Hey guys, I've just been wondering what's the difference in sound on bolt on and set necks? I know bolt ons are nailed onto the guitar rather than glued on like set necks but why do they do that? Would bolt on necks be so much easier to replace and build than set necks? What makes a set neck superior to bolt on necks?
Some say set necks have better sustain, which I'm not too sure about. Set necks also generally give you better upper fret access then bolt on. But if you have a bolt on you can easily replace it if something goes wrong.
Bolt-ons are easier to replace if broken. I really cant tell any diffrence between the two on quality instruments. I have a bolt-on PRS CE22 and it sustains just fine as good as my old LP studio, maybe even better.

A set neck is not superior to a bolt-on, just diffrent.
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My main axe is a bolt-on, and I really prefer it. It also has a all acces neck joint, which give it neck joint small as a neck-through, so a larger joint is a non issue as well.

It is very much easier to replace than a set neck.
as long as the bolt on (not nails by the way) has a tight neck pocket it will sustain just as well as a set neck of neck through. any differences won't be noticeable by ear.
bolt-on generally sounds brighter, tighter and snappier

set neck's not better, just different.
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I think there are many misconceptions about the differences.

Many people that play a set neck play a Les Paul or LTD, or something else with a mahogany neck and mahogany body. And many bolt ons are a maple neck an d if we're talking about a strat, alder body(much brighter wood combination).

I personally don't think the actual tone is affected. Possibly the sustain, but I haven't noticed a difference in that area either.
The main benefit from a set neck is sustain with softer woods. Mohagony isn't as hard or dense as Maple. but Mohagany has a warmer, or some say darker tone, than Maple or Alder but with softer, less dense wood, bolting on the neck can lose a lot of sustain because there is a break or weak spot in the vibration chain.

As Dave MC stated, One isn't any "better" per say than the other, they're just different.
Last edited by Papabear505 at Oct 21, 2011,
Bolt-on -
Pros: MUCH easier to replace/fix, mostly unfinished necks for smoother playing (not a big issue though), bolt on's TEND to sound a TAD brighter, but not enough to make or break a purchase.

Cons: Sometimes the block can get in the way (also not a big issue if you get used to it), if the joint/glue/etc. isn't very good, then sustain WILL be affected, even if slightly.

Neckthrough/set neck -
Pros: Much smoother joint, better fret access, generally looks better (imo), don't always have the worry of a poor joint affecting sustain, and just makes the guitar overall tend to feel better/resonate a tad better.

Cons: if you snap the neck badly enough you're pretty much ****ed, (even though I don't know too many people who just snap the neck, but still.) Doesn't increase sustain like people say, that's bull. Some of the set-neck joints can be also sort of bulky too which could be annoying, and If you don't like finished necks, you have to lightly sand it down to more of a satin feel, or down to the wood for smoother playing (also not a big deal, but sticky necks can be a pain for a lot of people, it sort of ruins the look a bit, even though playing>looks)

Neither is better than the other, and bolt-ons can have just as if not more sustain then some set/neckthroughs. It all comes down to preference.
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Last edited by Tango616 at Oct 21, 2011,
There's really not a substantial difference between the two. I'd sooner be more concerned with a bulky neck heel than the actual joint type. An Ibanez bolt-on neck heel is far easier to get around than a Gibson or PRS. On a Les Paul, getting to the 22 fret can feel like a chore, but on an Ibanez, getting to the 24 fret is fairly easy.

There are set-thru necks available from LTD and Schecter that have a far superior neck heel to just about anything else, easily comparable to a good neck-thru.

Anyone choosing a guitar that is not incredibly nit-picky or an elitist snob should be open to any kind of neck joint that is well made because the actual joint type is hardly any kind of limiting factor in terms of tonal quality.
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