted by educatedfilm
heh.. I know about differences in prices of material things like ceramic magnets(?)... what i dont understand, is why there is such a huge difference, the materials used as small... but You give a machine a decent design and it wins hands down everytime... then again the labour costs on winding a pick up must be astronomical compared to the material costs...

Ed. What i meant to say was that it's the combination of expertise in knowing which material to make the bobbin,polls,magnets, wire,potting and insulation from AND which kind of sound will result from that, ie which frequencies are emphasized vs the ouput, which is what you pay for.

BTW, I prefer hand wound [scatter] for singles and a lot of vintage Fender players would too........ of course it depends which machine you use :).

No "vintage rules" bs either - most of my gtrs are 1990s- i just like the clarity and singing tone of lower impedance coils.

Some people swear that plain wire UNDERwound (approx [email protected]/42 gau) is the best for a Tele bridge some would say
an overwound 12k plus beastie-- but both of those options will ,obviously, cost you more than stock.

Labour is approx 4mins winding X labour rate, for an F type single coil.