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A friend of mine posted this on another forum. With beginners and those of us with limited funds, #8s are pretty much what we have to pick from. I have 4 or 5 #8s. Some have the mojo and one needs to have a decent burial. It is sonically dead.

His post points out pretty clearly the difference in quality between #8s and more expensive guitars.

So here's my thoughts to get the ball rolling...

From the top down :

1) Tuners - A lot of cheap guitars use cheap no-name tuners that can slip or aren't too smooth. Grovers were the best back in the 90's, but the bar keeps raising.

2) Nut - Usually the nut isn't top notch, the cut, the filing, the materials.

3) Frets - Loose, uneven, or misaligned frets are not uncommon. Except for the alignment issue, the other issues are fixable.

4) Neck pocket - Cheap guitars often have a loose neck pocket, allowing the neck to shift with a little pressure, causing tuning problems. Also the pocket alignment may be off compared to the bridge, causing string spacing issues along the length of the neck.

5) Body - Cheap guitars often use many pieces of wood glued together, instead of 1 or 2 pieces like high end guitars use. I used to think this was no big deal, but I've seen some guitars over the last couple of years where there's a visible line in the finish from glue shrinkage. IMO the least amount of pieces, the better. They also tend to use woods other than the accepted tone woods(mahogany, maple).

6) Finish - Cheap guitars tend to have paint instead of clear finishes, mainly because nobody finds many pieces of wood glued together that attractive, and see through finishes take more time & skill to produce.

7) Electronics - Generally it's pretty shabby, especially the selector switches & pots. I've heard some cheap pups that sounded good, but in MOST cases they don't compare to premiums.

8 ) Hardware - Often the quality on these are crappy. Generic die cast versions of tune-o-matics and floyds are common.

And now the monkey wrench....

All this doesn't take into account the mojo or vibe of a guitar. I've owned cheap guitars where they sounded totally killer, it was like all the cheapness came together and somehow magically pushed out a nice tone. A good example of this is the Jackson DR6($200) I had a couple years ago. Crappy electronics, but damn that guitar rocked hard.

Also, sometimes junky hardware produces the desired sound, I.E. teles and the nasty stamped bridge & brass saddle deal that everyone seems to prefer.

That's all I can think of.

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That seems to just about cover it all.

Never heard that expression though "#8s".

Joni Mitchell said, You never know what you had till its gone. With an #8 you never know what you have until you play something better. Never realized the importance of tuners until I got a guitar with Grovers. Not that my tuners were slipping but you can certainly feel the difference in quality.

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My $99 Dean Evo is an excellent example. Heart of the guitar is good, Great tone, well set neck and frets. Tuners are pretty lackluster, I notice the D&G strings don't tune as well as the rest of the tuners. Like I have to take more care to hit the note, otherwise its over or under in a second.

All of the hardware is same sizes as a Les Paul Standard, so upgrading them should go a long way towards turning this #8 into a #9?

Did I get that right? Not quite sure what the #8 stands for.

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I've even seen a few where there were problems under the paint that went beyond glue shrinkage -- where it looked as if the pieces of wood didn't quite make it into the desired shape without some putty, which had been badly applied and/or sanded.

I've also encountered the occasional linear taper pot, which is unacceptable regardless of sonic quality.

Shielding against hum is often lacking in cheaper guitars, and is a bit of hassle to fix.

At the very low end, knobs may be of Cracker Jack quality, and jacks may not make reliable connections for very long.

I've heard of people getting guitars where the nice-looking (at a distance) sunburst finish turned out not to have been done in the traditional fashion, but through some sort of photographic process. I'm sketchy on the details, but that sounds like an annoying way to skimp, since the only fix is to paint your guitar.

Usually I'm happy to find a neck I really like, a pretty body where everything fits together correctly, and a simple enough design that replacing stuff won't be too painful.

Some people find a single-pickup design to be limiting, but while some other guitars have come and go, I always end up hanging onto my LP Jr. No-frills body design, one pickup, two pots, and a minimally adjustable metal bar which is the bridge/tailpiece. That doesn't leave much for the manufacturer to screw up (or much monetary incentive for doing so), and leaves little likelihood of there being some defect which you missed at first because of the complexity of the guitar. While it's possible to put $200 worth of parts into it, if you get world-class stuff, at that point there's really nothing left to replace. And I like that.

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Dean Evos are considered pretty good #8s with the proper upgrades. #8s can be a term of derision from the big name purists or a term of affection from players that dig quirky guitars or good quality guitars that don't have the rep of the big boys. Some #8s are just that. Cheap poorly made guitars that have no redeeming feature at all, though these are usually referred to with much harsher names.

It really is a purebred VS. mutt thing. Just a bit of fun. Musicians argue, usually over beer, in a friendly manner what constitutes a #8 and what doesn't.

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