Are you wondering why some guitars cost $200 and others cost $2000? What exactly makes a guitar so much more expensive than another? In this post I’ll go through the main factors which dictate how expensive a guitar is. So let’s get started!
6 Reasons Expensive Guitars Cost So Much
- Quality control
- Pickup quality
- Tonewood quality
- The brand
- The area of manufacture
- The look
1. Quality Control
One of the biggest reasons why expensive guitars cost so much, is because they have gone through an extensive quality control procedure. In order to make sure that the guitar is setup properly, and the materials are of high quality, they must all be checked thoroughly. The more expensive the guitar, usually, the better the checks are.
So what are they checking?
One of the main aspects of the guitar that is checked, is the set up. Adjustments to the setup can be made afterwards of course, but usually more expensive guitars will require few or no adjustments.
The guitar setup is so important because it ensures that you don’t have any issues like fret buzz or incorrect intonation which makes the guitar always sound out of tune.
There are several aspects involved in a setup including: truss-rod adjustment, bridge height, the but, and the strings themselves. These are all important factors and affect the action of the guitar (the height the strings sit above the fretboard). If the action is too low, you’ll get fret buzz, and if it’s too high then it’ll be a lot harder to play.
Other aspects of the guitar will also be checked for example the exterior will be checked for any blemishes or faults in the wood or finish. The electronics are also checked to make sure that everything works correctly.
More expensive guitars are usually checked by the most experienced luthiers, meaning that you can expect them to be setup and manufactured correctly.
2. Pickups and Electronics
Next up on the list of reasons why expensive guitars cost so much, is because they use higher quality pickups and electronics.
Everyone knows that pickups in particular are super important. They have a big role as they are responsible for detecting the sound of the guitar and sending this signal to the amplifier so it can be played through the speaker.
Pickups are fairly simple in structure. They consist of a core material wrapped in coils of wire. Their role is to act as a magnet to detect the vibrations caused by the strings.
So what makes one pickup better than another?
This is due to quite a few different things. One issue with cheaper pickups can be overwinding, causing the sound to be dull and muffled. Another fairly obvious issue is the quality of the wire or core material. Some pickups also have wax covering them, and if there’s too much wax, it can really damage the pickups ability to receive the tone.
3. Tonewood Quality
Another reason why expensive guitars cost more, is because they use better tonewoods. This refers to two things: the quality and the type of wood.
Cheaper woods generally sound thinner and don’t have the same depth of tone as heavier more expensive wood. And of course, even if the wood is the same type, it can still sound different if the quality isn’t consistent.
There are three main areas where the wood is used: the body, the neck and the fretboard.
These areas of wood as important in affecting how the sound resonates. Wood is not completely uniform, it has grains and gaps which affects the vibrations produced by the strings.
For example, if you have a very dense wood, which has very few gaps, then there is less space for the vibrations to move around in. This leads to a sharp sound. Whereas, if the wood is less dense, the vibrations will be soaked in more and you’ll get a darker tone with more sustain.
4. The Brand
Next up on the list, is the brand. The two biggest brands in the electric guitar manafacturing world, as Gibson and Fender. They’ve been around for decades and have a rich history, often being the brands of choice for loads of famous guitarists.
Fender and Gibson guitars tend to be the most expensive out there. They manufacture super high quality guitars and have the brand appeal that brings a high price tag.
On the other hand, newer and less established manufacturers tend to charge less for their guitars because fewer people are willing to pay premium price tags for brands that they are less familiar with.
5. Where They Were Manafactured
The country of manufacture can also greatly affect the price of a guitar. There is a big debate as to whether the region a guitar is manufactured in, dictates the quality of the instrument. Although, a lot of people tend to agree that some countries produce better guitars than others.
This is due to a few different factors including: material quality, better craftsmanship and quality control procedures.
Generally, China, Mexico and Indonesia produce more affordable guitars. Korea and Japan are well known for producing great quality guitars and are associated with mid-high range guitars of some premium brands like Ibanez and PRS. American guitars are often championed for being the best and are home to major brands like Fender and Gibson.
If you’re interested in this topic, then check out our post on, does it actually matter where a guitar is manufactured?
6. The Look
Finally, another reason why some guitars are more expensive than others, is because of the look. If you want a unique looking guitar with a high quality finish, then expect to pay a little more than something more standard.
For example, some guitars have a maple cap over the body of the guitar which can add a distinctive look. The maple cap is usually flame maple or quilted and looks great when stained. Signature guitars with unique artwork will also usually demand a more premium price tag.
Do You Need an Expensive Guitar?
So this leads us to the question, do you actually need an expensive guitar to get a good tone?
The answer is no! You don’t need a super expensive guitar to get a great sound. Generally, the difference between a $500 guitar and a $2000 isn’t 4 times as good. It really depends what you’re after.
I’d generally say that you get the biggest difference in the quality of the guitar between $200 and $700 and then the cost/quality trade-off tends to become a bit less significant.
The sound you get also depends on your amp, plus any pedals you’re using. So if you plug a $2000 guitar into a $100 amp, it won’t sound as best as it could do.
Take a look at our post on 6 ways to make a cheap electric guitar sound better if you don’t want to splash out!
So there you go! That’s why some guitars are more expensive than others! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: