Why do these 2 Teles sound different!?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by maj34, Sep 25, 2016.

  1. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

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    I own 2 teles and they sound vastly different to my ears. I've been trying to figure out why they sound different.

    This has become a bit of a science experiment. I'm just surprised at the result - that basswood and ash sound very different in a tele. I had always thought I'd be in the "tonewood doesn't make a big diff on an electric" camp.

    One's a MIJ TC72 (72 custom) and the other a MIJ TL-52 (52 tele). Yes, there are some obvious differences, like the humbucker, but I'm talking the bridge only circuit.

    Here are the similarities:
    - Maple fretboard
    - MIJ
    - steel bridge
    - identical pot and capcitor (I re-wired both guitars) and wiring
    - Same pickup, sort of
    - Intonation tweaked on both
    - Neck pickup lowered all the way (for the purpose of this experiment)
    - New strings, same kind
    - Same vintage frets
    - Same action

    Here are the differences:
    - slightly bigger neck on the 72
    - I shielded the 52 using copper foil
    - TC72 is ash, TL52 is basswood I think

    I had always thought tone-woods made a small difference, but these two guitars are hugely different. The 52 sounds midrangey and twangy and it kinda hairy. It sounds great from frets 0-7, but that hairyness starts to sound nasty above the 12th fret especially. I think if it were an amp it'd be a Fender Tweed.

    The 72 sounds hi-fi, crystal clear, scooped - at least in relation to the 52.

    This bothers me... HOW can these sound so different?
     
  2. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

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    Oh, and when I say the pickups is sort of the same... this experiment started with:

    TC72 - Jerry Donahue PUP with 500k Pot
    TL52 - Fender Original Vintage PUP with 250k Pot

    Now:
    TC72 - MIJ Pickup with 500k pot
    TL52 - Jerry Donahue PUP with 500k Pot

    So I originally thought this was entirely a pickup issue. But now that I've switched them around, the guitars still have all the above character. Still a hairy 52 and a high-fi crystal clear 72.
     
  3. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    The differences are right there. "Sort of" the same pickups - can you measure kohms and identify the other differences?
    Identical pots and capacitor target values means they can and do have vastly different actual values. In a set of four 500kohm volume pots I ordered for my 2015 Challenge build, the low one measured 485kohms and the high one measured 525kohms. That high one makes the pickup bright and the low one makes the same pickup dark.
    Pots have +/-10% tolerance and most caps (like the green 'chicklet' ones) have +/-5% tolerance or the round ceramic disk ones are +/-10%. A MIM Tele I'm working on now shipped with a round ceramic disk cap. If the stars align or misalign for you one guitar could be 40% different than an 'exactly the same' second guitar without having any variation in anything else between the two guitars than the pots and caps.
    Get an ohm meter and measure the pickups and pots - that might tell you a lot of the reason for the differences.
    The other big difference is the internal capacitance of a pickup (from winding) that can make one bright and another muddy. Capacitance meters are more challenging to come by though.
     
  4. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Umm . . . could be because they ARE different..

    Ron Kirn,
    Simplifying complex conundrums with, of all things, logic... :eek:
     
  5. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

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    It's not electronics.

    I did a complete swap - everything from the pickups to the caps.

    I know what you're saying about tolerances though, all good points and all true, but the character change I'm taking about is much larger than that.

    In addition to swapping the electronics, I've now matched the electronics very closely in both guitars. Even capacitors which I measured using an lcr bridge.

    To my ears, a 450k pot is almost identical to a 550k. Most people could never tell the difference in a blind test. Especially if the guitar was disassembled to change the value. But using a push pull pot to select 450 or 550 - most people will figure it out but there's not a crazy difference.

    Same with caps... The tolerance doesn't make a tremendous difference .022 to .047 does, but my 10% caps are all the same to my ears. I've done a lot of experimentation with leads hanging out of my guitar.

    I'm an electrical engineer, which means... Nothing. But I've dabbled in electronics my whole life and I know electronics, impedance, frequency response, capacitance, etc very well.

    What I'm hearing has to be wood difference... I just found it hard to believe.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
  6. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

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    Your logic is correct - they are different because they're different. I'm more interested in the scientific answer to why that's the case. :)
     
  7. SweetClyde99

    SweetClyde99 Tele-Holic

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    Is the pickup cavity shielded too or just the control cavitory? I've read a few threads complaining about their shielding jobs affecting their tone--and just as many saying it had no effect. Sounds a little like the tone wood debate, right?
     
  8. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    any guitar is an amalgam of many contributing parts, each of which can differ from another example of the same exact part...

    assemble a guitar from such parts (there is no other choice) and you have a completely unique composite system, every time, each time a guitar is constructed... No two can or do sound exactly alike. . . ever...

    Now for those that are encumbered by thinking some Strats sound alike, Teles sound alike, Les Pauls Sound alike.. etc, etc, sure but "alike" . . . not so.. they sound similar... they can ONLY sound similar... put any two through an acoustic lab's analysis and you will find they sound as much different as you and Topo Gigio... With Topo having a cold.... a bad cold...

    There is "similar" which is close enough for many, but there is also "exact" which is the standard many demand.... the "close enough" guys will be happy, the "Exact" guys will never be...

    so it doesn't matter how exactly, perfectly, copied a previous guitar may be, it simply cannot sound exactly like original.. and I don't care who made the parts, how precisely made they are, or who assembled the guitar... perfection will never happen...

    Now, if you require a more scientific answer, Cal Tech has a great Physics department..

    Sorry OCD guys... go getta bag...:p

    Ron Kirn
     
  9. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

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    The pickup cavity is shielded.

    I know it's all opinion, but I think the shielding did not affect tone whatsoever. Unfortunately, it only reduced noise marginally too (it wasn't bad to begin with though).

    It does sound like a tonewood debate. I used to stand clearly on the "tonewood makes a very small, if not negligible difference".

    But having gone through the above, I think I have to conclude: "It makes a huge difference, I would bet my entire life savings on passing a blind A/B test between basswood and ash in these two guitars".

    Of course in that last blind test I'd stand to profit from winning the blind A/B. :)

    The difference between these guitars is so huge that it would end the tonewood debate.

    Still. I have to wonder if I'm hearing something else, but there are no real other "big" variables.
     
  10. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Being a EE, I expect you are familiar with complex impedance. Spring/mass/damping mechanical systems follow precisely the same rules as RLC mechanical networks. So, your strings are coupled to a complex impedance at the bridge and fret. Softer basswood, harder ash, thicker neck, thinner neck, it all adds up.

    Next experiment, try swapping necks. I'll make a gentleman's bet that the voicing follows the neck.

    Fun, isn't it? :)
     
  11. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    if it IS wood.. that't not unusual.. again... each piece of wood, even from the same tree will differ... some so subtly that it takes very sensitive gear to detect, others more distinct to the extent a drunk hillbilly can hear it through the fog of a half dozen "Bourbon 'n Branches".. :p . . . take it from an occasionally drunk Hillbilly...

    There are those that will stand on the "Pillar" that all wood of a specific species will sound the same... of course that completely ignores the potential of other contributing factors in the composite of the guitar.. I'm getting so I really don't even wanna talk to 'em any more.... some times I feel like a CERN Physicist arguing Quantum Mechanics with a High School Science student.... drop-out... guys.. read a book how 'bout it... guessin' is only guessin'...

    rk
     
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  12. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

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    Ugghh.. no it's not fun. It's driving me crazy. :) Or it's forcing me to become a firm believer that wood can make a huge difference - especially if going from basswood to ash.

    I've thought about swapping necks. Now I'm going to have to do that. Maybe just not right away. Every time I mess with the bridge PU or neck I have to change strings. I try to recycle but eventually they break at the tuner. It's getting silly.
     
  13. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well if it means anything at all, I have 4 Tele's, 2 /52 RI's with Ash bodies , one 62RI with a Basswood body and a 96 USA Bender with an Alder body. They all have the same pickups, Vintage Tele . The two 52's are very close, the Bender not near as much bottom end and the 62 is much brighter overall . I seriously doubt the pots or caps have any effect as my comparison is with both pots at full bore.
     
  14. Modman68

    Modman68 Tele-Holic

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    Rather than one big variable being responsible for the difference, you may may want to consider that the sum result of these small differences interacting together is creating the big change.
     
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  15. SweetClyde99

    SweetClyde99 Tele-Holic

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    Is there a significant weight difference between the two?

    I'd also be curious as to how swapping the two necks affected each guitar's tone.
     
  16. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

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    I've played brand new identical guitars and could hear differences between them. Minor differences can definitely yield audible differences. Not surprised at all that your guitars which are not identical do not sound the same.
     
  17. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

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    I have a bunch of partscasters, including 4 with EMG's. One of those has a basswood body, and has the roundest, warmest ACOUSTIC and AMPLIFIED tone of the bunch.
    From most scooped to warmest:
    Alder body, maple/maple neck, gotoh 6-saddle bridge, EMG 80 neck & TC-bridge
    Alder body, rosewood/rosewood chunky neck, 3 copper saddles ashtray bridge, EMG T-set
    Ash body thinline. ebony/maple 3x3 Warmoth neck, Barden bridge, EMG T-set
    Basswood body, Squier rosewood/maple neck, locked Kahler trem bridge, EMG TC neck, SA middle, 81 Bridge - volume control and 2 killswitches. I've asked here before if somehow the killswitches might act like a capacitor or the "sweet switch" on a PRS to round out the tone, but nobody thought that possible. Since it sounds "rounder" when not plugged in, it must be the neck, body, nut, or bridge. Right?
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
  18. Nasty

    Nasty Tele-Meister

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    Ever seen two trees exactly the same? Think about this for a second
     
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  19. rich815

    rich815 Friend of Leo's

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    I know tests have been done that supposedly show that the wood makes little to any difference but I'm not convinced. I've picked up certain tele's that even played unplugged have a different sound and even feeling in my lap of the guitar against my legs or body.

    And one more thing: us! We're all different in how our ears, ear drums, ear canals, are formed and constructed and thus how our personal perception and hearing is interpreted. I've had people say things like "oh, that one sounds better to me", while another person says: "hmmm, I didn't hear any difference at all"....
     
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  20. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

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    I've changed identical Fender maple necks on a guitar and the tone slightly changed. I suspect it has to do with the density of the wood but am not sure I really understand why.
     
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