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#1
careful folks, this could break hearts.

http://guitarsquid.com/posts/university-students-research-shows-that-exotic-tone-woods-dont-make-a-lick-of-difference-in-the-overall-sound-tone-purists-beware-you-wont-like-what-you-read/12171/?frame=1

"WOOD is the main material used in most electric guitars - the likes of alder, poplar or ash, but dearer models use rare ''tone woods'' such as koa, rosewood, lacewood or wenge. Makers claim exotic materials produce different sounds but, after weeks of studio-based research, La Trobe University science honours student Matthew Angove is unconvinced."

Guitar research sounds like a good gig.
The field I'm in is musical acoustics - the physics of musical instruments. I'm a guitar player and it turns out there's been very little research done in the field on the electric guitar … I don't think many electric guitar players tend to be academics! A lot more classical musicians are academics, and I think they tend to look at their own instrument.
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What's the idea behind this study?
From a point of view of the physics of how the electric guitar works, you'd think there wouldn't be any difference with the sound produced by using different woods or shapes. But the companies that market guitars argue it does make a difference and they charge more for guitars made of rare woods.

Is it all about materials or is it the brand factor?
A few things can make one guitar better than another. For instance, you can get varying qualities of the hardware that holds the strings. The brand is important to some people, mostly because their idols may play certain brands. But aside from that, electric guitar companies tend to have come from acoustic guitar companies.

So what did you test?
The signal in electric guitars is generated by the string vibrating above a magnetic ''pickup''. To see how the wood or shape of the guitars might affect this signal I placed identical strings and pickups in each of the guitars and compared the signals.

Where did you get the guitars?
From a local music shop in Bendigo, J's Music City, which was happy enough to support my research. They were kind enough to lend me seven guitars and some pickups. I recorded every note individually on each guitar with the pickups placed in exactly the same spot, the same distance beneath the strings. Then I listened to recordings, but more importantly I looked at the harmonic content of each note.

What do you mean?
When you hear a note, we don't just hear one frequency. So when you hear a singer sing a C, or a violin play a C, or a flute play a C, even though they're the same note they sound different. That's what we call the different timbre in music - a different ''tone colour''. We get different tone colours from all the other, higher frequencies also there with that note. So … I look at, first, fundamental frequency of the note, and also how loud all of the other frequencies are compared to it

What have you found?
I've only been looking at the results for two weeks and it really looks like all of them are pretty much identical. I was surprised at just how identical they were because the guitars were very different in shape. As I was listening to them, I showed other guitar players and they were surprised as well, they were convinced they all came from the same guitar … I'm beginning to think we should be making guitars out of something more rigid than wood, such as carbon fibre.


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/does-a-10000-guitar-sound-better-than-a-300-one-20120723-22k7b.html#ixzz22GeK1jJM

i just thought it was interesting.
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#2
Blasphemy!!


But seriously, Im not surprised. I think higher quality woods definitely have a factor in resonating feel. And those Gibson Les Pauls DO sound better than my Epi paul loaded with Gibson pups. But, It may be my mind.

EDIT: I would like to see the guitars, pickups and amp he used. Id lol so hard if they were all EMGs through a spyder.
Last edited by nickdohle at Aug 1, 2012,
#3
The final sound of anything is what your brain has processed and interpreted it to be. More than just the sound goes into it. When you plug an LP in you expect a thicker tone than a Strat.

For me I've never really cared what a guitar was made of. This study really doesn't surprise me. I mean the expectation that the wood an electrical device is set in affects tone has always seemed a little silly to me.
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#4
Well then, does anyone want my MIM strat for a Custom 24 I've always wanted.
After all, the "tone color" is similar on both
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#5
Quote by JKHC
Well then, does anyone want my MIM strat for a Custom 24 I've always wanted.
After all, the "tone color" is similar on both


I think we got our first butt hurt customer.
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#7
I never thought tonewoods in electrics were all that important, as long as the pickups worked with the wood. Acoustic instruments are another story.
#10
This is the guitar I learned to play on, the Ovation UKII. While it does have a mahogany neck, the body is an aluminum chassis filled with a urelite foam(plastic):
'
It sounds amazing, and I'm willing to bet that's because of the pickups and heavy-duty bridge.
#11
I saw Chris Letchford of Scale The Summit say on Formspring that the woods in an electric guitar made little to no difference in sound, and I thought the claim was a little questionable. Interesting that there apparently hasn't been much research done until now.
#12
I'd be very surprised if someone hasn't researched this before that guy.
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#13
But does he mean that a PRS 10 top wood sounds the same as basswood used in squiers? In that case it seems that PRS is trying to pull off (and succeeded in doing so) a marketing trick. But of course they are probably more reliable, not that it would be a complete waste of money.
#14
I think secretly we've all known this. But those who have spend big money for fancy wood like to delude themselves into thinking they haven't blown their cash away.
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#15
Quote by Kevin Saale
I think secretly we've all known this. But those who have spend big money for fancy wood like to delude themselves into thinking they haven't blown their cash away.


It's a good thing I own a 500$ Mahogany made guitar
#17
Quote by guitar/bass95
But does he mean that a PRS 10 top wood sounds the same as basswood used in squiers? In that case it seems that PRS is trying to pull off (and succeeded in doing so) a marketing trick. But of course they are probably more reliable, not that it would be a complete waste of money.


There it is! It's the ultimate marketing trick, It's like in Space Jam when they drink tap water believing it to be magic water and as a result play like it was actually magic water. There is no tangible proof but people accept it as gospel, belief overpowers logic and scientific explanation.

That said there is also a certain prestige attached to a more expensive instrument, much like designer clothing or a nice car.

Quote by Kevin Saale
I think secretly we've all known this. But those who have spend big money for fancy wood like to delude themselves into thinking they haven't blown their cash away.


Around here people always said (well since I've been here) a guitar only makes up ~10% of the tone (I've got no idea how they measure that though)while still believing a cheap guitar cannot sound good.

If you break down the cost of a 4 grand Gibson the hardware is probably less than 1000 but lets say it's 1000, meaning you are paying 3000 for some fairly small pieces of "high quality wood" to be made into a mass assembled product made mostly by automated machines.

For 3 grand you could buy 10 Chests of drawers made of Solid Mahogany, that's a lot of nice wood!
Last edited by MegadethFan18 at Aug 1, 2012,
#18
It's kinda like the stock market. People place a value on something and thus that ascribed value becomes law. Tonewoods sound different to the player becaues he or she has gotten to see the nuances of a specific guitar. My Basswood Ibanez and my Mahogany Schecter sound and react to things differently....to me.
Pickup types usually have more bearing on the guitars base tone, then the EQing on the amp. Then we get into what kind of amp is being used. Then effects. It's too much work for something so very subjective. Of course the tone color sounds the same; they we're all guitars. from the definition given they'd have to be 4 different types of amplied electric instruments.
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Last edited by sonny bb at Aug 1, 2012,
#20
Quote by sonny bb
it's kinda like the stock market too. People place a value on something and thus that ascribed value becomes law. Tonewoods sound different to the player becaues he or she has gotten to see the nuances of a specific guitar. My Basswood Ibanez ans Mahogany Schecter sound and react to things differently....to me.
Pickup types usually have more bearing on the guitars base tone then the EQing on the amp. Then we get into what kind of amp is being used. Then effects. It's too much work for something so very subjective. Of course the tone color sounds the same; they we're all guitars. from the definition given they'd have to be 4 different types of amplied electric instruments.


Did you mean that the pups have more bearing on the tone than the amp? I'd bet that a guitar with single coils and guitar with humbuckers would sound quite similiar through the same amp with the same settings, but if you have two identical guitars they will sound completely different through different amps. Sorry if I misunderstood

And I am not a guitar :/
#21
Quote by guitar/bass95
Did you mean that the pups have more bearing on the tone than the amp? I'd bet that a guitar with single coils and guitar with humbuckers would sound quite similiar through the same amp with the same settings, but if you have two identical guitars they will sound completely different through different amps. Sorry if I misunderstood

And I am not a guitar :/

I honestly forgot the comma seperating the two phrases. Then/Than are not the same thing
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#22
Quote by sonny bb
I honestly forgot the comma seperating the two phrases. Then/Than are not the same thing


But than would mean that they are more important, and then would mean that they come before the EQ. Both accomplish the same thing in your sentence but as I said I might have misunderstood, sorry about that.

EDIT: oh I think I got it, just forget about my ranting.
Last edited by guitar/bass95 at Aug 1, 2012,
#23
rather than* then what happened?*
They aren't interchangable despite what some people think. I just forgot the comma i'll fix that now.
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#24
Quote by sonny bb
rather than* then what happened?*
They aren't interchangable despite what some people think. I just forgot the comma i'll fix that now.


Yeah, I just got that myself And I know they aren't interchangeable, I was thinking of a whole different meaning for the word.
#25
its all good
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#26
Next research topic for this guy will probably be:Line 6 against all the amps it models..Is there. Any difference?Lol
Guitars:
Esp Ec-1000 VB with Emg 81/60
Esp ec-1000 Snow White with SD Jb/Jazz
Esp ltd f-50
Amp:
Randall rd-20h
Randall rd112-v30
Pedals:
Digitech rp-1000
#27
Quote by tybacca60
Next research topic for this guy will probably be:Line 6 against all the amps it models..Is there. Any difference?Lol


Well, that would be quite different from this research, which had a somewhat surprising result. Line 6 against the amps it models would have obvious results, it's not a topic worth researching.

And I know you were joking, I just didn't understand the point of your joke.
#28
Does make you wonder, but i'll compare my CE to my Carvin, and i'll hear noticeable differences. The carvin has a bit more bite, has more output in its pickups, and sustains more oddly enough.

But then again, it isn't heavily marginal. these are two guitars with different body shapes and constructions (carvin is neck-through and has a HSS setup with an afterburner circuit and an alder body while the PRS is mahogany with a bolt on neck and has 2 humbuckers.)

Yet i'm beginning to prefer the sound of my Carvin? The PRS costs a bit more, and is younger with better wiring, yet i prefer the Carvin?

When i try them through my laney, they sound pretty much the same. When i plug them through my blackstar, theres only a little difference. Do i need the PRS? It isn't even the best playing instrument ever too, i prefer how the carvin plays and the fact its lighter with better fret access.

I guess i'll see what happens when i trade the PRS off for something, been looking at a 1966 fender musicmaster in olympic white. Then i guess i can see the differences between the carvin and the musicmaster, if any.
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#29
^^Just a joke.Id figured the Line 6 haters would find it funny.
Guitars:
Esp Ec-1000 VB with Emg 81/60
Esp ec-1000 Snow White with SD Jb/Jazz
Esp ltd f-50
Amp:
Randall rd-20h
Randall rd112-v30
Pedals:
Digitech rp-1000
#30
i think when someone buys an expensive guitar, the craftsmanship is a big part of it.

and good craftsmanship isn't cheap. so if you are going to craft a good guitar, you would use the best raw materials you can so that the end product is of the highest quality you can achieve.

the better the neck, frets, bridge etc, the better the guitar will set up and play.

but i found it interesting that in a blind side by side, the wood makes little difference.

and who is to say that one guitar's "tone color" isn't more desirable than another's?

i mean, for an example an old beat up car can go 60 km/hr but a ferrari does it "better". the ferrari feels "better" doing it. it handles "better".

"feel" is pretty important to most of the guitar players i know. fit and finish can affect the playability of an instrument.

you can't put "mojo" on a scope, can you?
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#31
It'd be interesting to see a vintage guitar compared to a modern guitar. Say they completely unload a 60's strat, bridge, tuners, pups, the works and load it all up with hardware and electronics from a current model Am Std and do their test on both. Then load up the Am Std with all the stuff from the 60s and do the same. See if the Std sounds the same as the 60s with the vintage stuff in it and vice versa.
See if "old wood" really makes a difference.
Basses:
Fender Precision Bass
Fender Jazz Bass
1967 Fender Coronado Bass II
Warwick Star Bass
Squier Precision Bass TB
#32
Quote by gregs1020
you can't put "mojo" on a scope, can you?

That's because 'mojo' loosely translates to 'I swear there's a good reason I paid so much for this thing.'
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#33
Quote by tubetime86
That's because 'mojo' loosely translates to 'I swear there's a good reason I paid so much for this thing.'

to me it's more about feel and how it plays.

i can set up two different guitars very similarly and one just has something the other doesn't.

they can both be cheap or not, price isn't a factor in mojo.

i have an old folk guitar i bought for $49, it has mojo. a lot of it.
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#34
Quote by gregs1020
to me it's more about feel and how it plays.

i can set up two different guitars very similarly and one just has something the other doesn't.

they can both be cheap or not, price isn't a factor in mojo.

i have an old folk guitar i bought for $49, it has mojo. a lot of it.


And taking into account the color and weight of different woods, the wood can affect the way it plays.
#35
i semi disagree.

is paying 12k for that prs custom gonig to be that much better than the wood in the 3 k prs? probably not really that we can discern. now build quality is another factor.

also, there is no denying that a custom PRS rings like a bell and an epiphone s-100 sg POS sounds about as dead as a sponge. that makes a difference. the most resonant guitar i picked up was a custom PRS with a rosewood neck. my god, i think the guitar was going to play just from my hand grabbing it. the thing vibrated like a damn drum symbol when you played notes.

the wood changes the tone. that is undeniable. play a strat with a maple board and then a rosewood and tell me that doesnt make a difference. it does.

now you could say switch to a les paul, but that is apples to oranges, the build quality changed.

play a good quality epiphone and a run of the mill gibson studio. i really can not discern much of a difference in tona quality aside from obviously better built hardware, wiring, etc.

but yes to a degree, i AGREE, than more thought needs to be put into the style and build, hardware and layout, and the pickups than the wood in an electric guitar. bolt on, neck through, bridges, nut, wiring, pickupa, etc will make the most difference.

if your buying a prs SE singlecut in regular or corina, same everything else, your pretty much paying for looks. you might....MIGHT hear a difference in body wood.

neck and fretboard make a bigger difference, especially with note attack imo.
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#36
It might all be in my head, but I don't agree with that. Once at the store, I tried the PRS Tremonti SE, then the PRS Singlecut SE Trem. The All mahogany Tremonti was kinda muddy, while the maple topped mahogany Singleciut had definately a brighter sparkle to its sound. I know it wasn't a big difference, but enough to turn me off the Tremonti. Then, trough the same amp, I tried a Backtop Tele (Humbuckers, alder body and maple neck) and it sounded a lot less 'big'. I think Tonewoods does have some influence on the sound, no matter how non-significative it might be.
#37
I think it's an unshakeable brainwashing. A guitar is a guitar. Even the same model with different serial numbers FEEL different, so there is something to be said there. If a guitar doesn't feel write to you, chances are it won't sound right because you've already disregarded it as feeling bad and thus being "bad" or not the one. But with sounds I can't imagine that anyone here would be able to pick out a Les Paul from an Ibanez Xiphos in the dark in the same tuning with the same amp if someone was playing them.
Yeah a ferarri may get to 60 mph better, but does it really matter if you're stuck in traffic on the way to work?
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#38
i live near a luthier and i visit his workshop quite often, he told me the wood does colour the tone to a noticable yet not drastic extent, but it's not going to make the difference between a good quality tone and a bad quality tone - he said the build quality is what makes all the real difference, and that also applies to how the guitar feels to play too.

also, the reason you pay more for exotic woods is because they are more expensive to buy as raw materials because the wood itself is more valuable. i don't think i've actually seen any manufacturer explicitly say "exotic wood sounds better", i think people just make the assumption that because it costs more it must be better.
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#39
Quote by Blompcube
i don't think i've actually seen any manufacturer explicitly say "exotic wood sounds better", i think people just make the assumption that because it costs more it must be better.

go to any PRS forum and tell them that their brazillian rosewood neck guitar doesn't sound better than an indian rosewood neck guitar.

i double dog dare you.
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#40
Quote by consecutive e

See if "old wood" really makes a difference.

I don't think that old wood is the reason people buy vintage guitars.

Guitars like Fenders and Gibsons from the 50's and 60's are popular because they are well made. They have become iconic designs, and the ones made "back in the day" are the best examples of these guitars. I don't think the age of the wood makes any noticable difference on a solidbody guitar.

I'm pretty sure the reasons for the wood choices on solidbody guitars is mostly tradition. People buy mahogany guitars because it reminds them of Gibson Les Pauls. Before Fender, there were few guitars made of ash and alder. Now they're both fairly standard wood selections, even though neither of them were historically used as tonewoods. It's all a result of smaller companies trying to compete with the Big F and G by offering similar features.

Frankly, I'm not surprised by any of this.
Last edited by sashki at Aug 1, 2012,