Gibson guitars…

In the world of popular music, the name Gibson is legendary. Founded in the early 1900s Gibson made the first hollow body acoustic guitars in the 1930s and went on to create some of the first solid body electrics in the 50s. Countless famous musicians played their guitars in the 60s and 70s creating generations of guitarists eager to own one of their precious instruments.

Fast forward to may this year – gibson files for bankruptcy. What? Such a respected brand with an ever-growing fan base- all they had to do is keep making quality guitars. But no. Apparently they bought a large amount of companies in the last 10 years in an effort to become a ‘lifestyle’ brand. At the same time though they substantially increased their margins on guitars by reducing production costs and cutting corners on quality control. The end result: a bankrupt company without a CEO, fighting lawsuits while scrambling to try and put quality back into their guitar line. They even released their 2019 range yesterday – a back to basics range of guitars that reflects what the CEO outlined before he was fired.

So I had these things in my head as I walked into a local guitar shop the other day. After owning a gibson SG for a few years in the early 90s I’ve been looking to get another. I was interested to see if the quality mapped on to what I remember and whether the talk of gibsons troubles might be exaggerated. Well… the first gibson SG I tried was about 6000 hkd and it was just awful. Poor finish, ragged joints, blemishes on the body, gritty neck, badly cut nut…. oh my. What a shambles. The SG at 14000 hkd was considerably better but should I have to pay so much when other guitar makers are shipping great guitars for a fraction of the price. Interestingly the epiphone range, long seen as a poor man’s chinese gibson were the big surprise. Their SG pro looked and sounded fantastic and seemed a real bargain at 3000hkd.

I do hope Gibson can turn all this around and continue to do what they do best. I am still looking for an SG but for now I’ve moved to second hand market. I’ll see if I can find a guitar made back when Gibson had their priorities right.

14 thoughts on “Gibson guitars…

  1. Very nice recap of the Gibson problem. I made the same experience with Gibson guitars in stores in the next big city. Quality control is horrible. Not even the stores do quality control, they should send guitars back with neck and nut problems. The local stores in the small city where I live, they told me that they don’t buy Gibson’s anymore due to the problem that they had to send too many back. They mostly sell Hagstrom, FGN, Guild and other guitar brands. But they all had no quality issues at all.
    Did you get that Epiphone now? If not, I hope you find one of the older Gibson SG’s for a good price.
    It’s probably nice to get a vintage one, of the time where they still made good guitars if you can test and see the guitar. But generally, I do think it’s not a shame to get another brand. I played many different brands, and some of them don’t have to hide anymore, there are some killer guitars out there for the fraction of the price we’d pay for a Gibson.
    I hope you find what you are looking for, or I hope you find a perfect alternative đŸ™‚


    1. Yes the stores don’t help. I mean at least if you’re going to hang a les Paul or an SG give the guitar a basic set up and at least put some new strings on it if needed. The first sg I tried had oxidation on the strings and I had get a tuner it was so far out… Oh….. Gibson should get the tereda factory in Japan to make them … They do a fantastic job on the pro line gretches!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. In my local stores they absolutely don’t do set ups for the guitars they put on the wall. It’s a shame. You can’t get an impression of these guitars if they play like… (insert vulgar word lol). Strings, yeah, I’ve seen it all. I am generally someone who plays quite a long time on strings because I like the sound when they are played-in. It’s a matter of taste. But the guitars in stores, the strings look completely dark, sound dull and feel like there is no tension anymore. I’d swap the strings in a heart beat.

        I’ve heard about Gretch, they’re quite popular here in Germany. Ironically I’ve never played one. Maybe I should do that some day, but then again, as you said… in stores it’s a bit difficult if you have to play on noodles instead of strings. You never get the full impression of how the guitar sounds and feels, they just get hung on the wall without any more love.


      2. I believe these stores don’t survive anymore because of the big competition, especially the online stores with their “send it back if you don’t like it” policies. We have a super large on in Germany, called Thomann… they’re so known for their cheap offers that people literally translated call them “The Big T” in German. They’re usually up to 200 or 300 Euro cheaper than the local stores.

        I once talked with a local guitar store clerk, and he said that they just can’t hold up with this anymore. Add the fact that younger people are much less likely to learn how to play the guitar, there are almost no customers left for them. I got my Guild Bluesbird from that local store. The guitar was heavily off, but just because it hung on the wall for over 2 years as he said. They made a deficit on that guitar. I just bought it because of the super low price, and because I had the impression that if I set it up, it would be a killer guitar (It has awesome Seymor Duncan’s, lot’s of sustain, and the neck feels just right for blues). I haggled them down further, and they almost cried but they wanted to get rid of it.

        I’m generally careful if I want to believe a sales person anything. But in this case, I think they’re right. I can go there today and see a cerain guitar, and then I go there in a half year again and it’s still hanging on the wall. I am pretty sure they will disappear from the market in a couple of years. It’s sad, because this store is one of the remaining stores that always had a niche selection of guitars… like Guild, Hagstrom, Gretch to name a few.

        So, I guess these two points are their problems…

        1. Large e-commerce competition with return policies that you start to wonder how they do it (I mean really, what to they to with the returned guitars?). Some of them really advertise it like “Try and if you don’t like, send it back.. we don’t care about your reasons”.

        2. The rise of electronic music production and the fact that younger generations are either not interested anymore to learn an instrument, or the fact that some younger folks also don’t have the patience to do so. I don’t think guitar music is dead, but it’s definitely not growing either.


      3. To be honest, I’ve used thomann a couple of times and they are awesome….but you’re right they do pretty much the end of the smaller stores. I’d like to think there’s still a place for something smaller but yeah… As people become more comfortable buying and sending back there’s seems little advantage in actual shops….

        Liked by 1 person

      4. As a customer my experience with Thomann is good too. I just did put myself into the perspective of the local small stores, since I had some talks with sales persons about the issue. So, I see their point. But, yeah, as a customer why should I care, I want it cheaper and more practical, and that’s what the T does.

        Another issue they face, if I can believe what they talked about, is the fact that they had difficulties to get Fender guitars. One of them told me they would need to meet a criteria to become Fender reseller. I don’t know the sum anymore, but they need to take a certain amount of Fender guitars or a certain sum, that’s what they can’t afford. So, instead of Fender they do now advertise and sell G&L guitars.

        But then again, I told one of the sales person that everyone does his own business. As a customer you can’t care about these things. The customer might want that Fender Strat, and if you only have G&L, he/she will look somewhere else. But anyway, it’s certainly interesting to hear about the battles the local stores fight.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. At 2:10 I started to laugh hard. I had exactly the same thoughts.

        I think he is right, they learned nothing. He also makes a good point, that model should rather be called “Les Paul Modern” or something.

        Liked by 1 person

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