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I wanted to bring this subject up as I get asked about it a lot via email and on other forums and it’s always the same question. Is it worth buying a Chinese replica (fake) vs the real thing?
Well first off I have to say that if you have the option of buying the “real thing” why are you looking to buy a cheap Chinese knock off? That makes no sense at all to me. However, lets delve into the issue a little deeper and perhaps rephrase the question. Are Chinese replica guitars AS GOOD as the real thing? That seems a more appropriate question. What are you getting for your $250/$300? The answer is, usually not a lot!
Let me make one thing very clear though. Just because a guitar is Chinese made does not mean it is poor quality. Far from it. A lot of very familiar brand names source their guitars from China to keep production costs low and enable us, you and me to buy a quality guitar at a reasonable price. the keyword there being ‘quality’. The factories these guitars come out of have quality control and that is something many of the knock off outfits don’t have.
I have seen and tried a fair few Chinese replica guitars in my time. They are called “replica” now because it get’s around various legal loopholes. A “replica” is not technically the same as a “fake”, the latter indicating something that is intended to fool the buyer into believing they are buying an original whereas a replica is bought “knowing” it is not an original. Grey area for sure but worth pointing out.
The guitars I have come across have “replicated” Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, Taylor, Gretsch and Paul Reed Smith in both electric and acoustic versions. NONE of them are what I would call high quality guitars although most have more or less been exactly the $2-300 worth that they cost. ALL needed work of one sort or another in order to bring them to an acceptable standard although nothing major and probably not outside the bounds of what you might want to do to upgrade some budget guitars anyway.
Here’s the thing though. What you are essentially paying for is a logo on the headstock. Is that really worth the hassle?
To put this all in perspective and I will take a Les Paul and a Fender Strat as examples. For around the same money you would pay for a “replica” Gibson Les Paul or Fender Strat you could buy an ‘Epiphone’ Les Paul or ‘Squire’ Strat here in the UK or the USA AND it will be excellent quality, won’t infringe anyone’s copyright, comes with a warranty and the added bonus of knowing that you did the right thing.
So when weighing up purchasing what amounts to a logo and a lottery on what materials a Chinese replica is made from and what condition it will arrive to you in OR going into your local guitar store and trying out a budget guitar which you can be sure is well made and of decent materials ask yourself is the Chinese replica (fake) option really worth it? I know where my money would go!
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