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I buy most of my stuff online from Sweetwater, and have been for some years now. I bought very little from Guitar Center over the years. I also bought from zZounds, until I learned Sweetwater did free shipping and returns (if defective) and a small charge to return if i just did not like the item. I have been super satisfied with Sweetwater ever since I began dealing with them. Bye Bye Guitar Center, I won't miss you at all.......


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I have a great Music Store 20 minutes from home.

Hope they survive the pandemic disruption to their business.

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Originally Posted by Biggles
I have a great Music Store 20 minutes from home.

Hope they survive the pandemic disruption to their business.

Looks like a GREAT place!!!! Lucky you!

I've got quite a bit of driving to do to get anywhere worth going to...


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I believe competition is good. The more music stores there are the better off we are as musical equipment consumers.


"Fuck your mics, fuck your outboard gear, fuck your DAW, fuck your interface, fuck your software, and absolutely and completely fuck every single one of your instruments including that vintage keyboard you saved for a year to get -- they are all worse than useless if you can't accurately hear what they're doing. Your ears will lie to you without mercy if they are fed bad information. Spend the damn money!"
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Originally Posted by Doerfler
I believe competition is good. The more music stores there are the better off we are as musical equipment consumers.


I agree but it's not just the competition. The variety is nice too. There were a couple of pawn shops in nearby Mount Vernon that had all sorts of interesting stuff. One of them closed and the other went corporate - which is fine but I guess the clientele is probably flipping more stuff online instead. REAL music stores have new and used, I've gotten great deals through the years at Guitar Centers for used gear.
Craigslist in a metropolitan area? There's competition and not just for the sellers!


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I am unlikely to buy any more gear at my age unless I sell my Hot Rod Deluxe. With that money, I will back up my 15 watt Egnater Tweaker head to hook to my other EVM 12 L speaker in a 1-12 cab. One setup for the living room where I usually practice, and one in my soon to be revived studio set up in my climate controlled shed. That way I will have 2 similar sets of amp head and 1-12 speaker cab. I have 2 similar pedal boards so I will have a complete setup in both places.


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+1 DBM I'm not really in the market anymore for amps or guitars...I have more than I need and I will probably try and sell a few one of these days. I did a lot of purchasing through Sweetwater and Musicians Friend and one guitar through Wildwood Guitars. I have always had good luck with SW and MF. My last big purchase was in-store at a Guitar Center as the manager gave me a 20% off coupon on the amp I was interested in. I hate to see them go (if they go) and hope they stay in business.

I did buy some pickups through zZounds this week, and some pots and knobs and caps through Stewmac for a project I was working on. I am well pleased as it came out the way I wanted it to. I think parts mail order stores will stay in business and people will still be buying a lot of used equipment. cool


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Guitar Center has had a number of challenges to overcome, even before the pandemic.

For one thing, they have too many locations. They have sold Wall Street on the notion that they are essentially a consumer electronics big box retailer (and that is not exactly a strong vertical to be in), but in reality they are a niche retailer. Yes, they have some consumer electronics products, but the bulk of their customer base are musicians, and that is a niche market. Best Buy made that mistake some years back where they brought in MI products and tried to create the "store in a store" concept at certain locations. It didn't help that they had a dreadful inventory - high end Roland keyboards, electronic drums etc. That lasted about two years with Best Buy, and then poof - bye bye. MI is not a mass market business.

Speaking of Best Buy, has anyone bought a new TV lately? A really nice 55" TV can be had for under $500! I remember going to CES in Vegas in '98 or so when the first plasmas were introduced: a 42" was about $13K. Plenty of margin there. $500? Not so much. Wonder why they try to sell you expensive cables at BB when you buy a TV? That's the only profit they'll make on your TV purchase.

GC has that problem with guitars, still their principal line of business. When I started out in the late 70's, a crappy CBS Strat was about $600 - $2400 in today's money. A cheap Squier is now around $250? And it's pretty darn good guitar. And a $600 guitar is generally quite good! And amps? A ton of very inexpensive, pro level amps. And the used market is flooded with all of the above. With the incredibly efficient manufacturing supply chains, we as consumers are getting great products for very little money, which means very low margins for retailers. That's not changing, ever.

GC has at least added band instrument rentals, lessons and repairs, long the staples of mom and pop music retailers, but they still seem to struggle with what the hell they want to be....vinyl? Clothing? It seems like such hodgepodge of crap in there lately, and they still don't seem to have any idea what is needed at a local level. I live in SoCal in a community with a huge Hispanic population...but do they have anything in remotely related to that musical culture in our local store? Nope. Big guitar amps, expensive keyboards. Just like every other GC in the region. The GC main office people seem to be completely clueless when determining what products to stock in stores. And their used business? Ugh...what a mess.

And the challenge for GC that has eluded them for the better part of three decades since they went national is the lack of consistent and competent staff. They pay shit, and that's reflected in the abysmal training and lack of knowledge at most every level of every store in terms of the people on the floor. Dreadful customer service. High turnover. Lack of product knowledge. It's a vicious cycle; low margins, low pay, low quality staff. I know there are some exceptions in some stores, but by and large this is a problem throughout the organization. And I say that as someone who still checks in to the "flagship" stores in Hollywood and Sherman Oaks here in SoCal. And I've be going to the Hollywood store since it was across the street and was the ONLY store. Even those stores have sub-par staff.

I don't wish ill-will on the employees of any company that may not be around for much longer, but as an organization, I will not miss GC if and when they go away. To me they represent the worst of corporate greed and arrogance. I hope locally-based, passionate and customer-focused local business people will take back to markets that have been dominated by GC when they are gone.

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UPDATE: For those that do like Guitar Center, I just received an Email from their Chief Executive Officer this morning. He advised that GC will stay in business and conduct business as usual. They are filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring. They expect completion very soon (i.e. "quickly"). thu


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Yep, I got the same email from GC, Musician's Friend, and WWBW. I haven't ordered or bought from Music123 or Music & Arts in a while now, which is probably why I didn't also get copies from those two subsidiaries.

I have had very good experience with certain GC stores as well as Music & Arts, but not with others. Also some good setup work by specialists who work out of their stores as independent contractors.


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I got the same email from Musiciansfriend. Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, is coming up in thirteen days. I expect to see Guitar Center stores holding some absolutely hellacious sales that day, in order to generate cash. So if you have your eye on any new gear, such as an Electro Harmonix B9 or Mel 9 pedal, or stocking up on strings, you should start accumulating some cash or room on your credit/debit cards.


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As we currently have a sum of about 1.75 total music stores in Bellingham and the manager here is a straight-up and knowledgable guy, I am glad they are going attempt to survive.
There is room for at least one more locally owned store to grow and there is one that is doing so.

The path ahead for brick and mortar retail outlets of all types is not clear at this point but with 90k+ local population, we need "boots on the ground" availability for music related items.
As always, time will tell the story.

And - zxcvbnm098 - I remember going into the Hollywood Guitar Center decades ago (drove down from Fresno).

There were somewhere around a dozen adolescent boys shredding away on super strats with distortion piled high. They paid no attention to each other whatsoever so it was an unprecedented new form of dissonance to my ears. If I'd been an employee there it is likely there would have been several deaths, if not my own. Unbearable but since I could leave at any time, it amused me.

Assuming they were all the ill-begotten spawn of LA rock stars (and wanna-bees), I dubbed them "The Heavy Metal Rodent Children."


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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Assuming they were all the ill-begotten spawn of LA rock stars (and wanna-bees), I dubbed them "The Heavy Metal Rodent Children."

That's a nice way to say "Rat Bastards" . . . which might well be the name of their band.


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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Assuming they were all the ill-begotten spawn of LA rock stars (and wanna-bees), I dubbed them "The Heavy Metal Rodent Children."

That's a nice way to say "Rat Bastards" . . . which might well be the name of their band.

laugh


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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
As we currently have a sum of about 1.75 total music stores in Bellingham and the manager here is a straight-up and knowledgable guy, I am glad they are going attempt to survive.
There is room for at least one more locally owned store to grow and there is one that is doing so.

The path ahead for brick and mortar retail outlets of all types is not clear at this point but with 90k+ local population, we need "boots on the ground" availability for music related items.
As always, time will tell the story.

And - zxcvbnm098 - I remember going into the Hollywood Guitar Center decades ago (drove down from Fresno).

There were somewhere around a dozen adolescent boys shredding away on super strats with distortion piled high. They paid no attention to each other whatsoever so it was an unprecedented new form of dissonance to my ears. If I'd been an employee there it is likely there would have been several deaths, if not my own. Unbearable but since I could leave at any time, it amused me.

Assuming they were all the ill-begotten spawn of LA rock stars (and wanna-bees), I dubbed them "The Heavy Metal Rodent Children."

I worked MI retail in the mid 80's, and that scene was repeated at pretty much every guitar store then. It was torture to be on the floor at the same time, but we kept a pretty tight leash on kids coming in and "wailing". Oy and vey,

Wow, Fresno to Hollywood is a commitment! Easily a 4 hour drive, but I get it....it was Mecca to me back in the day.

I turned 16 in 1976, so my first trips to the original Hollywood Guitar Center were when they were on the south side of Sunset, across the street from where they are now. It was cramped and funky, with gear piled up on the floor and pretty much shit everywhere. Rock music was blasting throughout the store; I loved it. Far less organized than it would become a couple years later when they took over the old theater on the north side of Sunset where they are to this day. But between GC and the old Nadines and Betnun's, that Hollywood area was amazing for gear hunting. It was a big deal when they opened their second LA store in Sherman Oaks, but then it started to get corporate and not nearly as cool as it was once they started to expand.

I still stop by (pre Covid) when I'm in the area mostly to check out the vintage room, which is way overpriced but stocked with drool-worthy stuff. But it feels like a Best Buy these days, so not nearly as fun as the good ol' days. Now get off my lawn....

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One of the articles about this situation quoted someone from the GC camp as attributing COVID's impact on "discretionary income" as one of the reasons for the current troubles. But if I was a savvy investor, I'd ask, "So how come Sweetwater and some other retailers are thriving, and many categories of music-gear sales are way up?"

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Originally Posted by GuardiansGuitar
One of the articles about this situation quoted someone from the GC camp as attributing COVID's impact on "discretionary income" as one of the reasons for the current troubles. But if I was a savvy investor, I'd ask, "So how come Sweetwater and some other retailers are thriving, and many categories of music-gear sales are way up?"

Exactly.

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Originally Posted by zxcvbnm098
Originally Posted by GuardiansGuitar
One of the articles about this situation quoted someone from the GC camp as attributing COVID's impact on "discretionary income" as one of the reasons for the current troubles. But if I was a savvy investor, I'd ask, "So how come Sweetwater and some other retailers are thriving, and many categories of music-gear sales are way up?"

Exactly.

Sweetwater has exactly one location, and almost all of their business is done online. No one (almost) drives to Ft. Wayne, Indiana for gear except during Gearfest. Musicians Friend (Guitar Center sister company) is doing just fine. Brick and mortar stores are hurting in every classification, look how many malls are empty.


"Fuck your mics, fuck your outboard gear, fuck your DAW, fuck your interface, fuck your software, and absolutely and completely fuck every single one of your instruments including that vintage keyboard you saved for a year to get -- they are all worse than useless if you can't accurately hear what they're doing. Your ears will lie to you without mercy if they are fed bad information. Spend the damn money!"
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Originally Posted by Doerfler
Originally Posted by zxcvbnm098
Originally Posted by GuardiansGuitar
One of the articles about this situation quoted someone from the GC camp as attributing COVID's impact on "discretionary income" as one of the reasons for the current troubles. But if I was a savvy investor, I'd ask, "So how come Sweetwater and some other retailers are thriving, and many categories of music-gear sales are way up?"

Exactly.

Sweetwater has exactly one location, and almost all of their business is done online. No one (almost) drives to Ft. Wayne, Indiana for gear except during Gearfest. Musicians Friend (Guitar Center sister company) is doing just fine. Brick and mortar stores are hurting in every classification, look how many malls are empty.

"Controllables" are costs like leasing a building and keeping it warm/cool, labor costs, and other constant $$$ drains. The cost to profit ratio of a single Guitar Center store is not good, even though the corporate buying power is strong enough to negotiate lower prices. Our Guitar Center in Bellingham can reach out to Blaine - 20 miles north, and Deming - 12 miles east, but not Mount Vernon because they are close to a locally owned store with superior inventory and service - with a big advantage of being located in a less expensive area right off the freeway. I've driven to Hugo Helmer's many times, it's a great music store.

On other hand, Sweetwater can reach out to the entire country and beyond. They also have buying power, generated by higher sales volume and legendary customer service. I've never bought a guitar there but I can guarantee you guitars hanging on the walls at Guitar Center do not receive the same level of inspection/set up nor do they remain pristine unless they sell quickly. Sweetwater's inventory cannot be matched by a single Guitar Center, their pricing is low, shipping is mostly free and fast, advantage Sweetwater.

If you are one of those who absolutely must play the guitar you buy (I totally understand this), then you'll probably go to Guitar Center for guitars. But you can order everything else from your home, on the internet, when you have time and know going in that any problems will be taken care of quickly. It's simply an overall superior method of engaging in retail sales. GC has been troubled for a long time, Covid is possibly one of the final nails in the coffin but the grave's been dug some time ago.

Small local businesses may be able to survive by focusing on lessons, dealing in used gear and most importantly, securing the repair work from local schools for horns, reeds and strings. That's big money. There is a small shop locally that has the school contracts and they are quoting 14 month turnarounds (I know this because i found a Selmer clarinet at the thrift store for $30, pretended I wanted it repaired and sold it to them for $80...).


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The weekend after Thanksgiving I will be in Fort Wayne, Indiana on a business trip, and I will be spending some time and hopefully some money at Sweetwater. In fact, if they happen to have one of the new Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standards in cherry sunburst finish, I'm buying one.


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Originally Posted by Sharkman
The weekend after Thanksgiving I will be in Fort Wayne, Indiana on a business trip, and I will be spending some time and hopefully some money at Sweetwater. In fact, if they happen to have one of the new Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standards in cherry sunburst finish, I'm buying one.

One of my dreams is to win the lottery and spend a week at Sweetwater choosing the best of everything!!!


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Originally Posted by GuardiansGuitar
One of the articles about this situation quoted someone from the GC camp as attributing COVID's impact on "discretionary income" as one of the reasons for the current troubles. But if I was a savvy investor, I'd ask, "So how come Sweetwater and some other retailers are thriving, and many categories of music-gear sales are way up?"

Slightly different perspective - There's a small GC just blocks from my house, on the upper floor of an indoor mall, with no street-level access. I'd been going there since they opened that location, and know the manager and most of the staff. I've bought some very nice used and new gear there, but I haven't set foot in that store since mid-March, because of the pandemic. If they had street-level access, and curbside pickup, all good, but even if they were giving away free Guitars right now, I'd have to consider the risk of going into a crowded indoor space when the number of Covid-19 cases in my area is rising, rapidly. I expect a lot of players, who may have an open GC near them, are avoiding retail shopping other than at grocery stores and pharmacies.

I'm one of those people KuruPrionz mentions, who won't buy any Guitar I haven't held in my hands, but strings, stands, electronics, why not? There's not much, if any, discernible difference among a batch of brand-new MXR Phase 90's, for example, so I don't feel like I need to A/B every one in the store to find the "right" one; in that regard, ordering online is much the same as buying any random box off the shelf.

For the sake of the folks working stores like my nearby GC, and for the sake of anyone who can't just drive to the next nearest, or furthest store, I hope they figure something out, but I won't be back inside that mall until there's a vaccine, or an "All-Clear" signal of some kind, maybe both.


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Originally Posted by GuardiansGuitar
One of the articles about this situation quoted someone from the GC camp as attributing COVID's impact on "discretionary income" as one of the reasons for the current troubles. But if I was a savvy investor, I'd ask, "So how come Sweetwater and some other retailers are thriving, and many categories of music-gear sales are way up?"

Many mail order stores (Sweetwater and others) are doing great during the Covid lockdowns as purchasers get the product delivered to their door and avoid shopping in brick and mortar stores. Another reason besides "discretionary income" in the music-gear sales for us guitar pickers and others, could be due to players staying at home and needing to entertain themselves until things open up again. Playing, learning and practicing music is a great way to deal with being shut-in... cool


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I'll never understand the fascination with Sweetwater. Prices are high compared to other options, and you can't try in a store first. Sometimes you receive an open box or a return at regular price, and in many cases it is a hassle (compared to GC and its affiliates) to return something and/or to receive acknowledgement of fault. Brand choice is also extremely limited, and they don't carry many pro brands in many categories either.

For keyboard stuff, it's either buy-at-a-store or order from Kraft with a great package deal that includes carefully-curated quality (not crap) gig bags etc. Similarly for some guitars, but Kraft is only good for hard-to-find Yamaha guitars and basses, for the most part (a brand that few carry, except for their crap models).

For pro audio, mics, acoustic guitars, etc., it's Sound Pure and/or Front End Audio and/or Zen pro Audio, occasionally augmented with other pro audio specialist sites.

Having said all of that, I occasionally use Sweetwater and don't mean to rag on them; I simply don't understand why people think they're tops, cheap, awesome, perfect, etc. So that pushes a button that makes me inclined to reply. Our own local (to Oakland CA; I'm only temporarily in NC) pro audio mini-chain lost a lot of sales when the on-line-only model got launched by Sweetwater. But some of their failure is their own fault.

For those who didn't know, Gear Nuts is another Sweetwater brand and is especially a good way to buy from them via eBay so that you get reward points to offset your cost.

In the old days, Sweetwater was known primarily as the go-to shop for Paul Reed Smith guitars, and Kurzweil keyboards. In fact, they were the first major supplier of customized sound banks and upgrades for Kurzweil stuff, and I think in the very early days they may have been the only authorized dealer for PRS.


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Thanks Mark for all the references, I will be checking some of them out.

I've purchased a few items at Sweetwater over the years but I am very selective and will buy used gear locally if the product and price are good. Have done that many more times than using Sweetwater.
Too many amazing bargains right in my own backyard to ignore, the list is long.

You have to "go fish" at any outlet and seek out the bargains that come and go, shift and turn. Musicians Friend "Stupid Deal of the Day" comes to mind. They have lots of stuff but not everything is cheap.

My last Sweetwater purchase was recent, research showed that the Neat Worker Bee is a great mic for $90, nobody has new ones cheaper that I could find and I bought 2 of them.
Excellent for my purposes. Current listings on eBay show Sweetwater having the same low price as a very few others, free shipping (which a few others also offer) and it just seemed easy to go with them.

Not one single used option that makes any sense for the Worker Bees that I could find. Bring able to just get 2 and be done with it was easy.

I guess the real answer is - "it depends". Cheers, Kuru


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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
I'm one of those people KuruPrionz mentions, who won't buy any Guitar I haven't held in my hands, but strings, stands, electronics, why not? There's not much, if any, discernible difference among a batch of brand-new MXR Phase 90's, for example, so I don't feel like I need to A/B every one in the store to find the "right" one; in that regard, ordering online is much the same as buying any random box off the shelf.


I still remember the time I went into a local music store in Fresno (Spitzer's anyone?) and they had a dozen or so new Gibson Les Pauls up on the wall. I was their guitar tech, worked from home but knew everybody.

I started trying out Les Pauls, even though I wasn't in the market for one. One sounded really good to me, alive. A couple of them sounded like a wet log. The rest were all pretty OK. All of them played decently, something I don't worry about too much since I've been setting up guitars for a long time and there has to be something really wrong with the instrument to prevent me from making it play well.

Lesson learned. Wood guitar, every one is different and some are better than others. When I said I get it, I really do get it.
For my own giggin guitars, I've gravitated mostly to instruments with a dense, non-resonant string path. Even response, sustain and more similar in tone to each other. That's the "easy way out" but stay at home instruments may be a different animal. There I seek variety, no use in have 3 of the same thing when 3 different sounds/feels would serve better in my home studio. So, instead of 3 Strats - a vintage Danelctro, an Ibanez GIO Mikro tuned to Nashville tuning and a Tele with a Warmoth baritone neck tuned down to B. More fun!!!!


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@KuruPrionz - Regarding the "wet log" sound, I had a question I used to ask the younger folks who would come to work at the Guitar store with us -

"Would you rather have the first Guitar to come off the line on Monday morning, or the last one to come off the line on Friday afternoon?"

They'd ponder for a bit, or guess at one or the other, until I'd give them the punchline: "It's a trick question. The only right answer is 'No'."

For many of them, that was their introduction to the idea that not all Guitars, even of the same make and model, are created equal.


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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
@KuruPrionz - Regarding the "wet log" sound, I had a question I used to ask the younger folks who would come to work at the Guitar store with us -

"Would you rather have the first Guitar to come off the line on Monday morning, or the last one to come off the line on Friday afternoon?"

They'd ponder for a bit, or guess at one or the other, until I'd give them the punchline: "It's a trick question. The only right answer is 'No'."

For many of them, that was their introduction to the idea that not all Guitars, even of the same make and model, are created equal.

Truth!
Long ago I got up early on morning and the classifieds had a Martin guitar for $200. I called them and shot over like a bat out of Hell. It looked OK, played OK and I bought it.
Friends of mine came walking up just as I came out the door with the guitar, smiling. I said something about them being slow.
It was a 1965 Martin D-18 in used but respectable condition with no repairs done or needed.

I kept it at home for a while and tried to love it but it just didn't sound very good. I had a 1970 Martin D-35 at the time that had endured many beatings but sounded excellent.
My brother offered me $250 for the D-18 and I took it. On to the next.

Decades later, I found a Rainsong OM1000 for my brother, called him while he was commuting and got his eBay login. I bought it for him. After he'd had it for a few months he shipped the D-18 up to me and said "See what you can get for it and we'll split it." He LOVED the Rainsong and knew he would never play the Martin again. We did OK, got way more than $250 for the D-18.
At some point I visited him and played his OM1000. It sounded amazing and played great too, I had to have one. Found one locally, got it and a few years later I realized that I never played my D-35 and wasn't going to. Nice guitar, should not sit around unplayed so I sold it too. I've never missed it.

The D-18 should have been great but somehow just wasn't. I can also speak to the wide variations of vintage Gibson P-90 pickups. Some of them are pretty OK, some are sort of feeble, some are microphonic. One of my friends had a Gibson SG with dual P-90s that were hot and nasty, sounded great. Another had a single cut Les Paul Jr. and that P-90 screamed. So that's another one you absolutely must try for yourself.


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if you have an extra 14 minutes and are interested in this topic, IMO this is a good video



"Fuck your mics, fuck your outboard gear, fuck your DAW, fuck your interface, fuck your software, and absolutely and completely fuck every single one of your instruments including that vintage keyboard you saved for a year to get -- they are all worse than useless if you can't accurately hear what they're doing. Your ears will lie to you without mercy if they are fed bad information. Spend the damn money!"
Dr. Mike Metlay on Studio Reference Monitors
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Interesting to see Spitzer's mentioned by a former worker, as the Spitzer's/Leo's mini-chain is the one I alluded to earlier, that blamed Sweetwater for their demise.


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