Is it simply brand recognition and nostalgia why people keep buying Gibsons and Fenders?

Pine Cone

New Member
Dec 25, 2015
I get that strats and teles are good and cool guitars, but basically Squier and other knockoffs get you the same thing at a cheaper price, so excluding those, I don't think $500-1000 Fenders nearly stack up to PRS, Ibanez or ESP guitars. PRS offers you the solid, reliable, comfortable, benchmark, pick me up and play aspect and Ibanez and ESP offer a whole bunch of bells and whistles (and better pickups) than a Fender does.

Going to Gibson and Les Paul, I'm much less familiar with those, and they do have features like coil taps and stuff, but they easily run S2 prices into core prices and I don't see the cool factor, but I might be missing it here. Epiphone has great products as well, but that's not really the same tier as PRS prices and I've heard they have some quality issues.

Even so, Fender is the dominant #1 and I really don't see any reason why people are so estatic over them? I think it's just the power of icons and symbols and brand recognition that keep sales so high for them.

Some are great, people love them for reasons.

There are also other factors.

Like how Fender makes things in practically every part of the music spectrum and gets dealers to carry their PAs. From what I understand, it's hard for small shops to carry a lot of alternatives if they want Fender.
There are fans of Clapton, Gilmour, Hendrix, Malmsteen, Page et al.

And there are those of us who continue to crave something different.
Yeah, but why don't people just buy Squiers and say to heck with it with Fenders? They will be supplied anywhere Fender sells products and you'll have the same guitar as Clapton, who himself said specs didn't really matter much.

And Gilmour uses P90s right?
There can be vast differences in tone and playability. You can of course get lucky. By the same token, you could ask why do people play core and S2 PRSs?
Why do people bother eating food anymore when they could theoretically just survive on nutritional supplements and protein/vitamin pills?

Some people prefer certain feels and/or sounds to others based on a wide variety of criteria. Others prefer their instrument(s) to be built in a certain country for various reasons.

Perception is reality. I know many, many people who would take a Fender Strat over literally any PRS in existence.
David Gilmour use p90s in his GIBSON Les Paul.Clapton play custom shop strats and Fender custom shop can't be compared to squire.
Guitars in general are a taste thing and everyones taste is different :)
As far as Quality goes There is a HUGE difference between a Squire Strat and even a MIM Strat and even more so an American , I do have a very nice MIM Strat it is close to a made in america but they are rare. ( I also have a Squire its a POS tried to make it play but it would cost more than a new MIM to fix it )
An instrument makers best product is nomally head and shoulders above there entry level product.
I started with PRS just a few years ago once I found them I found what I wanted in a guitar cost be damed they just make me sound BETTER
It's funny. As a "Les Paul Guy," I have two Custom Shop LP R8s and I love them. I've actually asked myself what is probably a blasphemous question here, "why would anyone want a PRS?" Thanks to a friend of mine (who may see this), I got turned on in a hurry to PRS. I quickly became a Custom 24 Ten Top owner. I absolutely love it. It's a more elegant instrument, it's absolutely stunning and every note sings in a way that doesn't happen on my Les Pauls. But there's something primal about a great Les Paul (and they aren't all great) that I'm not sure I'll find in my Custom 24. At the end of the day, they're similar but very different instruments. You can love them both.
As I mentioned in an other thread before: I walked into a local GC (one of the biggest in Europe) for comparing a DGT with my 513.
After ending my comparision I talked to the Head of Custom Shop Departement of that GC. 9 of 10 sold guitars belong to Gibson and Fender. The rest (EBMM, Gretsch, Ibanez, Duesenberg, Mayones, ESP, Jackson, Fame, ..., and PRS). The customers seek to fullfil their expectations/prejufications towards sound driven by their idols or the music they listen to. A Strat, a Les Paul, a Tele is supposed to sound like a Strat and so (This is surprisingly a circular reason... E. g. Jimmy Page made millions of experts believe that the solo of Stairway to Heaven has been recorded with Les Paul and Marshall, actually it was a Tele and a Supro.). But that fact doesn't prevent from heading to get supposed iconic tones by purchasing Teles, Strats, and Paulas.
They want to hear what they see. Indeed, a Strat has a certain tonal diversity which could be a typical indicator. This is not possible with an ordinary double SC or double HB axe.
PRS reputation is a result of excellence in craftman-ship and outstanding optical design (by wood selection), but not by an unique tone. Carlos Santana and Mark Tremonti sound like themselves even when the play other brands' gear.
Straight talked there is no iconic PRS tone.
But every customer is poor if he reduces himself to a certain model's supposed common sense tone instead of buying a guitar you like by its haptic, optic, sound and create his own music language.
I admire my one and only PRS not because of a certain - supposed - model related tone, love to make music with that instrument.
Might just have something to do with them being f@ckin' Bangin'! guitars.

There's an ad campaign.

It simply boils down to personal preference. There are plenty of other quality guitars out there, it's just that PRS simply appeals to you, me, and many others more than those brands. There have been several threads that knock these other brands, which I feel is inconsequential. Sure, there are crummy guitars out there, but trying to explain why other people play something other than PRS always comes back to the same point - personal preference.

The fact that other people like or play other guitars as opposed to PRS really doesn't matter all that much. Just play what you like, that's all that really matters.
Straight talked there is no iconic PRS tone.

The applicable definition of icon (we aren't talking about statues or painted pictures of gods or saints) is:

"A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something: this iron-jawed icon of American manhood." (Emphasis Added).

Elvis, the Beatles, and certain other bands are iconic of music of the early rock years. They dominated radio, they dominated record sales, they were the ones that were widely admired and copied. They are symbols of an era.

Name one band today that is truly a dominating media icon, a symbol of today's music in the same way.

You can't.

In fact, you can't name a style of music that is a dominating media icon in the way that rock music was back in the day. It doesn't exist.

Whether that's a good or bad thing is an important question, but I won't go into that here.

The reason is that music has gone from one worldwide mass market, to many niche markets. There aren't a lot of musical icons out there any more in a mass media sense. Sure, there are a lot of great bands and so on. But I'm talking true icons.

The problem is that iconic music creates iconic instrument tones. Not the other way around.

Based on many recordings made a long time ago, Gibson's jazz body guitars were iconic-symbols by the late 1930s. Fenders became iconic-symbols in the early 1950s. Lots of records came and went before Paul Smith was born. They are indeed "representative symbols" of certain styles of guitar music.

Paul Smith came along many years after the Fender and Gibson sounds had already been heard on thousands of hit records. It's hard to be a symbol in the same way, when the golden age of rock and roll happened when you were in elementary school.

To say that every player sounds like himself regardless of the guitar used is to miss the main point when talking about tone; sure we all sound like ourselves. I even sound like myself on the piano, and my fingers don't touch the strings. But I have a certain touch on the keys, and I'd recognize my own playing on a recording. That doesn't mean that the instrument I'm playing is irrelevant to the outcome. In fact, it is very relevant. I sound quite different playing a Yamaha as opposed to playing a Steinway.

Part of the issue with electric guitars is that we use many different amplifiers from one another, and that's a HUGE part of guitar sound. Part of it is that we all play differently, and a big part of our tone is in our hand-brain connection. Throw in a few pedals, and you've muddied the waters even more.

But while, for example, Carlos Santana sounds like himself on a PRS or his old LP or SG, he sounds like himself playing that particular guitar. His PRS sound is indeed different from his early sound, although the process of recording a guitar sent through an amplifier into a Shure SM57 into a recording console does tend to homogenize an awful lot of how the thing sounds in a room!

The moment you say, "I sound different on a Strat than I do on a Les Paul," you've admitted that you don't sound the same regardless of what you play. Thousands of posts here say things like, "I want to get that Strat sound," or "I want to get a 335 sound" etc., "What should I buy?"

And thousands of answers will say, "A PRS has its own sound, if you want a Strat, buy a Strat." Etc. No one says, "It doesn't matter, you will sound the same no matter what you play." And the reason is we all know that's simply not true.

In fact, I know that I sound different, even recorded, on different PRS guitars. Whether someone else would notice, I don't know, nor do I care. A player has to make choices, and play what the player thinks is right for the song. Part is the inspiration that comes from the tone; part is the inspiration that comes from the tactile stuff; part is from the eyeballs.

OK, the eyeballs part has a lot to do with it.

An awful lot of players want to affect a certain image. One has only to look at the astonishing success of brand-new, artificially-relic'd instruments to understand that it's all about image. And image is about style.

A guy in ripped-up (usually artificially relic'd) jeans, sneakers, and an armpit undershirt, covered with tattoos is not necessarily compatible in some folks' mind appearing on stage with a fancy-looking guitar like many PRS guitars.

And the wannabes who never go on stage, but enjoy simply mentally posing as rock stars with their guitars and in their basements still want "the look."

And that, of course, has nothing to do with iconic tone.

Forgive me for rambling, but the fact is that icons are largely bullsh!t, and a whole lot of other stuff, such as what's "in," what's "famous," and so on. Today's media icon isn't a rock star, it's a reality TV person with zero talent like a Kardashian, and that to me is one very sad comment on life in the world as it is today.

But to diss PRS guitars by saying there's no iconic PRS tone, well...sorry. There are lots of unique and cool PRS tones, and to worry over whether or not they're iconic is entirely beside the point.
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I own a couple of Fenders and a Gibson SG. I also have quite a few PRS guitars. There are tones I can't get from one brand that I can pull off with another. I even have a Reverend that does some stuff that none of my other guitars can come close to doing. I find that I play a certain way on each guitar. I can't exactly play heavy on a vintage radius stratocaster, and for classic rock, I love the feel and brashness of my SG. It's not simply brand recognition or nostalgia. When I gig, I bring a strat, a tele, 2 PRS, and the SG. Even with a set list, you never know what mood strikes you at the last minute.
@LSchefman, you didn't get me right.
Every PRS has its certain and unique voice Paul and his teams are convinced of to be the best possible.
I summrized in straight words the point of view of the head of this particular GC's custom shop regarding the customers behaviour.
They have a (general) clue how a Strat, a Tele or a LP sounds. That's a fact.
From my perspektive these three guitars are iconic instruments.
I want to stress Jimmy Page again: We hear what we see or what we are used to. And actually a bunch of people have been cheated by an Image.
Indeed, amps and effects and so on have an impact on the guitars sound, but that is not an issue.
Doing a randomized survey with a couple of different guitars, most of the partipants would fail by naming the right Instrument.
But is that the core issue?

Tele, Strat, and Les Paul stand as pars pro toto, regardless several differences in the model variation. Though this makes it for customers easy.

If you're new to PRS you have to trial and spend some time finding to appropriate guitar, does a DGT sound best? Paul's Guitar? A 594? A PS or a Core? Solidbody or Semi-/Hollowbody? Vibrato vs. Stoptail? 22 or 24 frets?

I made up my decision very easy purchasing a PRS. I didn't expect a certain tone, I wanted a versatile guitar.
And I'm very confortable with that result.
I want to play with a guitar I have chosen.

Finally: Arguing that I diss PRS isn't fair.
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Maertl513,you have a very good point actually but you have to understand this forum works like real life.You have an establishment that is politically correct and everybody else is evil. [political example deleted]
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I get that strats and teles are good and cool guitars, but basically Squier and other knockoffs get you the same thing at a cheaper price, so excluding those, I don't think $500-1000 Fenders nearly stack up to PRS, Ibanez or ESP guitars. PRS offers you the solid, reliable, comfortable, benchmark, pick me up and play aspect and Ibanez and ESP offer a whole bunch of bells and whistles (and better pickups) than a Fender does.

I thoroughly disagree that the Squiers are the same thing as USA Fenders. I've owned many: Squier, MIM, MIJ, USA. The higher the line, the better the electronics and materials. I've had a few USA teles (and a couple G&L ASATs, which are very similar) and they are AWESOME!

As for why anyone would buy Fender/Gibson, I love my PRS guitars, but give me a good tele any day (or my Tom Anderson mongrel), and I will be happy. I also have Ibanez 6 and 7-string guitars. They are all great at what they do best, and generally competent for other stuff.

Just because you have a Ducati doesn't mean you wouldn't also enjoy a Harley.

Naturally there is also marketing and history. Gibson and Fender have been around the longest and have an iron grip on the music stores. They are the 800lb gorillas of music equipment. They make more guitars in a day than many companies make in a month or a year. The Fender story is interesting in that Leo Fender wasn't a craftsman. He was a manufacturer, and he focused on making as many instruments and amps as possible for as little money as possible. Fender was the Ford of music.
Maertl513,you have a very good point actually but you have to understand this forum works like real life.You have an establishment that is politically correct and everybody else is evil.[political example deleted]

That's not a fair criticism, Swede71.

I interpret certain guitar tone stuff differently from Maerti, but he and I are friends who've communicated back and forth many times on a personal level, and we like each other.

It's OK for friends to disagree. If I disagree with him, that does NOT mean I think he's evil.

In fact, I happen to admire Maerti as a person, and as a musician. He knows that, and I've told him so.

The fact that you have no knowledge whatsoever of our prior communication, or our friendship, makes your assumptions about my motivation somewhat offensive.

If you care to learn a little bit more about where I'm coming from, feel free to send me a message, but don't presume for a moment that you think you know or can interpret what's going on in my head. That's gall.
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