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Thread: The Critical Importance of Perception

  1. #1
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    Question The Critical Importance of Perception

    First post, trying to find out about a Sweetwater "Dalbergia" neck and fingerboard... I've recently joined "the club" buying two, new hollowbodies with the piezos. I'm not sure I'll buy many guitars in the future that don't include piezos, since they add so much to the "hi fi" attributes you can pull out of them and manipulate. Anyway...

    It's hard for tool-users seeing the collectors' points of view and vice versa. I guess, as more tool-user than collector, it strikes me as mildly sad when an exceptional tool of specific utility, purpose and original meaning is sometimes literally put under glass, or even more bothersome, kept unseen and invisible until retrieved. So why do glassed displays of utilitarian objects, i.e. museums in general, exist? Because the objects have multiple values, and appearance, perceived rarity, even their cultural cache or "sexiness" etc., are regarded as generally legitimate. Authenticity is among those values and virtues, and in the case of guitar woods, stains, lacquers, etc. a "knowing" fraud is a fraud, misrepresentation is misrepresentation. It might not mean as much contemporaneously, but for example, Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments have skyrocketed in value over centuries for many reasons, all linked to a variety of perceptions beside the most objective and enduring, and for a tool-user, the most critical: how they perform. (BTW, they sound pretty exceptional in the right hands; do some searching and listening...)

    Would that our PRS guitars have similar lives and perceived values, 200 years and more from now. PRS isn't Stadivarius, although some of his guitars may well play and sound great a long time from today. He's not aiming for each instrument being the best, possible one he can make or have made under his name or brand, unlike those venerated, violin makers. More's the pity, and testimony to a variety of deficiencies with cheapening artist's tools for filthy lucre, a.k.a. designing and manufacturing towards wide "price points." One would assume, or at least hope, some PRS guitars will sound as glorious or even better, 200 years from now, as do uncommon historic instruments. Legally however, now and in the future, people trust vendors of goods accurately representing whatever they choose to identify, such as the maker and materials made in their use. If they say "as is," then, "the buyer beware." If they say anything specific however - and saying, for example, a very expensive guitar's neck and fretboard is "Dalbergia" is not very meaningful, though it does have a broad, taxonomic meaning - it had better be what the seller claims. Is asking for that honesty too much, especially when extra $$ are in play for authenticity?
    Last edited by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! ; 06-29-2013 at 06:24 PM.

  2. #2
    I moved your post - which is about Dalbergia and not Chaltecoco (I think).

    Quote Originally Posted by Soul.com View Post
    First post, trying to find out about a Sweetwater "Dalbergia" neck and fingerboard...

    If they say anything specific however - and saying, for example, a very expensive guitar's neck and fretboard is "Dalbergia" is not very meaningful, though it does have a broad, taxonomic meaning - it had better be what the seller claims. Is asking for that honesty too much, especially when extra $$ are in play for authenticity?
    No.
    Last edited by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! ; 06-29-2013 at 06:35 PM.
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    Plank Spanker justmund's Avatar
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    Sweetwater have their own definition:

    http://www.sweetwater.com/insync/dalbergia/

    Does that help?

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    Thanks very much, BFM! Being new to this I think you're right, it made more sense doing the move rather than leaving it attached to a frequent contributor's comment, to which I replied. Basically, for all who care, it was a reply to a previous discussion of Chaltecoco v. something else that sounds like that, a wood controversy in 2012. Mine was about the offer to sell a guitar with a neck from the genus Dalbergia, a PRS Quatro. Identifying the broad genus is not very revealing... but it was more about the collector's v. player's expectations, essentially. Many references were made to an earlier "sinker wood" controversy. So, thanks again! Love your graphic, btw.

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    Quote Originally Posted by justmund View Post
    Sweetwater have their own definition:

    http://www.sweetwater.com/insync/dalbergia/

    Does that help?
    Absolutely, helps show how hopelessly broad the category/genus is, and thanks very much. I had not seen that. Viewers should click on the link just for reference as to how very numerous the species in Dalbergia are. It's kind of like saying somebody died of Old Age. Well probably, sure, but I'd like to see a pathology student get away with telling his professor that after doing an autopsy... Thanks again, deucemaster, I need to find a tiny pic for my own ID.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Soul.com View Post
    PRS isn't Stadivarius, although some of his guitars may well play and sound great a long time from today. He's not aiming for each instrument being the best, possible one he can make or have made under his name or brand, unlike those venerated, violin makers.
    This is an interesting comment, though I respectfully disagree with it.

    It's hard to divine what someone else's intentions and inner thought processes are, but there is ample evidence that Paul does try to see that each instrument is the best possible one his team can make. The fact that he is constantly innovating in every single facet of the guitar, from the hardware to electronics to design to how the wood is dried to the fact that instruments that don't measure up are literally sawed up, tell a lot of the story.

    Stradivari had a workshop, this is known. As did his competitors of the time. It's difficult to know his role in the production process, in fact, only guesses can really be made. And many of his instruments were made for the wealthy nobility, with lots of fancy trim - let's call those the "private stocks." It is certain, however, that Stradivarius instruments were not made by one guy sitting at a workbench, whether striving for perfection, or just trying to make a good livelihood.

    In any event, it's my belief that PRS in particular spearheaded the effort to upgrade artist's tools from what had gone on in most of the 20th century, quite the opposite of cheapening them for "filthy lucre" (a concept that is kind of weird, since people make things for sale so they can do things like buy groceries and support their families, as Stradivari certainly did!). Artists aren't "settling" for PRS; they're choosing them with pleasure. I work with my PRS guitars as part of my livelihood, so I'm certainly a tool user. I've played far more limited production brands, and far more production-oriented brands, and these are the ones I prefer. I honestly believe there isn't a better sounding guitar or better built/playing brand on the market for the artist.

    If I believed there was, I'd play it. And I do believe that PRS is trying to make the best that can be made. Whether he has succeeded in that endeavor is up for debate, of course, and the issue is highly subjective, which is what makes it interesting to discuss.

    As a side note, today we venerate Stradivari. But in his day, Strad was simply one of many good brands coming out of Cremona. The whole Strad mystique came about much later in the 18th Century when a particular famous player made his reputation playing a Strad, and people started picking up on them. By this time, Antonio had been dead for about 50 years.

    The fact that people are still trying to figure out what makes a Strad a Strad tells you a lot about perception; they weren't really made much differently than other violins. Certainly part of their value comes as a result of reputation and perception. And all of them have been re-worked and repaired many times. So it's an interesting business, this whole perception thing.

    Did Stradivari set out to make the best possible violin? My guess is yes, at the very least as good as anyone else's, as he had very stiff competition in Cremona, and no doubt wanted his brand to be competitive so he could make money to feed his family. But Guarneri and Amati are arguably just as good.

    I think PRS is a similar case. There are players who might prefer another brand, or argue over whether this one or that one is somehow "better," but I guarantee you that anyone picking up, say, my Artist V would at the very least say that it's one hell of a fine, exquisite, great sounding instrument, and that same player would probably be blown away by my Tonare acoustic, that in particular is (for me) the best sounding guitar I've ever played, including some legendary models from small makers like Gurian, James Olsen, etc., who can certainly not be called mass producers building to a price.

    One final thought: The electric guitar may or may not even be popular or played 200 years from now. It's difficult to predict how culture is going to develop. Will today's pop or jazz music remain a part of the artistic culture? Who knows. In any case, it's highly unlikely that any of us will be around in 200 years to find out, so it's not something I worry about!
    Last edited by LSchefman; 06-30-2013 at 12:15 PM.
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    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    ^ +1

    I'm not sure I fully understand the purpose of the OP. I get that Sweetwater has advertised a guitar in which you are interested. I get that they label the neck and fretboard as "Dalbergia". What I don't get is the tirade which follows which casts aspersions, denigrates the motives and work ethic of PRSh and generally musses on what you seem to purport to be false or misleading advertising on the part of Sweetwater.

    I suggest an easier and more productive route would be to contact Sweetwater and ask which species of Dalbergia was used for the guitar in question and you'd have your answer.

    I see no need to question the dealer and manufacturer in this manner simply because you didn't get a species name in the ad which caught your eye.

    Now, if they claim it is BRW and it turns out to be IRW, you'd have a basis for this.... But we really don't know yet, do we?
    Last edited by rugerpc; 06-30-2013 at 12:14 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    ^ +1

    I'm not sure I fully understand the purpose of the OP. I get that Sweetwater has advertised a guitar in which you are interested. I get that they label the neck and fretboard as "Dalbergia". What I don't get is the tirade which follows which casts aspersions, denigrates the motives and work ethic of PRSh and generally musses on what you seem to purport to be false or misleading advertising on the part of Sweetwater.

    I suggest an easier and more productive route would be to contact Sweetwater and ask which species of Dalbergia was used for the guitar in question and you'd have your answer.

    I see no need to question the dealer and manufacturer in this manner simply because you didn't get a species name in the ad which caught your eye.

    Now, if they claim it is BRW and it turns out to be IRW, you'd have a basis for this.... But we really don't know yet, do we?
    Hi, been traveling... I'm semi-surprised by the posts here and elsewhere related to the elevation of brands and companies populated by the imperfect, not the perfect. Living is a matter of working through one's own and dealing with others' imperfections (and perceptions, obviously). I did call Sweetwater and they had to call PRS, as they were not given any specifics about the species of Dalbergia, either. They would have and traditionally have published all the specifics PRS and other makers provide; why wouldn't they? Their rep said PRS wasn't sure, might be from South America, might be from Africa. Provenance matters, although many forum posters insist it does not. One could take a looser or more strict approach to such descriptions, not of an "S2" or an "SE" but a full-blown and priced PRS. Marketing people know specifics can make buyers pull the trigger, and generalizations make them keep their hands in their pockets and NOT EVEN TRY playing, much less buying, expensive guitars. I imagine PRS is bitterly familiar with that phenomenon, which is why they sell S2 and SE guitars under their corporate name. It's like the father of a friend saying, when Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler, that his Dodge was now a Mercedes. He said it with a laugh, as well he should. See how perceptions and brands matter, guys?

    Perhaps I didn't phrase my OP, meant as a response in an older thread, as gently as venerable forum posters would have wanted. I submit that PRS has knowingly, probably intelligently gone downmarket, or perhaps more accurately, cast a much wider net by diversifying product lines, in the quest for more volume and profit. There's nothing wrong with that, more power to them, but in guitars the specific components are important, even if the sound isn't immediately affected. The "halo" of their history and best guitars may or may not extend to the S2s and SEs, or more likely as I am experiencing talking to guitar repair people and sellers about PRS guitars, the reverse. It's so dangerous, other manufacturers have wisely used distinguishing product line names such as "Epiphone" or "Squier" to keep the halo firmly over their higher-priced brands. There is further temptation to everyone involved with selling new and used PRS guitars and amps insisting that halo hovers atop the less expensive product lines made with more common components too, as being "just like" or "just as good as..." If it's true, and one would hope it is not, many of us have significantly overpaid, even if we are satisfied with the sound and construction of our PRS guitars and amps. We could have gotten "just as good" a lot more easily and less expensively.

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    Senior Member cosmic_ape's Avatar
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    The Stradivarius myth is just that, a myth. Google that study (double blind test) that had great violinists compare Strads to other violins. The results were incredibly inconsistent. People couldn't tell which one was which...

    Better yet, here it is: http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptiveca...pick-the-strad

    Now, stop trolling

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    Quote Originally Posted by justmund View Post
    Yes, thanks! I also bought the guitar, which has helped enormously...

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic_ape View Post
    The Stradivarius myth is just that, a myth. Google that study (double blind test) that had great violinists compare Strads to other violins. The results were incredibly inconsistent. People couldn't tell which one was which...

    Better yet, here it is: http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptiveca...pick-the-strad

    Now, stop trolling
    Not trolling, Mr. Ape.

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