Why Tokai, why gibson, why epiphone????

Tokai guitar discussion

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Falcon Rust
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Why Tokai, why gibson, why epiphone????

Post by Falcon Rust » Wed May 28, 2003 12:19 am

Dear All,

i am new in the world of Tokais, and i haven't come to a conclusion, yet.

Everytime we talk about guitars we have to know why and what purpose we buy it for.

If i was a professional musician, i would like to have a Gibson SG 61 reissue, or a Les Paul 60's Custom Shop.

But then comes Tokai and Epiphone, in Japan, they both sport the Gibson headstock. Some of you say, Tokai is better, some say Epiphone is the same.

So what guitar should we buy???? it's all aboutour budget, but we all want an "excellent" guitar for a decent price.


I do not want to criticize anything........but, could you tell me, if a guitar is made of mahogany, and it comes from the same country, why one has to be $3000 and the same with a different name $400???? Are we stupid, or there is more????

I know, change pickups, change pots, change tuners, this and that, poli, nitro...............but after all, what is the most important thing????

The player, of course.

So guys, if we buy a Tokai, a Greco, Ibanez, Epiphone, would we be considered cheap???? or we are proud of showing a name that is not only a big dollar market seller????

I would like to know what you think,

with respect,


Post by Lee » Wed May 28, 2003 2:42 am


Well for starters forget Epiphone.

Gibson is selling a name above anything else. Let?s say you are buying a 59' Historic sunburst Les Paul. That's basically what Tokai have been cheekily churning out for the past 20 odd years.

With a Gibbo, I reckon that 60% of what you are buying is the name. In terms of comparing quality, I doubt if you could put a fag (cigarette) paper between them. In fact, in the early 80's I would have bought a Tokai over the Gibbo no question (which I did on several occasions).

This may sound strange but it took Gibson nearly 20 years to catch Tokai up! :-? Ridiculous isn't it.

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Post by javelin70 » Wed May 28, 2003 4:30 am

The reason why I bought my first Tokai (Love Rock TLS-50 goldtop) in 1984 was that it was the best LP I could find. I tried several used Gibson's (couldn't afford a new one) but none of them was as good as the Tokai. I bought it new at about half the price of a used Gibson LP. It's lightweight, has a one pice mahogany neck and Tokai '57 PAF's (same as on the TLS-80 from the same year, should have been '57 vintage MKII's but for some reason it has better pickups).

And remember, this was the cheapest of the Love Rocks! And it still was better than any Gibson I tried. I've had a lot of different guitars since then but the TLS-50 stays!



Post by loverockerUK » Wed May 28, 2003 4:35 am

Last edited by loverockerUK on Sat Mar 13, 2004 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Paladin2019 » Wed May 28, 2003 4:39 am

epiphone are criminally overpriced. They use the wrong woods, cheap wood (I found a pen lid filling a knothole in the pickup cavity of mine!), and the electronics & hardware are incredibly poor.

You'd have to spend silly money getting them up to scratch, and by the time you do you could have bought a Gibson LP Studio - and it won't sound as good.

Gibson, to a lesser extent, are also overpriced considering what you're getting.

I think you're underestimating the importance of body wood. Resonance, weight (and some would say, number of pieces) all make a difference to hte tone and feel of the instrument. Gibson have to drill holes in their bodies to get them to spec weight, and this affects tone. Tokai use good wood that's both light and resonant - no need for drilling and sounds good.

The best Gibson will probably be better than the best Tokai - but the difference is about five grand :roll:

Oh, and anyone who thinks your cheap for not laying out 2 grand on a guitar has a serious snobbery problem and probably can't play as well as you.

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Post by sneakyjapan » Wed May 28, 2003 5:37 am

so if 2 companies use the same quality wood and parts but they have different names on the headstock, why would one be worth so many times more? I understand about the hand made element but if both use identical parts, aren`t we paying for the name? My Yamaha USA II strat is as well made as any guitar I own but if I decided to resell it I`d get dick for it, whereas if I sold my custom shop Fender team built I`d get a lot more but both are made with top of the line parts. I`ve gotten over the name game. Now... if it sounds, plays and looks good to me... I buy it. I have some MIJ`s that I have matched against Fender USA and Gibson, and I`ll tell ya, in better hands than mine I`d wager they would sound every bit as good, because I know they are equally well built.

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Post by guitarboy » Wed May 28, 2003 6:02 am

Why Champagne, why not sparkling wine from Chile?


I don't think it is as simple as saying someone is a snob because they like to play a Gibson. If the whole vibe of a Gibson or Fender inspires them to play then that's the right guitar for them.
I have both Tokai and Gibson LP's and the strange thing is that I can't get rid of the Gibson even thought the Tokai plays and sounds better IMHO.

If I wanted to I could sell the 'real' one and buy 3 Tokai's, but then I would be minus some mojo.

Yes it is all in my head but if that is what works for me who cares?

Gibsons cost lots coz they were used by the greats and have a weight of musical history. Would you sell that Stradavarius for a better sounding/playing Korean model????



Post by Lee » Wed May 28, 2003 7:05 am

I?ll take that back. Don?t forget Epiphone.

Personally I think Gibson have trashed the Epiphone name. Note that Epiphone made some extraordinary and unusual jazz boxes back in the 40?s, 50?s and 60?s. Gibson would have been wiser to nurture the Epiphone brand name along these lines rather than turn it into the guitarists' punch bag that it is today.

Think of it like this. In 20 years time, all of today?s young players are going to look back on the Epiphone brand with a degree of contempt. I guess they?ll say something like ? ?My first guitar was a nasty Epiphone Gibson Les Paul copy?.

In fact, Gibson should desist in copying their originals altogether (as opposed to replicating) as they are making a pretty poor job of it with Epiphone.

So please, let us remember how good Epiphone used to be.

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Post by tokaigeezer » Wed May 28, 2003 9:42 am

By the way, Guilds are also very good. They are often referred to as the poor man's Gibson but I think they stand on their own. It remains to be seen if Fender's owning them will screw up things or not.

I've been stunned by the quality of the Tokai Strat replicas, especially the Silver Stars. My late 70s SS60 with the original pickups is now top hoss in the barn, narrowly edging out the Fender Hendrix Tribute Strat, and that's saying something. It's aged as beautifully as a late 70s Strat but without the hideous wear and tear of the real thing (which will set you back at least $2000, or $2500 for a 69 relic strat.) I just can't see dropping two grand and up for a thrashed-out CBS-era Strat with switched parts, which is basically what's out there these days now that nearly all the collectable ones have been squirreled away.

What's really impressive about the Silver Stars is that these Japanese guitar meisters so accurately nailed that era, which many Fender purists derided, at the time, as post-CBS donkey poo. Here Tokai went and chose a so-so Fender decade, quality-wise, to emulate, and created stunning guitars - go figure! I think they actually made their replicas into better Strats than Fender could hope to produce at that time. Of course the Tokai mongers on Ebay have jumped on the bandwagon and are trying to get vintage prices for them now. :evil:

I don't care what the label is on what I play, but I do care about the sound.

I confirm this when I go into a Fender dealership and start noodling through the stock and try to find one that is as good as my two Silver Stars. Out of a dozen I might find one, and it's not necessarily the most expensive. Sometimes it's one made in Mexico.

The quality control dropoff is due to the scarcity of good wood, I suspect. Much of the world's finite supply of good tonewood and exotic wood goes into cabinets and furniture veneer. The amount of decent tonewoods used by guitar makers is a fraction of what the furniture industry consumes. Thirty years ago the basic pool of wood was of much higher quality, or so I hear. The other ingredient is attention to detail and devotion to achieving quality sound. Reverend guitars accomplish this without using much wood in their bodies, so it's possible.

Tokais also allow me the luxury of owning three Strat replicas to one good Fender, although things are certainly beginning to pile up in the closet.Which means I must thin the herd ... :(

I agree that the once-proud Epi name has been dragged through the muck. It's a shame and I hope Fender doesn't do the same thing to Guild. They probably won't as Squier and DeArmond seem to be their current whipping boys.


p.s. Thanks for everyone's input. I have really learned a lot about Tokais on this site, which was the whole idea in the beginning, to educate misguided but sincere guitar freaks, right? Props to Ned and Peter Mac and the gang!
Cain't take 'em with you, so you gots to play them now!

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Post by Skybone » Wed May 28, 2003 2:42 pm

Well for my two penn'oth, I've got a Tokai, a Gibson and an Ibanez, and they are all very different animals.

I've owned a couple of Korean Epiphone LP's, which just didn't "do it" for me. They just "felt" wrong. I later found out that the Korean built Epi LP's use a 3 piece body, a centre block of mahogany, and the wings are of alder. I had a Standard, which I then traded for the Birds Eye Classic, both guitars looked the business, but again, just didn't "do it" for me. I traded the Birds Eye for a Tokai Love Rock Custom (LC-65), which I then traded (sometime later) for an LS-70F.

The Gibson is a '96 Studio, lovely guitar, but just isn't in the same league as the Tokai. The Ibanez is a different kettle of fish, as its a '79 Artist. Think thin double cut LP with a maple neck and ebony 'board.

As for Gibson vs Tokai, like Lee said, its taken Gibson 20 odd years to catch up with the (cheaper) competition. Tokai have been banging out '59 replica's for years, whereas Gibson have been flogging them via the Custom Shop for $$$$$ extra over the price of a Standard. I think that Gibson have seen what people like Tokai have been producing and thought that they'd better catch up with their quality/standard simply to stay in the game.

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Thanks guys....

Post by Falcon Rust » Wed May 28, 2003 5:59 pm

But then what about the new Epiphone Elite?????

It is only to trick customers and make then believe that these new Elitists are now ready to compete with Tokais. They have the Gibson Headstock, made in Japan, with grover tuners.......blah, blah blah, did you try then????

What do you think of all this????

I know, Tokai makes good guitars, but you also talk about old Tokais and not much about the new ones.

It is all in my mind or this site worships the 80s Tokais more than new ones????


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Re: Thanks guys....

Post by Paladin2019 » Thu May 29, 2003 4:19 am

Falcon Rust wrote:But then what about the new Epiphone Elite?????
They have the Gibson Headstock, made in Japan, with grover tuners.......blah, blah blah, did you try then????

No they don't - they have a pig-ugly headstock!

Does anyone know what wood they use on the elites?

I saw one for ?900, a plaintop. You could buy a similar Tokai for ?600 and it'd have the right headstock.

Oh, and I didn't say someone who plays Gibbo is a snob - I said someone who calls you cheap for not playing one is :wink:

Personally, names don't bother me - quality craftsmanship and good sound do. That's why, when I had ?1500 to spend on a Les Paul, I went to Tokai.


Post by Lee » Thu May 29, 2003 4:42 am

Without running the risk of disappearing up my own backside, I would say the older Tokai?s are more like the real thing. So Tokai?s built before 83? are my preference. I?m talking Les Paul?s not Strats and Teles.

Proper mahogany and rosewood was more readily available back in the 70?s and very early 80?s. For example check out early Hamer sunbursts and standards. These woods are now protected so even the mighty Gibbo have problems sourcing decent wood (and as for Fender, they're making the Relic series out of old teachests!).

You can see the difference even with the latest Historic Gibbo?s. Most of them are horrible. I have collected about 250 pictures of Historic Les Paul?s and only 5% of those look reasonably ?authentic?. Most of them are completely over the top and nasty looking. Incidentally, I believe Gibson shoved eastern maple on top of their original 50?s sunbursts. You can still source this but a decent plank won?t come cheap.

If you want to see what a typical sunburst Les Paul should look like, buy a copy of ?The Beauty of the Burst? book. Have a read, and then go out and see if you can find anything as good in the shops that is a solid top not a veneer (that old solid vs. veneered top argument again) and cry?s like a baby.

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Post by Skybone » Thu May 29, 2003 3:40 pm

My Tokai's a '99.

Haven't played an old one.

Haven't seen an old one in the flesh.

If the old ones are a patch on the new ones, I'll certainly be impressed.

If I bought an old one, my wife would not be impressed! ;)

Anyway, I'm keeping my eyes open for an old Ibanez Iceman thats going cheap (He dreams.....)

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Post by Dazzle » Thu May 29, 2003 4:18 pm

In answer to your question "I do not want to criticize anything........but, could you tell me, if a guitar is made of mahogany, and it comes from the same country, why one has to be $3000 and the same with a different name $400???? Are we stupid, or there is more????"

There is more and its the mythical thing called a "brand" and the perceptions and connotations that go hand in hand with it.

Gibson says tradition, quality, creme de la creme, kudos, etc, etc- so it has a price tag to match. It also attaches a perception to its owner that wow this guy has a Gibson he must be able to play real good.

Epiphone says poor mans Gibson hence the lesser price, its made by the same folks so your getting the halo effect - it must be alright as its made by Gibson. As we know this is not necessarily true

Tokai have the quality but not the wider brand recognition so are unable to command the premium price like Gibson. The good news for us educated folks is you can have the superb quality without the huge price tag. Which sounds good to me!!

When push comes to shove you shouldn't buy a guitar based on its name it should be what it sounds and feels like.

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