Alder vs Swamp Ash vs Mahogany - Guitar Body Wood Tone Test

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by LGOberean, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Not a valid or "scientific" experiment? No argument here.

    Could /Should the same sample size have been bigger? Yes.

    Are the differences slight/minor/minimal? Yes.

    Are the differences more discernible in home use/recording than in a live mix? Again, I agree.

    Tone is primarily in the fingers? Yes. Really a different subject (albeit very closely related), but yes.

    Aaron Cheney's hyperbolic language didn't help his case if he wanted the video to at least have a chance of being taken seriously. "Congratulations! You have found the one video that is going to settle this question once and for all!" :rolleyes: That said, I believe a sincere and good effort was made to reduce the variables in the test.

    All 3 (unfinished) bodies weighed the same, 4 lbs. 6 oz.

    Aaron didn't mention the strings being switched between each test, but everything else--the neck, pickups, electronics, hardware--was switched so as to be the same in each test play.

    The signal chain was the same. I don't recall as of this writing if Aaron stated that the settings on the guitar and amp and pedal were all the same in each of the three test runs, but I would be really surprised if they weren't. That's such an obvious and easy thing to do, it makes sense that in the context of taking pains to swap everything out three times over, they'd make sure the settings were the same as well.

    So, now that I have expressed both caveats and concessions, I return to the key factor in my posting this video in the first place: I have a tele with a mahogany body, one with alder and one with swamp ash. And I acquired them in that order: the mahogany in 2008, the alder in 2009, and the swamp ash in 2011. So I've lived with them, played them, gigged with them for years, and I can discern the nuances of difference between each one. And in my experience with my own teles, I pretty much agreed with Aaron's assessment of these tone woods right down the line.

    I am not tempted to make my own such "test," since there are variables that I cannot/do not want to change. My mahogany is a solidbody, the pickups are Wilkinsons (P-90 in the neck, vintage style bridge). The alder is actually a thinline with alder veneers, and the body core is pine. It has a vintage style set of tele pickups also by Wilkinson. My swamp ash has a stainless steel straight plate with DiMarzio Twang King pickups. The guitar bodies differ significantly in weight: the mahogany is 9 lbs. 2 oz.; the alder/pine thinline weighs 6 lbs. 12 oz.; and he swamp ash weighs 6 lbs. and nearly 15 oz.

    This test, however "unscientific," just caught my interest because of the similarities to three of my own (Logan Custom) teles. Here they are, BTW. I think I have a better pic of the three somewhere, but couldn't find it right offhand...

    Hanging Teles - IMAG0387.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2018
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  2. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

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  3. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I suspect every experienced player does a similar thing to what I do, which is automatically pick and mute for the tones I want my guitar to make.
    I've handed one of my plugged in Esquires to another player and heard horrific clang when he played it, despite his getting fine sound from his own guitar.

    In order to really hear the difference between one guitar and another, we would have to remove the player from the test.

    Sure, the hypothetical guy plays each guitar exactly the same way.
    And/ or doesn't play a "bright swamp ash tone" on one and a "middy alder tone" on another.

    It took me quite a while to make upstrokes sound exactly the same as downstrokes, and even now I can't make the exact same sound today as I got yesterday.
     
  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I didn't mean to piss on your thread @LGOberean and I actually pretty much agree with your finding that this and that body wood doesn't sound the same.

    I've been swapping bodies and necks for 39 years and it seemed stupidly obvious that a different wood generally brought a different character to a solidbody electric.
    Sorta like different beans in the chili.
    Still tastes like chili of course....

    But then on the internet I got flamed so many times for my findings that I grew tired of sharing them.

    So thanks to posting, and my condolences!
     
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  5. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    So next time aim that thing somewheres else, would'ya?!? :(

    Nah, just razzin' ya! :twisted: No offense taken here. I've actually agreed with most of the general observations and some of the complaints expressed in this thread. My purpose wasn't to pontificate about tone woods, or to indicate that I place that much stock in the differences when it comes to overall tone. The differences in mine are slight, just nuances of difference. They make a difference to me, but might not even be noticed by someone else, certainly not by anyone in my audiences.
     
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  6. FrontPU

    FrontPU Tele-Holic

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    The difference can be much bigger when playing them than when just listening to someone play them.
     
  7. LocoTex

    LocoTex Tele-Afflicted

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    With eyes closed....very small, barely perceptible difference. Not enough to matter.
     
  8. MrGibbly

    MrGibbly Tele-Afflicted

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    I've never really met an actual musician that was an actual scientist... Come to think of it, I've never met a real scientist that was a real musician... Usually, those of us that whine about the validity of these kinds of experiments are quasi-scientists or pseudo musicians. Me? I'm a computer scientist and economist that dabbles in music. :)
     
  9. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    I really do wish Jeff would stop coming over to my house so much. I mean, he's a splendid bloke and all, but he just stays too long. I'm pretty sure there's a Beck-shaped butt print in my couch.
     
  10. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

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  11. thunderbyrd

    thunderbyrd Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    "I'm not looking to start another skirmish..." says the man tossing hand grenades willy-nilly into a guitar forum.
     
  12. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Deciding takes more than a quick listen or comparison, and cant readily be done on line. To really know the difference in wood, a guitar, an amp or a speaker etc... you have to play it a while. Play it in a band mix too, etc etc etc... If you listen to speaker samples on line like Emi has for their speakers, they all sound almost the same. Try that in your amp and there can be a big difference. Could you tell what car you like to drive by driving it a block?
     
  13. 2blue2

    2blue2 Friend of Leo's

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    Will all the members here, We got that many between us, lets get started
     
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  14. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity

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    I like to let color of the guitar decide the quality of the Tone.
    YEP!!!
     
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  15. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

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    Because these supposed experiments and purported demonstrations obviously cannot prove anything, it is equally true that they do not disprove anything. There's a lame cottage industry of these tests, "A/B" demos, etc., and they rarely even bother to recognize such fundamentals as the difference between live tones and miked, digitized, and "reproduced" recorded tones. The notion that these skits show or prove anything is absurd. But it's also irrational to hold that just because a slight difference may not be heard in one-off blind comparisons of only two examples, that no general distinction exists. Just because I can't tell Jethro's EIR D-28 from Zippy's BRW D-28, or Jim's Alder Tele from Joe's Swamp Ash Tele doesn't "prove" anything at all. I'm not sure that decades of field tests of hundreds of thousands of examples by innumerable players adds up to compelling evidence, either, but I find those broad tendencies a lot more useful than the shootouts or "ya can't tell" arguments people post.
     
  16. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    When it comes to acoustics, I notice consistent differences by species. Rosewood vs 'hog for instance.

    With electrics, I definitely hear the wood, it all makes a difference, but I don't notice any consistency across species. Too much else going on, for one thing. Find one you like the sound of, and play it.
     
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  17. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes, it does. It proves that it doesn’t matter and people should stop worrying about meaningless things and just play their guitars!
     
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  18. rich815

    rich815 Friend of Leo's

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    I bought a $26 cheap no-name strat body on eBay for painting practice. It’s actually frickin’ plywood. After I was done painting it I decided on a whim to slap together a partscaster with various parts I had laying around. Damn if it doesn’t sound terrific. I mean really, really good. Wonderful resonance, and vibration. You know when a certain body just feels great in your lap even acoustically? And it’s plywood!!

    (Shhh. No one tell my crappy plywood partscaster it’s not supposed to sound good.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
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  19. Count

    Count Friend of Leo's

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    No one tell my Basswood one that it’s not supposed to sound good either.
     
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  20. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    The only person that matters in this equation is the player. She/he experiences the subtle differences in response from different woods, etc.. and that's all that matters. I contend you can't put a mic in front of an amp and capture anywhere 100% of what a seasoned player is experiencing. You can't record the quickness of the initial attack of swamp ash.

    It's not about identifying what wood's in this or that clip, it's how it feels and responds to the player. I'm surprised at how many people get this wrong when framing the body wood debate. In the youtube example, hand those three guitars to a good, seasoned player to play for a week and he'll develop a favorite.

    If you swathe the body in too much finish like most production guitars, like a lot of player experience, the differences go away. Add to that crappy neck pockets, low grade bridges,. the body wood matters less and less. With many production guitars,.. what you heard mostly are the strings and the guitar's mass to a smaller extent.

    Hope I've solved the mystery for you'all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
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