For musicians, there is a lot of importance to buying something that gives you a lot of value for your dollar. While the same could be said of anyone making a purchase, musicians have a vested interest in choosing an instrument that brings bang for the buck.
Guitars are the type of investment that can provide hours upon hours of entertainment, relaxation, mental stimulation, and more. They’re great for gigging, recording, and just jamming with friends. A good guitar will hold up well over time, turn heads with its looks, and please the ears of listeners with its sound.
But price is also a factor when it comes to musical instruments, as with any purchase. Many instruments possess collections of features that cause the price to skyrocket, giving prospective buyers the choice of getting their dream ax or keeping their bank account intact. It’s a tough choice to make, especially since there are so many brands to choose from.
Then every so often, a brand pops up that offers great value. While some may consider lower priced guitars to be “cheap,” this term is only negative when it applies to the features – i.e., cheaply made pickups will produce subpar sound, cheaply completed body finish could peel, etc.
Austin guitars claim to offer high value in both their low price and their solid array of features. Is this another knockoff brand you should pass up in your search for the best-priced instrument? Or are Austin guitars worth the money?
Who is Austin, the Company? What Makes Them Different?
Austin is the type of brand that usually sells guitars for a few hundred dollars at most. Many of their models hover right around the one-hundred-dollar range, giving guitarists a deal that can seem too good to be true.
But according to Austin, a company that has been in business for over two decades, the secret to creating a good value-based guitar doesn’t lie in cutting corners or taking shortcuts during the manufacturing process. Instead, it involves a lot of research and experimentation.
Finding which wood types and electronics balance cost with quality has helped Austin release many different types of guitars – electrics, acoustics, classical, travel-size, and more.
Austin’s management says their instrument line is targeted at both the beginning guitarist who is still exploring their options and the seasoned musician who knows what they want.
Of course, the company will be a little biased about their own standing, and no company wants to label itself with the limiting title that is the “beginner brand.” But how can a person judge whether Austin guitars are truly worth the money?
What Goes into Making a Good Value-Based Guitar?
If something is valuable, it means it gives you a lot for what you spent on it. Or in other words, you feel like you got a lot of features for the money anytime you get a valuable product. In some senses of the term, every product is valuable – every product offers some level of return on investment.
But guitarists who seek out lower-priced instruments don’t just want to save money. They want to save money and still get a solid instrument – preferably one that doesn’t sound like it belongs in that low of a price range. It’s also good if the instrument has an impressive look, as visual appeal can be just as important to sound quality for musicians.
An instrument should have design choices that are conducive to smooth playability, good sound, and reliability. Even if a guitar is on the lower end of the price range, a musician may want to take it to a gig or jam session. A value-based guitar should be reliable enough to handle the trip and provide a good enough sound to satisfy the audience – whether that’s a room full of screaming fans or a couple of friends.
Austin guitars are the type of instrument brand that some musicians completely pass over. They’ll see the familiar body types, the low prices, and simply assume this is a “knockoff” manufacturer. But for those who are interesting in finding gems that offer a lot of shine for the cash, this brand could be worth looking into.
Let’s start by analyzing the design of Austin guitars. Are the body types good looking? How about the finishes? Are there any obvious giveaways that show these instruments are less expensive than they may look at a glance?
A Lesser-Known Brand with Familiar Looks
Nearly every guitarist has pictured themselves rocking out on stage or shredding away in the studio. This image usually sees them with one of guitar music’s iconic axes. Maybe the Les Paul from Gibson? Or how about the Telecaster from Fender?
This vision of excellence is usually sent crashing back down to earth when one realizes the price of those instruments from those brands. Some of them may be reasonably priced – but as far as a very affordable guitar, can their looks really turn heads for that price?
Austin Guitars: AS6PROGT
Consider a guitar like the AS6PROGT – that distinct gold top finish with a single cutaway, tune-o-matic bridge, and a set of humbuckers, each controlled by a separate volume and tone knob – both in gold. Sound familiar? That’s right, this guitar was designed with excellence in mind – at least as far as the looks go. It’s modeled after the famous Gibson Les Paul!
Austin Guitars: ATC250BC
What about the ATC250BC? That maple neck and fingerboard, string-thru-body bridge, and double single-coil pickup setup? Fender fans rejoice – it’s got the look of a Telecaster. This guitar’s design is so similar to the original, a person would have to take a careful look in the right places to spot the difference from a purely visual perspective.
Aside from the difference in sound, you’ll notice from these guitars and the ones they’re modeled after, the only obvious tell is the headstock. It displays the Austin logo, but this is something a fan below the stage or outside the studio would never be able to see.
But musicians know the real deciding factor with an instrument is how it plays. Do Austin guitars have the features necessary to produce great sound – sound that warrants the price these guitars go for?
Analyzing the Specs of Austin Guitars
For the sake of simplicity, let’s analyze the specs of the two guitars mentioned above. We’ll start with the AS6PROGT – also known as the Les Paul lookalike.
The body and neck are both made from mahogany, helping to emulate the iconic LP sustain as best as possible with woods in the lower-end price range. The fretboard is made of techwood, which will make for a different feel if a person is used to more common materials like ebony and rosewood. This may not provide the type of fast playability as other guitars – or at least not as fast, but it does help keep the price in check.
This model also comes with Austin humbuckers, another cost-effective design choice that means this guitar won’t sound like a Les Paul even though it looks the part. Still, for a guitar in its price range, it’s easy to modify the sound with effects or even swap out the pickups for a set of your own preference.
As for the ATC250BC, it comes with the same type of maple fretboard you’d expect in a legit Telecaster. The pickups won’t sound close to Fender’s, but they will be suitable for creating sound – sound that can also be modified through racks and pedals or overhauled with the installation of new pickups.
There are also small details like a lack of body binding on some models. Some acoustic guitars have electrical capabilities as well, though their EQ functionality won’t offer near the flexibility of higher-priced models from bigger names.
But for a few hundred bucks? These guitars are a great find – for beginners, frequent travelers, or even the aspiring luthier who wants a low-cost guitar to build and modify.
The Final Verdict: A “Beginner Brand” You Should Look Into
Everyone wants to find the best value when they buy a guitar. There are plenty of brands that offer the benefit of a smaller price tag at the expense of a few cost-effective design choices. But Austin’s longevity and good feedback among musicians shows it’s an option worth considering.
Once again, there’s no reason to assume these guitars will sound anywhere near the models that cost twice or three times as much. The same can be said about their looks – the basic design may be similar to some popular models, but those with an eye for detail could tell the difference.
But if you’re looking to throw down a few hundred bucks and get a guitar that looks sleek, sounds good, and is built by a company that knows what guitarists want, consider Austin. The brand may be lesser known when compared to some, but it’s hard for you to do better for the money than you would be going with this brand.