Modern Gretsch Guitars

Made in: Korea or Japan - Big Difference?

1

If you're talking generally, there isn't necessarily a big difference, depending on which factories, when made, specs of the guitar, etc. Japanese guitars from the 70's were generally not so great, but by the 80's, Tokai and Matsumoku were making guitars that were often better than the Gibsons and Fenders they emulated.

High-end guitars made in Korea's Samick or Peerless factories, for example --- regardless of the name on the headstock --- can be as good or better than individual guitars from Japanese factories. Terada and Fuji-Gen, as well as high-end Matsumomku guitars from the 80's and 90's, can be every bit as good as US-made guitars, and certainly better than lower end models from second or third tier factories in Korea.

Both Japanese and Korean factories usually build guitars to spec for other companies. Those individual model specs have more to do with the quality of a particular guitar than which factory made it.

If you're talking about Gretsches in particular, yes there is a big difference, because the pro line models are made in Japan while Korea and China make Electromatics and Streamliners, which are built to very different specifications. Quality control seems to be very comparable and of a uniformly high-standard though, so both Japanese and Korean made Gretsches can be superbly satisfying instruments --- just with different intentions behind them.

2

If you think about it electric guitar technology is around 70 years old now. I think a great guitar can be built anywhere in the world. They just need good wood, good electronics and great craftsmen. Have you seen the various works of art from Asian countries over the last few millennia? They have the great craftsmen to make guitars properly. I believe the reason many are cheap is because the various companies are trying to increase profits with cheaper parts.

I know my Terada made Gretsch Duo Jet and my Quingdao made Epiphone Casino 1961 Reissue are both amazing sounding, playing and well built guitars. Any previous bias I ever had with Chinese made products has been redirected to the guidelines the various companies impose on their employees to make inexpensive junk. The true Chinese craftsmen and craftswomen are fully capable of building the highest quality guitars if they are allowed to.

5

I prefer to buy American.

– BuddyHollywood

Me too. Sad that Fred Gretsch can't make that happen beyond custom shop choices.

7

If they were made by somebody I know or something then I'd be more inclined to buy American, but I don't feel any more connected to a factory worker in California than I do to one in Japan (no offense to Californians, or Japanese). As it stands, I'll buy the guitar that I want, doesn't matter to me where it's made. So far, the best guitars I've ever played have come from Japan.

I bought my speaker cabinet from a local shop when I lived in Austin, because I liked their shop and wanted to support them. I also bought my Japanese Gretsch there.

8

Japan good.

– Billy Zoom

Gretsch Billy Zoom custom shop signature model is made in the US!

10

If they were made by somebody I know or something then I'd be more inclined to buy American, but I don't feel any more connected to a factory worker in California than I do to one in Japan (no offense to Californians, or Japanese). As it stands, I'll buy the guitar that I want, doesn't matter to me where it's made. So far, the best guitars I've ever played have come from Japan.

I bought my speaker cabinet from a local shop when I lived in Austin, because I liked their shop and wanted to support them. I also bought my Japanese Gretsch there.

– Otter

no, do not buy the guitar you want. Buy the guitar I want!

11

no, do not buy the guitar you want. Buy the guitar I want!

– TheNocturneBrain.com™

In this particular case Tavo, I think we want the same thing.

12

I would like to buy an American Gretsch...the problem is they are double the price of a proline from Japan. I can never substantiate paying 4500-5000 on a guitar nor do I have the money to pay anyway. lol

13

Never played an Electromatic, but the Korean-made Epis that I have played are pretty darn good. I used to insist on American-made, but I can honestly say I've never played a Japanese-made Gretsch and thought, "If only it was made in the US". Even less of an issue if it has TV Jones pickups.

14

I have been to many Gretsch Roundups and I have never touched a bad one. I'm sure they're out there but the build quality seems pretty consistent across the board. I Have Korean and Japanese built and love them both.

15

In this particular case Tavo, I think we want the same thing.

– Otter

and we'd both have to get an extra job to fund this beast!

16

Global economy and CNC machines. 3D printed guitars are coming.

17

3D printed guitars have already been made.

19

I don't think the guitar cares about the nationality of the craftsman that made it.

20

The workmanship, quality, and attention to details on Korean made D'Angelicos are second to none. When viewing my EX-SS next to my Gibson ES-335, the Gibson looks like "the economy model" in comparison.

21

USA, Japan,China,Korea,Germany,Spain,UK.Far East have a centuries history of woodcraft producing some of the finest products.

I have a Tawain made Yamaha AEX1500, Two Japan made Grestches,German made Korean made Epiphone and Peerless and USA made Taylor al. Superb instruments and apart form electrics not a great deal of difference apart from the bridges and pickups on the Korean guitars maybe slightly lower quality. TV Jones and Seymour Duncan and all the other be spoke producers are great and that does make a huge difference to my guitars.

22

Japan versus Korea is nothing more than a price point. The Korean factories can build guitars just as well as the Japanese factories; however, they're given specs and that's what they make. Cheaper materials, etc mean Electromatic but that doesn't mean they couldn't build top of the line, if called upon.

23

I just bought a Guild Manhattan, "handcrafted in Korea". Built quality and materials are much better than Electromatics, besides 2 or 3 minor finish flaws the Guild feels like a Proline Gretsch (but for half the price). Even the Urethan coat is pretty thin and not like the "dipped in plastic" feel of many far east guitars.

24

All needless and frankly irrelevant nationalism aside. I agree with the general point that no country has a better claim to good craftmanship over any other. Sometimes with specialties maybe, related to tradition or local materials. Good craftsmen are not restrained by perceived international boundaries. I rest easy by buying a quality instrument that I enjoy playing regardless of who built it or where. People from other countries than mine are no less valuable as people, skilled, or needing of jobs in my opinion. I like to support craftsmen that I know in my immediate community if I can but I don't think they're any better. I have had late 60s and 70s Japanese Yamaha archtops that easily are on par if not better than Gibson or Gretsch instruments in quality of construction, beauty and playability. I'm sure the Korean Gretschs, as mentioned earlier are built purposely inexpensively to save costs and produce a more affordable guitar. Otherwise I'm sure both countries can produce excellent instruments if and when required. Obviously the current Japanese production is meant to be higher quality.

I must say, though I love them and enjoy them, most of the US made Gretsch's I've encountered from the 60s(and some from the 50s too) have been frankly, shoddily constructed and easily excelled by the quality of current Japanese..or Korean production. Likewise with 70s Gibsons. I like the old Gretschs because they are old annnd wonky, as long as they play well. It has nothing to do with nationality. I would hope music transcends these sorts of limiting definitions.


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