Sunday, January 8, 2017

Gibson guitar specifications and price

My Gibson 2016 R8

A few years back I posted a short article about the various incantations of Gibson Guitar specifications. We had the Min-ETune and later the G-force technology which are marketed as improvements for the guitarists. I personally like innovation so I was hopeful that there would be an added value or improved experience with these new additions. Unfortunately, the improvements didn't really pan out. I'll list the improvements: automatic tuning to standard and other tuning available on the fly at the push of a button, Zero nut with height adjustment capability, Les Paul Standards had frets extended to the edge of the fret board, new wiring system and pots and finally price. It now appears that even Gibson saw the light and are reverting some of the changes they made in the past few years. But why?

Price isn't a simple topic to discuss because there are many factors regarding the increases. I want Gibson factory people to earn a living wage or better and if that means I need to pony up then I can live with that BUT there are too many stories about how Gibson people are treated and I don't have facts so I'll end with the hope that some of the price increase went towards supporting labor. Quality at Gibson in my opinion has been lackluster and inconsistent. I own 4 Gibsons of various age with the oldest being 40 years old. All of my instruments are cherry picked and really nice instruments that anyone would be proud to own. My point is that you need to shop smart when buying a Gibson, more so than other brands and that is sad considering that Gibson is one of the oldest iconic brand names in the United States. Nevertheless, all brands have feet of clay and without careful consideration of design properties, functional requirements, ergonomics, and visual appeal, the feet crumble quickly. Remember IBM, Harley Davidson, Yahoo, Intel...? Honestly, I don't know how Gibson has managed to stay alive.

What has Gibson done wrong? That is a tough question and I think it might be easier to say what they have done right. Let's tackle what I believe are some errors that can be corrected. Go back to the original headstock insignia. This revision looks cheap and crappy.

What value did that add? None. Go back to this.
Oh and then there is the automatically tuning guitar. I like the concept; I would really like an automatically tuned car that requires zero labor or cost. Alas, the latter isn't happening in my life and the former shouldn't have happened. The Min-ETune tuner and G-Force made me money. So I shouldn't complain but the fact remains that many people bought new Gibson guitars and had the G-force removed and they installed standard tuners. Why? I heard many reasons; the electronic tuner failed and it wasn't worth it to replace it, Pro's didn't want to even chance it failing, rechargeable battery died and the replacement was not readily available.......... The product was not well supported. Adding inexpensive consumer electronics to essentially a wheel doesn't make a better wheel. Gibson would have been better off keeping it simple and switching from Kluson to Grover. Now drop that line and leave all of those who love the auto tuning machine without any recourse.

The Zero fret. This revision I didn't mind. It made set-up easy and it looked okay. But, honestly, the bone or tusq nut wasn't broken so why fix it? My guess is that they were trying to save time and money during final set-up. I don't think it worked. Brass zero nuts are probably far more expensive than tusq or bone and ultimately installation wasn't quicker. Opp's!

What did I love? The new Standard models with the frets running to the edge of the fret board while knocking off the nibs. The NIBS - I hate the nibs!!! I also love the Plek as long as the frets were put in well during the primary build. Plek doesn't make up for poor workmanship. Meaning; if the frets aren't seated well during installation then the fret will need to be reseated and if that happens post Plek then the fret will be too low. Blah! No bueno! Obviously the Plek machine purchase pays for itself.

Let us hope that Gibson USA pulls it together in these challenging times. I appreciate their products but wish they learned more about their consumers which would give Gibson more insight allowing the company to drive into the future with desirable and robust products.