David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

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cmatthes
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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by cmatthes » Mon Dec 31, 2018 4:36 pm

It looks like Sutong is under the "Grote" umbrella, based upon some further digging online today. Pretty cool!

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by timtam » Mon Dec 31, 2018 5:13 pm

cmatthes wrote:
Mon Dec 31, 2018 4:36 pm
It looks like Sutong is under the "Grote" umbrella, based upon some further digging online today. Pretty cool!
I don't fully understand the ebay/aliexpress/dhgate etc business model for Chinese guitars, but it looks to be the online version of what you see in the large multi-storey retail mega-marts in Asia for electronics/computer components - with lots of little stores often selling very similar goods. Likewise online it seems that there lots of tiny online businesses acting as middle men for a few large factories ... so that lots of them are selling the exact same goods. You particularly see it on ebay where there are 200 listings for the same product with the same photos, all from different sellers, with price differing by very little.

So with Chinese guitars I think there are lots of little sellers who 'can' get you a guitar from one of the factories. They're just not the business who makes it. Maybe that's good in a way because on-selling is their only business and they need good feedback to stay in business (although certainly on ebay those small Chinese product sellers come and go like the wind). But maybe it's bad in terms of communicating re exactly what you want, especially if it's customized. My 335 clone came direct from Grote on ebay with no additional communication, but I didn't need anything customized.

So Grote may or may not be unusual in that they are the manufacturer and they also do sell direct to the overseas public. If a manufacturer sells direct and does a good job of it, that's probably where you want to be.
"I just knew I wanted to make a sound that was the complete opposite of a Les Paul, and that’s pretty much a Jaguar." Rowland S. Howard.

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by sookwinder » Mon Dec 31, 2018 10:35 pm

↑ Let me see if I can add some additional info at this point... may make things clearer, may also muddy it further.

Tim, you are correct (obviously) that there are a multitude of sellers on both ebay and aliexpress selling exactly the same thing using exactly the same photos and verbiage. While I have mixed feelings about re-sellers, we use them everyday, some do not add anything to the transaction, they are but parasites. In particular those in Japan who advertise something they do not even have access to (ie a vintage guitar up for sale on another Japanese website) get me very angry... I've basically stopped looking at ebay for guitars and vintage equipment years ago because of this phenomenon. At least the general reseller only has to order the available item from the supplier to enable them to supply to the public.

The Grote guitar you would have bought from ebay I am 99% sure was not sold to you by GROTE themselves. As far as I know Julia does not sell on ebay. She only sells as a supplier/manufacturer to other brands, local sales in China and via Aliexpress.

She has mentioned to me that she is sad when she sees other people on ebay and Aliexpress selling her product and making more $ than she does. I tried to explain (a) even selling at zero profit (obviously less than the resellers sell for) still means there is enough money being made to pay for materials, overheads and wages. (b) someone else buying your product and selling it for more is what we would call capitalism. Irrespective of whether one agrees with capitalism or not, that is what the other Chinese sellers on Aliexpress are doing and that is what Aliexpress is there for. To make money.. Whether she appreciated the subtlety is what I was saying I am uncertain.

I know that there is:
- a "seller/shop" user fee that Aliexpress charges and sometimes do not even cover that for many sellers
- shipping costs from China to overseas are very cheap, even for large items, hence why shipping is often free.
- while not 100% certain, I believe that each Chinese seller/exporter has benefits (from the government) when they sell overseas, as it is bringing in foreign capital into China. Whether these benefits are in the form of lower taxes/tax rebates, or direct payments, I have no idea.

When I first started looking into the Aliexpress thing and buying of guitars I was overwhelmed by the multitude of sellers who sold the same exact guitar and obviously had no idea what they were actually selling. I had read that Hofner manufactured there basses in China for a entry level market and wanted to see if I could get my nephew a Hofner Club bass.

It took me literally about 2 months (over the summer period three years back) to search and look at the various sellers and see who had varying styles of photos (obviously a reseller, cross them off the list), who sold baby clothes AND Les Paul guitars ( cross them off the list), who had no idea the difference between a strat like guitar and a LP style guitar (cross them off the list).

I also started to see that there were a higher number of sellers that seemed OK ("ridgy didge" for any aussies reading this) located in the:
- Shandong / Changle area
- Beijing/Tianjin
- Guangdong (formerly Canton, Southern China).

More research showed that the Shandong area is the traditional area that made musical instruments in China, the Southern China areas are more recent with the opening up of economic zones in the past 20-25 years.

Eventually I managed to make contact with someone who sounded like she knew what she was talking about and they happened to be GROTE.
Their product was damn good ... because they were the factory and not just some reseller, customised features could be achieved if explained clearly.

I think if you look at the musical instrument production models in China it mirrors the Auto industry in China.
the auto industry has two type distinct types/styles of manufacture (1) the local manufacturers who made "chinese style" cars / trucks /buses / vans, there are many many of them and while they produced a shit load of vehicles, the quality was not necessarily high (2) the joint ventures between the more experienced/high quality local chinese manufacturers and an overseas foreign car manufacture (VW, GM, Fiat, Honda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Toyota etc).

So yes companies like Fender, Epiphone and Hofner have set up their own manufacturing plants in China to produce their entry and sometimes not so entry level products. These manufacturers have used in the past and still use today the numerous small Chinese manufacturers to produce their not so popular and low volume models or parts used in the manufacture of their instruments. Also companies like Recording King, Washburn, Yamaha, Guild, Eastman, the Loar, Ovation, Blueridge, Alvarez, Luna, Sigma outsource production to plants in a similar way Fender has done in Japan over the past 35 years and Gibson (Epiphone) over the past 50 years.

With the low over head costs, a supply chain that is in your own backyard and a more hand made approach rather than investing in machines for everything, many of these smaller manufacturers still survive to fill a niche' for both the consumer (locally in China and overseas) as well as for the larger overseas bands.

Now something else that has just blown my mind. Time for some detective work....

I have been looking at brass bodies resonators and have ordered two from China (I'll do a write up when they eventually arrive.).
There appears to be one manufacturer of these types of brass bodied resonator instruments in China and they make them for a multitude of brands that are sold all over the world. Some are entry level some are high level instruments. They seem to manufacture instruments for Recording King, Republic, Jonathan, Reso, Icarus , highway 61, and probably many I have not heard of yet. They also make their own brand Aisersi , along with other brands.

I have ordered this a full size body:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Jonatha ... 4c4dkKOyPu

and this a parlour size body:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Jonatha ... bb110d032b

The company that overseas all this production of brass bodied resonator instruments appears to be called SKYLINE MUSIC SUPPLY.
Here is their Aliexpress page:
https://www.aliexpress.com/store/219024 ... 4c4dOIzSQt
This is the seller that I bought the cedar/rosewood OOO style acoustic from (and it is an awesome instrument)
But the strange thing is is that when I received the OOO style acoustic the shipper/manufacturer was Leiji Music which is GROTE. Same address in Changle and Julia told me her people made the OOO acoustic for me. Wow!

I then did some digging and looked at the ALIBABA websites (the wholesale version of Aliexpress) and discovered (99% certain) that SKYLINE MUSIC SUPPLY is in fact Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co., Ltd, located in Zhejiang, China ... south of Shanghai, not in the instrument manufacturing province of Shandong.
Here is Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co., Ltd ALIBABA website:
https://skylinemusic.en.alibaba.com/?sp ... 6ec7QrOT2I

Given the vast array of products Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co., Ltd sell, I would put real folding money down and say that they are a company that does not actually manufacture instruments but is a large wholesaler. I.e. they order various batches of instruments from the multitude of smaller instrument manufacturers within China.

Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co., Ltd seem to have the brass bodied resonator market sewn up, as every aliexpress shop that had them seemed to lead back to SKYLINE in one way or another. That's OK, as long as the instruments I receive are as good as they have sounded in the various vids I have seen on line.

But what blew me away is when I looked at the ALIBABA website for Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co., Ltd., I noticed some factory photos and realised I had seen one of the photos before.
The left photo I took last November when I visited the GROTE (Leiji Musical Instruments) factory
The right photo is from the Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co., Ltd ALIBABA website
Image

So there is obviously cross pollination between manufacturers, wholesalers, suppliers ... again very much like the international auto industry :D
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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by timtam » Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:12 am

sookwinder wrote:
Mon Dec 31, 2018 10:35 pm
The Grote guitar you would have bought from ebay I am 99% sure was not sold to you by GROTE themselves. As far as I know Julia does not sell on ebay. She only sells as a supplier/manufacturer to other brands, local sales in China and via Aliexpress.
Thanks for your insights into the Chinese manufacturing scene !

TBH on reflection I'm not totally sure that I bought my 335 clone direct from Grote or not, but I'm not unconvinced either. ;) There are two ebay seller accounts I know of that sell Grote gear (and Grote only ... AFAIK) and both have been around for a while (~10 years) ...
https://www.ebay.com/str/groteguitar
https://www.ebay.com/str/guitarsfactory
STOP Press: Just found a 3rd Grote seller (not a store)
https://www.ebay.com/sch/aceproguitars/m.html

The first two only have a small selection of all the models Grote sells. But I guess they could just be overstock channels. The third looks most like a reseller.

One of them, guitarsfactory, says they are Grote / Leji and shows the factory pics ...
https://www.ebay.com/itm/2019-New-Produ ... 2947615289

Following your detective work, note the frontage photo there ....
Image
Same as your first picture, but the trees are gone ... same as in the Skyline pic !! It's beginning to look like something out of a spy novel ... maybe they have a collection of fence signs and trees depending who is visiting ! Maybe every guitar from China comes from that one factory ! ;)

Anyway that's who I bought from. The other account (groteguitar) is less convincing although they use Grote in their account name. While all 3 are listed as in Weifang the 2nd and 3rd look more like resellers. If you speak to Grote again it would be good to know if any are their legit ebay channels or not.

With all the new mystery you have now unearthed, I'm not sure that I would be game to make a trip into the back blocks of China like you did to visit the 'supposed' manufacturer of my guitar !

BTW on a more OSG theme, for some reason most of the offsets that come though the aliexpress channels look to be horrible ... especially the jag takeoffs, that mostly have plastic control plates. But may be fun modding platforms ? This company has those but also a few non-jaggish things that look more interesting ...
https://www.aliexpress.com/store/group/ ... 26494.html
I suspect they may be a reseller though, as they have so many different models, incl obscure things like a Pensa copy.
"I just knew I wanted to make a sound that was the complete opposite of a Les Paul, and that’s pretty much a Jaguar." Rowland S. Howard.

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by sookwinder » Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:26 am

the same window (top second from left) is open in the two similar (no trees) photos... weird.

Yeah those other sellers of Grote product from Weifang, I think they are the ones that Julia lamented about, they make more $ than the factory does when they resell ..... yeah but that is capitalism.... if you want to sell to an open market, that is what you have to put up with.

The other bizarre thing is that with many products like guitars from china, you buy them from seller ABC and they get shipped from factory XYZ. You then buy from seller EFG and the guitar also comes from factory XYZ. Which is why one needs to try and make contact with the factory directly.
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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by Futuron » Tue Jan 01, 2019 2:42 am

Whoa, that is seriously the same photo! Look at the concrete below the fence, the red marks on the corner of the wall/sign and the reflection in the top left window. Even better, look under the SKYLINE text where they photoshopped their logo over the original photo but forgot to join the lines back up... :fp:

Image
Image

Stinkers :D

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by sookwinder » Tue Jan 01, 2019 2:55 am

When I was first looking at the various sellers of guitars on Aliexpress I always stayed away from those that:
- showed a factory where the vast majority of workers making the guitars were Caucasian ... obviously stolen from some western website
- showed too much of a huge factory (even with Chinese workers) with acres of factory space making 1000s of guitars a day. Any factory like that would not be selling on Aliexpress
- laid on thickly the notion that they were THE best ever in the universe at what ever they did.
- any seller that showed photos of obviously vintage instruments and made out that that is what they are selling

I suspect the western consumer has learnt to "see through" BS like this more than the Chinese consumer has or even the dodgy Chinese sellers who think we'll believe any of this shite.

So stealing a photo of a factory and photo-shopping it would be par for the course.
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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by timtam » Tue Jan 01, 2019 3:12 am

So which is the legit Grote store on aliexpress ? I had my suspicions that the impressively named 'Shop1267158' that I had bookmarked might not be it, despite the big Grote Factory banner on their page ...
https://www.aliexpress.com/store/1267158
"I just knew I wanted to make a sound that was the complete opposite of a Les Paul, and that’s pretty much a Jaguar." Rowland S. Howard.

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by sookwinder » Tue Jan 01, 2019 3:22 am

Yes that is Grote's (Julia's) Aliexpress shop

I have been meaning to suggest to Julia that she change the name of her shop from "Shop1267158 Store" to something like:
Grote Guitar Factory
Julia's Guitar Factory - Grote Guitars
Julia's Guitars Direct from the Grote Guitar Factory
Grote Guitars - Wholesale Factory Direct


Any other ideas?

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/1267158
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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by Tenwatts » Sat May 30, 2020 1:27 am

Hello!

I'm bumping this thread as I am very eager to buy a custom made guitar. This Grote company seems very reliable. I cant find them on the link to the shop tho. Anyone know where to get in touch with them?

/Danne

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by sookwinder » Sat May 30, 2020 6:04 am

I recently received an email from Julia (the co owner of the factory.
They have been in lock down, not even allowed to walk into the vegetable fields across the road from the factory!
Because of the lock down in some areas and not in others logistics is still not back to normal, so some of the supplies are not getting through. (Given that they grow their own wood this must be more hardware etc)

She did say that some of the normal shipping companies are not shipping anything either... so that will need to come back into normality as well.

In a month or so I will email her and ask how are things going?
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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by Tenwatts » Thu Jun 04, 2020 6:22 am

Sweet! Thanks man. I hope they will back online.

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by AbridgedPause » Sun Mar 21, 2021 2:21 pm

I'm very impressed by the quality and skills of this Chinese factory. I'm certainly never going to be influenced again by that typical salesman talk about "cheap made-in-China guitars". I'd like to buy a Grote right now! The finishes on their PRS, Telecaster-bodied and Gibson styles are incredible!

Does anyone know how to purchase directly from Grote? Do they still accept customized guitar orders? I've tried to look on Aliexpress but nothing relevant is showing up. Julia's store is empty and doesn't seem active anymore. Is that still due to the lock down? Will that same store be revived when the factory begins making guitars again? Amazon also shows very little choice of models and the prices have tripled since the original post!

It looks as if they may also have had a Reverb account but that too is suspended for the moment
https://reverb.com/shop/grote-guitar-store


It also looks as if Grote / Leji Musical Instrument Co. Ltd. might have changed name, or has that been debunked as a slew of imposters?
I've found company names like
-Yiwu Skyline Musical Instrument Co. Ltd.
-Weifang Datang Musical Instrument Co. Ltd.
-Changle Xinyun Musical Instruments Co. Ltd.
-Changle Xinhua Musical Instrument Co. Ltd

Some of those have their own name brands like Pacer guitars, which look very similar to Grote. Personally though, after reading your article, I would want to support the Grote name on my next guitar!

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Re: David's excellent adventure at a Chinese guitar factory

Post by snarf » Fri Apr 02, 2021 4:29 am

Amazing! Thank you for sharing this. I hope we improve our infrastructure in America. Things are so bleak here and feel like nobody is interested in improving things for the public good. Still waiting for that high speed rail for almost my whole life. :fp:

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