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Are Gibson guitars worth their asking price?
Which music genres/styles suit Gibson guitars best?
How do Gibson guitars compare with other guitar brands?
Gibson is easily one of the most recognizable brand names in the guitar industry.
They are responsible for pioneering guitar designs that have shaped the face of many music genres and styles.
Used by a long list of world-class musicians, Gibson guitars are renowned for their strong tone, user-friendly design, and alluring aesthetic.
However, Gibson guitars generally sell for a higher retail price than most other guitar brands.
In this article, we’re going to investigate the factors that make Gibson guitars such an expensive brand. We’ll also discuss whether Gibson guitars deliver a quality that matches their asking price.
Why are Gibson guitars so expensive?
There are a handful of reasons behind Gibson guitar’s heavier price tags. Gibson guitars are made using only the best cuts of wood and specific high-quality guitar parts that perform well and last for years.
Most Gibson guitars are made using a number of handcrafting techniques, which means that they receive more time and attention than the typical production line guitars you might see manufactured in Asia.
However, this extra time and attention also translates to extra costs and raises the overall retail price of each respective model.
1. Building Materials
One of the largest contributing factors to the Gibson price tag is the cost of their building materials.
Gibson is a guitar brand that prides itself on quality, and they choose to not use any low-cost substitutes when constructing their guitars.
Even the cheapest entry-level guitars that Gibson manufacture consist of higher quality materials than most competitors in their price range.
Guitar bodies can be constructed using a variety of woods, each with its specific benefits.
However, certain guitar woods have become increasingly rare over the last century, with some even being protected by conservation law.
One of the most popular exotic woods that are used for Gibson guitars is Rosewood.
Rosewood is revered for its tensile integrity, as well as its ability to withstand harsh climate conditions (which is ideal for traveling and touring musicians).
Rosewood is also very easy to shape and work with and has an alluring aesthetic. Unfortunately, the demand for this wood has rendered it a rare resource.
This rarity translates to higher sourcing and shipping costs for Gibson manufacturers.
Much like their bodies, Gibson guitars come with a finish that requires a costly, time-intensive process to achieve optimum quality.
The primary factor that contributes to Gibson’s expensive finish is nitrocellulose. Nitrocellulose is incredibly hardy, and Gibson manufacturers mix it into a lacquer to create a seal that protects the paint on guitar bodies.
The issue with nitrocellulose is that it can be toxic in large quantities. As a safety precaution, the U.S has placed restrictions on the amount of nitrocellulose that can be applied to a guitar daily.
These restrictions slow down the average manufacturing time per guitar that Gibson makes. The company could save money by choosing to use cheaper substitutes for finishing, but opt not to do so.
Gibson could have also avoided many of the stricter US safety restrictions by basing its factory in another country but has chosen to remain ethical in their manufacturing process
Plus the fact that their guitars are manufactured within the US is a huge selling point of the brand as there is an intrinsic trust and association with high quality when we think of US-manufactured instruments.
These subtle hindrances all play a small role in the final pricing decisions on Gibson guitars.
Much like their base textiles and finishing products, Gibson electronics are all composed of only the highest quality components that deliver outstanding performance.
One of Gibson guitars’ highest selling points is their strong tonal qualities, none of which can be achieved using low-grade electronic setups.
Gibson’s primary electronics supplier is Stratosphere Guitar Parts, which also supplies high-end parts to other guitar brands like Fender, Ibanez, and Gretsch.
One of the most easily recognizable examples of the high standard of electronics used in Gibson guitars is their pickups.
Gibson guitars are generally constructed using either humbucker or double coil pickups. These pickups allow for Gibson guitars to be used without any excessive electronic noise or interference.
Every guitarist understands the value of good quality pickups, and also understands that they come at a heavier fee than cheaper alternatives.
Time and labor contribute to the Gibson price tag as much as their textiles do. A large portion of the Gibson manufacturing process is man-powered.
Most of the electronic setups in Gibson guitars are done by hand, which adds a considerable amount of hours into the production process.
To maintain a consistent manufacturing standard, every Gibson guitar is put through rigorous quality checks. Gibson guitars undergo quality tests using a device known as a Plek machine.
The Plek machine is a highly sophisticated CNC machine that scans Gibson’s guitars for any manufacturing faults or irregularities.
These faults can include minor but vital mistakes on the bridge, fretboard, nut, and saddle of the guitar body before they get finished and strung.
Plek machines are quite costly to manufacturers, which unfortunately trickles down into the final pricing of the average Gibson guitar.
5. Brand and Reputation
Much like in sports, fashion, or entertainment, a company’s reputation can raise the asking price of its product or service, even if that pricing is questionable.
Gibson is a US-based guitar company that was around for the rise of the blues, as well as every major boom period that rock music experienced over the last century.
Aside from ensuring their product quality, the Gibson company was also highly proactive in placing their guitars in the hands of some of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
Gibson’s craftsmanship had to match the virtuosity of their endorsed musicians for these partnerships to flourish, and flourish they did.
The immense popularity that these musicians attained created a demand for Gibson guitars that snowballed tremendously. So they understandably raised their average asking price accordingly.
Even in the modern era, Gibson can still ride on its vast history and reliable reputation when deciding on its asking price.
Below are a few major highlights in the portfolio of Gibson guitars.