During 2007, I spent a lot of time looking for left-handed guitars. There are very few that qualify as 'mid-range' instruments1). I put together the chart below to help me analyze the options. Its not a complete list…just the things I like.
|Guitar||Nut width||Neck Type||Pickups||Price||Misc|
|Yamaha AES620L||Set||HB - HB||$550||Semi-hollow body, beautiful color, sweet tone|
|Ibanez GAX70L||Bolt-on||HB - HB||$250||Sold for metal playing|
|Ibanez GRX20L||HB - HB||$250||Low-end version of GAX70L. Bad reviews|
|Epiphone Les Paul 100||1-11/16||Bolt-on||HB - HB||$300|
|Epiphone Les Paul Standard||1-11/16||Set||HB - HB||$520|
|Epiphone G400 Left-Handed SG||1-11/16||Set||HB - HB||$315||Great looks.|
|Dean EVO Special Select Lefty||1-5/8||Set||HB - HB||$600|
|Dean '79 Series ML L||HB - HB||$550|
|Dean MLX Lefty||1-11/16||Bolt-on||HB - HB|
|Dean VX Lefty||1-11/16||Bolt-on||HB - HB|
|Dean Vendetta XMT||HB - HB|
|Agile AL-3100 CSB Wide Left||1-3/4||set||HB - HB||$380||Wide neck|
|Schecter Black Jack Tempest||set||HB - HB||$569|
My two favorites in this list are the Yamaha and the Agile.
The Yamaha seems like a great instrument. The chambered body is said to produce a unique tone, which I wanted to hear. Unfortunately, nobody in town carried it2), and I couldn't find many testimonials or sound clips to satisfy me. The Yamaha also doesn't have a wide neck, which I really need. I'm willing to admit that my skill level could be the problem and that I could actually uses a 1-5/8” neck, but I'm not spending $500+ on a standard-width neck without seeing it first.
The Agile brand is reported to be of higher quality than the Epiphone line, but not quite as high quality as the Gibson line. This makes sense because Epiphone is Gibson's lower-end brand. The marketing and distribution channels of both brands are almost the same so there is some amount of 'corporate cost' in both. And both brands are sold through retails stores, so I suspect keystoning3) is involved. Half of my money goes to keeping the retailer in business.
The Agile brand is different. They use a direct sales approach via the internet, so their pricing can be lower. It also means I can get a better quality instrument for the same money. The only problem is: how do I gauge the quality of the instrument? Fortunately the Agile Guitar Forum exists. Many of my questions were answered by people who own the exact guitar I wanted. They even provided pictures, movies, and MP3's. This satisfied my need for information, and I bought the Agile in early December 2007.
I'm posting this update on December 11, 2008. My Agile guitar has been absolutely great for the past year. I've had no cosmetic issue with the binding, paint, finish, or inlays. The appearance is basically unchanged since the day I bought it. I've had no mechanical issues with the tuners, the bridge, or any moving parts. And no electrical issues with pickups, the volume pots, the pickup selector, or the jack. And best of all, the playability is excellent. My strings are low, the fretboard is straight, and I don't have any buzzing. Looking back, if I could buy this guitar again or choose another one, I'd still buy this one.