Guitar Center Charleston SC

August 2005 one week after opening
Great Shop, Helpful staff, Great guitars and some real lemons

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Some notes on visiting the 156th or 157th Guitar Center in the USA.

This is the biggest guitar store in the world - I have heard that their turnover is larger than Gibson and Fender's.
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Check the opening hours - this underlines a great gap between French/European businesses. But that's another subject.
Check the amount of stock - there seems to be more stock in this one store than the Charing Cross Road, London or Rue de Douai, Paris, France.
The store had opened 5/6 days before my visit in mid - August.

Good telephone skills - I always call before visiting to check out if they answer the phone as I don't want to find out later they don't.
'Come on by we've got lots of guitars and you'll find the one you're looking for'. Ok this sounds like my kind of store, a little enthusiasm at 9H45 is all right.
First impressions very good, helpful staff.
Without pouncing on you, which my memory of the only other Guitar center I have visited on Hollywood Boulevard a few years back.
Staff product knowledge 8/10 but then it does take more than a week to know everything about everything with such large stocks.

My objective purchase a Gibson ES 335 (Preferably blonde or red or sunburst) second hand and check out the PRS Mc Carty Hollow body.
Also to check out the new Fender tweed amplifiers - Twin 57 and the new Tweed Bassman.
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ES 335 - I checked out the Red Gibson ES 335 on the wall at 1699 US$. I have NEVER played such a crappy new Gibson.
Fortunately I did not run my hand down the neck as I think I would have injured myself the frets were sticking out of the neck.
How did this leave the Gibson factory, who unpacked and received this guitar without checking it?
Minus 10 out of 10 reminded me of the worst Gibsons I have ever played in the 70s.
If this had been the first Gibson I played it would have put me off for life. Now that would cost Gibson some money ;-)

The 449 US$ white Epiphone Dot, made under licence in Korea, (just above it in the picture) put the US made guitar to shame.
If you were to try out 10 USA made Gibson and ten Korean made Epiphones I'm sure that the Koreans would have a more consistent quality.
Some of the Gibson would be super others I hope not as bad as this one.
PRS - they had some beautiful (and expensive or expensively priced) PRS Mc Carthy solidbodies but no hollowbodies :-(
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The Mc Carthy solid body sounded fantastic through the Tweed Bassman .
They did not have a Twin 57 in stock.
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I love Telecasters and could not resist the Custom Shop Fiesta Red 62 Telecaster Custom - What a disappointment :-(
I have played many crappy Telecasters and many Fender solidbodies that just were not set up right. But not that many around 3 grand!
For near 3K this baby could not intonate above the 12th fret - the more expensive the guitar the more the hurt and the disappointment.
All that is needed is a five minute tweak and then maybe this guitar could sound and play well.
Would it be 6 times better than a $500 Fender Japan Telecaster Custom 62 reissue ? I couldn't tell but that's a hard model to beat.
Again, how did this leave the Fender Custom Shop, who unpacked and received this guitar without checking it?
Where's the Fender Custom Shop's credibity and quality control in letting stuff like go out in such bad shape?
It has just come in from our Atlanta Store!
I guess the sales people have been too busy to get round to checking, setting up and tuning the guitars.
The responsibility still lies with manufacturing, or should I say the buck stops with manufacturing?
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However the Fender Korean Tele set neck at 699 US$ hanging over the Tweed amplifier was a blast - great action, feel and pickups.
This one was a growling screamer, the growl being from the humbuggers which sounded really good.
For the money this is a great guitar who cares if it comes from Korea if it delivers?
The link is on another good Korean guitar, the PRS Soapbar I which apparently resembles a Gibson Les Paul
and has been judged to be withdrawn from the market. It has been replaced by the PRS Soapbar II which is another great Korean made guitar.

Stringkiller's conclusions

Gibson and Fender USA shame on you and your biggest dealer, 50% of their sales go through Guitar center I'm told,
for having such poor quality high end guitars on display.
Your very own Korean models add insult to injury as at a fraction of the price were far better sounding and playing guitars.
A lot of people would say "Guitars slip through the cracks all the time.".
The point I'm making is the lack of quality standards are more evident on Gibson and Fender USA models than on their Far Eastern budget models.
This gives the opposite impression than their advertising and in depth press articles on the Fender Custom shop.
That Guitar Center should be more demanding of some of their major suppliers and more rigorous in their internal stock reception procedures.

I did not have the time to check the Acoustic Room which had a lot of nice makes and models in there.
I like these types of rooms as when you close the door you don't hear all the cacophony from the electric room.


I managed to find my US made dream guitars
A ES 335 2002 second-hand guitar & the 2004 PRS Hollow body Spruce top at MUCH lower prices elsewhere in Charleston.
Stay tuned to reviews and sound clips of these excellent (USA made !) guitars.
The Paul Reed Smith guitars have consistently avoided the quality issues mentioned on the Fender and Gibson products for the twenty years they have been in business.

So having a whole load of stock does not the sale make Guitar Center ;-)
Also I felt the prices were a little high but I guess you gotta pay the rent ;-)
Yes I know it was just one store and one visit and maybe on a sunnier day everything would have been dandy but in today's competitive world one little mistake can turn out to be a very costly one in terms of lifelong customer relationships ;-)

I wonder what the future will be for the smaller music retailers in the region and what part of the local musical instrument market Guitar Center will pick up over the next decade.