The good news is all the music shops are on one street: Jin Ling Lu (or Jin Ling Road). This article from the Shanghai expat is a really good guide. It’s not just guitars they sell either, far from it. Traditional Chinese instruments, drums, pianos, you name it. This street is very close to The Bund too, which is the Shanghai waterfront. So you can really make a day of it, looking at the guitar shops and then wander down to The Bund and see all the sights.
The bad news is that the Shanghai Gibson store on Hengshan Lu closed in 2011. CNN should update their site! Hengshan Lu is a nice part of town with heaps of pubs and western restaurants though, so it would not be a wasted trip. They moved their stock into a shop on Jin Ling Road.
The standard of guitars is probably a little bit better than in Beijing. But they are primarily Gibson and Epiphones. Ishibashi Music is arguably the coolest shop. They have at least 100 Gibophones and great stuff like Paul Reed Smith. They have a decent range of pedals too. Most shops are really friendly and speak a bit of English.
What’s on offer?
Virtually all shops will have an Epiphone Les Paul or ten for around 2500-4500 Yuan (approx $400 – 750 AUD). There are hundreds of them in all colours and variations. So there has to be a big of wiggle room on the prices. And what Chinese shop owner doesn’t like a fire and brimstone, hard core bargaining session?! Not much in the way of Fenders or odd ball stuff. Fender don’t appear to have laid their foundations in China to the extent that Gibson have.
There are some Japanese brands like ESP and Edwards (the poorer cousin of ESP, traditionally a Japan-only brand) starting to appear too. Some of the cheaper ESPs are Chinese made and look like reasonable quality. It’s December 2012 now and I have never seen these Chinese ESPs/LTDs before. Ishibashi had a few Edwards Les Pauls for approx $1000 but they were exceptionally high quality and had a nice aged finish. They would rival any real Gibson.
A few shops had Chinese brand guitars that looked a bit naff, but played beautifully. For approx $260 you couldn’t ask for a better Les Paul clone.
Fakes and dodgy stuff
I found one fake Les Paul for 1700 Yuan, funnily enough, right across the road from the official Gibson distributor. It was so bad the square fretboard inlays didn’t line up properly! Apparently they had a few Fender Strat fakes too. But when you can get a sweet looking Chinese made Epiphone that plays great, why bother? The fakes would make a nice ash tray, but to play? Don’t kid yourself.
Also see my other article on guitar shopping in Beijing. It looks like the government is really cracking down on the fake merchants.
Hit Jinling Lu later in the afternoon. The shops generally close around 6-8pm. You’d need about 3 hours to see all the shops. Then keep walking down until you get to the bund. It should be dark then and you will be in for a treat to see the Shanghai skyline at night, with al the buildings lit up. If you wander down some of the side streets, you will also find some great cheap food. I found a plate of dumplings for 8 yuan. That’s lunch for $1.20!