China Custom Guitars (KSG) Review

 

I bought a guitar online.

 

Without trying it.

 

Without inspecting it.

 

With few convincing reviews.

 

In other words, a blind purchase.

 

But I was engorged with curiosity.

 

For over a year, I have been lured by the galore of China-made guitars.

 

From unknown brands to big brand knock-offs. All boasting high-end features like beveled armrests and adorned with elaborate rosettes, purflings and inlays.

 

And their price tags are only a fraction of that of their branded counterparts.

 

So I was piqued: how much guitar is there for the money?

 

Reviews were mixed; some swear off such guitars while others swoon over quality workmanship and sounds comparable to that of established brands.

 

After brief exchanges with a seller with a growing reputation (KSG), I decided that there was really only one way to find out.

 

The guitar arrived 9 days later in a styrofoam case mummified with bright yellow tape.

 

 

As I unveiled the guitar, the first thing that struck me was the thick coat of lacquer-like finish that is more common on vintage furniture rather than on guitars.

 

But beneath that clear coat of finish lies, undisputedly, fine workmanship.

 

[Top] Attractive silks decorate the solid Sitka Spruce top with pleasing grain patterns.

 

 

 

I traced the tiered abalone/wood purfling along the perimeter of the body. Almost flawless.

 

 

Construction was even more immaculate than some high-end and boutique guitars that I have seen.

 

[Back and Sides] Laminate rosewood with ebony bindings.

 

 

Equally pleasing grain patterns on the back!

 

 

Ebony beveled armrest!

 

 

The exterior of the body was so well made that I could only pick out two tiny flaws in terms of raw finishing.

 

[Neck] The fretboard seems to come from another realm though. Edges were rough, inlay workmanship was lacking especially under scrutiny.

 

 

[Bracing] X brace at standard placing with scalloped tone bars. A couple of residual splints here and there on the braces.

 

 

Spotted this interesting setup of three-tiered kerfed linings; possibly as a reinforcement for the installation of the armrest.

 

 

Bridge plate was not cleaned up at all.

 

 

[Bridge] Ebony bridge with no slots.

 

 

I was surprised on pulling out the saddle. So tall! Which also meant that the saddle slot is very deep.

 

Nut and saddle is made out of bone; swapped out the white plastic pins with bone pins with pearl inlays.

 

 

[Playability] Action right of the box was already ideal, neck is straight and saddle was profiled to the fret radius (15").

 

Hailing from a classical guitar background, I find the 43mm nut a tad too narrow. During fingerstyle playing, my fingers occasionally got in the way of one another.

 

[Tone] The guitar tone is clean and focused. Personally I like guitars with a lush tone and strong overtones but I do know of people who would prefer dominant fundamentals.

 

 

Responsiveness of the guitar was lacking which is not unexpected with the heavy bracing and thick finish.

 

Guitar tone was also slightly anemic. Quick check with the seller confirmed my guess that it was strung with 11s (Korean strings).

 

While I'm no fan of Elixirs, I think this guitar may benefit from it. We'll see.

 

With a ~S$500 price tag, I would rate the guitar at fair or marginally above value. While in this price range, you may be able to unearth better-sounding guitars, but they will never come with the bling-bling features.

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