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Am I Crazy? Can a Cheap Guitar Sound and Play This Well?


yanktar
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I'm busy exploring the medium-priced acoustic-electric world and have looked at and tried the following:

 

Seagull Entourage with cutaway

Yamaha APX500II

Yamaha FGX730 with cutaway

Takamine Jumbo

Taylor MIM with a cutaway (about $700)

Alvarez--there's one in my local shop with brass fittings and a green finish--I think it's an FD 60, but it's not on the Alvarez web site.

 

So far, the best have been the Seagull, the Taylor, and the Alvarez. While I like the Seagull's feel and sound, probably the most, the two I've played have had fret buzz. Is that simply solved by careful setup? The Taylor felt the best but the sound, while good, was only good. The Alvarez seemed to do everything pretty well, but the green....that's a guitar you gotta love because you're not going to sell it...the shop has had it for months now.

 

So, tonight I picked up my kid's $60 Carlo Robelli, a Sam Ash 3/4 cheapie that I liked from the first. So I'm plinking away on it and I'm noticing that the action is light and low, but no fret buzz at all. The sound is surprising full and even, not dead sounding. I'm wondering, "WTF is going on here? How can this cheap POS sound and feel so good, and work so well?"

 

How can such a cheap, laminated bargain instrument feel and sound so good? A friend with 30 years playing experience has also said it's a surprisingly nice guitar. How can this be? I KNOW I am no mavin of guitars, especially acoustics, but can I be that wrong?????

 

I'm now wondering what I should be looking for in my own acoustic...

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...So, tonight I picked up my kid's $60 Carlo Robelli, a Sam Ash 3/4 cheapie that I liked from the first. So I'm plinking away on it and I'm noticing that the action is light and low, but no fret buzz at all. The sound is surprising full and even, not dead sounding. I'm wondering, "WTF is going on here? How can this cheap POS sound and feel so good, and work so well?"


How can such a cheap, laminated bargain instrument feel and sound so good? A friend with 30 years playing experience has also said it's a surprisingly nice guitar. How can this be? I KNOW I am no mavin of guitars, especially acoustics, but can I be that wrong?????


I'm now wondering what I should be looking for in my own acoustic...

 

:lol:

 

I can't help you with your decision, but since you've brought it up...

 

Four years ago, I was having serious problems with my right shoulder--arthritis compounded by another joint condition. I couldn't get my arm to accommodate the width of most guitars--even my old Ovation Balladeer--and I had serious doubts as to whether I'd ever be able to play an acoustic again (playing an electric was a lot easier, however).

 

I came to the conclusion that my only hope was to find one slim and narrow enough to get my arm around without extending my shoulder to the point of agony. I started looking on Craigslist for something that might meet my needs. One day, I saw an ad for one of these:

 

3079402_1_l.jpg

 

It was a Carlo Robelli CW4103FCS acoustic/electric, selling for $70 (with a Road Runner soft case). I figured "what the hell" and went to check it out. The strings were ancient and it had several small dings and scratches, but the neck and action both looked good, and even with the old strings it had a surprisingly nice sound. I bought it and took it to Washington Square Park and spent the next couple of hours doing something I wouldn't have imagined in the weeks leading up to that moment.

 

The whole time, I kept thinking how good the guitar sounded (although, to be honest, I was so happy to be playing I wasn't feeling especially critical). After taking it home, cleaning it up and putting a new set of strings on, I was once again stunned by how good that cheap guitar played and sounded. Upon Googling the model, I discovered that a lot of other people had the same experience. (At least with the older ones. I was in Sam Ash two years ago and picked up the then-current version, and it was a much less "substantial" guitar.) It was the only guitar I played for a year or so while my shoulder improved. I haven't played it much lately, though. Think I'll go show it some it some love.

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I don't know about the play as well part, but the more I learn of acoustic guitars the more I'm convinced that price is NOT a sure-fire indicator of great sound. I've played some high dollar gits that were dogs. To my ears.

 

I'm beginning to think that's right. Lots of people rave about Yamaha, including me, and I'm a BIG fan of their solid bodies, especially their basses, electronics, and motorcycles (I have 2) but I've not picked up an acoustic or acoustic-electric yet that really sang to me.

 

Since the kid's not using the Carlo Robelli, I may just abandon my plan for now to buy an acoustic-electric and play this instead. I replaced the stock strings with light D'adarios to soften the feel for him, and it feels good to play.

 

Thanks for the insights, guys.

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Well, I've played some $6000 dollar boutique acoustics that I just couldn't believe were so crappy, and many a used $50 generic sixgun that was just too incredibly nice. It seems as though the more my perceived playing proficiency improves, the less animosity I have for the instrument, whatever it happens to be. Does that make any sense? :idk:

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Well, I probably mentioned this once (or twice), but a couple of years ago I was in Sam Ash with a friend of mine who was looking for another (read cheap) guitar. We played everything hanging on the "$500 or less" wall and the absolute best of the lot was an Epiphone DR-100 tobacco burst that was priced at $99!! I couldn't believe how well it played and sounded and the build quality was top notch. We put it back on the wall and went on down the street to Guitar Center.

 

He ended up buying a Mitchell A/E dread for $199 that day at GC. I think he should've gotten that Epiphone, but he still likes the Mitchell. There are some really good inexpensive guitars out there these days if you've got the time to shop around and play a bunch of 'em. Every once in awhile a "good one" slips through the cracks.

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When I went shopping for an auditorium-bodied guitar, I played everything that Sam Ash and Guitar Center had in stock at the time (Morse Road, Columbus, Ohio). I left the store with a Parkwood PW320M. The guitar sounded better than anything else in the store with that body-style on that particular day. I still have the guitar and it still sounds great.

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Well, I probably mentioned this once (or twice), but a couple of years ago I was in Sam Ash with a friend of mine who was looking for another (read cheap) guitar. We played everything hanging on the "$500 or less" wall and the absolute best of the lot was an Epiphone DR-100 tobacco burst that was priced at $99!! I couldn't believe how well it played and sounded and the build quality was top notch. We put it back on the wall and went on down the street to Guitar Center.

 

I know I'm going to have to post a photo to back this up...but I have one of those, too (in the natural, not SB finish)! I had the same experience when I went with my neighbor to choose a guitar for his daughter a few years ago. I had to go back and pick one up for myself.

 

I'm a firm believer in the power of a well-made cheap guitar.

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When I went shopping for an auditorium-bodied guitar, I played everything that Sam Ash and Guitar Center had in stock at the time (Morse Road, Columbus, Ohio). I left the store with a Parkwood PW320M. The guitar sounded better than anything else in the store with that body-style on that particular day. I still have the guitar and it still sounds great.

 

I have a PW360, and I really like it. I haven't had it for very long, so I can only imagine that it will sound better with more playing time. Sounds great plugged as well. The possibility to blend the condenser and the piezo makes the sound a lot more 3D.

 

I'm going to get a humidifier for it, though. It's my first all solid-wood guitar, and it stays in the case all the time, but I'm going to do everything to keep it safe and sound.

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One day I was in the used section of GC in Westwood and saw an Ibanez PF5 (made in Korea) acoustic dreadnaught for $50. I thought, wow that's cheap, wonder how it plays and boy it was really an incredibly sounding git!

 

Bought it on the spot and had to wait 30 days to get it due to the pawn shop hold. Even after 30 days I didn't have a change of heart. Still sounded great.

 

I also wondered if all these Ibanez PF5s were great. So I saw on Ebay one made in China and bought it for $100. It also played great but I liked the 50 dollar one a little bit better, I love it so much that I protect it and keep it in a gigbag. I keep the one made in China out and it's really held up through central heating, air conditioning. I just keep it out and it just keeps on ticking. It's one helluva beater.

 

These Ibanez have a Martin lookalike headstock (top has a slight rounded curve instead of flat and Ibanez is written in gold like Martin). If you ever have a chance to play one and get it cheap don't hesitate.

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All of my guitars are cheap and they all sound great.

 

Me too, Howard! My BEST is a 10 year old Martin DM that I paid $400 for. I'd put it up against anything out there. It still looks and plays like a new one, but it was cheap enough I don't have to worry about it getting a little nick or scratch. So far, it doesn't have any. It does everything I need a guitar to do. If I ever hit the lottery, though........LOOK OUT!!

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OK, today it hit. And it was a Taylor 110CE.

More than I planned to spend, but OH! the sound! None of the Yamaha guitars had a sound like it. I tried to APX500IIs, the regular and the FM...which had a dead sound. There was a Takamine in red, that had a really rich sound, the action was OK, but the tuners were instant throw-aways. The Taylor seemed a bit high, but still good, but a tiny bit of a fret buzz because it looked like it had no relief. The tech set it up for me--and told me I was right. The bridge was high and there was no relief. He set both correctly and it was instantly better. It was the first guitar (acoustic) I played that sang to me and felt good at the same time.

 

Now I just have to learn to play the damn thing decently!

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Thank you! I don't dislike Yamaha guitars at all...my bass is a Yamaha and I'm thrilled with it. I think the Yam solid bodies are some of the coolest and most underrated instruments out there, but I couldn't find an acoustic that sang or had the lighter touch I like. The APX500II was a much nicer sounding and playing guitar than the APX500IIfm but still was only OK. I was even thinking of getting an APX900 now that they are discontinued and zZounds quoted me $485--GC wants $700! I had looked at Seagull Entourages and I really liked them, but this Taylor was the first of all I've tried that I didn't just like and think was OK or even "Hey! this is really pretty good!" (the Entourage). It SANG to me instantly. It's not like me to be so alliterative and metaphoric but immediately I thought: "THIS is how an acoustic guitar is supposed to sound and feel!"

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