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A visit to a Vietnamese Guitar factory


Etienne Rambert
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***


I should make a special video about the proper protective gear to wear when playing a Vietnamese guitar.

Basically, you need a helmet, goggles, Kevlar jock-strap & vest, leather jacket & some kind of fire-proof gloves or mittens,

like welders' use, to protect your fingers your fingers from being blown off.


A lot of good players have been killed or maimed playing exploding Vietnamese guitars.

 

See? I'm not on ignore. But get that video folks! And Etty, it was only one that was killed by a Viet guitar, that one guy from Belgium, you remember that story, don't you? We thought he was maimed, but he died shortly after the guitar imploded while he was playing nude. And he wasn't that good. Fairly mediocre, but cost conscious!

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Thanks. That's interesting. I expected the Maple to sound better. And while I was playing it -

it did sound better to my ears. But on the recording, the Guild smokes it.


IMO, that is a weak-sounding VN Maple-Spruce. That particular shop makes

good guitars, but in my experience, they're over-priced & usually don't sound

as good as Binh's. I heard an acoustic bass come out of his shop though,

that sounds better than any I've ever played. It was a real work of art.


***


I should make a special video about the proper protective gear to wear when playing a Vietnamese guitar.

Basically, you need a helmet, goggles, Kevlar jock-strap & vest, leather jacket & some kind of fire-proof gloves or mittens,

like welders' use, to protect your fingers your fingers from being blown off.


A lot of good players have been killed or maimed playing exploding Vietnamese guitars.

 

 

I agree the Guild sounds so much better than the maple b/s guitar. Guilds are amazing, Although Mine is only Chinese, sound wise it's far better than anything I've come across in the price range, and even better than some more expensive guitars. Also the build quality is awesome.

 

This was recorded just using my Mobile/Cell phone, and the guitar strings are really dead. The guitar still sounds amazing.

 

[YOUTUBE]2-9IrBoqBRQ[/YOUTUBE]

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This is the last video I'm going to post for a while. These things take a lot of time.

Now & then I'll post one if someone brings a guitar to my house.

I am going to ask Binh for a video tour of his factory though. Last time,

I only took still photos. I'll go back with my Canon FS22.

 

[Rod Serling voice:] Submitted for your consideration...are two Koa wood guitars. One is solid Koa top, back & sides.

The other is a Bling-tastic Koa with a Spruce top.

 

(Don't let the bling fool you. That second guitar is a tone & volume monster. )

 

I've done some research, Binh's solid Koa is basically the same guitar as the Ayers D09, selling for $1800.

I expect Binh's will sell for 1/2 that. Even the binding is Maple in the same color.

 

Both builders probably buy their Koa from the same place. Ayers has a trade-in & some kind of short trial period.

For long-distance shoppers, paying the extra money to Ayers might make sense. It does not make sense for me.

 

The solid Koa sounds like my old flat-back 1972 Guild D-25. And that's a compliment. The strings are a little dead.

But you can still hear the tone. I wish he'd put fresher strings on that one.

 

The second guitar - the BLINGTRAVGANZA, had old strings too. But it didn't

matter. That thing is so loud & so rich, I expected my noisy neighbors to

complain that I was drowning them out.

 

[YOUTUBE]ND-rZDNG0WQ[/YOUTUBE]

 

koatop.jpg

 

detail-koaback.jpg

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I've done some research, Binh's solid Koa is basically the same guitar as the
Ayers D09
, selling for $1800.

I expect Binh's will sell for 1/2 that. Even the binding is Maple in the same color.


Both builders probably buy their Koa from the same place. Ayers has a trade-in & some kind of short trial period.

For long-distance shoppers, paying the extra money to Ayers might make sense. It does not make sense for me.

 

 

Ayer's is constructed in a climate controlled environment, Binh's guitars are not. If that's your idea of "basically the same guitar", great. So if that makes sense to a prospective buyer ( that lives outside of Vietnam, of course.), cool. If not, caveat emptor.

 

On Jul 21, 2010, at 3:08 PM, Mark Kreuzer wrote:


Hey Neal,


You are correct that the humidity is quite high there. So here's the deal on our factory's climate control system:


1. The wood is naturally dried in the lumber yard located on site. This area is not climate control.

2. Once the wood has sufficiently dried then it is kiln dried to 6 or 8% measured moisture content.

3. After kiln drying the wood is moved into climate controlled environments for the rest of the time while it is in Vietnam. There's a receiving room (holding area) which is climate controlled, the shop is climate control as is the warehouse.


Most of the problems with the other guys is a simple lack of any controls what so ever, even including things like windows.


I've done a fair amount of testing here in Dallas and it takes a lot of get one of these guitars to fail. For example, I took my personal collection of Ayers guitars and did not run a humidifier last winter with humidity levels around 30%. I experienced no failures to the top, back, sides, neck or frets. I've also let a guitar sit in the direct sun light every day for 3 weeks. It took the low humidity and 3 weeks of the sun beating on it to finally split the top. Still plays great and I really enjoy it as a camping guitar now.


Of course, all material, either manmade or organic, will deflect, expand and contract under varying environment stresses and conditions. So, we do recommend an average temp around 75 degrees and 50% humidity. You know... long term stability typically depends on long term stability :-)


The long of it is we do manage the climate well and each guitar is backed with a lifetime warranty. We trust our production.


Let me know if you want to try out a guitar and I'll be happy to get one out to ya.


-- Mark


Mark Kreuzer

Ayers Guitar USA

4447 N Central Expressway Suite 110

Dallas TX 75205


800-289-5810

markk@AyersGuitarUSA.com





On Jul 21, 2010, at 2:20 PM, Neal wrote:


Hi,


At the factory in Vietnam, is the building area climate controlled? I know the humidity level is high in the country, and am aware of some of the issues surrounding the "other guys" on eBay that also construct in Vietnam.


Thanks,,

Neal


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Ayer's is constructed in a climate controlled environment, Binh's guitars are not. ........ If not, caveat emptor.

I'm not taking issue with NealP or the OP. Just want to point out that guitars have been made and played all over the world including the dry southwest of the US and similar areas in Central and South America and Europe for many, many years without humidity control and they don't splinter and disintegrate.

 

I know I'm sidestepping the issue here when I say "what the hell happened to a musical instrument being an instrument to be played and not locked in an artificial environment?" It's usually not practical to keep them locked away and I am pretty sure guitars existed in blissful oblivion for many years before somebody started preaching 40-60% humidity as if it was gospel. Okay, if you've spent $4000 on a guitar and you're scared to death of putting a mark on it, much less letting it venture outside of the sacred humidity range then maybe you will be happier to keep it stored in an artificial environment.

 

The OP testifies - as have others - that his instruments aren't shriveling during the dry season in Houston. I had my made-in-Ireland Lowden in Tucson AZ for 15 years and we're talking many months at ~7% humidity and temperatures way outside the divinely-inspired optimum range. It's fine. I will recommend that instrument owners should try to avoid sudden and sharp humidity and temperature swings.

 

I'm sure many have had some unwanted changes occur to their instruments in response to the weather. My Tanglewood responded to humidity but I finally cured it by adjusting the setup and fretwork to work all the time in Denver's low humidity. No humidifier, no case. I certainly understand how a solid top, especially, responds to humidity changes but, overwhelmingly, a wooden instrument kept with humans in homes seems more often than not to survive without extraordinary care. Also, I have played some very old guitars that have divine tone and maybe that is due to swinging with the climate for many, many years.

 

I'm trained in science and have a PhD and have seen more obvious things overlooked by supposedly bright people because they somehow weren't prescribed to them in their training - despite things occurring before their eyes. Also, too many self-described smart people make authoritative announcements based on a best-guess built from a small fact or two, all the while ignoring the larger context or loads of human experience to the contrary. And, no, I don't mean to lay that on NealP who seems like a decent and bright guy and plays good slide.

 

I will chip in $10 to a pool of money to get somebody to bring a guitar back from VietNam and leave it out as a daily player in somebody's house in Texas or somewhere like that. That would be interesting (told you I was trained in science).

 

Greg

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awesome, thanks for sharing, Etienne.

 

When i visited the Philippines, i really wanted to check out Lumanog guitars (probably the most revered of all PI guitar luthiers), but didnt. the pictures you posted of the factory was what i was expecting though - very minimal amenities in the machining sense, made up for by skillful hands. Its always humbling to see people practicing an excellent work ethic at a menial wage. Those guitars look awesome. Next time i visit Asia maybe i'll hit a luthier up for a 335 copy or something.

 

Of course, that decision is based on what im seeing and hearing... how do the guitars feel? Any bummy fret ends or nasty feeling finishes getting put out? I'd imagine the QC to either be exquisite or totally random; being that they're 100% handmade, the workers should know what a proper guitar feels like. unfortunately the people in QC over at Gibson USA still need some practice... :rolleyes:

 

unfortunately my instrument shop experience in the Philippines wasn't great. All the instruments offered were terrible feeling Fender and PRS copies, with amplifiers that rival only Gorilla in terms of sound quality. There was one PRS Standard 22 in a shop selling for an obscene amount of money. Being that imported goods carry a hefty price tag, it was understandable, but i was wondering where the indigenous luthiers' products were! The only thing i purchased was an Octave fuzz (sub octave effect) for $40 US. FX by Boss and Danelectro were SO MUCH MONEY!!!

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Mr. Nixon, I missed your post. I answered it in the post below this one.

 

****

I direct this statement to the resident Ralph Nader acolyte & protector of

American consumers, who keeps showing up in this thread.

 

I define the word 'idiot', as anyone who believes I can play the lottery 8 times in a row and win each time.

 

That is my definition.

 

****

 

If the wood comes from the same place & it takes 4-6 weeks to build a guitar

- are we talking 4-6 weeks of climate control? Is that what this controversy is all about?

 

1. The local luthiers buy their wood from Taiwan.

 

2. Ayers is Taiwanese. I assume it buys its wood from Taiwan as well. In fact,

I would not be surprised if it sells some of its wood to local luthiers.

 

3. So is the big controversy here over 4-6 weeks of climate control?

 

****

[YOUTUBE]ND-rZDNG0WQ[/YOUTUBE]

 

I played an Ayers & a Baden. The workmanship was good. I liked the Baden

more. But honestly, neither had tone that dazzled me.

 

Workmanship was very nice on the Baden. Styling was nice too. I wasn't as

impressed with the Ayers. It was more along the line of premium guitars on

Guitar Street - Saigon.

 

I wouldn't buy either one. But they might make sense for long-distance shoppers.

It's a big company. They offer trial periods & trade-ins.

 

I'm not a long-distance shopper. I'm here. I don't need to pay 2x the price.

 

****

 

The solid Koa recorded really well - even with dead strings. I prefer a flatter

finish though. The necks on both guitars were superb too.

 

koatop.jpg

 

koaback.jpg

 

detail-koaback2.jpg

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awesome, thanks for sharing, Etienne.


When i visited the Philippines, i really wanted to check out Lumanog guitars (probably the most revered of all PI guitar luthiers), but didnt. the pictures you posted of the factory was what i was expecting though - very minimal amenities in the machining sense, made up for by skillful hands. Its always humbling to see people practicing an excellent work ethic at a menial wage. Those guitars look awesome. Next time i visit Asia maybe i'll hit a luthier up for a 335 copy or something.


Of course, that decision is based on what im seeing and hearing... how do the guitars feel? Any bummy fret ends or nasty feeling finishes getting put out? I'd imagine the QC to either be exquisite or totally random; being that they're 100% handmade, the workers
should
know what a proper guitar feels like. unfortunately the people in QC over at Gibson USA still need some practice...
:rolleyes:

unfortunately my instrument shop experience in the Philippines wasn't great. All the instruments offered were terrible feeling Fender and PRS copies, with amplifiers that rival only Gorilla in terms of sound quality. There was one PRS Standard 22 in a shop selling for an obscene amount of money. Being that imported goods carry a hefty price tag, it was understandable, but i was wondering where the indigenous luthiers' products were! The only thing i purchased was an Octave fuzz (sub octave effect) for $40 US. FX by Boss and Danelectro were SO MUCH MONEY!!!

 

Hi. Sorry - I missed this.

 

My ideal for a great-feeling guitar would be my Guild F65ce or a Taylor 814ce.

These guitars really aren't there yet. But they are getting there fast.

 

The Baden I played felt like a Taylor. That's good. Unfortunately, it sounded

like one too. It was a Maple dread cutaway. Very nice. But the tone sounded

dull compared to some of the local guitars I've played.

 

Note: TJ Baden used to work for Taylor. His guitars are definitely worth a look.

 

The two Koas in this video both felt great. They did not have the blocky

necks like the Maple-Spruce in the earlier video from a different shop.

 

I'm no expert on electric guitars. The 335 model had a really beautiful

sunburst top. The video did not do it justice. But the guitar felt heavy. The

neck, frets were fast & smooth. No intonation problems on any of these

instruments.

 

VN guitars are getting there in that magic, subjective quality of 'How does

it feel?' That's the last hurdle they need to overcome I think. The Badens

may have already reached it. But they cost 2x as much.

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"...I'm trained in science and have a PhD and have seen more obvious things overlooked by supposedly bright people because they somehow weren't prescribed to them in their training - despite things occurring before their eyes. Also, too many self-described smart people make authoritative announcements based on a best-guess built from a small fact or two, all the while ignoring the larger context or loads of human experience to the contrary. And, no, I don't mean to lay that on NealP who seems like a decent and bright guy and plays good slide.


I will chip in $10 to a pool of money to get somebody to bring a guitar back from VietNam and leave it out as a daily player in somebody's house in Texas or somewhere like that. That would be interesting (told you I was trained in science).


Greg

 

 

Hey you might have a deal here. I just emailed my pal in Dallas.

 

I asked him if he would keep my arch-top for a year. (I hate to part with

that guitar. I love it so much.) He has a choice. Order his own, or I'll let him keep mine for a year.

 

Just in case it explodes and people are killed or maimed, or it disintegrates

into splinters and someone is impaled, we'll take out an insurance policy.

 

I've specifically asked him NOT to humidify it.

 

Jeez, I'll miss that guitar. But it will give me an excuse to order a big, blonde Maple arch-top.

 

Let's see how much money this thread's resident consumer advocate will put

up. I already offered him a similar bet. He wouldn't take it.

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Hi all.

 

Let's get a few things straight.

 

1. All this talk about splintering/exploding guitars, that is sort of funny, but not what happens, you silly geese. Wet guitars tend to develop other insidious problems, really, check it out. Usually warping, some cracking, as HAS HAPPENED TO A POSTER IN THIS THREAD. But I don't think they'll explode!! :eek: You folks aren't so dense as to read into my critiques that EVERY LAST GUITAR WILL HAVE PROBLEMS are you? ( I bet some of you will only read the bold!!:facepalm:)

 

And that brings me to:

2. Will every last guitar that Etty sends over here have problems? Of course not. By his estimate, "just" 1 in 10. That's a lot of guitars, and not very good odds. All this talk about experiments and wagers... c'mon you guys! I think you'd have to buy 10 of them, wouldn't you?

 

Etty old boy, is calling me an idiot your only defense regarding a guitar built in a wet environment? Ok, I suppose I can live with that, considering the source. Only pointing out the obvious for you scientific types, you may use the information any way you'd like.

 

I'd like to remind you all that I've only said all along that "a guitar built in a high humidity environment has a better than average chance of developing problems, serious ones, than a guitar built in a controlled environment."

Consider that. What is controversial about it? Nothing, it's common sense, and for some reason, that has made the OP very angry. It was not my intention to ruin a travelogue, or your desire to purchase a guitar made in 80%RH Vietnam in an un-air conditioned Quonset hut. Please feel free!! Buy 10, just be informed.

 

I'm sorry I called Mr. Binh's factory a Quonset hut.:cry:

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So, since it's generally generously wet over here in the south of the Republic of Ireland - let me C&P from another website:

 

"Since the air reaching Ireland often has had a long passage over the ocean, relative humidity is generally high. Throughout the year relative humidity averages about 90% late at night and in the early morning. Typical mid-afternoon values range 65% to 70% between April and August and 75% to 85% during the months from October to February."

 

I should consider getting a dehumidifier? Will my guitars sound like wet socks? Will they swell until they just fall apart? Or should I just get a few of those wonderful gits from Mr.Binh and enjoy the fact, that I live in absolutely the right climate for Mr.Binh's creations?

 

I do believe, that there are many more spots 'round the globe, where people just don't REALIZE, how humid it really is. Not everybody is living in the AZ desert....

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If this were a Western, NeilP would be Gabby Hayes.

 

I guarantee you, small Vietnamese luthiers don't have large piles of Koa sitting

around in the rain. That's crazy. They buy them pre-kilned and build 'em in a

few weeks.

 

So this whole Wagnerian opera, all this sturm und drang, is about whether

the guitar spends a few weeks being constructed in a humidity-controlled shop or not.

 

Amazing.

 

Money's on the table Neil. Stakes are rising. You can walk away with the pot.

Or at least...just walk away.

 

Nah, stick around. You're great comic relief. I couldn't write a part like yours.

You're one of those characters who write themselves.

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"Since the air reaching Ireland often has had a long passage over the ocean, relative humidity is generally high. Throughout the year relative humidity averages about 90% late at night and in the early morning. Typical mid-afternoon values range 65% to 70% between April and August and 75% to 85% during the months from October to February."


I do believe, that there are many more spots 'round the globe, where people just don't REALIZE, how humid it really is. Not everybody is living in the AZ desert....

 

Outside, yes, it is humid in many parts of the world. However, guitars are normally kept in buildings, where heat in winter and/or air conditioning in summer may reduce humidity to very low levels.

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Outside, yes, it is humid in many parts of the world. However, guitars are normally kept in buildings, where heat in winter and/or air conditioning in summer may reduce humidity to
very
low levels.

 

Over here, it rarely gets hotter than 22 degrees centegrade in the sumnmer - so we don't need aircon and it rarely gets colder than 10 degress in the winter, so we don't heat up THAT much in the winter. So? I'll take a Vietnamese one any day.

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Over here, it rarely gets hotter than 22 degrees centegrade in the sumnmer - so we don't need aircon and it rarely gets colder than 10 degress in the winter, so we don't heat up THAT much in the winter. So? I'll take a Vietnamese one any day.

 

Seems ideal!

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Over here, it rarely gets hotter than 22 degrees centegrade in the sumnmer - so we don't need aircon and it rarely gets colder than 10 degress in the winter, so we don't heat up THAT much in the winter. So? I'll take a Vietnamese one any day.

 

Besides, we Celts tend to keep our house doors open all year round because we are as hard as nails.

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Besides, we Celts tend to keep our house doors open all year round because we are as hard as nails.

 

Common misconception. We Celts are just friendly neighbours.

No joke, you still find a lot of unlocked doors in rural Eire and neighbours just tend to walk in....

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People who live in dry places would be well-advised to humidify their guitars. It's common sense.

 

I never have. My 72 Guild D25 lived in Colorado (dry), Kansas,

(dry), Missouri (half-wet), and Louisiana, very wet.

 

No problems. But it's just good advice. Watch the humidity.

Especially if you live in a place that gets cold in the winter.

 

All this controversy over whether pre-kilned wood spends a few weeks in

a humidity controlled environment while it's being constructed, seems stupid.

 

Never mind. I'm gonna stop repeating myself.

 

My next guitar will be a big blonde Maple/Spruce arch-top from Binh's shop.

It will cost me about $400-500 before I start modding it.

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Nah, stick around. You're great comic relief. I couldn't write a part like yours.

You're one of those characters who write themselves.

 

:thu: But I have to admit, even though I'm one of Neal's harshest critics, that I'm starting to enjoy his posts. He's sort of like a runaway train. :)

 

I posted waaaaaayyyyyyy back there, in post #338, my opinion on this whole thing. I believe Neal's theory is sound......in theory, but there are other considerations. Woods have a tendency to adapt to different environments, within limits.

 

I firmly believe that the cracking we hear so much about in modern guitars is due to the fact that manufacturers are using thinner and lower quality woods than they did in the good old days. Pick up a Martin guitar from the 1960's and the same model from the 2000's. There is a huge difference in weight. That difference in weight has to come from somewhere.

 

I personally would not be afraid to buy one of the Vietnamese guitars. From what I have seen from the posts presented herein, this builder uses quality woods and his workmanship seems to be on a very high level. I'm sure he has taken the humidity issue into consideration.

 

When Neal says that 1 in 10 of these guitars will experience problems, I wonder what the ratio of failure for Martin, Taylor, Guild, and other top-level brands is. I think he will find that that ratio is about the same.

 

Keep on truckin', Neal. :wave:

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(he's not -NP)


Oh, yeah... In addition to bringing my beautiful guitar back, I also brought my beautiful Vietnamese fiancee back with me. We were married a week later!
:love:

 

Ok, it was just one guy. It happens to the best of 'em, right? Yeah, that's it... BTW, Best wishes to the Bride a little late, Amp_Surgeon! I think they need more care than the guitar though...:eek:

 

Serious, nice guitars though, aside from the potential problems to foreign buyers.

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