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Monday, November 10, 2014

Fake guitars from China + participate in my survey about counterfeit guitars...

The market is flooded of Chinese copies of well known and established guitar brands. So it is. The globalized world we live in nowadays creates a fertile ground for an uncontrolled market of these copies. Forgery industry is associated with a variety of problems, ranging from child labor to environmentally damaging production etc, but note that there is a difference between copies (counterfeit) and clones.

Marshall's first amplifier was actually clones of Fender's best seller "Bassman", it´s important to understand that to be inspired is not equal to stealing. Burny guitars from the late 70s and early 80s are considered as fine and desirable instruments today, but when they were made, they were considered "pirate copies". All major brands have been victims of piracy, and it destroys the long term market. But good stuff has always been copied.

I want to point out that I don't  run any kind of campaign for the Chinese copies, I'm just interested in the phenomenon.

However, one should know is that the difference between clones and pirate copies.

Pirate Copy (counterfeit)
The first category is perhaps the one that instinctively feels problematic, Asian made guitars branded as Gibson, PRS, Fender, ESP or Gretch. This category is outlawed. In most countries it´s a criminal act to produce and sell pirated copies, or "fakes" as originals. But, and this is i big but, it´s not against the law to purchase copies. Therefore, if you do not have moral doubts, it´s legal to buy in a "Made in USA Gibson Les Paul" made in China.

The second category is not at all associated with criminal activity. It´s very difficult to protect a circuit board by a patent. For those who want to create a clone of an amp for example, just have to design the circuit board and mount the circuits differently so it no longer looks the same and  and able it with their own brand. Protecting the shape of a guitar is also difficult, most clone manufacturers change just enough in the shape or  make a deal and pay a license etc. The clans are inherently interesting and creates an additional range on the market, but without "destroying" it.

Our world has changed
The change that made this huge wave of copies available is simply the availability of knowledge and skills and everyone can learn how to make great instruments. The big brands found countries with cheap labor for their instruments to make bigger profits. So the big companies greed lead to more competitors and "piracy of high quality".

Lots of "good enough guitars" is manufactured in China today, legally under trusted brands and illegally under brands owned by others. Chinese manufacturers are on the go when it comes to the handcraft of building guitars, and one big difference from the past is that they are curious and skilful today, and that they have learned how to make money. This force them to do what ever they can to produce better and better stuff. Thats how capitalism works in a way. One thing to note is that many of the dealers on the Internet is well aware of that the customers rule the market. A negative feed back from a customer is immediately handled. At least most of the time.

The market
An interesting question is "where does all these copies end up"? There's a whole bunch of websites where you can buy a pirated guitar from. If you dive in to these you'll find that most of them lives in Russia, Argentina, Australia, Spain, US and even where I live (Sweden). Practically the world buy Chinese guitars. I think this has to do with generally high priced guitars. Gibson guitars today costs over 3000 dollars, and that in itself creates a fairly large group of hungry people who want a Gibson but don't have the actual money. A Chinese "Gibson" goes for 10% of the price of an "authentic". That means the audience that buys copies probably wouldn't  buy a "real deal" in their lifetime. In a long perspective this will damage the business for the big brands.

When it comes to the quality of a Chinese copy, it is much better today compared to the quality ten years ago. But there are many manufacturers out there and all of them are not that great. There are really bad items actually. But there are some really nice guitars for pennies in the context. If you don't  have moral problems with buying a Chinese brand guitar you can make really good buy, there's no doubt about that.

A good copy guitar is like any other good guitar, but of course not comparable to something like "Les Paul Custom Shop" or "Fender Custom Shop". You can't  compare them in any way with the originals, of course.  One should remember that if you buy a "copy" you a "copy" and not the original quality. But it's not quite that simple actually. Quality is a subjective concept, and should also be contrasted with "how much you pay" and what you have as the minimum requirement for your instrument of choice.

Do not sell fakes to others
One should NOT sell copies to others as "authentic", it's really not ok. It can be difficult to determine if a copy is a copy though.

International survey about counterfeits
Before I go any further I would like to know if you have ever bought a "Chinese copy". The survey is anonymous and simple. I would really appreciate if you could answer as honestly as you can. I will display the result in a couple of days.

Have you ever bought a "fake" or "copy" guitar?


  1. I have bad guitars made in China from people like Epiphone, Ibanez and Gretsch! Names all guitar makers know. I have put lots of money in them to make them fight. No luck really.
    I bought a fake and I just needed to put my strings on it and it's perfect. No truss rod or twisted neck. Electronics are fine, I may replace the $3.00 nut. I got beat my our fake guitar makers for years. I found a new place to shop. China direct with out a middle man.

    1. oh, unlucky you :c
      i've bought my first guitar in 2001, when i was 14 years old, and, as much as i can remember, it was a zombie xplorer. not the best choice, i suppose to :D
      in my opinion, fake guitars can be use only for learning tricks and skills, practising etc., because, in many ways and cases, their sound is better than nothing but still poor-qualified, so if you understand how to play it nearly good, the rest will fall into place when you'll take a better guitar.
      well, it was absolutely necessary to work constantly with the anchor rod, the guitar neck was too crooked.
      (to underline the main info of my comment, fake guitars may be bought for practising only.)