Today I visited another guitar store and the two guitars in the gallery above got my attention. The guitar in the left picture is either a Lemon Drop body or a Faded Cherryburst body, but no matter how the color is called, I absolutely love the appearance of that guitar. When we still just talk about the appearance, the look of the guitar on the right side is called Heritage Darkburst but I like that look less. Both guitars are basically Les Paul copies, which means they are not made by Gibson but by FGN and the models were called “FGN Neo Classic LS20”. I think I saw FGN (English website / German website) mentioned a few times in the web but I never really researched deeply about who they are, in fact I never noticed these guitars in any store either until today.
You don’t go into a guitar store to just take a look, of course you grab the guitars and start to play, and when I took one of them from the wall, I was pretty surprised. Both guitars weight a lot, as soon as I had one of them in the hand, it was clear they aren’t chambered, or that they are without weight relief. So, within a second I knew I had something serious in my hand. It’s a mahogany body guitar and when I researched at home, I learned that they are more than 4 kg in weight. On my lap they seemed to be quite heavy, they both felt very solid. But what impressed me more was the workmanship. I did try to find any issues, and I am absolutely honest with you, the build quality surprised me. Of course I did not just admire how they looked like or how they were built, I now wanted to play them.
I plugged them into an amp and played on them. Sound-wise, I’d say my jaw dropped. This is a very different league, this is what I am looking for. The Seymour Duncan SH-1 & SH-4 Humbucker did sound fantastic in every position of three-way switch. It was quite hard to stop playing on each of them, because they did sound incredible. But since I am a fanatic when we talk about the thickness, I would say that I was also here a bit unhappy because I would prefer the neck to be thinner. The Heritage Darkburst version had a thinner neck, that was at least my impression and I somewhat liked to play it more even if I disliked the look of that guitar. The neck difference was not too big, but then again, I am fanatic in that case and would definitely prefer the neck to be thinner for both.
It’s difficult. I don’t need the Gibson label on the headstock, I’d be fine with a different brand and in this case I definitely found two high quality guitars even if I never really learned something about FGN previously. But these two guitars made me curious. I couldn’t find real issues, except the neck but that’s just personal preference, and not a production fault. Quality-wise, I would definitely purchase this guitar, sound-wise as well. Funnily, I wouldn’t even say that the neck was difficult to play, it was actually nice to play the neck but it’s difficult to describe, it somehow still felt strange in my hands. Let me try to explain, the fretboard was very playable, but it still felt like the thickness of the neck would prevent better access.
I get the impression if I am in the market for a Les Paul, or a Les Paul copy, I might need to get used to the thicker neck. I am starting to wonder if that’s how they are, but it’s probably to easy to say that because it seems todays necks come in all kind of shapes and diameters. I mean, I didn’t test a lot of them but I know there are many different versions alone under the Gibson umbrella, and there a tons of copies from different brands today. So, I don’t give up on the idea with the thinner neck.
I think my issue comes from the fact that I played my grandpa’s Fender Stratocaster a lot back in the days, and that one had a very thin neck. His Matsumoku Vantage guitar had a very thin neck too. And my cheap SG copy that I purchased a long time ago has a very thin neck as well. So, I am really used to this, and I actually love it. As I mentioned in another post, my guitar was cheap and that’s why it contains cheap electronics, which is why that guitar is not enough anymore. But the shape of the neck is awesome. I still wouldn’t say that my guitar is extremely playable, because playability is not just about the neck, but I let it stand, the neck size and shape of my guitar is really comfortable.
I just tested some guitars here locally in my city because I was bored and it’s really about time to get a second guitar. But I am planning to take a look in Hamburg where there are bigger guitar stores. I still have my eyes on certain Fender and Gibson guitars but I wouldn’t mind if I take a different brand at some point because today was very eye-opening. It seems you’re not forced anymore to look for a guitar that is built in the USA. Arrived at home and still surprised about the quality of the FGN guitars, and curious why there were Asian signs on the headstock, I started my research.
FGN is a premium guitar brand of a traditional manufacturer called Fujigen. It’s a Japanese company in Matsumoto City. They create guitars with a mix of traditional craftsmanship and modern manufacturing methods as they state on their German website. You can read a bit about their history on their English FGN Guitars website. They previously produced under the name Fuji Gengakki K.K for world-famous labels ( like Ibanez, Greco, Yamaha, Fender, Squier) but now they do this under their own name with their own guitar brand.
I will definitely pay more attention to their products from now on since I was very surprised of the built quality of these two guitars, but when I noticed the price tag of 1500€, quality is definitely something I would demand. What would you get from Gibson in that price segment? A Gibson Les Paul Studio. When I am in Hamburg, I will take a look if Gibson can keep up with that type of quality, but I don’t have very high expectations since just research makes already very clear that a Les Paul Studio is just a compromise, and that the real bang just starts with the Les Paul Standard, but then what kind of price segment are we looking at? If you would need to pay Gibson about 3000€ to get a decent Les Paul, why would you not take a high quality Les Paul copy from a Japanese company instead?
I think many guitarists including myself closed their eyes, because we still know from the old times what Fender and Gibson means (like in my case, Fender is burned into my head since I loved the old Stratocaster of my grandpa) but do they really still offer quality? You will probably find good Fender and Gibson guitars but I am following the chatter about these companies since quite a while and to be honest, you don’t get a very positive impression anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I will check some Fender and Gibson guitars out because maybe I find what I am looking for, but the stories about quality control are very concerning. And talking about Gibson alone, seriously, what type of price policy is this Gibson?
My point is, I will start to distance myself from the idea that I need a Gibson guitar or a Fender guitar. Currently I have more than two grand available to purchase a guitar. If I find a Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster that I really like, then it’s fine. But the point is, I don’t want to pay money for a name on the guitar headstock. I just don’t care anymore about the name, nor do I care if a guitar is made in the USA. In case I get a guitar with the same or even higher quality than the original, and that for a much smaller amount of money, you can be sure there will be no Gibson or Fender label on the headstock of my next guitar. It’s that easy.
This is what I meant when I said today was very eye-opening. Even if I was still not fully happy with the neck of the FGN guitars (I think they have models with thinner necks, but I need to read more), damn they felt like super high quality guitars in my hands. Very, very eye-opening impression. It seems there is something happening in this market, it’s just that I might have noticed it very late because you don’t have the idea every day to purchase a new guitar. I think it’s sometimes worth it to expand your horizon, to test things that you don’t know yet. That’s what I did today. These guitars definitely won’t disappear from my radar, but I am extremely patient and will check all my options.