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BillB
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Craftsmanship and value

I was in a music store recently and looked at elec guitars.
For under $900, you can get such a gorgeous instrument, by a top name (e.g., Gibson), that is a masterpiece of function and form. The work and materials that go into it must, relatively, dwarf the labor and parts cost of some audio stuff. There is top notch wood, and woodworking; top notch hardware; electronics; ergonomics; designed with strength to endure everything from string tension and whammy bar stresses to rough physical handling, etc.
Despite claims of high overhead/R&D/etc costs in high-end audio, it would seem to me more expensive and difficult to manufacture these Gibsons, Fenders, etc. Seems plain to me. Yes? If you think I conclude wrongly, please enlighten us. In a reasonable, non-spittle-flying way.

bertdw
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

And yet a new Gibson Custom Shop 1968 Les Paul Custom 5A Quilt Top Electric Guitar lists for $7,762.00. Do you want an Adcom or a Krell?

dcstep
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

OTOH, tell me why I was wrong to spend $30,000 on the following:
http://www.kenparkerarchtops.com/

No spittle allowed.

In another vein, I paid $4200 for an L5-style Heritage Custom Golden Eagle that would have cost me over $7000 from Gibson. Why is Gibson so expensive?

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
And yet a new Gibson Custom Shop 1968 Les Paul Custom 5A Quilt Top Electric Guitar lists for $7,762.00. Do you want an Adcom or a Krell?

A good point - but the price range still favors the guitars. Guitars $200 to $7762, say. Stereo system (not per component) Adcom-to-Krell range $2000 to 100,000, say.
Those numbers are very rough of course, but show an order of magnitude more expense for the things that (I think) are easier to manufacture.

BillB
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
OTOH, tell me why I was wrong to spend $12,000 on the following:
http://www.kenparkerarchtops.com/

No spittle allowed.

In another vein, I paid $4200 for an L5-style Heritage Custom Golden Eagle that would have cost me over $7000 from Gibson. Why is Gibson so expensive?

Dave

Wow, those are beautiful guitars. And not wrong of you to spend the money if you want to.
I think it illustrates the point that the cost of an incredible handcrafted "high-end" guitar (that will perform and give pleasure for 100 years maybe) is dwarfed by the cost of an equivalently incredible "high-end" stereo system.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

In buying a handmade guitar by a single maker much of the price is determined by the excellence and reputation of the maker.
In the classical guitar world one of the most famous makers is Matias Damann.
He has app. a 12 year wait list and makes app. 12 guitars per year. If your lucky enough to be upcoming on his list the price is about 20,000.00. On the open market his guitars sell for as much as 40,000.00 .
The law of supply/demand comes into play.Some people are willing to pay the extra 20,000.00 to not wait.
Thomas Fredholm is a fine Swedish maker. I brought the first Fredholm to the US in 2001. At that time I could sell it for 4,500.00.

His top guitar now sells for around 8,500.00.
His reputation and waiting list have grown.

It is difficult to compare pricing between production models and one of a kind models.

dcstep
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

A lot has to do with market size and maker reputation. Ken Parker will be selling guitars for $30,000 soon, hopefully. It's not because he's making them better, but it'll be because people like Bill Frisell or John Hart or Pat Metheny use them in recordings and people start lining up to buy. OTOH, Ken will have a hard time if no famous artist ever uses his guitars to record.

So, the answer to your question is supply vs. demand. Just like in guitars, some will pay ten-times as much for a replica guitar when an equally good guitar can be purchased for $900. An authentic vintage guitar might command 20-times more than the current production and one used by George Harrison will command 200-times more.

"Value" has nothing to do with what people are willing to pay. Some makers are able to create an aura of desireability out of thin air. Levenson comes to my mind in audio. There is "value" in what he does, but then he somehow amplifies that with some ability to tweak perception. (I've never sensed such an aura with Krell). Wilson is another that builds really expensive to build components but then hits a multiplier factor that pushes the limit of price acceptance even further out the scale. Oh yeah, and Monster Cable is the perfect example of a company that created a niche and aura around a concept that no one had really fully explored previously and now there's a whole industry segment built around the Monster's idea.

Remember tulips? Remember the dot.com bubble? Remember the mortgage industry crash? They're all the same thing and that's what you're talking about here. Also, they tend to start with a good idea and a kernal of truth, but then somehow get out of hand as more and more pile on.

Could a crash come to guitars, audio equipment, condos or coffee? Yes. However, crashes are NOT inevitable and the timing is hard to predict. For instance, I predicted the dot.com trash when the market cap of Amazon exceeded WalMart, but I was two years too early. I predicted the mortgage crash in 2006, but I would have lost my shirt if I'd shorted Countrywide that soon.

So, I hear you buddy, but "So What?"

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
In buying a handmade guitar by a single maker much of the price is determined by the excellence and reputation of the maker.
In the classical guitar world one of the most famous makers is Matias Damann.
He has app. a 12 year wait list and makes app. 12 guitars per year. If your lucky enough to be upcoming on his list the price is about 20,000.00. On the open market his guitars sell for as much as 40,000.00 .
The law of supply/demand comes into play.Some people are willing to pay the extra 20,000.00 to not wait.
Thomas Fredholm is a fine Swedish maker. I brought the first Fredholm to the US in 2001. At that time I could sell it for 4,500.00.

His top guitar now sells for around 8,500.00.
His reputation and waiting list have grown.

It is difficult to compare pricing between production models and one of a kind models.

See, we said the same thing in slightly different contexts. Supply and demand determine price and value.

Dave

Jan Vigne
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
Despite claims of high overhead/R&D/etc costs in high-end audio, it would seem to me more expensive and difficult to manufacture these Gibsons, Fenders, etc. Seems plain to me. Yes? If you think I conclude wrongly, please enlighten us.

If you can find a top notch amplifier that is 95% wood and 5% steel/brass, you might have your answer.

dcstep
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Top grade wood's not inexpensive Jan.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Top grade wood's not inexpensive Jan.


That's for sure. I spent a bit of time as a luthier and making harpsichords. It was a great deal of fun and I learned a lot. The materials are expensive, as is the labor and training.

The $900.00 guitar, which can be a very nice instrument, is both mass produced and enjoys a large number of sales. Thus, it can be sold for $900.00. While Bose enjoys this economy of scale, audiophile manufacturers do not.

OTOH, there are wonderful audiophile products out there for around $1,000.00.

Instruments are in some ways a good comparison to audio. A perfectly playable student trumpet can be purchased for about $300.00. $2,000.00 will buy a solid good quality instrument. You can also easily spend $50,000.00+ on a custom horn.

I just keep hoping that Alex will get going and start making high quality equipment at a fraction of the cost of every other manufacturer. I want to buy this equipment!

(Dave, those guitars are stunning. I adore how they look like lovingly caressed real wood. There's a craftsman!)

dcstep
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Yes Elk, Ken Parker is true genius. He sent me a few scraps (a sample of the flamed Aspen wood and the cutout scrap for the binding and end block). Those are such works of art that my wife wants to frame them for me.

If you haven't already, listen to the music samples on the site. I know now other archtop with a voice like that.

The whole shebang on weights 4 lbs. You can see the translucence in the pictures, but it's more amazing in person.

I wanted a strap button at the base of the neck. Ken acquiesced and it'll be ebony with a MOP dot inlay and a gold surround. Ken says it's called a "French eye". No button from Acme Parts for this guy.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

I already listened to the samples. Even through computer speakers they sound great!

I like the idea of framing the "scraps" - fun!

I mentioned Mr. Parker's guitars to a colleague in the office, an excellent guitarist. He almost drooled at the mere mention of the name.

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
I was in a music store recently and looked at elec guitars.
For under $900, you can get such a gorgeous instrument, by a top name (e.g., Gibson), that is a masterpiece of function and form. The work and materials that go into it must, relatively, dwarf the labor and parts cost of some audio stuff.

Yes but, last time I looked, there was nothing inside.

Kal

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
I was in a music store recently and looked at elec guitars.
For under $900, you can get such a gorgeous instrument, by a top name (e.g., Gibson), that is a masterpiece of function and form. The work and materials that go into it must, relatively, dwarf the labor and parts cost of some audio stuff. There is top notch wood, and woodworking; top notch hardware; electronics; ergonomics; designed with strength to endure everything from string tension and whammy bar stresses to rough physical handling, etc.
Despite claims of high overhead/R&D/etc costs in high-end audio, it would seem to me more expensive and difficult to manufacture these Gibsons, Fenders, etc. Seems plain to me. Yes? If you think I conclude wrongly, please enlighten us. In a reasonable, non-spittle-flying way.

The guitar has it easy.

All it has to do is sound like itself, or at worst, like most of its bretheren.

A Hi Fi system has to sound just like that guitar, too, and it also has to sound just like a drum kit, a trombone, an upright bass, a lyric soprano, Bob Dylan, Amy Winehouse, and an almost infinite number of other certain things.

Check how much a guitar would cost if it could sound almost exactly like Miles Davis playing at The Plugged Nickel.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Agreed- as a woodworker on the side, the concept of "hand made" in a production sense does not mean hand carved from scratch. Any guitar maker will have all kinds of time saving and continuity insuring jigs, fixtures and other techniques. This doesn't take away from the final product; if anything it makes sure they are all equally good. But it also makes sure they are making plenty of money off it- as well they should.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
Top grade wood's not inexpensive Jan.

So this $900 instrument uses top grade wood? Well, then, that is amazing! I remember Yamaha claimed to have grown their own trees which were used in both their musical instruments and their speaker cabinets. One claim seemed to contradict the other.


Quote:
And yet a new Gibson Custom Shop 1968 Les Paul Custom 5A Quilt Top Electric Guitar lists for $7,762.00.

I don't remember any high end audio manufacturer paying licensing fees to use a performer's name on their product. Maybe a composer here and there but they're all dead.

bertdw
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Wow, Gibson pays Les Paul $6862 per guitar? I had no idea...

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Wow, Gibson pays Les Paul $6862 per guitar? I had no idea...

Neither did I! Do you think this $900 instrument and the Les Paul sound the same since they're both guitars? Someone told me if they measure the same, they are the same. I wonder if B.B. King knows about this.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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OTOH, tell me why I was wrong to spend $12,000 on the following:

Alex coulda got it for you for fifty bucks.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
Those numbers are very rough of course, but show an order of magnitude more expense for the things that (I think) are easier to manufacture.

That kind of sounds like, "I've made my own cables. I know what's involved." After you've actually manufactured and sold a line of guitars and electronics let us know what you think.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:

Quote:
Top grade wood's not inexpensive Jan.

So this $900 instrument uses top grade wood? Well, then, that is amazing! I remember Yamaha claimed to have grown their own trees which were used in both their musical instruments and their speaker cabinets. One claim seemed to contradict the other.

Jan you quoted me and perhaps didn't mean to. I was talking about a $12-30,000 custom instrument that the link takes you to.

That $900 instrument is made out of cheap ash with imperfections. The shape is formed via CNC and it's heavily stained or painted thereafter.

Dave

I don't remember any high end audio manufacturer paying licensing fees to use a performer's name on their product. Maybe a composer here and there but they're all dead.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

So the cheap instrument uses cheap parts and the expensive instrument uses expensive parts? Hmmmm ... and this thread is about what?

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
So the cheap instrument uses cheap parts and the expensive instrument uses expensive parts? Hmmmm ... and this thread is about what?

The OP compared the value of a cheap guitar to the value of a high end system, implying that the high end audio system had a distorted value. Then we started on this angle about there are real differences in quality and "value", but it all comes down to supply vs. demand where "value" becomes truly distorted.

Frankly I don't know what you're trying to say, after re-reading. I probably took something seriously that you meant to be "flip." Sorry...

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
Alex coulda got it for you for fifty bucks.


No. He could, if he was going to give you a deal, sell it to you for less than $50.00.

$50.00 is what he would sell them for while making a huge profit.

He can actually produce them for around $3.50 each. On his kitchen table. From parts readily available at Lowe's.

They are, after all, hollow. Nothing to them.

tomjtx
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

In a classical guitar even with the best woods, brazillian rosewood, top grade aged cedar or spruce the parts cost are probably no more than 500.00 Premium tuners, eg. Sloane, Gilbert etc are about 200.00
Rogers tunrs are the most expensive and start at around 650.00-700.00 but can go up to 1,500.00.
Roger's tuners are rarely found on guitars undere 8,000.00 or so.

In the guitar world we are paying for the artistry of the builder. Each guitar will have some differences. We console ourselves that at least we are not paying Strad. prices.
Many feel we are now in the golden age of classical guitar building, our own age of the Strads. Some would consider Damann our Strad.

The art of fine acoustic instrument building is a very different thing from audio gear, it seems to me, and it is hard to draw comparisons.

tomjtx
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:

Quote:
Alex coulda got it for you for fifty bucks.


No. He could, if he was going to give you a deal, sell it to you for less than $50.00.

$50.00 is what he would sell them for while making a huge profit.

He can actually produce them for around $3.50 each. On his kitchen table. From parts readily available at Lowe's.

They are, after all, hollow. Nothing to them.

LOL .

However, may I point out , Alex is pretty good about taking some ribbing.

BTW, Elk, you built harpsichords?
That is one big job! Do you have one of your own?

Elk
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

There is a similarity between all high quality, hand designed and crafter products. Each represents years of study, experimentation and learned skill to produce the finest possible. Those who appreciate these characteristics recognize that the end product has great value.

Those who see a mass-produced, compromised product as indistinguishable from that made by an artisan do not see added value.

Fortunately we have many products to choose from and we can each decide what we personally value.

bifcake
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:

Quote:
Alex coulda got it for you for fifty bucks.


No. He could, if he was going to give you a deal, sell it to you for less than $50.00.

$50.00 is what he would sell them for while making a huge profit.

He can actually produce them for around $3.50 each. On his kitchen table. From parts readily available at Lowe's.

They are, after all, hollow. Nothing to them.

My value cable line will be reasonably priced. However, my executive series cables will be made from the entrails of disagreeable audiophiles. The gold plugs will be made from the actual audiophile ears, thus providing the listener with a direct golden ear connection to the music. You will hear things you never heard before. It will sound the way it was meant to sound.

Here, at AlexO cables, we remove the ears of the disagreeable audiophiles, soak them in brime and mold them to exact specifications to ensure a snug fit. Then, we gold plate the ear plugs to seal in the magic glow of the disagreeable audiophile experience. The ear plugs and entrails cables are produced using only the most disagreeable of audiophiles. They are produced with special attention paid to every detail and with masterful craftsmanship worthy of only the most picky and snooty of audiophiles. The audiophile entrails cables with golden ear plugs are not for everyone. They are only for the most discerning and obnoxious of audiophiles whose fat wallets can only compete with their own fat heads.

Elk
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Re: Craftsmanship and value

How much for the executive series cables?

As one-offs each must have a distinctive signature sound, yes?

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
There is a similarity between all high quality, hand designed and crafter products. Each represents years of study, experimentation and learned skill to produce the finest possible. Those who appreciate these characteristics recognize that the end product has great value.

Those who see a mass-produced, compromised product as indistinguishable from that made by an artisan do not see added value

Fortunately we have many products to choose from and we can each decide what we personally value.

Elk, I am afraid we will just have to agree to agree

bifcake
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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How much for the executive series cables?

If you have to ask, you can't afford them.


Quote:

As one-offs each must have a distinctive signature sound, yes?

Absolutely, the signature cables are prized for their unique distinction, craftsmanship, build quality and pride of ownership. No two are alike, yet they all speak the musical truth.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
There is a similarity between all high quality, hand designed and crafter products. Each represents years of study, experimentation and learned skill to produce the finest possible. Those who appreciate these characteristics recognize that the end product has great value.

Those who see a mass-produced, compromised product as indistinguishable from that made by an artisan do not see added value.

Fortunately we have many products to choose from and we can each decide what we personally value.

Among artists there is story about Picasso that your point reminds me of. It seems he was hanging out at an outdoor city square and two women recognized him, one of whom asked him to right then and there do a drawing of her. Surprisingly he did- quickly sketching her out in about five minutes. She was delighted and asked how much he wanted, to which he replied $300 (this was back in the 1950's I think, perhaps earlier). She was taken aback and said "What? But you only took five minutes!" Picasso looked at her and said: "No my lady, I took over 50 years to create that picture..."

dcstep
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:

Among artists there is story about Picasso that your point reminds me of. It seems he was hanging out at an outdoor city square and two women recognized him, one of whom asked him to right then and there do a drawing of her. Surprisingly he did- quickly sketching her out in about five minutes. She was delighted and asked how much he wanted, to which he replied $300 (this was back in the 1950's I think, perhaps earlier). She was taken aback and said "What? But you only took five minutes!" Picasso looked at her and said: "No my lady, I took over 50 years to create that picture..."

You got the story close to what I've always heard. Actually he drew an iconic bull in a few seconds with literally just three strokes. I also heard it was in the 1960s and he asked for a few thousand dollars.

I've actually seen him draw the bull sketch in seconds, on a TV special not long before he passed. I think the story was mentioned at that time, but it was probably twenty-years ago, so my memory is a little dim except for the drawing in seconds part. It was simple, elegant, powerful and EASY, for him AND well worth every penny that you might have paid for it.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Gracing the cover of the March Stereophile.

The Linn Klimax DS Network Music Player... $ 20K

Craftsmanship and Value?

The Stereophile pics don't do much to convey that. Thought I'd add a couple to show the machined solid billet aluminum chassis.

RG

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

I always like machined billet - although it really isn't all that expensive.

I have no idea whether the Klimax player is worth $20k, but this example raises an interesting point, one can't see where all the money goes in such products.

The parts themselves are not that expensive and the handwork, while pricey, does not justify the cost. The big money in well executed products is in the research and development into the design and execution.

For me, the only way to justify these products is if they truly sound better than less expensive products. If so, then the question is whether the sound is worth the money to the buyer.

Perceived value can be based on many things. I once enjoyed having an incredibly expensive prototype preamp in my system. Everything was processor controlled, the remote was exquisite, it was gorgeous. I adored using it and still miss the intelligent design and ergonomics. But it didn't sound as good as less expensive equipment.

If it sounded as good, I could almost justify the increased price by the wonderful design. But without better sound, it became an overpriced toy.

BillB
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:

Quote:
Those numbers are very rough of course, but show an order of magnitude more expense for the things that (I think) are easier to manufacture.

That kind of sounds like, "I've made my own cables. I know what's involved." After you've actually manufactured and sold a line of guitars and electronics let us know what you think.

Not really. I'm saying that a lot goes into making a good product like the $900 Gibson. And that a lot goes into making a good component, but that it's hard for me to imagine that, on a per unit basis, the audio component (amp, cable, whatever) takes 5X or 10X more.

This is a discussion - remember, no spittle? So we discuss without requiring you, me, or anyone to manufacture and sell products equivalent to Gibsons, Krells, etc.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:

Not really. I'm saying that a lot goes into making a good product like the $900 Gibson. And that a lot goes into making a good component, but that it's hard for me to imagine that, on a per unit basis, the audio component (amp, cable, whatever) takes 5X or 10X more.

Maybe I'm missing your point Bill. There are good guitars for $900 and not much better guitars for $250,000. In the middle, lots of people are buying $3000, $7000, $12000 and $30000 guitars. Also, there are guitar shaped instruments for under $100. In audio, you can buy a nice, highly functional amp for $900 or you can spend 10 or 20Xs more.

Those markets seem pretty much the same to me. Maybe you were unaware that guitars have the same wide spread in prices. Or, you know that and you're making a point that I'm missing.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
Gracing the cover of the March Stereophile.

The Linn Klimax DS Network Music Player... $ 20K

Craftsmanship and Value?

Thanks for the pictures. I like the artsy fartsy pictures of Stereophile, but sometimes it's nice to know what something actually looks like.

As I read the review and the lack of functionality and arrogant answers to the reviewer's issues, I thought "What a shame. They have the kernal of a great idea but royally screwed it up." As a high potential buyer, actually in the market looking for a hi rez server, Linn left me cold.

Oh well, they've been doing that since the 1970s. At least they're consistant.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


Quote:
Those markets seem pretty much the same to me. Maybe you were unaware that guitars have the same wide spread in prices. Or, you know that and you're making a point that I'm missing.

The point is, as it always is in these high-priced-products-just-aren't-fair threads, there are expensive things in this world. The point that is constantly ignored is there are less expensive things for those of us who can't afford the really expensive stuff. The point that is always ignored is if you can afford the high priced products and your money was not obtained at the expense of another person or group of people, then you get to play with the big boy toys. So what?!

Buying Wilson speakers is not the same as buying a $7k Gibson. No one comes to your home for a week to set up the Gibson and Gibson doesn't teach their salespeople how to play a guitar just so you can hear the best from your new instrument. You might display your new hand built instrument as a work of art but you definitely make a visual statement with a pair of six foot tall speakers in your room connected to a pair of 200lb. monoblocks. Straddling a $125k turntable on a $10k stand this set up is about more than just sound quality. So what? The house where this system resides is probably about more than just shelter from the elements. The cars in the garage are about more than just transportation and the food is more than just sustenance.

Value is what any one person is willing to justify. Mao is dead and Mao was a hypocrit. We don't all wear the same pajamas to work and ride the same bicycle back and forth. Only a small portion of the American public sacrifices for the common good and the rest of us are told to buy more products from China. We supposedly embrace the dream that we can all get the opportunity to buy the expensive stuff and then complain when someone else manages to do just that. When we can't have what someone else has we seem to prefer to disparage those who can and those who build and sell the products for those who have the means to place any value they prefer on whatever they prefer. Isn't that ignoring one of those ten commandments we should honor?

The fact is it doesn't matter if you can see the value in a Linn player by looking at the bits and pieces that make it up. The fact is someone else prefers to find that value and can - and does. That Linn and Wilson appeal to a specific portion of the buying public is literally their business. If they didn't, someone else would and many already do. The businesses that manufacture and sell to a rarefied audience are allowed to charge whatever they wish and we are wasting our time comparing a guitar to an amplifier to a Picasso sketch. These things exist and always have and presumably always will. These things are worth what someone is willing to pay for them; and, if the buyer does not get the perceived value in return, then the business will likely not exist for long. The free market gets to decide. No Congressional oversight or regulations on CD player pricing.

This seems to be a consistent theme for this forum, to disparage the fact our hobby has expensive toys. As if this is the only hobby that does! What is the point? Arguing over the value of an aluminum billet is not going to make it go away, not going to change the price and not going to stop someone who wants that product from buying that product. So why discuss it? That you don't see the value is not Linn's nor Wilson's fault.

Why not be happy there are such products and clients who will pay for them since technology does trickle down. If a Linn LP12 had never been placed on the market, a Rega P1 wouldn't exist. The examples of higher priced products creating innovation is never discussed in these rants. I would rather have that technological spiral that provides a better product to me at the price I can afford than the alternative of nothing of excellence being available at all.

There is no "spittle" involved in this post. But this obssession that a few members have with high priced products seems to be a tremendous waste of time when they could be seeing the upside of the issue. No one is forcing anyone to buy a $125k turntable, so what's the problem? Someone, please, explain to me what is wrong with offering a product someone is willing to buy.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Not really. I'm saying that a lot goes into making a good product like the $900 Gibson. And that a lot goes into making a good component, but that it's hard for me to imagine that, on a per unit basis, the audio component (amp, cable, whatever) takes 5X or 10X more.

A substantial portion of what goes into making a good $900 guitar constructed of "cheap" ash with multiple voids and cut by way of CNC machining and so forth is knowing how to build a $7k instrument. It is the trickle down experience, craftsmanship, artistry and knowledge accrued by the generations that preceded the $900 machine made instrument which allows the Gibson name to be placed on that particular guitar. If an artisan who can make a living building $10k instruments chose to put their energy into merely consulting on the construction of a $900 instrument, wouldn't that count for more than a group of non-musicians "designing" a guitar with CAD programming?

If there were no $10k instruments, there would be a $9k instrument that would be the top priced instrument. If there were no $9k instrument, there would be an $8k version. And so on and so on. If there is a $10k guitar and someone feels their guitar is better, why shouldn't they charge $11k? The price is what the price is and it is determined by what any one person is willing to pay. Chances are if there are fewer of any one item in the world, the value goes up. If there are more of any one item, the price goes down. There are more $900 guitars and $300 CD players than there are $20k instruments and CD players. You do the math. You can choose to look at all of this as driving up the price of what you want or you can look at this as providing more value to you at the price you can afford to pay.


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Those numbers are very rough of course, but show an order of magnitude more expense for the things that (I think) are easier to manufacture.

That kind of sounds like, "I've made my own cables. I know what's involved." After you've actually manufactured and sold a line of guitars and electronics let us know what you think.

This is a discussion - remember, no spittle? So we discuss without requiring you, me, or anyone to manufacture and sell products equivalent to Gibsons, Krells, etc.

Sorry, but no. If you get to "think" you know how this all works, I get to challenge you to actually produce something before you decide you have this all figured out. Go back to the other high-prices-are-unfair-and-people-who-do-what-I-don't-approve-of-are-stupid thread and read the list of considerations you might have to deal with in advance of even thinking up a name for your company before you "think" you know anything about manufacturing a product and making your living doing so. This thread is based upon your "assumption" pricing isn't equitable. How much time do we need to spend on an assumption that has no basis in reality?

BillB
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Maybe I'm missing your point Bill. There are good guitars for $900 and not much better guitars for $250,000. In the middle, lots of people are buying $3000, $7000, $12000 and $30000 guitars. Also, there are guitar shaped instruments for under $100. In audio, you can buy a nice, highly functional amp for $900 or you can spend 10 or 20Xs more.

Those markets seem pretty much the same to me. Maybe you were unaware that guitars have the same wide spread in prices. Or, you know that and you're making a point that I'm missing.

Dave

I understand better now the huge range of prices for guitars. I reckon the store I looked at didn't carry the very expensive ones, or at least they weren't out where I could touch them! I'm not a player but I'm a father to rising rock stars, and right now the $900 guitar is something to drool over.

My point is that I was impressed with the craftsmanship and quality of that Gibson. (BTW, it is not a painted one, it is clear-coated and the grain of the wood is beautiful.) As a combination of wood-working and -forming, and hardware and electronics, made with precision and strength, I said wow - and it struck me that it would be harder to make such a thing at a given price than making an amp or cable at the same price. That's it.

dcstep
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Buying Wilson speakers is not the same as buying a $7k Gibson. No one comes to your home for a week to set up the Gibson and Gibson doesn't teach their salespeople how to play a guitar just so you can hear the best from your new instrument. You might display your new hand built instrument as a work of art but you definitely make a visual statement with a pair of six foot tall speakers in your room connected to a pair of 200lb. monoblocks. Straddling a $125k turntable on a $10k stand this set up is about more than just sound quality.

Comparing Wilson to Gibson is like comparing Parker Guitars to NAD, there's no comparison. Gibson a hack company making money off the trademark made valuable by Orville Gibson and Loyd Loar, a hundred years ago. They crank out guitars like machines, even their "custom" models are just paint jobs on ordinary models or higher grade woods but in the standard design.

Ken Parker knows my hand size, my scale length preference and how I strike the pick against the strings and what guage strings I prefer. The guitar will be made for me by I guy that's spent a life to learning how to do it and putting his soul into every element of the designed. To elevate Wilson higher just because he's trained his sales representatives is stupid.

They're both artisans. Mr. Wilson's designs require more "support" because, like any speaker and perhaps more so due to their high energy potential, they demand proper installation or they'll sound like crap. My guitar will sound like crap potential when I play it, BUT, hopefully, when Bill Frisell or John Hart uses it in a recording session we'll hear its full potential.

I feel for the poor SOBs trying to set up those unwieldy Wilsons, but they're mere pawns in the economic formual. (Based on the Wilsons that I've heard, they're not always successful either) but just because the things are big and heavy and require support to use correctly doesn't give them more value than a artisan-made fine instrument.

Gibson doesn't really belong in a comparison to high end. They'd, at best, be considered mid-fi on the comparison scale.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

I have some experience in this area.

In 2000 I was in the market for a new acoustic drednaught guitar. At the time I was interested in bluegrass and folk music and so I started researching acoustic guitars.

The classic acoustic steel string guitar is made by Martin, and if you go into any guitar store that sells Martin and play an HD-28 you will probably be playing a pretty good guitar. Taylors are popular high-end guitars and sound good too.

However, neither are comparable in build quality to a Collings. The Collings is based on a pre war Martin HD-28. A new HD-28 and a new Collings D-2H are the same in theory. Both have Rosewood back and sides, a spruce top, and an ebony fretboard. The Collings of course was more expensive at $3,200.

That is where the similarities end, however. The Collings was so powerful, loud, and resonant, and had such a golden tone that my jaw almost hit the floor the first time I picked one up.

I have owned one for about seven years, and it improves with age like a fine wine. It just has a magical tone and feel. If I never heard another steel string guitar for the rest of my life, I would be ok with that.

The Martin, in comparison, felt like the same guitar but it just sounded dead in comparison.

The point is that you have two guitars based on the same design, one is a bona fide masterpiece and the other is mediocre. The difference is the craftsmanship, especially the bracing of the top to the body of the guitar, which allows the guitar to resonate.

If you want to compare two electric guitars of the same type, play them unplugged and just listen, because that is where the difference really is. You can always change out the pickups, but the resonance of the body is where the magic happens. You have to really listen because a lot of a guitar's price tag is associated with its nostalgia and status.

The same is true of high-end audio. If you aren't sure if a piece is worth the money, it isn't. When you hear something good you'll just know.

And if you ever find yourself sitting in a guitar store wondering if you should buy this or that guitar, don't buy it, whatever brand it is. Guitars are strange, some have mojo and some don't and you'll just know when you've got something special in your hands. What makes a good BRAND is the ability to crank those types out consistently, and almost nobody can do it. I highly doubt Gibson or Fender are doing that, and I know Taylor and Martin aren't.

There ARE some guitars, not many, but some guitars that live up to their price tag. I could see $7k for an archtop jazz box or something, but not for a Les Paul--at least, not the ones Gibson is making these days.

Just my two cents, from experience.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Yes, Collings makes great flat top guitars; HOWEVER, you can spend twice as much and get an even more responsive guitar, made one at a time, by Linda Manzer or ? Olsen (makes James Taylor's guitars), etc., etc.

This isn't a put down of Collings, but pointing out there's a continuum of quality and value above and below every price point.

I agree with BlackstoneJD that Collings probably delivers the most value per dollar at it's price point. Current production Martins very seldom impress me, but it's easy to understand why some people pay tens of thousands for Martins from the 1940s. Those are totally different guitars that have had the added benefit of aging and being played.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

I think pretty much ALL things we can buy will have "value" based on a variety of factors-many of which are subjective. First it supply and demand. Diamonds are nice and have some unique qualities, but it largely through price fixing and limited supply, plus history, that they still command high value. All of the views being discussed here come form each person's subjective experience, plus spending threshold to equal good or bad "value."

It's Desire we're talking about too- that solid aluminum billet can be argued that it has all sorts of technical reasons, but I bet at least half of the equation is the Lexus, Mercedes, BMW factor: to create Desire. You see somehting that screams luxury! My Krell amp in fact looks pretty nice, but does not nearly convey that kind of luxury. The value for me is chiefly the overall build, it's technical design, and obviously the phenomenal sound I get out of it every time I sit down. Would I pay more for a more beautiful and jewelry-like amp? IF I had the money to spare (the key ingredient to any of these discussions)-maybe. I'll avoid really ugly looking equipment, but I won't put appearance above sound quality when I'm shopping around.

There was a good discussion in this forum about The Point of Diminishing Returns in high-end audio a little while back.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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My point is that I was impressed with the craftsmanship and quality of that Gibson.

Bill, I think you're on the right track but not looking far enough down the road. Read the review of the Cayin integrated amplifier in the March Stereophile. RR is no newcomer to audio and yet he was impressed by the build quality and sound quality of this $1295 unit. The ability to bring that sort of value to a moderately priced audio component is somewhat rare and requires a level of talent and craftsmanship that is seldom found in this hobby. There are always value oriented items in any group of products where subjective impressions make the decision to buy or to walk. For my own personal reasons I still consider a Dynaco ST70 to be a great value item. The original is more valuable to me than the subsequent copies but the copies still have more going for them than many other choices I could consider. Copying a classic still has advantages against starting with a fresh sheet of paper. If you are starting with a clean sheet, knowing what came before has its own set of values.


Quote:
As a combination of wood-working and -forming, and hardware and electronics, made with precision and strength, I said wow - and it struck me that it would be harder to make such a thing at a given price than making an amp or cable at the same price.

Read the Linn review in the same issue, particularly the last word of JA's measurements section. Within the review WP addresses value and then goes on to say, "I suspect it's going to be a lot easier for Linn to find a software program than it's going to be for any other company else to find an electrical engineer up to taking digital to the Klimax DS's level." This $20k product simply treads ground other players have yet to reach. That alone makes it a value to someone seeking that territory whether they are a designer, listener or reader. The value of the explorer and the first to arrive is not to be ignored.

The Parasound and DNM reviews in the same issue are of products designed by artists and craftsmen who have long ago secured their value oriented bona fides. Each product is different and each product brings the unique talents of the individual to bear on the product. In the case of the Linn, Parasound and particularly the DNM, the designer is topping their own previous efforts by building a better product than they could have a few years ago. That is no small feat and certainly not one to be dismissed as "easy". The Linn has the advantage of a cost is no object approach. The Cayin challenges well established preconceptions with a value for dollar approach to good sound and good construction. Most designers will readily admit it is far more of a challenge to design down to a budget and still find a magical combination of parts and circuits than to design with a free hand and then decide how much your effort is worth to the few who may have the means to appreciate what you've accomplished - for whatever reason they decide.

I have a Yamaha nylon string guitar that I bought in 1968 for $129 dollars plus trade. It has served me well for my personal plucking for all these years so I suppose it was a good value at the time I made the purchase. At this time it represents a good value to me since buying a $900 guitar would not make me a better player. The Yamaha didn't hold a candle to the sound of my friends' Gibsons and Martins at the time I bought it but it satisfied my needs and fit my budget. I don't know many musicians right now but those I have known have always wanted the best instrument they could afford - pretty much the same as most audiophiles. Those few musicians I considered to be better than average performers always admitted it was not the instrument that made the performer and believing a better guitar made them a better player was really missing the point. Yes, a four century old Strad sounds more marvelous than a $200 starter instrument but not unless the player can use the tool in their hands. And I've known enough people with the means to buy several $20k guitars who can truly appreciate the craftsmanship of the instrument. For one person a $129 product is a good deal and for another a $20k product suits their concept of value. It should be obvious there are plenty of points in between and everyone gets to choose what they feel is a suitable fit. It's not what you own but how much you get from what you use. (As an aside, I live in a home built in the 1920's and I am still in awe of the quality of craftsmanship achieved without the use of a single power tool and the crappy work done on many new homes with every tool available today.) I can only assume the makers of all the high end instruments mentioned in this thread have the ability to get quite a bit from what they design and craft and choose their tools and materials for their value they bring to the task. I would also assume the same is true for the audio designers.

You are going to run into objections to any product you choose or even consider. There will always be someone who wants to let you know just how wrong you are about your perceptions of value. You certainly know you should not let them establish your values for you and you should not allow your set of values to cloud your perceptions of what value is for anyone else. Do not fall into the trap of believing doing this task is harder than doing that one. Each person does what they are suited to and hopefully brings their best talents to each job. Let John Curl design a guitar and I doubt he'll be as sucessful at it as he is audio. Designing the Cayin is no less and no more an achievement than designing the Linn or buidling a value oriented instrument.

Does Gibson belong in the high end of guitars? Does Cayin belong in the high end of audio components? The answer is an individual choice and for one person the answer will not likely be the same as for another. Both companies stay in business so they must be doing something right. Whether they fit your particular set of values is for you alone to decide but no one should dismiss the talents of one based solely on the results of the other.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Gibson doesn't really belong in a comparison to high end. They'd, at best, be considered mid-fi on the comparison scale.

dc, I am certain the intent of my post is around the corner and down the block from the bus stop where you're standing.

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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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Gibson doesn't really belong in a comparison to high end. They'd, at best, be considered mid-fi on the comparison scale.


dc, I am certain the intent of my post is around the corner and down the block from the bus stop where you're standing.

We're writing here. Words count, not intent.

Dave

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Re: Craftsmanship and value

Nice post, Blackstone. Others were making the same points, but the specifics your provide and conclusions drive them home well.

You additionally added the valid point that it isn't just the materials and general design that makes a guitar a good guitar; it is the craftsmanship and knowledge that goes into it.

I also liked the example of Picasso's drawings brought up by others. I recall seeing a film of him drawing a portrait with a single, unbroken line. The speed and confidence of that long complex stroke was pure magic.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Craftsmanship and value


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We're writing here. Words count, not intent.

Yep, you and I are on different routes!

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