Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Reports from China
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Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by admin »

Paul: As we are well aware, many instruments are built in China. I cannot begin to know all of the companies that are there, but I am familiar with the Ibanez line of instruments which more recently have rivaled many other longstanding companies elsewhere in the world.

I am interested in knowing what Chinese performers or craftspeople think of Rickenbacker instruments. Do you have any idea?
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paul_yan
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by paul_yan »

Very good question, Peter.

Yes, China has now become a big outlet for less expensive musical instruments for use in both classical and modern music during the last decade. Their quality range is pretty wide, some well made, and some are just junk and a waste of money. However,according to George Gruhn's and my own observations, the overall quality is getting better and better rapidly thanks to experiences transferred from Japan and Korea.And of course, you see a lot of copycats and fakers which are quite easy to identify.

In order to save cost, both Gibson and Fender set up factories in the Shandong province to manufacture their Epiphone and Squier lines, respectively. Ibanez and BC Rich, besides numerous name brands, also have their own factories here producing guitars and basses that are, like you said, pretty good bang for the bucks and have rivaled many other longstanding companies elsewhere in the world. To sum up, China in the 2000's is like Japn in the 1970's. I sure hope China will get pass the copycat phase and come up with original, repectable designs in 10 years.

China didn't have its own pop music scene until the late 1980's. In China, few players are aware of the Rickenbacker name, not to mention having seen the real things in person. Over 90% of guitars and basses used by the average players are sub-lines like Epiphone, Squier, and domestic brands. Fenders and Gibsons are what most serious guitar players recognize and want. As for bassists, it's Fender, Fodera, Spector, Warwick and MTD, etc.. From time to time, there are sporadic mentions of Ricks in some music magazines and sites, but not frequent enough. Just recently, http://www.guitarchina.com, China's leading quitar site, featured an article on the "F-Hole" guitars used by the Beatles, whose author had no idea what Gretsch or Rickenbacker were, and mentioned only George's Gibson ES-345-TD and John's Epiphone Casino.
http://news.guitarchina.com/article/4695.html

Among the few musicians that play Ricks, one's the singer/guitarist in a well known band "Fruit VC" (very English-influenced) who owns a 330 MG and a 330 FG, both bought in England when he was studying there.

Another singer/guitarist who's quite famous in Taiwan with his original rock music,moved to Beijing in 2006, has a 620 FG. He got someone to buy it for him in Japan in 2003 right after I showed him a picture of a 620 FG during the time I was mixing his album.

As for Rick basses, there are a 4003 FG and a 4003 MB belonging to a young pop band bassist and a young recording engineer, respectively.

I know all these 4 guys very well in person and will invite them to do interviews about their Ricks in the future, then translate and report back here.

I noticed there's a 4003 bass in Shanghai that's registered here, although the owner is not a member of this forum. I'll see if I can track him/her down.
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

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Paul, a fantastic review and a window into music life in your country. Your detailed response is much appreciated. This Forum is living up to everything I hoped it could be. I look forward to interviews with the other Rickenbacker owners from China.
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by leftyguitars »

A most interesting article Paul. I look forward to reading more like that! :D
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by dog »

OK. So I am adding to a six month old thread. :|

I can't speak to Ric's in China. But, since my wife is from Philippines, I have visited there many times. One time while walking (or taking Jeepney, bus or Taxi) around Metro Manila I had the occasion to visit a couple of large music stores. Most of the instruments they had were, well, foreign to me. And, they acted like they had never heard of Rickenbacker. Actually, of the Asian countries I can think of, only Japan has much of a supply, or interest in Rics. Maybe it just comes down to money. :wink:
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by wj350 »

Paul's description matches my experience with Chinese-made guitars. I have a Squier Std Strat and an Epi Casino made in China, and previously owned an Epi EJ-160E from China.

The Strat is superb--very well made, good hardware, the pickups are perhaps a little bright, but I've not messed with them yet.

The Casino is also very well made, though I think the older Korean models sound a bit better, at least unplugged. The finish on the Chinese models seems to be heavier than the Korean models, definitely heavier than the Japanese Elite models, and this probably accounts for the poorer sound unplugged. Plugged in, she's just fine. My EJ was perfect in every way--I actually had to spend some time thinking on which to sell, the EJ or my Gibson J-160. I decided to keep the Gibson primarily because of the shorter scale.

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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by GSRIC »

Thank you for your very informative story about guitar making in China, Paul. I have always thought the Chinese were wonderful craftsmen and make beautiful guitars of many popular makes, especially the Epiphone copies of Gibson guitars. Very nice guitars for the money in my opinion. :)
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by collin »

Great info, thanks Paul.


I think all-too-often, people classify Chinese industry (with it's wonderful people and craftsmen) and the products we see (with often law-conflicting issues) under the same umbrella, and it's not really fair.

In fact, sometimes it's downright racism, I think.

It wasn't that long ago (the mid 60s) when anything "Made in Japan" was considered garbage, cheap, or a knock-off, and people often reflected that mentality onto the Japanese people themselves, which is unfair. Flash forward 20-30 years, and some of the best precision-made products come from Japan, and people's mentality shifts 180 degrees.

I think the same thing is capable for China----they have the resources, the skills and means-of-production. If they can only be utilized for producing quality goods, and original goods, instead of mostly cheaper, sub-quality copies-----I think they can make great strides in the next decade or two.


This goes for any product----not just guitars. :)
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by electrofaro »

I'm quite late to this thread, too. But, a great read - thanks to Paul for his insights! :D
collin wrote:This goes for any product----not just guitars. :)
I've been on a chinese made Sony Vaio notebook for over 3 years now. It's still going... people see cheapmade products which only quality is the lack of it and assume everything made in China's bad. If that's true than germans only make wonderful sturdy products :?
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by Rick »

I am REALLY late to this thread ... but here goes anyways.

Paul is dead on with his analysis.

I've been lucky and toured a few different factories here. One that sticks out in my mind is Eastman (located in Beijing), that produces a decent quality guitar for export-only. I was impressed with their work.

Several of my Chinese friends have tried out my Rics, and all have given very positive reviews. A couple of friends, who are very well known Chinese rock stars, really liked a 660 and a 660/12 that I have, but I refused to sell them. They liked the smallish body and the light weight. And, of course, the incredible sound.

China is different. For a brand (such as Ric) to become "popular", it actually has to be counterfeited first, and become available at a very low price to the masses. Then, once the masses are playing the knock-offs, everyone will want the real thing, and demand will be created. A quite different marketing strategy from the IPR-climate in the West. Again, things are different here.

This ground-up "evolution" is exactly what I saw happen with Gibson and Fender over the last decade. Even five years ago, it was difficult to find a genuine Fender or Gibson in Beijing, but extremely easy to find a counterfeit. Today, many shops carry these brands, and despite them being very expensive, a lot are sold! But I have never seen a Ric in any shop, ever, and I spend inordinate amounts of time in Beijing and Shanghai shops.

Unlike the West, where notable rock stars are great top-down marketing tools for a manufacturer, the early rock stars in China (we're talking only about 20 years of history here) played no-name guitars. It has only been the past decade (and perhaps only the past 5 or 6 years), that the Gibson and Fender brands are more commonly seen on stage. Getting a few popular bands here to play Rics would certainly create demand ... but TIC (This Is China), and I'm not sure Ric could (or would want to) handle the volumes.

Success in China can easily be a double-edged sword.
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

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Are there any counterfeit Ferraris, there?
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

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jps wrote:Are there any counterfeit Ferraris, there?
Heh heh ... I have not seen any fake Ferraris, but have seen a lot of genuine ones. The supercar industry is salivating at all of the new Chinese wealth, and China's insatiable desire for the automobile. Maybe that is your point?

What I did see at the Shanghai auto show in 2009 was a copy of the top end Rolls/Bentley, made by a company called Geely. It was called "The Chairman" and had a single Lazy-Boy type of recliner in the back. I guess the chairman would not have any friends? :lol: Rolls/Bentley threatened to pull from the show, but the organizers just ignored the threats. Both cars were there, and displayed surprisingly close to each other. I suspect that Rolls/Bentley regarded that as a second slap in the face.

I've also seen close knock-offs of the Mini, the Toyota 4-Runner and the Smart Car (among several others). There was also a big lawsuit from Chevrolet against a company called Chery, as the latter copied the Chevrolet Spark. Chevrolet "won" after a few years, and its judgment (in a Chinese court) was for about $10,000 in damages, although I heard that Chevrolet had to pay Chery's legal fees. There is the VERY RARE successful IPR case (Gibson was successful in having a counterfeit factory owner "sent to jail"), but anyone who lives here knows that it is "business as usual" shortly thereafter.

By the way, these exotic import cars usually sell for two to three times what they sell for in the USA. Harleys are the latest craze, and a Softtail will run you around $50,000 (there is a waiting list), and then you have to fork out another $8,000 for a plate in Shanghai. After taxes, plates, accessories, etc., out-the-door you are looking at upwards of $70,000 for a Harley Softtail. BMW motorcycles are in the same ballpark.

If Rickenbacker ever came to China (extremely unlikely), it should first read up on luxury pricing ... the higher the price, the more exclusive it is perceived, and (in China) the following demand will grow exponentially. But, if in a fit of madness, Rickenbacker Asia decides it wants to test the waters, it should answer one of my emails!
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

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Rick wrote:If Rickenbacker ever came to China (extremely unlikely), it should first read up on luxury pricing ... the higher the price, the more exclusive it is perceived, and (in China) the following demand will grow exponentially. But, if in a fit of madness, Rickenbacker Asia decides it wants to test the waters, it should answer one of my emails!
If you mean manufacture in China, it isn't going to happen. But as far as selling, we're already there. Parson's Music store have goods in the store and have been selling them exclusively now for some months. Prior to that time, Tom Lee had some as well. (Both of these remarks apply to Hong Kong as well, but my remarks were in reference to the rest of China.)
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by Rick »

johnhall wrote:If you mean manufacture in China, it isn't going to happen. But as far as selling, we're already there. Parson's Music store have goods in the store and have been selling them exclusively now for some months. Prior to that time, Tom Lee had some as well. (Both of these remarks apply to Hong Kong as well, but my remarks were in reference to the rest of China.)
Re manufacturing in China ... smart move! Even for the components. If you want a good book to read, pick up "Poorly Made in China" (2009) by Paul Midler. Awarded "Book of the Year" by The Economist, it is a must read for anyone thinking of having manufacturing moved into China. It is quite humurous, in a sad way.

Re selling ... I have no idea about Hong Kong, but I do know that the Tom Lee store in Beijing (closed down at least a year ago) never displayed any Rics. Parsons now carries them? I will have to go check it out, and ask around - nobody seems to be aware of Ric coming into China. Thanks for letting us know over here.

Cheers from China!
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Re: Chinese Impressions Of Rickenbackers

Post by johnhall »

Rickenbacker at Music China, Shanghai, October 2011, along with Parson's and Shinseido's leaders.
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