Standard vs 10 vs Artist grade tops

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by mikeinaustin, May 22, 2019.

  1. mikeinaustin

    mikeinaustin New Member

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    i came a across a McCarty 594 Soapbar with a standard top that looks as good as most “10 top” guitars i have seen.

    I also once ordered an artist grade guitar and when it came it the top was noticeably worse than most standard tops.

    What gives ? Is it simply what they have on hand and label as this or that even if they don’t match what they are supposed to be?
     
  2. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    The 'quality' of the tops are subjective anyway - what you may think is better may not be what another considers aesthetically more pleasing.

    It can also depend on the batch as a 10-top is supposedly the top 10% of that Batch. If the batch isn't particularly great, then the top 10% may not be as figured as something that missed out on being a 10-top in a particularly great batch.

    It seems that the most densely figured and by densely, I mean number of dark lines - not necessarily the thickest lines as you don't get as many lines if they are thick, as well as any 'dead' spots (areas that may have missing/broken lines) then these may not make a 10 top but you may prefer thicker lines and think the thinner lines lack depth for example and therefore may prefer a non-10 top.

    The reason PRS do 10 tops etc is because 'dealers' would ask PRS to pick out a 'nice' top for them and so they decided to grade the wood they got in with the 'best' of that batch according to whoever graded the wood being marked up for 10-top. Its purely an aesthetic option and as such, its subjective too. A top that misses out on being a '10 top' from one batch, could well be a 10top in another batch. You are paying a premium essentially for someone's criteria for denoting a top as being 'better' than another.

    I am not saying that non-10tops are all better but there will be some that are subjectively better to one person compared to another...
     
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  3. horax

    horax New Member

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    I think a lot of SE veneers are nice as the 20 tops in the looks category.
     
  4. BMiller

    BMiller New Member

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    Per a conversation that I had with PRS support, I was under the impression that the 10 Top designation was given after sanding. I was told with how the pattern reaches the sides. If it goes uniformly side to side and top to bottom, that is a 10. My McCarty is damn close. My CU24 is certainly a 10 (and marked as such). My Wood Library DGT is as well, but they don't label Wood Library Artist Package tops like that (as far as I know).
     
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  5. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    I have been looking at tops very particularly lately. I find that artist tops have the most figure, but are pretty much always "BBQ", super-tight flame stripes. I prefer wider, more random figure. The 10 tops are more varied, and you can find anything from almost no figure to BBQ, so I generally find the best tops for me in the "10" bucket. Standard tops also have a lot of variation, and some are no figure at all, others cross well into 10-top territory.

    It's subjective for sure. I also think that the high demand for figured tops is eating up the available wood. My rose-coloured glasses recall better tops historically. For sure I have a couple of older 10-tops that blow away any top I've seen today, and I've been really looking.

    On the plus side, I think that PRS has found some finish techniques that really make the figuring "pop", they are making the very best of the wood IMO.
     
  6. jak3af3r

    jak3af3r Slightly Older Than New Member

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    I would concur with this. My Custom 24 was special ordered with a quilt 10 top marked on the tag and in the cavity but not the headstock. I suspect its because there is a burl right below the bridge which I find funny now as the market trend has burl wood in the spotlight.
     
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  7. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    To be honest, I haven't seen any 'flame' (not quilt) maple 10-tops that I like more than my non-10top Custom 24.

    [​IMG]

    I know it looks like the area under the tone/selector switch looks like there isn't much flame but the reality is different to this photograph as this next photo shows.

    [​IMG]

    The angle makes a difference - even this angle doesn't show all the markings but that's because these tops have depth and a 3D like effect.

    Not one of my Guitars is a 10-top and everyone has decent markings that in some photo's may look like there is 'dead' spots but in others, those areas seem more figured and maybe have dead spots somewhere else. You can see a gallery of my guitars here https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy if you want and see how figured they all are for a non 10-top guitar and why I am not overly bothered about the classification of the top. Maybe I got lucky with these but I wouldn't go looking for 10-tops or better - if I find the guitar I want, in the colour I want I will buy - if it has a 10top so be it but I won't go looking for 10-tops...
     
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  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Because they’re only veneers! You can get a LOT of veneers out of a single piece of wood. Not so with a true carved top.

    Completely different standards of value, speaking only for myself, and I fully acknowledge that YMMV! :)

    In any case, as others have mentioned, it’s up to someone’s personal opinion, there’s no objective standard.
     
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  9. jak3af3r

    jak3af3r Slightly Older Than New Member

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    I was somewhere and have been told by many cabinet makers, guitar builders, and woodworkers that most of the good logs get sold and turned into veneers because they bring the largest profit for cubic unit of material.

    Then one cabinet maker took me to a back room where he had a pile of veneers he claimed was worth well over 6 figures.
     
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  10. Whitecat

    Whitecat Goes home to Starla

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    Pretty sure this is a pervasive myth. Tops are graded without regard to percentages of shipments. Generally a ‘less-good’ 10-Top is probably a victim of carving... sometimes the figure doesn’t go deep enough to look “perfect.”
    Conversely, very occasionally tops are “upgraded” during the build process if the carve reveals more than they thought was there.

    Fundamentally it’s all marketing - looking at it objectively, a 10-Top is actually the “second-worst” grade of top available. ;)
     
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  11. Tonart

    Tonart Tone of the Art......or is that backwards?

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    I was under the impression 11 top is the max.
     
  12. Tonart

    Tonart Tone of the Art......or is that backwards?

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    There will always be a minority of tops that either slip up the ceiling or slip down the net. Only human. No different from grading oranges.
     
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  13. AP515

    AP515 Mostly Normal

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    The designation "10 top" is not about the batch % or the tightness of the flame, or any other common misconception of the quality of the wood. The actual definition has always been that no more than 10% of the area of the top is inconsistent. This means that 90% of the top will all look the same. So the top might have a tight grain or a wide grain, or large flames or small flames, or back when we could get quilts it would have really curly quilt or slightly curly quilt, but if it is a 10 top then the whole surface, less no more than 10%, is covered in a similar pattern.

    I had an artist pack Cu24 on which a portion of the flame would disappear if you turned it slightly at an angle. Does that mean it wasn't a "better than a 10 top"? I guess it depends on your personal definition. When you could see the flame it was exactly like all the rest of the flame. It only disappeared when you turned it at an angle to your sight. Technically speaking it fit the definition of "better than a 10 top". Aesthetically it could be disappointing.
     
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  14. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    IMO, this falls into the "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" category.

    I think PRS does as good a job as can be expected, but putting a financial value on an artistic choice never works 100%.
     
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  15. Kdogg788

    Kdogg788 New Member

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    I have to agree that the look of the tops are completely subjective. With the cost of the guitars though, I can't imagine ordering one sight unseen as to what it looks like. I'd have to fall in love with the guitar to buy it.

    -k
     
  16. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    I can dig that thought, but I'd argue that's the main reasons that the "larger" PRS dealers go through such major efforts to put awesome photos on their websites. Some of the PS layouts I've seen have GOT to be done by more than "standard guitar store employees"!
     
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  17. Kdogg788

    Kdogg788 New Member

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    Absolutely. Photos of the actual guitar if I cannot visit the store are a must for me. I instantly eliminated stores from my list if they didn't have the photos of the guitar online and instead used stock photos.

    -k
     
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  18. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    Another thing that couldn't hurt would be to start (and likely end) your searches with the dealers that you'll see as regulars here on this forum.

    After about 3 weeks I narrowed down the list of who I'd prefer to do business with, pretty quickly.
     
  19. Tucson Thump

    Tucson Thump Mint Heavy Relic

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    Sure, she may look stunning, but can she cook?
     
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