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There was a time that "made in Japan" on a guitar meant bad quality but today a lot of them are highly sought after. When Korea first got into the game it was the same. But they have come a long way and may have reached the "quality" status. Perhaps the torch needs to be passed to China, as they seem to be the latest low cost, lower quality maker.

What is the popular opinion on Korean built guitars?
 

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I love my MIK Parker PM20 and so does everyone that tries it, the fit & finish is outstanding. IMO it rivals my 2 MIA guitars in fit, finish and playability for a fraction of the cost, however, the parts are not the absolute best, decent though.

Does the "Made in Korea" on the headstock make me want to get some lighter fluid to rub it off?........yes :D but I wont.
 

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Yes. Among the imports, most of which are made in Korea and China, the Korean ones tend to be of higher quality. However, the Chinese are catching up. I have 2 Chinese made guitars, and they are both fantastic instruments, especially for the price.

Notice there aren't too many Japanese made imports any more. That's because they are comparable in quality, and price to US made products.
 

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From my experience, Korea makes great sounding and well-made guitars. I have been using an MIK PRS Soapbar SE II for the last year now. I'm very very pleased with it. The quality of this guitar is excellent, much better than some of the MIA or the MIM guitars that I have tried. I also have an MIK Ibanez Artstar AS120 which is pretty much my backup guitar together with an MIJ Fender 62 Reissue Telecaster.

Aside from China, I've also been seeing guitars made out of Indonesia which are not too bad either.
 

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I Huff Paint said:
Notice there aren't too many Japanese made imports any more. That's because they are comparable in quality, and price to US made products.
If you're talking Fenders (Ibanez/etc. has always had J imports) that's not quite true - Japanese Fenders are still fairly inexpensive. For example, if you import a MIJ '57RI yourself it'll cost you roughly $900 to your door. An American Vintage '57 ends up being roughly double that. Of course they're not exactly the same guitar, but they're comparable. The lack of recent Japanese Fenders is mostly due to Fender moving production of their mid-priced guitars to Mexico. That $500-1000 pricepoint is now being covered in Mexico, whereas before Mexico was doing the $200-500 guitars. The real cheap stuff is now being made in the Far East.

As for Korean guitars - in terms of workmanship, I have no trouble with them. I'm saving up for a MIK ESP LTD right now.
 

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I played a Korean PRS Santana SE awhile ago, I thought it was a really nice guitar. A friend of mine picked it up in a pawnshop for about $300.

I think that offshore production has come a long way in the last decade and a lot of those guitars are really quite good. The real bonus is that a guy can have a good guitar in almost any price range.

Is there a difference in offshore and US made? Sure. Is it worth the extra $? Completely up to you.
 

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I've owned a Tokai Love Rocks (Korea) and the OLP Ernie Ball Axis copy (China) and they were both excellent guitars, especially for the $/quality equation. The fit and finish and playablility on both were fantastic. If you aren't someone who insists on 'Made in America', or a collector, but an everyday gigging muscians who doesn't want a drunk person at a club knocking your mic stand into your guitar, then I think the lower priced Asian made stuff is the way to go.
 

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The Agile stuff is incredible. Curently own 4 of them and they all rock. I am selling some of them, but only because I am going to buy the higher end Agile models.

Some will claim that any non made in USA guitar is second rate, but I don't believe it

TG
 

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I think many of the Korean makers have come a long way and are turning out some nice product. I am more concerned with the quality of the woods and construction. The guts can always be swapped out, especially at some of those prices. You can swap out all the guts and come out with a fabulous guitar.
 

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The Koreans may one day lead guitar production of alternative materials, but they are still making guitars with mystery wood and held together with thick poly finishes. They blow away any of the cheap guitars from previous generations, but they are still no where near where Japan is today, or even where Japan was in the 80s. Back then Japan had access to good woods. Japan is also a culture where the people building the guitars are guitar freaks. Korea is still a changing culture, but for now the guy pulling the guitar out of the CNC machine still has to compare it to the picture and use his measuring tools to determine if it should pass QC..................
 

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Given that two Hyundais won best in their class from the AJAC (Cdn Auto Journalists). It doesn't surprise me that their QC is getting better. However there are still a few boners out there.
 

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JSD's Guitar Shack said:
There are "boners" is every price range, doesn't matter where its made.
Yeah,... Fender, Gibson to name a couple :D

But what I have found when trying out guitars, its that the setup can make or break it. I always use the strat example. Went to a couple of large downtown stores in Toronto. Tried a couple dozen. MIM, MIA, MIK, all different, none actually felt quite right. Setups were poor on most so I couldn't really judge them well. Tried two MIM standard strats at 12th Fret. With the exception of a G&L Legacy, they were the nicest feeling I'd tried yet. Of course they have some of the best luthiers and guitar techs in Canada. Most of their guitars are well setup. When you buy one there, they set it up again and you a free three checkup on it.

I tried a few MIK Tokai Love Rocks at Steve's. Build seemed good from what I could tell Prices were good - $549.00, but I couldn't judge them because the setups on all except one sucked. On the one that was OK, the MKIVs sounded just a little thin, but that could have been the amp setting. I was using a Fender Pro Junior with volume set at 1 1/2
 

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There is a lot of stuff being made in Korea these days. A large number of the cell phone vendors I work with sub their stuff out to Korean developers...both software and hardware.

But like the man said...nothing wrong with my korean tokai or the Squire Esprit I got the other day.
 

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You would think that over time things will get better and better. That was the case in Japan. Of course it all comes down to pricing as well, I assume that whomever the trademark holders are could request high end woods and hardware etc, but then the cost goes up.

Are the builders left to choose the woods for construction or is that something the end seller specifies in the specs?
 

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The guitars are build by contract, and those contracts in turn lead to production budgets. Guitars coming out of India have contract prices from $20 - $200US. Which means budgets are probobly $10 - $100US. Try building a guitar for that budget, and that not a direct cost budget, thats total cost including overhead. Im not sure what the Korean contracts are at, but I dont imagine they are much higher given that street prices of Korean guitars are topping out in the $800CDN range. Back out all the middle men, and Im sure some of those guitars are being made for only $200. Take away the Duncan pickups, the Schaller bridge, and the grover tuners and what you have unfortunately is polished turd when compared to the great stuff coming out of Japan at the moment. Some of their custom shops are producing some great guitars, much like the custom shops in North America........
 

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I think people are just sick and tired of being forced to pay so much for guitars. Now you can get a copy that isn't that bad. You can make some mods to them and some of them end up being better then their counterparts for a fraction of the price. You can buy an agile al 3000 for 600$ Throw in any kind of pickups you want and you still come in under budget.
 

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GuitarsCanada said:
I think many of the Korean makers have come a long way and are turning out some nice product. I am more concerned with the quality of the woods and construction. The guts can always be swapped out, especially at some of those prices. You can swap out all the guts and come out with a fabulous guitar.
Well put. As long as quality wood & construction are there, the rest is gravy.
 
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