Originally Posted by Mojotron
I would say that I notice the tone contribution of the wood more if the pickups are weaker. Using Fender Fat 50's pickups in several kinds of bodies, I notice the extra high-end contribution of and Ash body - it's unmistakably there. I have also used Dimarzio Area '61 pickups in the same guitar and you would never guess that it was a 'Swamp' Ash body.
Pickups do make a big difference, but not the only difference. IMO, it depends on the strength of the pickups and these days the popular pickups are a bit more wound than before...
Totally agree on this one.
Higher output pickups tend to mask the natural tone of the guitar.
In terms of wood, there are differences. I've tried Alder and Ash for strats and the ash is definitely brighter with less overtones it seems. Alder seems to be a bit more balanced but I wish it gave me a little more mids.
The actual piece of wood can make a difference too. Between Ash and Alder, I think that I prefer Alder, but it really depends the build quality, pickups, the actual piece of wood etc... There is no "Better" wood. It really about personal preference.
I recently built a Mahogany with Maple top tele and I absolutely love the tone. The pickups are Van Zandt True Vintage and I have to say that it has become my favorite guitar. The end result was totally unexpected.
This is what it sounds like: