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

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

  1. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Funny thing is, I heard a difference in the mahogany, but different differences than others report (I heard more highs in the mahogany clip).

    I think the very small differences among the three examples will disappear in a performance situation with amps and pedals etc. I mean, they all sound like Teles.

    Fun video, though.
     
  2. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

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    Well, the honesty of it depends on the type of statement that you are making. If you are saying, "that riff sounds cool" it's a musician statement and shouldn't be uttered or taken scientifically. On the other hand, if you are saying something like, "see... this test proves that my belief about ______ is true" is a scientific statement that shouldn't get a pass solely on the ability to conform to the broad outlines of a musical or aesthetic statement.
     
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  3. Festus_Hagen

    Festus_Hagen Tele-Holic

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    I've been watching this thread, a little reluctant to voice my opinion, but I will tell you one experience I had that made me think differently about "tone woods" .

    I had a client that wanted a tele, but didn't know WHAT he wanted. I started with a neck and pickups I thought would be his style, and installed them in an alder body I had that was painted Mary Kaye White and finished off the guitar. I told him to play it a while, see what he did and didn't like and what he actually wanted. After a year or so of gigging with it, he decided he wanted a swamp ash body (ash ... whatever) with grain showing etc. When he realized it was more for a good ash body that wasn't really heavy, he said he's just go with the alder he had, and told me a few quirks he wanted corrected. I did those and put the guitar back together, intonated it and played it about a week. It was "ice-picky" in the bridge position through my deluxe reverb. I could dial it out for the most part, I just found it "strange" since my others didn't sound like that through it, but these pups were really clean, so I went on .

    Move ahead a few days... I decided I would make him a swamp ash body , no extra charge, in the same color instead, since the body he had was sort of a "shop guitar" for testing pups and such, and I just really wanted him going on the road with a better looking body if it had my name on it. I finished a body, put EVERYTHING from the old guitar on it (he wanted a different color PG) , including the neck I had made for him personally, and tuned and intonated it. The "ice picky" sound was GONE! I was stunned and in disbelief, that all these years I was positive there wasn't a difference in the wood, it was the pups.

    If I wouldn't have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my ears, I wouldn't have believed it. I still think sometimes a neck just won't sound right on a certain body, but will on another, and that is something I can't explain, but I'm now a "tone wood" convert. :)

    Pics of first alder and then swamp ash guitar:

    20180423_183546.jpg

    20181127_152231.jpg
    20181127_152613.jpg
     
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  4. ballynally2

    ballynally2 Tele-Holic

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    Density matters most.Dryness of the wood also important.The clip is not a meaningful test by any standards BUT confirms what ive experienced..
     
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  5. ballynally2

    ballynally2 Tele-Holic

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    the hog had more top end for sure.i found the alder the most even and pleasant with the ash very snappy making it an instant classic.
    Like the guy in the video said..
     
  6. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    I made a guitar w an Aluminum fingerboard ala Utopia era Todd, w a thru the body Maple neck w the bridge only mounted on the Neck. It had Pine body wings held on , barely , by contact cement that a slap would knock off. I switched to Mahogany for visual purposes and was surprised to hear a difference even tho the wings weren t in the direct vibration path and held on, just barely.

    I think TONEWOOD deniers just aren t blessed w the phase discerning ears that we affirmers are lucky enough to have. Yes, you can turn up low mids on your amp to make Maple sound like Mahogany in the fundamental, but you can t duplicate the harmonic relationships of its overtones as well as its attack/decay.
     
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  7. notmyusualuserid

    notmyusualuserid Friend of Leo's

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    May we assume that your audiences are also owners of Golden Ears, and appreciate your efforts to provide them with the premier tones that the nay-sayers can't supply? :lol:
     
  8. mgreene

    mgreene Tele-Afflicted

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    My youtube is hooked up to my stereo via an android box so I listened fairly critically. I assume that every licks was played on each body at the same time, and then the next body was built up.

    I thought the mahogany body was recorded ever so slightly louder than the others - 1/2 - 1dB. I could be wrong. The demonstrator says it is sound of the body itself.

    That said, although I am solidly in the swamp ash camp, my latest jazzyfirecaster thang is Alder because the body maker didnt have any swamp ash and refused to let me send him some.

    The "man bites dog" part of the story for me is that this is my favorite guitar ever of any type and construction.
     
  9. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    No ,lol.Audience wouldn't know a '60 Les Paul from a pressboard Walmart. Its a legit argument that tonewood makes no difference, but not that it doesn t exist.

    I didn t come to my opinion by mental concepts , but by hearing. I asked a friend along time ago " How come see thru finishes on Fenders sound different than solid painted. I wouldn t think that you could hear that ?"Turns out clear were Ash, solid was Alder. At least on the guitars we were talking about.
     
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  10. luckett

    luckett Banned

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    Isn't it amazing what a good piece of tone plastic can do for the tone of a guitar?
     
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  11. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    I was thinking the same thing. Do this test with three swamp ash bodies. Whatever variation woods make in the tone, I would not take it for granted that the differences between two bodies of the same wood species are less than the differences between two different species.

    Heck, harvest them on the same day, but one of them grew right on the edge of the river, with unobstructed light and abundant water, versus one that was 30' back.

    The other variable I was thinking about with this was when you put the same neck on three different bodies, you're going to get some differences in the action. Did they raise and lower the saddles to adjust that? Move them back and forth for intonation? Those adjustments right there - or one neck-body combination that didn't intonate or had the action too high or too low - could make huge differences.

    I just got my Tele back from a luthier because I was having a setup problem I couldn't quite get right. Not only did it come back playing better, but there was a huge tone improvement because he'd lowered the bridge pickup by - he said - about one screw turn.

    My guess is you could order five of the same everything from Warmoth, and wind up with five distinctly different guitars.

    So I'm not a "tonewood denier." I'm sure the wood does make a difference.
    Along with another 200,000 variables that make just as much or more difference.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
  12. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I got opinions!
    I’ll tell ya!
    Just ask me.
    I’ll wait.
     
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  13. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I like Basswood and Paulowina for my guitars and I am not interested in why I’m wrong about what I like. They ARE light and responsive. I dont care about “neck dive” any more than a violin player does. We go round and round over woods when speakers have 10x more influence on tone.


    Sent from my iPhone using TDPRI forum mobile app
     
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  14. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    What's your opinion Brookdalebill?
     
  15. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Meaningless
     
  16. Bill

    Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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  17. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for posting, LGOberean. I think that's an interesting experiment and – though it may not be scientific enough for some – to me the differences were quite obvious. Nothing you couldn't dial out with a 32 band EQ (like Billy Gibbons) but noticeable. I'm also glad that I liked the wood my teles are made from best. ;)
     
  18. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Assembly process, setup, and adjustments can be part of the equation. To rule that out, scientifically, you'd need to transfer back to the original body, confirm the ice-pick returned, then to the new body with ice-pick removed ... and do that enough times so the statistics can claim a change due to the body/wood (could be the way the body was cut/glued too) that is not just random chance. If you swapped back and the ice-pick was gone then you'd know the assembly process has a lever you can pull any time you get an ice-pick situation (which is a very useful lever to know about). Without the repeats you can't be sure to separate the source. That kind of testing is expensive and unless you are making hundreds of guitars a day and have some resources these problems never get sufficiently interrogated.

    .
     
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  19. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

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    But that isn't quite enough for a real test. You can't do the swapping work yourself since that would be an instant breach of objectivity. You can't just switch back and forth in a predictable pattern since that can be guessed - the wood type presented should be chosen by a random number generator. The person who does the swapping work shouldn't be in contact with the player. They can pass on subliminal cues. The fact that real testing like this is very expensive, means that it will remain in the realm of personal opinion.

    But I'll bet, very few people have even tried the simple modification that I suggested early in the thread. Close your eyes and listen - now try and tell the difference.
     
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  20. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Here’s what I’ve noticed in a very anecdotal and non-scientific way...

    The body makes a difference but maybe it’s not so much the wood, maybe it’s the density. I take a solid body guitar like a Les Paul with a mahogany and maple cap and compare it with an ES335 mahogany semi-hollow body. Same electronics, basically the same set neck (mahogany with rosewood fretboard). The solid body sounds tight and snappy, the hollow body sounds big and rounded, maybe a little on the dark side.

    When the bodies are the same shape and size, the neck makes a small bit noticeable difference. Take a Strat with a one piece maple neck and another with a maple + rosewood fretboard and swap the electronics from one to the other. The difference is more subtle than that of the solid vs semi-hollow but the one piece maple neck guitar has a twang element to it that the rosewood board does not. It’s not a big difference but it’s noticeable.

    These are just some observations using the materials I’ve had at hand and have formed rules of thumb for me when making decisions about guitars and materials. I don’t put a lot of faith in “tone wood” because I’ve heard really good guitars that are made of cheap materials but I think wood density plays a part.
     
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