Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

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Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Omsong » Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:46 pm

I know that sounds like a loaded question - of course we all know that they are. But what qualities makes a high end guitar? It could be price, but not necessarily. More importantly is it one built with the highest quality materials and skill with a focus on both aesthetics and performance? Can a High End guitar be machine made or must skilled human hands craft it?

HERE IS A LINK to a Sweetwater article that defines high end as an instrument that is crafted by a very skilled luthier. I think we agree that Kiesel's workers are skilled, but usually each with only one facet of construction. There is not one craftsman who is involved with all aspects of construction. And certainly every factory built guitar is made with a combination of automation and manual labor. So, where is the line crossed between a high quality instrument and one that might be considered "High End"?
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:17 am

here we go....
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby marcwormjim » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:22 am

I think this can be navigated politely...

Is a Squier with level frets still a “low-end” guitar? If we’re going to pretend “high-end” isn’t just an alternative to “boutique”, “professional-grade”, or “deluxe” as another empty marketing term, let’s at least acknowledge that it’s a comparitive term: Qualify the low-end before you measure up from it.

The non-rhetorical answer is that Kiesel is high-end in the way that every brand is.

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Coda » Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:39 am

I equate "High-end" with cost. To that end, you can get a low-end Kiesel or a high-end Kiesel. (My opinion is that Jeff is steering the company image away from the lower cost models with the transition from the Carvin branding to the Kiesel branding.)

"Boutique" relates more to high quality/low production numbers, and I associate more human intervention in the process. So a volume manufacturer can produce a boutique line of instruments, or it can be a small shop making boutique instruments exclusively.

Are they boutique? 'No' in terms of the number of guitars they produce, or their perception in the used guitar market. 'Yes' in terms of the quality of materials and buyer options.

I'll drop the phrase 'value' in here, too. A 'value guitar' might be considered the opposite of a high-end guitar, but in Kiesel's case I mean value in terms of 'how much guitar do you get for the money'. A lot. More than many other manufacturer's high-end (or middle of the road) offerings.

Carvin/Kiesel blurs the lines by offering guitars that are production line/boutique hybrids, their strength coming from being able to offer high-end quality with an almost infinite choice of buyer-customizable options.

OK, so back to the question, 'are Kiesels high end?' Yes. And you can get the same high-end quality in their lower priced guitars.
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby ElfDude » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:42 am

Couldn't have said it better, Coda.
Thanks. :)
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:15 am

Coda wrote:Carvin/Kiesel blurs the lines by offering guitars that are production line/boutique hybrids, their strength coming from being able to offer high-end quality with an almost infinite choice of buyer-customizable options.


I think you nailed it, too. In that respect, Kiesels really are in their own category. Although some can certainly be high priced as well as high quality and highly customized, but not all of them are all three. Yet they all are high quality and certainly priced above the point were most intermediate level guitars are found. Not only that, but Kiesels of every model and customization level are certainly professional instruments. Additionally, the variability of manufacture is very low. One probably never finds a clunker that rolls off the manufacturing line and finds it's way into a customer's hands. For that reason I think it's fair to call them "High End".
Ichi on Jobutsu (Enlightenment in one tone.)

Kiesel
- '17 Fatboy, Deep Lava Flame
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- '02 Fatboy; '04 CT6M; '07 Fatboy; '11 Bolt+

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:22 am

marcwormjim wrote:Is a Squier with level frets still a “low-end” guitar?


Is it really value vs. high end? Certainly Squires (Epis, etc.) can be great values at their price points. And although the workmanship is amazingly high (for their prices), the quality of components, although decent, do not elevate them to high end, professional level instruments, IMO. Plus, there is no customization available on these. NTL, they remain great values.
Ichi on Jobutsu (Enlightenment in one tone.)

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- '17 Fatboy, Deep Lava Flame
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- '02 Fatboy; '04 CT6M; '07 Fatboy; '11 Bolt+

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Doctor Turn » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:03 am

I think that the nature of this conversation exposes why this always was and still is such fabulous company.

Back in the period say of the seventies to before the intro of the CNC machines (late nineties? 2000's?), despite the price, and despite the fact that the guitars were not made slowly over a period of many many months and by only one man (and in this I mean the production product; obviously the prototypes were probably made by Mark alone), those in the know knew that the guitar they were getting (same as now) were indistinguishable in terms of quality, playability and sound from from a single luthier-with-a-long-waiting-list shop. Only difference is that multiple sets of hands and eyes passed over the guitar at certain points.

The irony is that so many of the super high end boutique guitars lose a good bit of their value as soon as they hit the used market, and so that high value is only for a moment.

The end result should be something a musician should gauge (this is my mentality) based on what he would think if he played it with a blindfold on, and looked at it with the headstock logo (and thus a sense of the price tag) markered out. This is the mentality which led to that first big surge in Carvin in the early eighties which caused the later part of that decade to be so successful, and launch them on the path that they're on today. Name musicians held those products in their hands and knew that they were an unbelievable deal for the price, a very superior product with sonic and design options unavailable elsewhere for the price (back then vs primarily Gibson) and word of mouth created an exponential burst of popularity.

So regardless what the market calls an instrument, what's to be seen (and heard) is the instrument itself, stripped of all of those labels. It's that approach to buying that drove the idea of the company, and I love "Best Kept Secret" type companies.
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby DannyB819 » Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:40 pm

To me, in terms of build quality, Kiesel is definitely a high end instrument. I'd put it up just a hair short of Suhr and Anderson and on par with Music Man and (Japanese) Ibanez - definitely at the top of the game in terms of sheer quality of build. Innovation is a different story, but as quality of build goes, it's right up there.

That said, I don't think Kiesel is a high end brand. The designs, the marketing, the social media presence, and Jeff's omnipresence are, to me, the biggest hinderances to the company being taken seriously on a scale beyond the small numbers of rabid devotees and the average fellow who wants a well-made custom guitar for a reasonable price. The company may be enjoying a great run in financial success, and great for them because an American brand succeeding in a market dominated by lower cost foreign competition is a wonderful to see, but as a brand, I don't see it breaking through as high-end on its current trajectory.

But at the end of the day what's likely more important is the amount of money in the bank account and the flow of orders coming into the shop - not the mass appeal and recognition other brands enjoy.

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:57 pm

In the general guitar/music community Kiesel is not one of the top five names that pops up when high end guitars are discussed. Should it be? Yes, I think so. But too many are put off with the Carvin/Kiesel brand because they can't walk into a GC or SW and try one out. Yet, isn't that true of many high end guitars?

So it seems that there is still a perception that Kiesel's are niche market instruments with limited appeal (and resale value and collectability). Not sure how Jeff can change that. And maybe it doesn't really matter to the company as long as they can continue to generate profitable sales.

But what if that financial picture changes in the future? Maybe then we'll start to see ads showing up in Guitar Player and Guitar World again. Come to think of it, ads in the Guitar Aficionado mag would be appropriate in order to push a "high end" Kiesel image.
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Kiesel
- '17 Fatboy, Deep Lava Flame
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:55 pm

Coda wrote:I equate "High-end" with cost. To that end, you can get a low-end Kiesel or a high-end Kiesel. (My opinion is that Jeff is steering the company image away from the lower cost models with the transition from the Carvin branding to the Kiesel branding.)

"Boutique" relates more to high quality/low production numbers, and I associate more human intervention in the process. So a volume manufacturer can produce a boutique line of instruments, or it can be a small shop making boutique instruments exclusively.

Are they boutique? 'No' in terms of the number of guitars they produce, or their perception in the used guitar market. 'Yes' in terms of the quality of materials and buyer options.

I'll drop the phrase 'value' in here, too. A 'value guitar' might be considered the opposite of a high-end guitar, but in Kiesel's case I mean value in terms of 'how much guitar do you get for the money'. A lot. More than many other manufacturer's high-end (or middle of the road) offerings.

Carvin/Kiesel blurs the lines by offering guitars that are production line/boutique hybrids, their strength coming from being able to offer high-end quality with an almost infinite choice of buyer-customizable options.

OK, so back to the question, 'are Kiesels high end?' Yes. And you can get the same high-end quality in their lower priced guitars.


nailed it. Superb topic ender. :)
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:56 pm

DannyB819 wrote:To me, in terms of build quality, Kiesel is definitely a high end instrument. I'd put it up just a hair short of Suhr and Anderson and on par with Music Man and (Japanese) Ibanez - definitely at the top of the game in terms of sheer quality of build. Innovation is a different story, but as quality of build goes, it's right up there.

That said, I don't think Kiesel is a high end brand. The designs, the marketing, the social media presence, and Jeff's omnipresence are, to me, the biggest hinderances to the company being taken seriously on a scale beyond the small numbers of rabid devotees and the average fellow who wants a well-made custom guitar for a reasonable price. The company may be enjoying a great run in financial success, and great for them because an American brand succeeding in a market dominated by lower cost foreign competition is a wonderful to see, but as a brand, I don't see it breaking through as high-end on its current trajectory.

But at the end of the day what's likely more important is the amount of money in the bank account and the flow of orders coming into the shop - not the mass appeal and recognition other brands enjoy.


excellent addition to Coda point.
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
SH550 white/white, black binding, gold hardware
Me: LB70P jet black, LB70PF Claro BEM HAN, MB 10

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:06 pm

I say no, IMO. Agree with all the above too.

I say no because IMO high end means:
*super high prices
*super low production numbers
*super hands on Luthiery
*super well known name for boutique and custom

I know "super" there is a matter of subjective scaling. And that is my point. They are not there.

But for serious musicians they do fantastic work and are high end enough.

Their greatest strength is their business model combined with personally owned and run by the subject matter experts. Those three things in combination are of highest potency compared to everything else about them.
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
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Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby 2Plus2isChicken » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:16 pm

Kiesels are really nice guitars for the most part, but I wouldn't put it past them (or any other manufacturer) to make a guitar that's faulty.

There's more to a good guitar than the price. I've received some faulty products from Kiesel/Carvin Guitars before. One of my Bolt guitars had a faulty 5-way switch, and I received a prewired pickguard not long ago that had the volume and tone knobs switched around (not sure how you mess that up).

You can't expect perfection, though. There have been faulty Gibson, Fenders, PRSes, Ibanezes (Ibanezeses? Ibani? Who knows?), etc. There have been MIM Stratocasters and Epiphone Les Pauls that have been as good or better than the MIA and Gibson stuff.

I wish there was a way to test out a Kiesel before buying it without having to drive/fly to California or wait for a refund on a 10-day trial after a 9-week build time and putting up quite a bit of money hoping everything's good.

Pretty top woods don't make a good guitar. I hope Kiesel realizes that.
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby dbone » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:22 pm

Do I think Kiesels are high end ?
Well, to me yes because they are quality American made guitars that I love and are about as much as I am going to realistically spend on a guitar and
still see the value in it. They also give me Lefty love which helps.

I thought this was funny... while I was was looking up Cork sniffer on urban dictionary I stumbled across this section about half way down the page.

“This term is very commonly used in the discussion pages of popular online forums dealing with guitars, in which the cork sniffers are the ones that argue and debate over the subtleties of various factors that contribute to tone, such as wood types used, guitar pickup types, body shapes, finishing methods, manufacturing proccess etc.
The term is generally used to imply that these very people don't really have any experience with the actual playing of the instruments, but they are simply analyzing or evaluating tone based on theory or science, instead of just listening.

The corksniffers completely miss the point.
"Hey, can you belive that guy?

Trying to say that adding cat hair to the varnish of a guitar will brighten the sound of it's tone."

"Aw, don't listen to that cork sniffer." “
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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Cynical » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:48 pm

I would say "yes", but my take on "high end" is probably different, and broader, than most.

To me, there's three major categories -- the "my first guitar" level of instruments (epitomized by things like Squirer Bullets, Yahama Pacificas, Ibanez Gios, MIC Epiphones, etc), the "good enough/you could reasonably gig with this" level (MIK Schecter and ESP, MIM Fender and Jackson, etc), and high-end (everything above that). I think it's clear where Kiesel sits on that scale.

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby Omsong » Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:16 pm

Does a custom leather case qualify as "High End"? HERE is The Tone King unpacking a new guitar that comes in it's own custom leather soft case and a felt guitar pillow bag. Now that is impressive!
Ichi on Jobutsu (Enlightenment in one tone.)

Kiesel
- '17 Fatboy, Deep Lava Flame
Past tense
- '02 Fatboy; '04 CT6M; '07 Fatboy; '11 Bolt+

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby tg1 » Fri Nov 03, 2017 3:22 am

Omsong wrote:Does a custom leather case qualify as "High End"? HERE is The Tone King unpacking a new guitar that comes in it's own custom leather soft case and a felt guitar pillow bag. Now that is impressive!


Nice "user kit" also :)

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby slayer » Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:19 pm

I love Carvin and Jackson USA guitars. Both are really high quality guitars. I look at Carvin as a semi-custom shop and Jackson being a full custom shop if you want it. Of course I won`t pay those new Masterbuilt fees at Jackson now for a custom guitar. That`s BS!! I know I didn`t say Kiesel, that`s because I prefer the Carvin name and on my headstocks. However, I respect both names, just a preference and the script of the large Carvin logo as I prefer the old large Carvin logo of the 80`s/early 90`s.
Bring Back the "ST" Body!!

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Re: Are Kiesel's High End Guitars?

Postby spudmunkey » Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:41 pm

slayer wrote: just a preference and the script of the large Carvin logo as I prefer the old large Carvin logo of the 80`s/early 90`s.


In case you were interested, Carvin Audio is selling off logo badges, including the script style.
https://carvinaudio.com/collections/replacement-logos


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