#1
What are your opinions? I tried to find some scientific opinions, but I was unable. I read that guitar wood gets lighter over time and that older pickups sound sweeter and have more sustain. Would you agree?
#2
i find older guitars will resonate more due to aging of wood and laquour, but a new cheap guitar with good pickups and talent is better and you will save money imo. all in the wallet and the talent balance.
#3
There's no definitive, scientific answer. There are examples of old guitars which sound awesome and old guitars which sound like crap despite being the same model. Same thing goes for new production guitars.

It's not a rule of 'old guitars sound better', it's totally dependent on each individual guitar itself.
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#4
Quote by NostraHistoria
I read that guitar wood gets lighter over time and that older pickups sound sweeter and have more sustain. Would you agree?


No.
#5
Quote by NostraHistoria
What are your opinions? I tried to find some scientific opinions, but I was unable. I read that guitar wood gets lighter over time and that older pickups sound sweeter and have more sustain. Would you agree?


If the wood got lighter over time it would be because it was losing humidity, which would cause it to crack if it lost enough. There is no magic wood fairy that carries wood cells off over time. Older pickups are...old. No more and no less. A magnet, some slugs, some wire. Some are good, some are bad and age isn't a determining factor. Like wood, magnets, steel and wire don't become imbued with magical properties as they age.

So I guess that would be a "no".
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#6
As far as electric guitars go my personal opinion is no, they don't sound better because they are older. In acoustic guitars that is a totally different story because the tone is directly affected by the wood.
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#7
You can't say for sure, but a costco grade guitar in the 70s isn't really going to be better than a modern production guitar.
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#8
There are usually some differences between older guitars and newer versions of the same model, in the construction, the finish, the electronics, etc. but whether or not that makes them "better" is purely subjective.

I like uncompensated bridge pickups, I find them more lively and articulate than compensated ones usually, so I tend to like older versions of things better than the newer ones for that simple reason.
I like analogue Solid State amps that make no effort to be "tube-like", and I'm proud of it...

...A little too proud, to be honest.
#9
Quote by NostraHistoria
I read that guitar wood gets lighter over time
As Arby suggested, it might lose water content. That's not going to make it sound better.

Quote by NostraHistoria
and that older pickups sound sweeter and have more sustain. Would you agree?
They could lose a fraction of their magnetism over a few decades. That might lead to a slightly lower output and less pull on the strings, but I don't believe it would constitute a major change in sound (certainly not an "improvement"), nor that it would be any different from making a pickup with a slightly weaker magnet now.

Anyway, this thread will almost certainly be closed before too long.
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#10
As many have said, there really is no evidence that age will improve a guitar. If an older guitar happens to sound/feel/play better than a new guitar, it is most likely because it was manufactured during a time where the builders were more skilled and used better materials. I don't think it is the passing of time that inherently makes them better.
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#11
i don't think so. it's up to each individual guitar.
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#12
The guitar that sounds best is the one I'm playing at any given time, of course.
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#13
some guitars just happen to sound "better" than others. age has no real baring. keep in mind that many of the guitars that are held up as tone giants were only a few years old in the classic rock era.
#14
Quote by monwobobbo
some guitars just happen to sound "better" than others. age has no real baring. keep in mind that many of the guitars that are held up as tone giants were only a few years old in the classic rock era.
And, of course, many of the ones that actually appeared on classic albums aren't favourites of collectors, these days. CBS Fenders (I hear that Hendrix guy was pretty well-known...) and '70s Gibbies were used to great effect on plenty of great albums throughout the '70s and '80s.
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#15
NostraHistoria

The short answer is no. The long answer is : it depends. A poorly built guitar will basically get worse over time. A well built guitar can get better. My ernie ball musicman silhouette special sounds much better now than 15 years ago when I first bought it.

This is anecdotal and subjective.
#16
Quote by reverb66
NostraHistoria

The short answer is no. The long answer is : it depends. A poorly built guitar will basically get worse over time. A well built guitar can get better. My ernie ball musicman silhouette special sounds much better now than 15 years ago when I first bought it.

This is anecdotal and subjective.


The increase in tonal quality over time is more likely to have come from an upgrade in the actuation system.

You got better, not the guitar.
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#17
I'm more comfortable playing old or used and I feel I can bring better tone out of them, doubt they really sound better unless the instrument had something going on in the first place. I think new instruments can sound every bit as good as vintage.
#18
I remember seeing an old Tele for sale in a shop in London for £16,000, and thinking that it almost certainly didn't sound 50 times as good as a £320 Tele.
#19
Quote by luke.g.henderso
I remember seeing an old Tele for sale in a shop in London for £16,000, and thinking that it almost certainly didn't sound 50 times as good as a £320 Tele.
'50s and '60s Gibsons and Fenders are sold at crazy prices because they're a piece of history and because they're rare (or at least rare to see outside of someone's air-conditioned basement). A blackguard Tele or a '54 Goldtop or a '58 Jazzmaster can be totally unplayable and still be worth more than most guitars, because people want to own those originals, because some of those people can afford to pay a huge amount for them, and because there's no way to undercut them without being lucky enough to own such a guitar already. Supply and demand.
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#20
K33nbl4d3
Definitely. I think it's collectability as opposed to playability. I guess it's the same with some cars - I'm no expert, but I would imagine that a modern Mustang or Challenger is technically a better car than one that's the same vintage as Bullitt or Vanishing Point models, but people pay for the awesome factor.
#21
go one step further , old Black guitars sound better ....... not really but more than likely the old guitar might have more Mojo and might make you play better in your own mind , the rest is just collector stuff
#22
I tend to find older instruments play better because because they were taken care of, setup, and possibly modified to make them better than they initially were, also, the wood and everything has settled making them more stable when it comes to that (if it's a cheaper guitar).

Actually, I find when it comes to guitars, after a point, the older it gets, the crappier it gets, magnets start to loose their magnetism, frets are worn down flat and not refretted/recrowned properly, action is higher, and various little neglected bits have had time to settle into their neglected positions. I had a Fender Mustang like that that felt plum worn out. I sold that one.
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#23
Quote by Mad-Mike_J83
Actually, I find when it comes to guitars, after a point, the older it gets, the crappier it gets, magnets start to loose their magnetism, frets are worn down flat and not refretted/recrowned properly, action is higher, and various little neglected bits have had time to settle into their neglected positions. I had a Fender Mustang like that that felt plum worn out. I sold that one.
All stuff that can be fixed if you feel the guitar's worth it, but yeah.
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#24
K33nbl4d3 I probably could have fixed the Mustang, but I decided I did not want to modify it further because it was still all original - so I sold it to get my Bass VI instead which I use a heck of a lot more. My next Mustang will probably be one I build myself - from scratch, using the exact woods and neck profile I like.
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- 2013 Squier VM Bass VI (stock)
Last edited by Mad-Mike_J83 at Jul 29, 2016,
#25
Quote by NostraHistoria
What are your opinions? I tried to find some scientific opinions, but I was unable. I read that guitar wood gets lighter over time and that older pickups sound sweeter and have more sustain. Would you agree?
This is an argument, er, "discussion", which is more relevant to acoustic guitars than it is to electrics. It's also something which is hotly contested in that venue. With acoustics, a machine is even available to vibrate the top for you while you're not playing, to "put miles on the top for you, so to speak. You aren't actually going to come close to getting a consensus of opinion on this topic.

As to "more sustain" with older pickups, you can get more sustain with even modern high output pickups, if you just dial them further away from the strings. Thus the magnets don't dampen string movement via pulling on the strings as much

Keep in mind, all the "classics" were recorded with tube amps. That said, amplifier "damping factor" is very low with tubes. Solid state amps have a very high damping factor, which simply means the speaker cone stops moving as soon as the signal ceases. This absolutely prohibits gaining any sustain from the loudspeakers themselves, as you would with a tube amp. In other words, with tube amps, your speaker(s) are still vibrating from the last note, when the next note comes along.

As far as "lighter wood" goes, wood's weight has to be measured at a specific moisture content for density comparison. It it isn't, wet balsa could be damned near as heavy as dry maple.

But again, moisture content being reduced is the only factor by which the same piece of wood would "change weight".

Here again though, this is a topic more critical to the acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars do sound very different with respect to the humidity levels under which they are played and maintained. Guitars kept in low humidity, are snappier, brighter, and more responsive. However, it's been said many times, acoustic guitars always sound their best, right before the cracks in the top appear.

How much of this carries over to solid body electrics is debatable. You can probably dry out a solid wood electric to the point where it cracks, but you really, really have to want to break it to do so.

Archtops, and other types of hollow body electrics are more bound to the humidity restraints of their acoustic cousins.

I will say, if you well heeled enough to pay a half million bucks for some rock star's axe, you better be damned well prepared to delude yourself in to firmly believing, it sounds better than the same thing you could buy off the shelf at Guitar Center this weekend. Or maybe fantasize that the artist's talent will rub off on you by osmosis.

The sound of an acoustic is more bound to the tree the wood is cut from. Species, age, and growing condition all factor heavily into the sound of an instrument. The older the tree, and the more severe its growth environment, the better tops cut from it will sound. To reach maturity under natural conditions, it takes Picea sitchensis "Sitka spruce" as much as 600 years to yield premium guitar top lumber.

I hope that answers your question.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jul 29, 2016,
#26
There is plenty of evidence that the chemical composition of timber changes with age - look up some of luthier Alan Carruth's writings - but whether the changes are beneficial or not are highly debatable, and in part depend on how you define "better". As CC says, it is much more relevant to acoustics than electrics.
#27
BTW, have you noticed that amps sound better when it is damp outside?
#28
Quote by Captaincranky
. The older the tree, and the more severe its growth environment, the better tops cut from it will sound. .


This sounds like one of those "facts" that aren't, but it's a neat theory/opinion.
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#29
Arby911 true, plus it's very difficult to gauge differences over long periods of time. The funny thing is that when I first got the guitar I really wasn't thrilled about it's sound when played acoustically. Compared to an American Standard Strat it was weak - now the guitar sounds great played acoustically, better than any strat I've come accross during the last 6 or 7 years.
#30
Quote by Arby911
This sounds like one of those "facts" that aren't, but it's a neat theory/opinion.


Guitars made from the wood of trees from the Carpathian mountains chopped down at midnight on the night of the full moon sound better than guitars made from the wood of trees from the Carpathian mountains chopped down at midnight on the night of the new moon.
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#31
I know from being a carpenter that good wood is harder to get now than it was in the 50's. That probably has something to do with it. Also the more love a player puts into a guitar, the more mojo it retains. Maybe more realistically, if a great player spends a lifetime tweaking a guitar, its going to sound or at least play better. If its not completely worn out that is.
#32
I don't think old guitars sound better. Old guitars sound better for old music on old gear. Most guitar manufacturers change with the times. Compare modern day amps to what people played 50 years ago. Guitars have to make a good impression. A '58 LP or a '52 Tele probably isn't going sound as good as a modern LP or Tele through a JVM. But plug them into a JTM-45 and the old guitars will shine. Old guitars are made to sound good on the common equipment at the time and New guitars are made to sound good on the common equipment of today.

Look at most aftermarket pickups. Most are designed to give more output to drive your master-volume amp. Modern gear is about getting more gain while older gear was trying to avoid distortion. The average guitarist will think vintage pickups are weak and muddy. Strings have even changed over the years. They went from nickel to nickel plated steel that is brighter and has more output. And the design of amps changed too. Most old amps used alnico speakers and were tube rectified. They were also single-channel without master volumes.
#33
Quote by NostraHistoria
BTW, have you noticed that amps sound better when it is damp outside?


the humidity plays effect in the way sound travels, so at 150 feet in an outdoor stadium in florida mid-summer, you may hear a difference.

less than that, i don't think you could tell the difference.
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#34
Quote by Mad-Mike_J83
K33nbl4d3 I probably could have fixed the Mustang, but I decided I did not want to modify it further because it was still all original - so I sold it to get my Bass VI instead which I use a heck of a lot more.

refrets are part of a guitar's life, kind of like changing the oil on the car. a quality refret on a vintage instrument isn't really going to hurt the value much if at all. key word is quality.

but since you sold it to fund something that you use more, it makes sense.
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#35
gregs1020 already knew that, glad to see you got my point.

I would have bothered to go through with a Refret if I liked the neck, I'm a fan of "A" Width necks on vintage instruments (that's why I still have my musicmaster), the Mustang was a "B" shape neck.
My Current Mains
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- 1998 Fender Jaguar with Cool Rails
- 1982 Hondo Paul Dean II (DiMarzio Super II X2)
- 2010 "Fender" Jazzmaster (Home built)
- 2013 Squier VM Bass VI (stock)