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Production instruments: Asia Vs. The Americas

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by doggo, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. doggo


    Dec 18, 2008
    Wilmette, IL
    Do the Chinese and Koreans (and Japanese) actually make better production instruments than The Americas (The Americas include Mexico & Canada)?

    Secondly, is the additional cost worth it for instruments made in The Americas?

    What about instruments made in Asia being less expensive despite shipping and import costs?

    Third, let's not forget pay rates. If workers in The Americas are making a living wage in the production shops in the U.S., what about the workers in the Mexican shops?

    Are the workers in the Asian shops being paid a living wage? How does that affect prices? Does it matter?

    Lastly, be an adult. Don't make racist or nationalistic comments. Try to be objective, and really think about this.

    Note: the discussion is about production instruments. It excludes discussion of quality with reference to independent luthiers, custom made, and "custom shop" instruments.
  2. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    Wrong. That's just North America...

    This is "The Americas":

  3. Iroquoi


    Sep 18, 2008
    i think the gap that used to exist between mi america instruments and mi asia instruments is getting smaller every day. there are some great examples of this like the actual essex basses and the vm and cv squier series...
    if you make an instrument of the same woods with the same hardware and the same pickups (with the same body, neck, etc) it is not racional to tell that the one that is made in america is better than the one made in asia.
    i'm a great believer and i own many basses mi asia and don't think they're crappy and i have already played some boutique basses like sadowsky and lakland... IMO the price difference is just hillarious and not worth.
    the only bass that i did not find a very good copy is the MM stingray, but imo it's a question of time to appear one asian made one with the same specs...
    China, Indonesia, Korea, etc, are countries that have too many people and too few workers, so the wage is reducted due to the offer x demand... it's sad sometimes but is capitalism, and i have infinite gas and finite money, so i like good basses that can cure my gas for few money.
  4. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    This thread could get interesting...

    :: popcorn ::

  5. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Ocoee, TN
    Based on the instruments that I have owned, I would say that there is a difference in quality between production instruments MI Asia and MI America (US) but that it generally corresponds to what one would expect based on the difference in price.

    IMO/IME once you get past a certain level the differences in quality become subtle and are not immediately apparent. They do, however, show up after spending some time with an instrument.
  6. MaddAnthony_59

    MaddAnthony_59 Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2006
    Columbus, IN
    I Channel Surf During Commercials. (Drives my Wife CRAZY!!!)
    Yes, that is The Americas, but what basses are made south of Mexico?

    The justification of higher prices for "Made in America" being stamped on your instrument is pretty much a thing of the past. Things MIA are no longer truly better. At least not enough to justify the higher price to most consumers. Quality has been watered down in the name of higher volumes and lower costs. For an American to make a living wage, we're talking $25/Hr. Add that onto the price of the products materials, shipping, (The Working wage of the shipper needs to be considered too) and you have an item with similar quality of something made in the emereging markets (China/Korea/Malaysia come to mind) at a significantly higher price. You need to factor in the Custom/Boutique shops to truly experience the difference of what Made in America used to mean. Fine craftsmanship, Quality materials, and the name of the person making the product stamped on it. (Yes, Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker were REAL people!)

    Until the cost of living either goes up in the emerging markets, or goes down in the USA, we will see MIA meaning less and less. I remember when something Made in Japan was to be avoided as Cheap Junk. Today you pay a Premium Price, sometimes MORE than if it were Made in America. But then, again, a lot of those MIJ products are no longer MIA...

    For a while it was worth the extra money it cost to have an American made product, but with American companies sending as much work "Off-Shore" as they can, just to stay competitive with the foriegn competition, what IS still Made in America? My Subaru is made in Indiana. My last car, a Honda, was made in Ohio. A lot of GM's, Fords, and Chryslers are made "Offshore".

    For that reason I buy only VINTAGE MIA instruments!:bassist:
  7. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    In your small world, maybe none... I could mention 30 or 40 brands of South American basses. Even Fender has Brazilian basses, they are called Southern Cross Fenders...
  8. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    Quality basses can be made anywhere in the world IMO. Quality is a function of attention to detail and quality of materials.... not the hourly wage of the builders.

    I have had amazing quality basses from USA, Canada, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, China, etc.
  9. I don't think, in a blinded test, most anyone on the board could tell the difference between a MIK bass and a MIA bass. Given that many MIK's use the same electronics and hardware as MIA's or can have them swapped in the true differences IMHO are how they are put together. Lakaland Skylines are a great example of what I mean. MIK, same pups as a MIA and built by either Cort(!) or Samick(!) two companies that get slammed in a practically Pavlovian way. Does anyone here really think more care is put into the build quality on the Lakies as opposed to the run of the mill Samicks(or Corts, don't remember which company builds them) coming out of the same factory? I doubt the folks bolting either together care one way or another about the name on the headstock- they've been trained to do a job and they do it well regardless.

    I do think the lower end stuff suffers a bit in quality(gap tolerances, lower grade parts, etc) but only as a function of keeping the price down. Anyone on the board with a SX can attest to the gem-in-the-rough quality that is there in these basses.

    Living wages from country to country is way harder to quantify. What is acceptable to me, in terms of adequate wages here in Arizona would embarrass someone doing the same thing in New York city. Compared to someone in se Asia I'd be stupid wealthy. If I could transport my exact wage there. Same thing with living arraingements and amenities, especially from one society to another. Plenty on this board couldn't live without TIVO; other folks out there don't own tv's or see the attraction. It's easy to say someone in Korea isn't being paid a fair wage based on what we here in the US, or I would think western Europe, are paid. But I don't live there, so I can't speak for what is fair. That said I know there are sweatshops that they use child labor, that they get away with pennies a day in wages and endless other horrors- What I don't know is if my favorite overseas bass maker employs these business tactics. MY opinion on that wouldn't be anything more than an across the board swipe at all foreign manufacturers and just that- baseless opinion.

    For the record, I have basses made in Korea, Japan and the US.
  10. the engine

    the engine Guest

    I own a couple of USA built, a Korean, a MIJ and a kit I put together from various parts. The "best built" bass I own is a MIJ Jazz. Form and fit are flawless. The bass I play the most (and the least expensive of ALL my basses) is and Korean made Ibanez BTB. One of the best basses I have EVER played is a Lakland Skyline (Korean). I can't tell the difference between those and the MIA Laklands. I used to work in a store that carried both. We did all kinds of blind tests and noone (even the really snobby guys who thought they would be able to tell) could tell the difference blind folded. And lastly, one of the WORST basses I have ever owned/played was a Fender American Deluxe Jazz 5 string. The neck twisted. The pickups were TERRIBLE. The finish almost FELL off of it. I guess that's about what I can add to the conversation.
  11. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    I have owned and played great basses made in the US, Czechoslovakia, Japan, Germany just to name a few.
  12. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    I often wonder if there is a difference in quality of basses made by Catholics and basses made by Protestants.
  13. Iroquoi


    Sep 18, 2008
    is the same difference between those who are made by men and women and those made by heterosexuals or homosexuals
  14. meatwad


    Apr 9, 2008
    Smallville, USA
    Three of my four instruments (three basses, one guitar) are MIJ, and I used to be a huge "gotta be 'merican" guy. Matter of fact, all three were made at the Fuji Gen factory! Each one is under a different brand name (Squier Stratocaster, Ibanez RD707, Tobias Standard), and each one rivals or beats their production US-made counterparts. Trust me, I can't stand a cheap made/feeling instrument.

    My only USA-made instrument I own right now is a StingRay, and the Tobias is every bit as HQ, if not better.

    It's not where it's made, it's how it's made. "MIJ" is a symbol of great quality these days, IMO. As for Fender, "MIM" and "MIA" are practically the same thing. I would hate to see USA production of fine instruments cease altogether, but the sad truth is that it's getting closer every day.
  15. KenToby


    Aug 15, 2002
    I've been posting here for years about quality v.s. cost. Some are still under the impression that the more you spend on an instrument the "better" it is. This thread just goes to show that we're starting to take an objective look at our instruments and understand that from a fundemental build point of view, this is simply no longer true. What I find "subjectively inferior" on some of these macro instruments is their electronics. I've found that I'm so much further ahead $$ wise by taking a $500 instrument and replacing the electronics package with components of my choosing. For less than $1000 I have many times created a "blind taste test" $3000 + instrument.

    Great thread!!

  16. As far as mass produced instruments are concerned, the gap is as small as it has ever been.

    However, the United States and Europe have many boutique builders that Asian companies can't even hope to touch. What Asian company can produce something like an Alembic or Wal?
  17. Iroquoi


    Sep 18, 2008
  18. doggo


    Dec 18, 2008
    Wilmette, IL
    That's what I get for being inclusive...

    Looking at your map, I see the countries of Canada & Mexico. I also see Brazil, and Argentina, and Belize... These are all countries of The Americas.

    I mentioned Mexico, in particular, because of the Fender connection. I mentioned Canada just to piss off the conservatives who won't admit Canadians are also Americans. Of course so are Mexicans. And Bolivians, and Chileans, Guyanans, and Robinson Crusoe Islanders, etc.

    So chill out and give us the lowdown on some of those South American luthiers. Preferably with example pix of our favorite 4 string guitar.
  19. doggo


    Dec 18, 2008
    Wilmette, IL

    By "production" I meant mass produced. Again, for this thread, let's not bring up the boutique instruments. Boutique builders are not, generally, building in factories with employees who are not either experienced luthiers, or working-for-another-luthier-to-gain-experience-to-one-day-be-a-luthier-myself-wannabes.

    And that's, generally, the difference.

    You have to expect a shop where everyone is either a player, or devoted to the craft, or both, is going to produce beautiful, wonderful instruments.

    A factory has a mix of skills. Some folks working there may have a fanatical work ethic and strive to do the best job they can despite having little or no knowledge about the product they're producing. Others may actually know quite a bit about the product. Still others may be there just for the paycheck, and care more about their outside hobby of gambling on horse racing.

    Some might have a great work ethic, but just be completely clueless about how their bit of the assembly works in relation to the finished product. They may have the best of intentions, but keep doing that one thing in their job that lowers the quality of the final product simply because they just don't quite "get it". They may even think that that "one thing" that they do is really innovative. After all, they're able to produce at least five more Widget Basses an hour on their production line than those dumbasses over on line 2A.
  20. KenToby


    Aug 15, 2002
    If you are talking about duplicating the feel and tone of a Wal or an Alembic, I think that can be done quite easily with a $500 macro bass. It's the subjective stuff like the hand rubbed finishes or the exotic wood or the machined brass hardware that can't be touched for $500. Again, to me bass is all about tone and feel. I have 2 Alembics and while they are very fine instruments, however I really love my Mexican made 1999 Fender Jazz deluxe 5 string based on tone and feel. I've said it many times, by ignoring headstock logos and trusting our hands and ears, we can save ourselves thousands on our next bass purchase. If we're after the "wow, impress our friends" factor, well that's another conversation.



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