The are many stories to this years NAMM show. The biggest probably, the confirmation of the first Korean made Prestige guitars, the S2075, the SA2020, and the SZ2020, both made at the World factory and priced accordingly. Close inspection showed the SZ to be below typical Prestige standard in fret finishing, but, the SA was excellent, again proving, it all comes down to the hands that do the work. Also noted was that ALL Prestige line bass guitars have moved to Korean production as was expected. All guitar production was supposed to have moved this year also but has for the most part been held off until 2006, according to the rumor mill. Word coming out of the Fender and Epiphone camps is that Fujigen is no longer going to be producing guitars in 2006 forcing the move to Korean or to find suitable production capacity elsewhere in Japan, not that elsewhere is going to produce guitars as good as Fuji, or even World or Cort. We'll just have to wait to see how that chapter plays out. No word on what's going to happen to J Customs, that news would have to come from Japan. [Another version of the move to MIK story has the owner of Fujigen and Tommy Tanaka, President and CEO of Hoshino Group, hate each other, even though they are both married to Hoshino daughters. Evidently Fugijen has their own house brand guitars they will continue to produce. I've heard the reason Fender will no longer be made there is a fight between the Fujigen owner and Fender execs. This all comes from a reputable source so it's just quite possible it's this stupid.]
At first glance it appears the scarf joint is dead on everything but true third world production guitars [Indonesia, etc, wherever they make these near below entry level pieces]. Everything MIJ and MIK has gone to either 5 piece or 3 piece. All 5 piece necks are using either maple/wenge or maple/walnut in combination, while the 3 piece necks [from what I can tell only found in Korean production] are using straight maple.
MIJ signatures models now bear a new J Craft serial number logo using the typical Fujigen based serial number. If this is just product branding or if they're actually using a specific team of builders for these guitars could not be determined, but it is interesting.
In other news, ALL MIJ Prestige and signature models will be sold cased with the case included in the price!! So that $999 RG1570 that remains the same price as last year, this year includes a case at the same price. This transition will take lace as the new 05' models start appearing for sale and is NOT retroactive on 04' models still in inventories. Unfortunately that 1570 is a rare example as the next paragraph will illustrate, you're still paying for that case, and some!
On a more somber note, PRICE INCREASES!!! I've yet to really sort through this all but, some examples, the JS1200 is up to $1829.99 [includes case though], PGM301 now $1569.99, it's like they took the previous price and added in the full list $169 of the UV1000 case, even though those models have always been listed as standard in the M100 case. Figure a small price increase and then an added case and you'll arrive at the new price, although they tell you it includes case but do not specify exactly which case is included. Lots of room there for unscrupulous dealers to substitute cheaper cases to the unwise, so be wise. Also anything MIJ with a flametop will see increased pricing, including the return of the RG3120, now with Dimarzio/IBZ pickups instead of the previously standard PAF Pro and Tone Zone, but now priced at $1929.99, $430 higher than the previous 3120 when it was discontinued 4 years ago! Of course, they're now including the case though..... If this is a result of the further shrinking dollar or just a conspiracy to take more of our money will be debated furiously for a long time coming, but, right now I'm just reporting the news!!
A couple new bridges to report. The Gilbralter Plus is a very nice new version of an old classic, although I failed to inspect it close enough to see how the intonation adjusts, and like a bonehead forgot to snap a closeup. Not a string through bridge. And the EDGE III which is pretty much an Edge Pro II version of the original Edge, now appearing on 3 RG models, the 320, 350's, and 370 and shown on the RG page. Why? When the patent ran out on the original Floyd Rose everybody thought it was a free for all and designed new trems. Ibanez designed the Edge Pro. Well, FR still has a patent on the Lo Pro design until 2007. He went after everybody who's design impinged on the LP design, and won. Ibanez had to pay a $250,000 fine, and they still have to pay Floyd $17 per trem, both EP and EPII. That's why they designed the EDGE III, because it's based on the EDGE and not the Lo Pro. Expect to see it on more models next year.
You will also notice much smaller dots reminiscent of the dots from 1988 Radius models on many of the new guitars. I always liked these compared to the big dots!!
More to come but now I need some dinner and a cat nap. Why I would quit smoking 10 days before NAMM is beyond me, and it's really starting to affect my metabolism!! ;///
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