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Old 09-18-2013, 12:41 PM   #1
strat-O-matic92
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Maple vs Rosewood

I was wondering if there is any real difference in tone or quality of necks/fret boards with these 2 options? I think its just personal preference but am curious to see what everyone thinks...
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Old 09-18-2013, 12:52 PM   #2
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We have a thread on this every week or so. If you want to read some quality bickering and long-winded explanations, search for those old threads.

The short answer is that there's a bit of a tonal change, but guitars vary so much between instruments (even the same model) that in most cases it doesn't need to be a factor on your purchase. It's not unreasonable to pick a board based on color instead of tone.
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Old 09-18-2013, 02:22 PM   #3
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They also feel different(at least to me), however that also depends on the finishing of the product.
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Old 09-18-2013, 04:05 PM   #4
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The quality issue is a good question. By and large, the manufacturing quality will be the same. But with all of the restrictions on certain woods - rosewood being among them - the quality of the rosewood used in most fretboards today is not the same as it was thirty years ago. You can still get a guitar with a Brazilian Rosewood fretboard (PRS advertises them), but you will pay a serious premium for it. Maple, on the other hand, does not have these problems. There is no advantage to having a flamed, quilted or bird's eye maple fretboard; plain old Rock Maple will do just fine. The others just make it look pretty. So in that area, I suppose maple fretboards do have an overall advantage in quality to current rosewood fretboards.
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Old 09-18-2013, 04:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by FatalGear41
The quality issue is a good question. By and large, the manufacturing quality will be the same. But with all of the restrictions on certain woods - rosewood being among them - the quality of the rosewood used in most fretboards today is not the same as it was thirty years ago. You can still get a guitar with a Brazilian Rosewood fretboard (PRS advertises them), but you will pay a serious premium for it. Maple, on the other hand, does not have these problems. There is no advantage to having a flamed, quilted or bird's eye maple fretboard; plain old Rock Maple will do just fine. The others just make it look pretty. So in that area, I suppose maple fretboards do have an overall advantage in quality to current rosewood fretboards.

Let's not confuse Brazilian rosewood with good rosewood. Brazilian RW is basically a non-product at this point unless you pay crazy prices for a custom piece, or buy an old instrument. There's plenty of good rosewood out there that's not Brazilian. Brazilian has a mythical status at this point because it's so unattainable, but if you're getting a BRW board you're going to be looking at a quality guitar anyway, just because nobody can afford to use it on a crap guitar.

I will agree, though, that Maple has the quality edge on cheap instruments. Cheap rosewood looks godawful, but cheap maple doesn't look all that different from expensive maple, especially if we're ignoring figured stuff.
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Old 09-18-2013, 04:28 PM   #6
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^ I'd also say cheapo rosewood feels horrible, too. I'd probably agree with the maple thing for super-cheap guitars (but as usual, you have to treat each case on its own merits).
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Old 09-18-2013, 08:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatalGear41
There is no advantage to having a flamed, quilted or bird's eye maple fretboard; plain old Rock Maple will do just fine. The others just make it look pretty.

if what i've been told is true, most figured maple (flamed, birdseye or quilt) is not as stable as plain old rock maple. of course that matters more where the neck wood is concerned as opposed to just the fretboard wood but i thought i'd throw that out there.
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Old 09-18-2013, 08:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
^ I'd also say cheapo rosewood feels horrible, too. I'd probably agree with the maple thing for super-cheap guitars (but as usual, you have to treat each case on its own merits).

I agree. I have some cheap rosewood-necked guitars, and it feels bad man.

Ebony is my personal preference, but I've been curious to try maple necks to see if they also feel good.

I don't really see the point in arguing about how the neck wood affects tone, it's much more important how the neck (fret) wood affects the feel of the neck.
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Old 09-18-2013, 09:04 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Roc8995
Let's not confuse Brazilian rosewood with good rosewood. Brazilian RW is basically a non-product at this point unless you pay crazy prices for a custom piece, or buy an old instrument. There's plenty of good rosewood out there that's not Brazilian. Brazilian has a mythical status at this point because it's so unattainable, but if you're getting a BRW board you're going to be looking at a quality guitar anyway, just because nobody can afford to use it on a crap guitar.

I will agree, though, that Maple has the quality edge on cheap instruments. Cheap rosewood looks godawful, but cheap maple doesn't look all that different from expensive maple, especially if we're ignoring figured stuff.


I don't buy into the "mythic" status of Brazilian Rosewood, either. Brazilian Rosewood is thought by luthiers to produce a better tone than the other rosewoods, such as Indian Rosewood. Between the grain, density, small pores and the often beautiful coloration, Brazilian Rosewood is considered the "best" of the rosewoods for making things. But it is indeed a CITES protected species, and so you aren't going to get any new stock. Companies like PRS send people all over the country looking for old stocks of it, which explains the high prices.

Madagascar Rosewood is thought by many to be almost as "good" as Brazilian Rosewood, but that one is also highly restricted. I believe that Madagascar stopped exporting the stuff a couple of years ago. One of the raids on the Gibson factory had to do with illegally imported Madagascar Rosewood.

Most of the rosewood being used in guitar fretboards today is Indian Rosewood. While there are certainly some fine specimens of the stuff, a lot of what is turning up on guitars these days is of inferior quality. One look at the large, porous grain and the light brown color and you know it is not the high-grade version. And it is not limited to cheap guitars, either. I have seen some fretboards on recent Gibsons that looked and felt truly sad.

Figured maple, as has been stated, is nowhere near as hard or as dense as rock maple. Some people like the way it looks on a fretboard, but in the long run, they would be better off with a rock maple fretboard.
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Old 09-18-2013, 10:31 PM   #10
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One of the raids on the Gibson factory had to do with illegally imported Madagascar Rosewood.


Just to clarify: Madagascar rosewood can be legally imported if you follow the rules. In Gibson's case, they broke the rules by not ascertaining the wood's source and by being sloppy- possibly fraudulent- with their paperwork. Had they been able to prove it was properly harvested, the wood itself would have been legal to import.
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Old 09-18-2013, 11:30 PM   #11
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Yeah, one of the raids was actually over Indian rosewood (source) and one over Madagascar (source), and so the crappy rosewood you saw on Gibsons in reaction to those raids was actually American rosewood (or maybe Obeche or smoked maple or "mystery meat" but Gibson didn't touch imported stuff for quite a while after those raids).

Gibson is an unusual circumstance, though. That raid, and their reaction to it, resulted in some really weird boards coming from them for quite a while. Indian and Madagascar rosewood are both perfectly good board woods, but as usual if the manufacturer cuts corners it's going to be noticeable. Insinuating that new boards are crap because they're not Madagascar is a bit misleading. They're crap because they're cheap, shitty boards, not because they're Indian.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:04 PM   #12
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Tone comes from the fingers, therefore the looks are more important, so maple everytime.
Ebony for when you want to colour co-ordinate with black.
Or graphite if you can get that.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:11 PM   #13
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It has more to do with feel than sound (if we're assuming a plugged in electric) since the tone is more from your hands, amp, and pickups. Personally, I haven't played many guitars with maple fingerboard but they feel nice to play on.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:47 PM   #14
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small luthiers can find sources of legal to use brazilian rosewood, madagascar ebony, etc.

it does cost more than other varieties but it's out there. i've seen some really nice blanks posted from time to time in forum classifieds for cheap.

the supply i saw at PRS in 2010 was mind blowing. not just the brazilian "planks" but all the rarer used woods en masse. 16' planks of braz you could slice up into seemingly countless fretboards stacked deep.

but it's not impossible to get at a decent enough price.

my personal opinion is that i've seen some stupidly nice indian rosewood and completely boring brazilian. it's like any piece of wood, they're all different. the "madagascar rosewood" board on my bacchus is a complete yawner to look at.

just another .02.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:24 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by dannyalcatraz
Just to clarify: Madagascar rosewood can be legally imported if you follow the rules. In Gibson's case, they broke the rules by not ascertaining the wood's source and by being sloppy- possibly fraudulent- with their paperwork. Had they been able to prove it was properly harvested, the wood itself would have been legal to import.


I followed all that Lacey Act crap and as far as I could tell Gibson was raided because they were getting unfinished rosewood and that is what made it illegal not how it was obtained or the paperwork to get it. They were obviously getting either large slabs or unfinished fretboard blanks from the offshore suppliers; however to be fully compliant with the Lacey Act those fretboard would have to be completely made and finished in their country of origin. So they would have to have the fretboard cut to size and shape, slotted, fretted and finished in India in order for it to comply. This is where the issue arises. If said fretboard was made in India then sent to Gibson in the USA to put on a guitar they could no longer stamp that guitar MADE IN USA simply because a part of the product wasn't made and finished in the USA. I can only imagine how uninterested Gibson was to list any other country of origin on their guitars besides USA.
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:12 PM   #16
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I followed all that Lacey Act crap and as far as I could tell Gibson was raided because they were getting unfinished rosewood and that is what made it illegal not how it was obtained or the paperwork to get it.


The whole finished/unfinished thing that set off the investigation wasn't about illegality of import, it was about claiming the imported blanks were one thing when they were in fact another. Which your materials gets classified as affects tax rates and import limits. So what they did was shady, but the wood itself is legal to import in either form. This actually matters (see below).

One of the key details of the case was that one of Gibson's own employees in Madagascar on the purchasing trip contacted management in the home office to raise a red flag about one of the suppliers. Apparently, although he dealt in legal wood, he also had a reputation- locally AND with law enforcement- as being involved in grey market and black market wood deals.

Gibson then failed to ascertain whether what they were buying from that supplier was legal for Gibson to own. That is what is called "failure to exercise due diligence." That gets you a violation right there.

Compounding this fact, according to further company emails, not only didn't they ask, but those employees were instructed not to ask in order to maintain plausible deniability.

That gets your violation boosted into the upper echelons of the possible penalties, including potential jail time.

Once everything was cleared up and a Gibson pled guilty.* Everything that they had legally imported and all their other stuff (computers, etc.) were returned. The blanks were not- they were auctioned off. The USF&W can ONLY do that with seized goods that are not per se illegal, but were instead imported in a fashion that violated the law.

Goods that are per se illegal are either destroyed or kept for training purposes.







* a real win-win for both Gibson and the Feds...and the buying public as well.
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Old 09-20-2013, 01:51 AM   #17
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rosewood

but i have maple-fretboard guitars that i like as well.
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Old 09-20-2013, 03:36 AM   #18
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This is the fretboard on my 2013 SG Standard

show


When asked about it a Gibson employee claimed they can't say exactly but it is "South American Rosewood".

Also... I need to clean it up a bit

I like the way it feels. I also have a guitar with a maple fretboard, but I don't really feel a huge difference. Maybe I just don't pay attention to it.

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Old 09-20-2013, 09:06 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by HippieMagic
This is the fretboard on my 2013 SG Standard
When asked about it a Gibson employee claimed they can't say exactly but it is "South American Rosewood".

When i asked a Gibson employee about a serial number on an old les paul they told me it was built in 1967.

By South America, do you think they may have meant Arkansas?
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Old 09-20-2013, 09:54 AM   #20
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When i asked a Gibson employee about a serial number on an old les paul they told me it was built in 1967.

By South America, do you think they may have meant Arkansas?


I was on the phone asking about some wood once and was told it was "Salsa Mellican."

I think that's in Indonesia.
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