Blinded by the Brands: A Cautionary Tale

Anyone that has talked with me about guitars for any length of time is most likely aware of my fondness for Japanese luthierie.
It's a preference born of sustained good experience with the general high quality of instruments that have passed my hands from the land of the rising sun. As players, over time we develop these preferences be it for a particular brand or country/factory of manufacture. Everyone loves a sure thing, but is it always so?

Sometimes our bias blinds us to the qualities or lack thereof of the instruments we consider. That combined with a bad case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and sometimes investments in less than desirable instruments can be a sad reality.

Dig if you will this 70s Aria 12 string.


Disregard the dilapidated condition at this point as it is in the process of rejuvenation. The owner Noam a friend to the store, rescued this guitar from less than ideal prior circumstances... But unfortunately he may have been better off leaving it to its fate.

Beginning in the mid 50s, owner Shiro Arai developed Aria Guitars with a view to improve Japanese luthierie which at the time suffered from a lack of properly treated woods resulting in cracks. Over the decades Aria Guitars has made a slew of high quality instruments and were early adapters of DiMarzio pickups as standard. However, just because they have made (and still make) great quality instruments doesn't mean the odd budget minger hasn't been churned out to the masses as well.


And here we are...

I could tell you of the abysmal plastic nut, the poorly installed soft frets with the zero fret (not a personal fave) but let's be real here... mad real.

Look at this neck join!

What. The. F@#$.


It's like they found an old 12 string electric neck and an unfinished acoustic body and went "Screw it, beginners won't mind" and created this hybrid abomination before you.

I have never.....NEVER seen a bolt on acoustic 12 string. The heel stack on the interior...? Utter. Madness.


Now having said that can I make it play well? 

Yeah it's gonna be great. But only after extensive work and unfortunately the resale will just not be there. So while it is a magnificent freak and conversation piece in a collection, it's also a prime example of buyer beware.

Even the best brands have a few C.H.U.D.s in the basement. So be careful out there, and if you're ever in need of a second opinion, my door is open.

Till next time. Stay safe and riff hard.

Chris Re-Animator.