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Laminated vs. solid wood electric guitars
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KillerV
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24th February 2007
Old 24th February 2007
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Laminated vs. solid wood electric guitars

Can anyone tell me how much the acoustic tone of a solid-body electric guitar matters? I recently tested a guitar that I know was made from laminated wood (supposedly very bad from what I've read) against a guitar made of solid mahogany. Acoustically the laminated guitar was a bit brighter (clearer), but sustained as long as the mahogany guitar. The mahogany guitar sounded a bit "duller" than the laminated guitar. Any opinions on this?
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24th February 2007
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The guitar community strongly believes into that laminated wood couldn´t compare to solid one.

But it seems like it all depends on how well a guitar is crafted. You can have very good guitars of laminated wood.

In the classical field for instance you have e.g. Smallmanns guitars with laminated back and sides who project sufficiently for to fill halls and sound well enough to be played by thelikes like John Williams.

Also, on another level, I just bought a true gem of a laminated guitar for a promissing classical music artist and he is in love with it. It just sounds lovely, with brilliance, eveness throughout the frequence range and great separation.

Guitars all vary from each other even within same brand and model.

With instruments in the store me preferes to just grab them and play. If I like how they sound, if their playability and intonation is great then I start looking after how they are assembled and finished.

Yet, after all that I look on the label and pricetag.
With that method you are always good for surprises.

Hope that helps.

Ruphus
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24th February 2007
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one interesting thing to note:

for hollow jazz guitars many famous guys have a solid wood instrument at home but always take the laminated one on the road because they are less likely to be messed up by the weather changes. also if they get broken it is not as serious.
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Thats what im talking about ! Keem`em comming!!!
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25th February 2007
Old 25th February 2007
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It depends on what is laminated too.

Laminating makes some guitars stronger and it's done all the time on necks.
Laminating the fingerboard onto a maple neck can actually make the neck more resistant to warping and twisting.

In some ways laminating can also act as bracing which can make the guitar's tone more stable, especially in hollow body guitars.

You'll also note that many electric acoustics are laminated on the sides
to keep the electronics cutout from splitting the wood.

It's not always good, but it's not always bad.
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25th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
It depends on what is laminated too.

Laminating makes some guitars stronger and it's done all the time on necks.
Laminating the fingerboard onto a maple neck can actually make the neck more resistant to warping and twisting.

In some ways laminating can also act as bracing which can make the guitar's tone more stable, especially in hollow body guitars.

You'll also note that many electric acoustics are laminated on the sides
to keep the electronics cutout from splitting the wood.

It's not always good, but it's not always bad.
Yup, all true. Also, it can prevent the natural oils and sweat from your fingers from discoloring the wood on the neck. It really depends on the wood that the neck is made out of as to whether or not leaving it unfinished will result in anything bad.
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25th February 2007
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There are also lots of other variables that come into play with every electric guitar. The pickups obviously have a very big part to play, as does the actual choice of wood (whether laminated or not) and the basic neck structure. In ascending order of sustain or whatever, the neck can be bolted on (as on most Fenders), glued in place (as on most Gibson SGs) or even just one end of a single piece of wood running right down the middle of the guitar.

And so on.
KillerV
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25th February 2007
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The body of the guitar was laminated. I believe it had a 2piece mahogany neck. I must also add that the guitar was really well made with good hardware. I wouldn't have guessed that the guitar was laminated if I hadn't opened up the control-cavity to check the wiring.

As a last note I can tell you guys that the guitar had Seymour Duncan Seth Lover HB's, although I am really more interested to know how the acoustic tone of the guitar will infuence the sound as it is a solid-body electric.
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25th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woomanmoomin View Post
There are also lots of other variables that come into play with every electric guitar. The pickups obviously have a very big part to play.
I had a luthier telling me once that there was a big hoax going on about magnetic pickups and that any simple one would be doing just fine.

Don´t know too much about this, but have certainly heard very nice sound from good e-guitars with only ordinary pickups on them.

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25th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KillerV View Post
although I am really more interested to know how the acoustic tone of the guitar will infuence the sound as it is a solid-body electric.
Imagine how say a very stiff body would have the strings vibrate very differently in comparison with a resonating body structure on the other hand.
That difference of how the strings swing out depending on the body them being connected to will be picked up by the pick ups then.

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25th February 2007
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What particular guitar are you looking at and in what price range?

ES335 Style, Epiphone Casino, Jazz Style, Acoustic Electric, or something like the Telecaster Thin Lines that are lighter weight hard bodies with a hollow body chamber?

I would try each guitar through a good quality amplifier to see how it reacts to increased volumes.

Most players look for extended sustain in a hollow body or semi-hollowbody that can be quite difficult to control
with louder amp settings.

They can sound beautiful at lower volumes, but also feed back like crazy when driven into distortion.
Generally thier sound will break up much earlier than a solid body guitar due to resonance in the chamber.

Even the best solid wood semi-hollowbodies are usually cross braced to help control feedback.
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25th February 2007
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Someone who told you that pickup choices is a hoax, has very little knowledge of what makes a good sounding pickup!!!!

Yeah, they all do the same thing, and use relatively the same components but really... thats just nonsense.

It would be like telling a luthier to just use plywood to build his guitars, its all the same really.
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26th February 2007
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Thanks for all the replies. I think some of you might not yet understand exactly what I'm trying to find out. I know laminates are used frequently in hollow- and semi-hollow-body guitars, as well as acoustics and that pickups do make a difference in the amplified result, but what I am interested to know how much a laminated woord (plywood) body would influence the (acoustic) sound of a SOLID-body electric (telecaster, les paul, etc).

To give you a little more information about the test I did, comparing a guitar with a plywood body (I could see the ridges on the side of the guitar) to an almost identical guitar guitar with a solid mahogany body ACOUSTICALLY (ie without amplifying it in any way - always my first test when trying out an electric): Both guitars had 2-piece mahogany set-necks with rosewood fretboards with rougly the same size/shape fretwire. Both guitars were well-built and -finished. I did notice that the guitar with the plywood body seemed to have sound-chambers when I tapped the top of the guitar with my fingernails.

The plywood-body guitar sounded almost identical to the solid mahogany guitar, apart from being a little bit brighter (clearer) and maybe a bit louder. It almost sounded more like an acoustic guitar than the solid mahogany guitar. Usually I wouldn't even look at a plywood guitar, but this really suprised me.

Any more opinions?
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26th February 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eligit View Post
for hollow jazz guitars many famous guys have a solid wood instrument at home but always take the laminated one on the road because they are less likely to be messed up by the weather changes. also if they get broken it is not as serious.
+1

I've also heard (though can't confirm this) that the laminated archtop guitars are less prone to feedback than the solid ones.
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6th March 2007
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Most semi-hollowbody guitars have some sort of blocking to reduce the vibrations
in the sound chamber. This helps to reduce feedback in live applications.

The Gibson ES335 is a perfect example of this type of construction.
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6th March 2007
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In general : A one piece GTR sounds better then a laminated one.

BUT: I have heard some laminated (e.G.pancake les paul deluxes) that sound great and some one piece gtrs that sound terrible.

NO 2 gtrs are alike, so make your judgement on a case by case basis, is all I can say.....


www.nickoosterhuis.com
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6th March 2007
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I'm discovering how much difference there is in the sound of my guitars just
running through a much better amplifier.

My Ibanez AF105NT keeps surprising me even though it's made of laminated construction. The workmanship is outstanding for a $600.00 guitar.

My Epiphone/Gibson Skunk Baxter Cutaway sounds better miked than it does line in,
but for a laminated guitar, I can't complain.
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6th March 2007
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I'm a big believer in playing my electric solid bodies without plugging them in to see what they sound like, feel like and how the resonate in my hands when strumming a big open chord.

In your example, you really didn't solve anything. There are so many factors there that could have made them sound the way they did....were the strings on both equal? What about the scale of the guitars? Body construction? I mean, if you went into the local store and played every single Mexi-Strat, they'd all sound different. Some better, some worse, depending on your idea of better or worse. The same could be said for any other guitar. Now if that's true for guitars that should be the same, why wouldn't it be the same for a fender mexi-strat, mij strat, american std strat, yamaha strat, epiphone strat copy, etc?

You can definitely find a cheap guitar that sounds cool, whether it's laminated or just plain cheap construction or materials. Look at Danelectro, Airline, Supro, 70s Ibanez and about a million others for examples. But, the real question is, are they going to hold up for your playing. Many cheaper guitars have bridges that won't intonate properly, necks that tend to warp, tuners that don't hold, nuts that aren't cut properly and the list goes on. Not to mention the fact that they're using cheaper woods and questionable contstruction that can tend to break easier.

Finally, resale value. Probably not that big of a deal, but if you're comparing an Aria Les Paul copy to the real deal....well, I think that's fairly obvious.

later,

m
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7th March 2007
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The local music stores all hate me because it takes me forever to decide on anything.

I played numerous hollow bodies before buying the Ibanez and then played several
AF105NT's before deciding on this one.

Action was perfect as well as the intonation and as you mentioned, it sounded good
unplugged. No buzzing or any problems. Somebody was having a good day when they put mine together.

I'm still deciding if I'm going to leave it as is or if I'm going to mod the electronics and go for different pickups. P-90's PAF's or something from Seymour Duncan.
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