Signature Style: Cost Effective Quality

It seems like more and more artists are getting signature model guitars and these guitars are being made overseas to make them more cost effective to hopefully get them into the hands of more people. As a guitar player, do you think that the quality of a particular instrument diminishes because it is made outside of the U.S.? Are U.S. made guitars superior to guitars made in China or Indonesia? Is the feel and sound of the instrument all that matters and all that should matter? These are all very important and relevant questions that should be addressed.

First off, I know many guitar players who refuse to play another artist’s guitar. Some have a problem with someone else’s name on the guitar, while others believe that the guitar should be for that artist or their fans. Personally, I have no issues in playing or owning a signature model guitar. I like that they tend to have different specs or features not on stock models and at times, they are limited production models, and have some added value. Some guitars are very artist specific like the various James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett ESP and LTD models, while other artists like Eric Johnson or The Edge have understated Fender Stratocaster signature models. It all comes down to the preference and style of the consumer and they type of guitar they feel like playing.

So if you’re the type of musician who would own a signature guitar, do you care if it is made in the U.S. or overseas? There are some musicians who if they buy a signature model, will only buy a U.S. made model because they believe the quality or sound is superior. I have owned a number of signature models and have not found that belief to be true. I care more about how the guitar sounds or feels in my hands than where it is made. I’ve played so many guitars that I can tell almost instantly if it works for my needs. One of my favorites was a 2006 Jackson Dominion that was made in Japan. The guitar could do anything and sounded phenomenal. These guitars are now made in Indonesia as are most Jackson Pro Series models, but that hasn’t hurt the playability or quality.

Recently, artists like Matt Heafy, Brent Hinds, and even the legendary Tony Iommi have announced Epiphone signature models. Each of these musicians could very easily have a Gibson signature line, but have realized that what matters is playability and reliability. If that can be achieved by making a guitar overseas and keeping the costs more affordable to the consumer then it is a great balance. Even Hinds’ fellow guitarist in Mastodon, Bill Kelliher has recently left Gibson to sign with ESP and his first model is a LTD signature that will be released in the Fall. These artist signatures aren’t just limited to Epiphone endorsees either; Paul Reed Smith has announced a PRS SE model for Periphery’s Mark Holcomb that joins other guitars in the signature SE line with artists like Santana and Mark Tremonti. This is just an example of a few guitar manufacturers that have taken their production of signature models overseas and haven’t sacrificed any quality or playability. Guitar god Zakk Wylde started his own company, Wylde Audio, to produce instruments, amps, and pedals. The first few models have begun shipping and production of all of those instruments takes place in Asia. The trend is going toward high quality, but cost effective instruments that sound great regardless of where they are manufactured.

To those signature guitar naysayers: more often than not, there is another name on that single cut Gibson electric guitar, and that signature model has done pretty well.

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