Spotting a Great Guitar Purchase
Things you may not have considered.
A great guitar is the sum of its parts plus the skill and care in assembling them. Too often, a guitarist buys a new guitar without asking the right questions about those parts.
Here are some things we suggest you should look for:
AAA grade (or better) solid wood:
It's not enough to know your new guitar is made with solid wood vs laminated (read plywood) wood. You should also ask what grade of wood was used in the construction. Top wood book-matched pairs are graded from B to A, AA, AAA and Masterclass. The difference in sonic character between the different grades is significant. So is the price. When a brand you're considering won't, or can't tell you the grade of wood they used, assume the worst.
Dovetail Neck to Body Joint:
A dovetail neck-to-body joint is difficult to do. The skill and time involved often raise the price of a guitar. But that dovetail is critical in constructing a cohesive stringed musical instrument. Everything from weight distribution to sonic voicing relies on that one small joint. Less expensive guitars and/or guitars produced in highly automated factories where bolt-on necks are the norm rarely rise to the same standard.
Genuine Bone Nuts and Saddles:
If the guitar you're considering has a plastic nut or plastic saddle, treat yourself to an inexpensive upgrade with parts made from actual bone. The difference in sound will surprise you. Tusq and Nubone from Graphtec will produce similar results.
Wood or Bone Bridgepins:
The jury's out here. We use Rosewood, Ebony or bone, but we suspect conventional plastic would be fine.
High Ratio Tuning Machines:
Most guitars come with standard 14:1 ratio tuning machines. Really good guitars are equipped with 18:1 or 20:1 tuners, not just because they allow incredibly fine-tuning of each string but also because the machining needed to produce them must be more precise. They're simply better quality tuning machines.