With rising costs associated with manufacturing in the US, many guitar companies have been outsourcing their manufacturing overseas over the past few decades. Many companies have been turning to China to build their guitars, some as more mass-produced and others looking for handcrafting individual instruments.
Brands of Guitars Made in China
I looked into some of the most popular guitar brands that are manufacturing some or all of their instruments in China and here is what I found out.
Fender Guitars has been manufacturing guitars since 1946. They are headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and are known as one of the largest guitar companies in the world, producing guitars for beginners to professional musicians.
Fender is most known for its electric and bass guitars. Some of Fender’s designs, such as their Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision & Jazz guitars, have changed the way we make music over the past 75 years.
Fender is currently manufacturing guitars in the USA, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and China.
As one of the oldest instrument manufacturers, Epiphone has been producing instruments since 1873. It wasn’t until 1928 when they produced their first acoustic guitar that Epiphone moved into the guitar world. However, in 1957, Epiphone was purchased by Gibson and has been owned by them ever since.
Fast forward to the 21st century and where Epiphone guitars are made has changed somewhat. Epiphone guitars are manufactured at the Qingdao Factory in the Shandong province in China, the same factory that produces some of Gibson’s guitars. The company is able to keep costs low and produce large amounts of these guitars by mass producing them at this location.
Although most Epiphones guitars are manufactured overseas, from time to time they do runs of their most premium collections that are made in the USA. In fact, in 2021 they introduced their “Made in the USA Collection” where they manufacture Epiphone’s most well-known guitars on US soil.
Guild was founded in 1952 in New York City. They are a US-based guitar manufacturer that produces a variety of acoustic, electric, and bass guitars. However, like most large guitar manufacturers, they have moved some of their production overseas.
Guild notes on their website that their Westerly collection is made in China and their Newark St. electric guitar is made in either South Korea, Indonesia, or China depending on the model that you have. It would seem that (at least the Westerly collection) is built at the GREE Factory, located in Hui Yang City, Guangdong Province in southern China.
Known as one of the biggest musical instrument companies in the world, Yamaha has been producing instruments for over 135 years. Founded in 1887 in Japan, Yamaha maintains a reputation for a large range of instruments at a great price for beginners to professional players.
Yamaha guitars that are made in China (Hangzhou Guitar Factory) are mostly the more expensive acoustic guitar range. However, some of their acoustic guitars are still made in Japan (e.g., the Red Label series).
Yamaha is also building entry-level and lower-budget acoustic guitars and electric guitars in Indonesia. Additionally, there is a Yamaha Artist Services facility in Calabasas, Los Angeles, California that provides custom guitar builds, as well as instrument modifications.
Eastman Guitars has been hand-crafting great guitars at an affordable price for over 30 years. They are known as a high-quality guitar brand in the USA. However, their guitars are not made there.
Located in Beijing, China, the Eastman Guitar workshop produces great-quality guitars by exclusively hand-crafting Eastman guitars in this workshop and not carrying out work for any other company. You can watch a short video on the Eastman Guitar factory to learn more about how their guitars are made.
Eastman prides itself on not being “Made in China”, but rather, its guitars are “hand-crafted in Beijing”. Breaking down the stigma that all guitars that are made in China are cheap and mass-produced.
Founded in 1965, Alvarez is a US-based guitar brand headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. In the late 1960s, Gene Kornblum (founder) met a Japanese luthier, Kazuo Yairi who was mostly producing handmade classical guitars at the time. The Yairi factory and St. Louis Music started designing and producing acoustic steel-string guitars and importing them to the USA to sell. These guitars were then called the “Alvarez” line and the company would later rebrand its name.
As of today, some of the top-line instruments are still produced at the Yairi factory in Japan and are sent to the guitar shop in St. Louis, Missouri for final inspection before they are sold to customers. However, throughout its long history, some of the brand’s manufacturing has been moved to China.
Luna is an acoustic guitar brand that was launched in 2005. They have a unique style of acoustic guitars, incorporating artwork into the design of their guitars.
On their website, they note that their guitars are designed by Yvonne de Villiers in the US and Alex Morgan in the UK but are manufactured in China and Korea to their strict specifications. They have been working with the same manufacturers since launching the company and note that “they have been wonderful partners, willing to experiment with some of our ground-breaking designs – and are good to their workers”.
Originally introduced in the 1970s, Sigma was a line of guitars that C. F. Martin introduced as a more affordable instrument. From the early 1970s, Sigma were building their guitars at the most efficient factories in Japan before being sent to the US for final inspection and release to their customers.
After several years, manufacturing was moved to Korea from 1984 till 1994 and then Taiwan in 1994, and later Indonesia. Production continued until 2007 when Martin discontinued the Sigma brand.
A German company, AMI Musical instruments GmbH, bought the name rights to this company and relaunched Sigma guitars, and moved manufacturing to China. As such, all recently made Sigma guitars have been made in China by a highly respected maker. You can read more about the long Sigma history here.
Washburn Guitars is an American instrument manufacturer that specializes in a wide range of instruments from electric to acoustic guitars along with banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, and more. Originally established in Chicago in 1883, this company certainly has a long history in the music industry.
And throughout that long history, Washburn has relied on manufacturing partners to build their instruments. Their first modern guitars were built in Japan. This included the production of their Wing series built by a Japanese manufacturer, Yamaki. By 1991, production had largely shifted to Korea.
By 2017, manufacturing of their instruments had largely been moved to factories in Indonesia and China.
Washburn has some great information on their website. If you own a Washburn guitar and are looking for more information on it, you can search by year on their website.
Started as an extension of an aerospace company, Ovation Guitars was developed by Charles Kaman who also happened to be a guitar enthusiast. As he employed a variety of scientists and engineers working for the Kaman Corporation, he decided that his aerospace company could use some of their technology in guitar-making.
In 1966, his team figured out the best way to make a guitar back that would help create a rich, full, and deeper-sounding acoustic guitar.
Although they have a custom shop and design factory in New Hartford, Connecticut, Ovation Guitar has also outsourced their guitars to factories in Indonesia, South Korea, and China.
Other Guitars that are Made in China
Here is a list of other guitar companies that are making some of their guitars in China. However, there is very limited information online about these companies.
- The Loar
- Recording King
Many of these companies listed above have factories that produce their guitars in a variety of countries, and it’s often difficult to determine which models are produced where. And it’s important to note that not all guitars made in China are mass-produced, low-end models. Some are hand crafted in high-end workshops like Epiphone guitars.