Watering down the product?

Uncle Daddy

Friend of Fred
Jan 19, 2012
5,922
Maldon UK
I'm starting to feel that with the advent of so many "entry level" and budget Gretsch models on sale now, and the difficulty finding new or used Prolines to try, that "Gretsch" doesn't seem to carry the mystique of years ago. I understand a business is to make money, and things move on, but the marque is starting to look a bit devalued, to me at least.
 

Wayne Gretschzky

Country Gent
Aug 27, 2008
3,519
East Coast
Maybe the lack of used Prolines is an indication that their owners love them and want to hold to them. Inversely, the seemingly endless examples of lower-end Gretsch's available on the secondary market indicates the opposite.

I would submit that the modern Gretsch brand is still based on leveraging the vibe of their legendary models from the golden era. I keep waiting for something truly modern to be released (along the lines of the Spectra-Sonic) because at some point they will run out of ways to mash-up the various Gretsch features into new models.
 

Mr Swisher

Country Gent
Jun 12, 2012
1,308
England
I think they've moved to compete more squarely with Epiphone on the low end. They also watered down the Proline when they introduced the PE's. I kinda get it, the "modern" take, but for me they made a number of backward steps there. When the PE's arrived suddenly their were less "traditional" Prolines in the line-up.

But it's business and you go where the money is.
 

dspellman

Gretschie
Jul 4, 2020
397
Los Angeles
Most brands at the high end, including Gibson, realize that they're losing the high-end customer; the boomer whose nostalgia and money have given these companies the ability to produce premium products and charge premium prices. Boomers are retiring (and leaving their rock god dreams behind) at a high rate of speed, and the money they might have used for a guitar is being repurposed. Guitar companies' biggest rivals for the money are kitchen remodels and "travel while we can still move."

As a result, a lot more of them are realizing that they have to do something about the entry-level buyers. Gibson has been relatively unsuccessful stripping down their flagship models; they've found that they're simply cannibalizing their high-end sales because the same people who were interested in Gibson before but who couldn't afford the guitars are buying the strippers. They're not picking up newbs.

Most of the rest of the companies are doing the "if you can't lick 'em, join 'em" thing by having offshore manufacturers build their entry-level models. PRS may be the most successful at this with their SE series, at the cost of their premium guitars. Fender has been going this route for quite a while, and I think that Gretsch is actually enjoying a rebirth of discovery. I have to admit that I was mostly not particularly interested in Gretsch at the high end, but when I started noticing Electromatics and even Streamliners offering a pretty good guitar at cheap prices, I decided I might try a couple.

The idea is that the cheaper guitars can help build brand loyalty. OTOH, it's up to these companies to differentiate their premium lines from the "actually very good" budget guitars, and to justify their existence and price tag.
 

blueruins

Country Gent
May 28, 2013
4,829
Savannah, GA
Interesting points. I wonder if all the majors are planning for the inevitability of importing all affordable guitars.

I suspect that these custom shops will be the only place to get American made big-label guitars before too many more years go by.
 

radd

Friend of Fred
Dec 27, 2017
6,003
Santa Cruz
I do disagree about the Players Editions being “watered down” Prolines.

The PE’s are made in Japan and are the same high quality as any ProLine and they have features that some people want, locking tuners, treble bleed, string thru Bigsby, narrower bodies etc.

I think the PE’s and the Vintage Select series ( that are not totally accurate vintage reproductions) are excellent additions to the Gretsch line.

The modern Streamliner guitars are bringing in a new and younger crowd to the Gretsch world and that is the important base of the buying pyramid.

Without the Electromatic line I would never have become a Gretsch owner a number of years ago considering the cost of a ProLine. I’ve owned 5 ProLines because of that Electromatic I could afford.
 

Emergence

Synchromatic
May 25, 2022
581
New York
High end guitars, new and used, are disappearing from showroom floors. The one showroom near me where there were Proline Gretches is now closed. The Music Zoo has become an on line retailer. There’s no longer anyplace to try Collings or high end Martin or Taylor either. The pandemic had a lot to do with that but I think the steady rise in quality of work a day guitars takes its share of the blame. I read about folks wanting to upgrade a 5420 but I don’t find real complaints. How is that not a good thing? At 72, I’m an admitted snob. You won’t find a Squier, Epiphone, or Streamliner in my music room but I already own more than I need. I’m just not in the market. And yes, @dspellman , I haven’t repurposed funds, but I have a more rational purpose for them than buying one more guitar. I still have room in my passport to add to the stamp collection.

So nothing has been diluted. If anything, some of the goodness in Proline and other professional level instruments had been passed down the line making seriously good instruments widely available. I see plenty of good in that.
 

dspellman

Gretschie
Jul 4, 2020
397
Los Angeles
High end guitars, new and used, are disappearing from showroom floors. The one showroom near me where there were Proline Gretches is now closed. The Music Zoo has become an on line retailer. There’s no longer anyplace to try Collings or high end Martin or Taylor either. The pandemic had a lot to do with that but I think the steady rise in quality of work a day guitars takes its share of the blame.
Guitar Center, in particular has had problems paying its bills, and there are simply a lot of guitar companies who don't want to offer them a lot of inventory based on their credit. I'm sure some of you have noticed the lack of backup stock on the shelves at your local store.

We have Wild West nearby, but that's one of the few high-end stores that doesn't involve packing a lunch for the trip.
 

BohemianLikeMe

Synchromatic
Apr 18, 2020
776
Prague, CZ
You're going to sell a lot more $500 guitars than $5000 ones.
Yeah, plus the entry level ranges are really what most guitar companies sell the most of. There's a lot more people learning to play guitar or who need something cheap and affordable than people who want to drop north of $3k on a guitar.

Some specialized companies like Rickenbacker can survive not doing that entry-level thing, but they're very few and far between.
 

Runamok

Country Gent
Interesting points. I wonder if all the majors are planning for the inevitability of importing all affordable guitars.

I suspect that these custom shops will be the only place to get American made big-label guitars before too many more years go by.
Can we say that all US factory-built instruments are superior to foreign made ones?

A machinist, or “machine operator” perhaps more correctly, running a CNC doing the same thing all day can be standing on US soil, or elsewhere & still carve a nice instrument body—the slab. Both can be exemplary employees.

Does Gretsch build guitars in the US at all?
 
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blueruins

Country Gent
May 28, 2013
4,829
Savannah, GA
Can we say that all US factory-built instruments are superior to foreign made ones?

A machinist, or “machine operator” perhaps more correctly, running a CNC doing the same thing all day can be standing on US soil, or elsewhere & still carve a nice instrument body—the slab. Both can be exemplary employees.
I see what you’re saying but I don’t understand what I wrote that you’re responding to?
 

TobyB

Electromatic
Nov 22, 2021
84
UK
Can we say that all US factory-built instruments are superior to foreign made ones?
Errr ... most certainly not! Japanese Ibanez, German Warwick, and, and ...
The CNC machinist is as good anywhere, as are the maker's... low spec Asian instruments are what the piper pays for, capability is wherever the training and the employment is ...
The idea that British manufacturing was something special died years back, the evidence is that nowhere else is either ...
 

blueruins

Country Gent
May 28, 2013
4,829
Savannah, GA
@blueruins I just noticed tthe date on the posts above.
This thread is at least 12 years old.

Guess that $9000 guitar is going for $12,000 today.
A lot of effort wasted grumbling about old news.
Lol! No harm:)

I guess all I can do to continue is to say that of course there is no inherent superiority to a US worker over any other. The US generally at one time had easier access to better tools and materials. This is no longer the case.

However, these are predominantly US companies that pioneered mass electric instrument manufacturing. It used to be the case that one would expect a product to be manufactured in its country of origin.

Once again…no longer the case.

Fly free fly on.
 

twangmanster

Gretschie
Dec 29, 2021
213
Long Island
I spent seven months in Florida in 2019. It seemed every other guy over 65 is driving a restored muscle car or vintage car, I'm talkin fish tail era cars, vintage trucks and so on. So, maybe that's where Boomers money has been going. But, Gretsch's parent is also making more models cheaper from over seas, from amps to guitars. Its a shame, but that's just business. And I agree with the OP, all the cheap ones lining the walls do seem to water down the higher end guitars to a point of visual burnout. Now, when you go the package stores, "the Great Wall" is mostly $500-$700 imports. And yes it does make want to keep my high end gits even more. Just me.
 

pmac11

Country Gent
Mar 4, 2018
3,664
Toronto, Ontario
I disagree. With CNC manufacturing and reasonable quality control, the number of high quality guitars on the market for under $1000 is at an all time high. Certainly a better situation than the 1980s when the choices were expensive professional quality...or cheap junk.

To me, the issue with Gretsch is their pricing system... In Canadian dollars $750 for a Streamliner, $1150 for an Electromatic, and then a big jump to $2900+ for a Proline. Lots of other companies (Reverend, Guild, PRS) selling great guitars in that gap $1400-$2500 range, but oddly, not Gretsch.
 

radd

Friend of Fred
Dec 27, 2017
6,003
Santa Cruz
I disagree. With CNC manufacturing and reasonable quality control, the number of high quality guitars on the market for under $1000 is at an all time high. Certainly a better situation than the 1980s when the choices were expensive professional quality...or cheap junk.

To me, the issue with Gretsch is their pricing system... In Canadian dollars $750 for a Streamliner, $1150 for an Electromatic, and then a big jump to $2900+ for a Proline. Lots of other companies (Reverend, Guild, PRS) selling great guitars in that gap $1400-$2500 range, but oddly, not Gretsch.
I agree


Now, about those 80’s, yikes. I bought my first Strat around 81‘. It was American made and a terrible guitar. You can find Asian and Mexican guitars today that are far better than my 80’s American Strat.

There has never been a time like this, where a new player can pick from a wide assortment of inexpensive very nice and very playable guitars,
 

TSims1

Gretschified
Jun 18, 2013
12,677
Atlanta
Maybe the lack of used Prolines is an indication that their owners love them and want to hold to them. Inversely, the seemingly endless examples of lower-end Gretsch's available on the secondary market indicates the opposite.

I would submit that the modern Gretsch brand is still based on leveraging the vibe of their legendary models from the golden era. I keep waiting for something truly modern to be released (along the lines of the Spectra-Sonic) because at some point they will run out of ways to mash-up the various Gretsch features into new models.

Are you sure? Fender sure hasn’t.

And I’ll also say that while you could be correct about the lower end secondary market, I have a feeling a lot of it is folks get a lower end Gretsch to see what they think. And the lower end offerings are quite frankly EXCELLENT for lower end offerings. Maybe excellent enough for people after a bit to say “okay, I really like this Gretsch thing. Let me sell this and move up the ladder a bit”. Just a thought.
 


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