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Tone Wood Test Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 11th March 2019
  #1
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Tone Wood Test

Not a subject I worry about personally, but I enjoyed watching this and thought it might interest some here. His kid also seems very cool.



In case link doesn't work. YouTube
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Old 12th March 2019
  #2
Innerspring!

I don't really agree with his conclusions - I heard definite differences in harmonic content between most of the different woods as well as slight differences in envelope between many of them.

Were these differences profound? No, they were not. But they were there.

Could I tell which was which by name? Are you kidding? No, I couldn't, at least not in the context of a video. Maybe with a lot of practice time listening to the different woods I could remember which was which or at least develop preferences but in the context of the test it would just be a guessing game.

But I did hear definite harmonic differences between the woods including several of the woods that the guy making the video thought sounded the same.

It was a somewhat interesting and entertainingly elaborate video, but I suspect that you could hear more or less the same differences by suspending the slabs of wood in the air and tapping on them with a firm mallet like a rawhide woodworker's mallet.
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Old 13th March 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Innerspring!

I don't really agree with his conclusions - I heard definite differences in harmonic content between most of the different woods as well as slight differences in envelope between many of them.

Were these differences profound? No, they were not. But they were there.

Could I tell which was which by name? Are you kidding? No, I couldn't, at least not in the context of a video. Maybe with a lot of practice time listening to the different woods I could remember which was which or at least develop preferences but in the context of the test it would just be a guessing game.

But I did hear definite harmonic differences between the woods including several of the woods that the guy making the video thought sounded the same.

It was a somewhat interesting and entertainingly elaborate video, but I suspect that you could hear more or less the same differences by suspending the slabs of wood in the air and tapping on them with a firm mallet like a rawhide woodworker's mallet.
I also thought I heard some differences, but it's hard to be sure when he was playing the chord slightly differently each time. Seemed odd to go to so much trouble and yet not have some method of ensuring the strum was consistent. Another issue was how different they'd have sounded had the bridge been set into the different types of wood.

I still found it entertaining though and from the comments most people seemed to think the differences were small.
Old 13th March 2019
  #4
Reminds me of the recent study at Lancaster University in the UK. They got Fylde to build six acoustics, all with tops from the same original piece of wood, but six totally different back and sides. They then advertised for guitarists to come and play them all in a blind study. 52 did, some of them people I know. The results were very interesting...

Study suggests wood type has little effect on guitars' sound
Old 13th March 2019
  #5
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Jeze, the guy does nothing but flap his gums for 20 minutes then you get to watch him tune the dam things.

You cant test the tone of the wood using a pickup. The pickup is going to add its own coloration.
What you need to use is a broad frequency, contact sensor placed on the wood itself.
Then you can connect that to a frequency analyzer and see just how much of the string tone gets colored by the wood.

That will establish how much coloration the wood is adding back to the strings.
You can then compare the contact sensor and pickup and overlay the two waveforms and see how much of the signal is coming directly from the streings themselves and how much wood resonance winds up back in the strings.

This is the only way you're going to get some factual results to work with.

Of course if you have well trained, "experienced" ears and hands you can both feel and hear the differences in wood types.
I do find it amazing acoustic guitar players can instantly tell when they are playing a quality instrument over a piece of junk by the wood tone. Many Electric guitarists on the other hand either lack the experience or the ears to tell the difference between electrics saying the pickups are the source of tone.
Truth is pickups don't produce tone that reproduce it. If you run a guitar clean you'll hear the maximum amount of wood tone getting into the pickups The pickups being inductors will typically roll off frequencies above 6K or below 150Hz. (Put your ear against the body and listen to the wood itself).

Its when you add distortion and flatten the signal into a square wave, your ears can no longer be trusted to hear the differences between wood types. Much of that wood tone info your ears hear is in the harmonics which are subtle to begin with. When you flatten the waves you flatten most of the frequency peaks and overtones too. The instrument is no longer a string instrument in the classical sense, its closer and electronic organ the ways wave shapes are squared off.
Old 14th March 2019
  #6
Practically speaking though, electric guitars use a pickup to generate a signal.

As John said, there are maybe some subtle differences. Nothing outstanding. Personally I always thought that the wood used on an electric was more about everything other than sound, durability, weight, beauty, feel, unless it's on a semi in which case it has some impact but still nothing as major as the actual resonant spaces themselves.

For me, purely subjectively the biggest tonal differences you will hear with an electric come down to guitarist, fx, cab, pickups, amp, everything else, roughly in that order. Tonewood is an abused term when it comes to electric guitars IMO, but of course a beautifully made instrument from a lovely piece of timber will most likely be better and more inspiring than a poorly made one from MDF. Mostly though because to be beautifully made it needed to use good wood rather than the other way around.
Old 14th March 2019
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Reminds me of the recent study at Lancaster University in the UK. They got Fylde to build six acoustics, all with tops from the same original piece of wood, but six totally different back and sides. They then advertised for guitarists to come and play them all in a blind study. 52 did, some of them people I know. The results were very interesting...

Study suggests wood type has little effect on guitars' sound
That study is somewhat questionable - it's a pretty well known fact that two tops cut from the same log can sound very different - grain and density can vary considerably between different parts of the same log.

Also, it doesn't take into consideration the differences in between the way different types of back and side woods age.

That being said, the top material and construction does have a greater effect on tone.
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Old 14th March 2019
  #8
I dunno, it laid it to rest for me. I'm no longer searching for "tone" B&S, and saving myself a helluva lot in the process. It might be 2-3% of the tone, the top may be 10%, but the rest is the design of the guitar by the luthier. E.g. Lowdens go from around £3k to well over £10k, but they all have a "house sound" due to the design, the dolphin bracing etc. They all sound far more similar than they do different.

Last edited by Hermetech Mastering; 14th March 2019 at 08:31 PM..
Old 15th March 2019
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
I dunno, it laid it to rest for me. I'm no longer searching for "tone" B&S, and saving myself a helluva lot in the process. It might be 2-3% of the tone, the top may be 10%, but the rest is the design of the guitar by the luthier. E.g. Lowdens go from around £3k to well over £10k, but they all have a "house sound" due to the design, the dolphin bracing etc. They all sound far more similar than they do different.
Hmm. You live in a country with a tradition of luthierie going back centuries, at least equal to Italy. The founder of the most renowned US acoustic guitar company learned his craft in Germany. Germany still has a burgeoning industry in both fretted and non-fretted stringed instrument building - there are whole towns and regions dedicated to the craft.. If I were you I'd ask some of those luthiers what they think of the importance of the choice of wood, rather than putting any stock in "studies" by academics who have never built a guitar or violin in their lives (and most likely don't even play) or by salesmen trying to hawk product on the internet.

The quality of wood in the top of an acoustic guitar can account for at least 50% of the tone quality of the instrument, with craftsmanship and bracing design making up the other half. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration - we need to allow 10-20% for the back and sides.

Of course if the guitar is constructed on a CNC line with very little real hand tuning of the build it could just be a waste of good wood.

Solid body electrics are a somewhat different story; quality of the wood still makes a real difference, but not as much and the difference is much less obvious in a newer instrument. However I must say that I was surprised how much difference I heard in this solid body test. I can't necessarily say that any one type is "better" than another, but I did hear more distinct differences than I might have expected.
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Old 15th March 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
I dunno, it laid it to rest for me. I'm no longer searching for "tone" B&S, and saving myself a helluva lot in the process. It might be 2-3% of the tone, the top may be 10%, but the rest is the design of the guitar by the luthier. E.g. Lowdens go from around £3k to well over £10k, but they all have a "house sound" due to the design, the dolphin bracing etc. They all sound far more similar than they do different.
Hmmm. I have 3 J200's in the studio. 1 is a standard maple B&S, one is a CS Koa and one i believe is Mahogany-ish something ( I need to look up the docks). Now they have same construction and feel, however is a blind test the clients always have a favorite and dismiss the others. Wood type , quality and seasoning definitely has a great deal effect on tone. Same the difference in tone between a Martin D28V(Rosewood) and a D18V (mahogany) is huge and obvious to even non-musicians.
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Old 15th March 2019
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post
Practically speaking though, electric guitars use a pickup to generate a signal.

As John said, there are maybe some subtle differences. Nothing outstanding. Personally I always thought that the wood used on an electric was more about everything other than sound, durability, weight, beauty, feel, unless it's on a semi in which case it has some impact but still nothing as major as the actual resonant spaces themselves.

For me, purely subjectively the biggest tonal differences you will hear with an electric come down to guitarist, fx, cab, pickups, amp, everything else, roughly in that order. Tonewood is an abused term when it comes to electric guitars IMO, but of course a beautifully made instrument from a lovely piece of timber will most likely be better and more inspiring than a poorly made one from MDF. Mostly though because to be beautifully made it needed to use good wood rather than the other way around.
The Electric guitar sound is generated by the string vibrating in the magnetic field of the pickup, inducing currents into the coil of the pickup. So certainly pickup design has an effect on the sound.
However, the pickup rests on/in the body. This body vibrates as a result of string oscillation, resulting in an acoustic circuit (string/bridge/body & String nut/neck/body) You can feel those vibrations every time you pick a string (unless you use dead material for guitar). So the pickup moves with the body, affecting the magnetic field and thus making the sound more complex. A resonant body will vibrate more resulting in a better (not dead) sound. Also a fat resonant neck will add to the effect.
So the body wood dencity/seasoning and texture will have a great affect on the tone
I have 17 strats built with 4 different tone-woods (ash, mahogany, alder, pine, also 1 with rosewood body and 1 with an aluminium body and rosewood neck) - they all sound very different. Other components contribute of course but so does the wood type
Old 15th March 2019
  #12
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I learned from Jimmy D'Aquisto how kinds of wood, densities and shapes affect tone and how different it is between an acoustic and an electric. On an Acoustic the Top is the "transducer". How it absorbs energy from the strings determines tone since the back and sides are primarily only needing to be a hard reflecting surface... still, they impart some small percentage of the tone or we wouldn't have ever heard a difference between a Martin D-18, D-28, and D-35 back when Brazilian Rosewood was still being used or for that matter the difference betwen Brazilian and Indian.

In electrics the mechanics are very different , almost in opposition. The body absorbs frequencies that are then no longer of any consequence in the strings. Those frequencies are understated since what we hear is 99% from the magnetic effect of the strings and pups.. At resonant frequencies some of that energy goes back into the strings where 99% of the magnetic "transducer" action takes place since any microphonics are minimal.So there is a give and take situation that occurs based on resonant frequencies.

One perfect example of this is the below pictured guitar that looked unique and kinda cool and had quick switch pups but evaporated in just a few years despite having been seen and heard in the hands of Keef. It just sounds flat as in "no fizz"... lifeless. Obviously, even on solid body electrics, body construction matters... to varying degrees, but it matters nonetheless.

Old 15th March 2019
  #13
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I figured I'd post this for two reasons. It is a rather fascinating build-from-scratch video and the results are unique and kinda cool (the wood is bloody gorgeous!) , too BUT listen to it when he's done. It sounds very much like a Dan Armstrong - Dull and Lifeless.

Old 15th March 2019
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
A resonant body will vibrate more resulting in a better (not dead) sound.
In many or most cases, yes. But if the wood is resonant in the wrong way, at the wrong frequencies it can eat vibrations making the guitar sound dead and cheap, like the cratewood dimestore guitars of the '60s. Resonance is a two-edged sword.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 15th March 2019 at 09:48 PM..
Old 15th March 2019
  #15
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So many things in an acoustic guitars performance. One thing which is hugely important, is warm up. Guitars open up as you play them. Adirondack spruce in particular. You need to play a bit and the guitars resonance responds differently. This can vary quite a bit. Ovation built their whole schtick on sides and back not really making a difference in tone. It does, and the neck also.

There is some deeply ignorant info out there!.... Two exact "same" guitars from the same builder using the same wood can vary. An acoustic guitar is a marvel of engineering, and how the saddle is crafted, and even the pegs seating the strings can add some/lots of tone/sustain. People don't spend a lot of money for a certain type of wood for cosmetics.....
Old 15th March 2019
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
I figured I'd post this for two reasons. It is a rather fascinating build-from-scratch video and the results are unique and kinda cool (the wood is bloody gorgeous!) , too BUT listen to it when he's done. It sounds very much like a Dan Armstrong - Dull and Lifeless.

Wood that looks good doesn't always sound good. Which is only one of the ways that wood for guitars differs from wood for furniture.

Interesting how he neglected to play the Telecaster full range.....
Old 16th March 2019
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Wood that looks good doesn't always sound good. Which is only one of the ways that wood for guitars differs from wood for furniture.

Interesting how he neglected to play the Telecaster full range.....
Actually if you notice that the bridge and pup is entirely connected to a thick slab of epoxy and that the neck is bolted to that slab of epoxy it isn't hard to understand how the main vibrating "moment arm" has been rendered basically null and void, just like the Dan Armstrong guitar. It probably sustains very nicely but sounds as dead as a fat slab of plastic, since that's effectively what it is. I'd love to hear the difference had he made the entire body from that maple. I'd bet real money it would've been rich and lively, with extended lows and mildly increased highs but a unique midrange as compared to a stock Tele with parallel top and back and softer wood.

Conversely maple back and sides acoustics tend to be very bright as compared to mahogany or rosewood since in acoustics the wood is the "transducer" determining what gets acoustically/mechanically amplified. A Maple top acoustic guitar (perish the thought) would be very quiet.
Old 17th March 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
In many or most cases, yes. But if the wood is resonant in the wrong way, at the wrong frequencies it can eat vibrations making the guitar sound dead and cheap, like the cratewood dimestore guitars of the '60s. Resonance is a two-edged sword.
True. That's why we have TONE-WOODS. Wood of a certain density, structure....
Guitar construction matters too - we have plywood electrics (ES335.., Danelectros, Valcos) which are very popular
Old 17th March 2019
  #19
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Yeah - no, this test doesn't work. It can't, unless you have a robot strum the guitar, to ensure each strum is identical. Here, they aren't. Take a listen to the first two exs, which I edited for time, but made no other changes to:

(see below)

Is there a diff? Sure there is. And I am not talking about the speed. There is a definitive difference in tone - but that's because he strummed differently. I can get that much of a difference from two strums on one guitar if I try.

I appreciate his efforts, but he has gone about the testing process in the wrong way.

Cheers.
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Old 17th March 2019
  #20
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Seems like some new guitars are made to be seen and not heard. : )



Best,

audioforce
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Old 17th March 2019
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Yeah - no, this test doesn't work. It can't, unless you have a robot strum the guitar, to ensure each strum is identical. Here, they aren't. Take a listen to the first two exs, which I edited for time, but made no other changes to:

(see below)

Is there a diff? Sure there is. And I am not talking about the speed. There is a definitive difference in tone - but that's because he strummed differently. I can get that much of a difference from two strums on one guitar if I try.

I appreciate his efforts, but he has gone about the testing process in the wrong way.

Cheers.
Yep!

Most of the "tests" of this sort on the internment don't work because the tester hasn't thought out all the conditions and variables that must be taken into account.
Old 19th March 2019
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioforce View Post
Seems like some new guitars are made to be seen and not heard. : )
I think that this is the Warmoth market. They'll give you neck side markers made of moon rocks but don't seem to offer hi-visibility oversize white.
Old 19th March 2019
  #23
A beautiful instrument inspires you to pick it up and play it
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Old 19th March 2019
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
A beautiful instrument inspires you to pick it up and play it
And if it sounds good, too, then you keep playing. Otherwise, not so much, I guess. : )



Best,


audioforce
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Old 19th March 2019
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lame pseudonym View Post
I think that this is the Warmoth market. They'll give you neck side markers made of moon rocks but don't seem to offer hi-visibility oversize white.
Who does? That doesn't seem to be a priority for any of the parts makers. I've learned to use the side dots a lot more than the face inlays - mostly from my Hamer Chaparral, with those stoopid boomerang inlays that go ACROSS the frets, and my classical and Parkers that have NO fingerboard inlay, only side dots.

I actually prefer no inlays, except maybe something decorative at the 12th fret, using the side dots exclusively when I need a hint as to where I'm at. I'm not sure what, other than LEDs (which I don't want on my guitar), the most visible side marker would be. I've thought about zirconium, pearl, Luminlay, big-ass white dots, etc.
Old 20th March 2019
  #26
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Fretboard inlays are useful if you're standing in front of your guitar but most of the time I'm standing behind it.
Old 20th March 2019
  #27
Yes, you only really need them if you are teaching someone else, as a visual aid. I hate them. Only ever want side markers on my guitars.
Old 20th March 2019
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Yes, you only really need them if you are teaching someone else, as a visual aid. I hate them. Only ever want side markers on my guitars.
Well, as long as we get big-ass white dots, I guess they can go on the side or the front. They're still big-ass white dots adorning my guitar, and that's what counts.



Best,


audioforce
Old 22nd March 2019
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdme_sadie View Post

As John said, there are maybe some subtle differences. Nothing outstanding.
Maybe not as outstanding as scale length, but body wood has arguably as much impact on sound as pickups. It pretty easy to spot a guitar made out of mahogany vs maple if all other attributes are equal. There are so many factors wood is just one of them.
Old 22nd March 2019
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
Maybe not as outstanding as scale length, but body wood has arguably as much impact on sound as pickups. It pretty easy to spot a guitar made out of mahogany vs maple if all other attributes are equal. There are so many factors wood is just one of them.
That's literally what the video demonstrated. Everything else was equal. It's no-where near the difference that pickups make. I remain with Les Paul on this, the whole point of a solid body guitar is to deaden resonance (and along with it acoustic feedback, so you can play loud). I'm currently convinced that you will have far more different between different neck materials perhaps, but more honestly more difference between different construction techniques than different body materials.

However if anyone is able to prove that there's as big of a difference between body woods as between various different pickups when everything else is equal, I'd love to see or hear it and be proven wrong.

Unfortunately the only way I can see that being possible is if someone who had two identical bolt on neck guitars with different body woods were able to record then swap the electronics and necks for both before recording again. Personally I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that, but there might be some technically minded person that wants to get to the bottom of this.
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