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satin vs gloss


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  • satin vs gloss

    I'm looking into some guitars, especially Martin.
    It seems like the lower end models come satin finish,
    of gloss top only.

    I've only had all gloss body guitars. So I'm wondering how long satin finish
    guitar would last me.
    I'm assuming over the year of playing, the satin finish woods, especially the back would absorb some sweat and what not, get all shiny only on the area where it touches your body.

    Will satin finish last just as long as gloss finish?

    And how does the gloss sound compare to identical guitar in satin finish?
    What kind of effects does it have to the tone and sound of the guitar?

  • #2
    1) sound is the same
    2) it does get shiny in contact areas
    3) longevity is fine

    I polished my Martin DM with a high quality guitar cleaner and polish. To my surprise, it turned the finish glossy. Took some elbow grease to make it shiny everywhere, but looked quite nice. My son now has that guitar and loves it

    Also, there is a difference in tone between the Martin guitars that are satin and the higher end models. That is not because of the finish but because of differences in construction. For instance, the DM is solid wood only on the top, and it has different bracing, neck joint and neck material than a D28.
    Eor sez: You're only going around once, man. Soon enough, your guitar will be placed in a case, too. put some dings on it first.

    -STFU, unpucker your tight ass, and relax

    -Tartan Who?


    • #3
      The satin finish will not wear off sooner than high gloss finish.
      Essentially, it's the same finish with the makers I am familiar with. Just that one has been buffed out, the other not so.
      Many of us have buffed out the satin finish on our guitars and end up with a satin-gloss or semi-gloss effect. Doesn't take too long. Not too tough to get pretty satisfactory results.


      • #4
        Satin finish is a cost cutting production step on price point guitars - Taylor does it on the 3xx and 4xx, Martin on the 15's, Larrivee on, what, the 03's. It means they can hide slight cosmetic flaws in the wood and it requires much less labor (pore filling, sanding, buffing). It is a trade off, but I don't think an unreasonable one.

        Usually the finish is about the same thicknes (gloss finishes are layed on a little thicker, but the color sanding and buffing removes some). It is often the same material as gloss, altho I have also heard that sometimes there is a "dulling" agent added. I can promise that it is as durable as gloss finish, some might say moreso because it doesn't show scratches.

        A few players like it because they say it makes less noise which can be picked up by a mic. Many of us have polished their satin guitars to what I would call "semi-gloss". Ironically, the one place people actually want a satin finish, the back of the neck, will gloss itself from hours of play.

        I would not let a satin finish deter me from a guitar that I otherwise liked

        by the way, Peterpan, welcome to HCAG


        • Tacenda
          Tacenda commented
          Editing a comment
          Hi I'm bout to get a all satin guitar . I would like to polish it sides and backs to gloss or high gloss and leave the top satin. Is it possible to polished it to high gloss and how much will it cost ? AJ-500M to be done on btw

      • #5
        Everyone else has pretty much got it covered...it's purely cosmetic. But one thing to mention with satin finishes is that they will not protect a softer wood like cedar as well as a gloss finish does.

        I have a Seagull Folk that is scarred up like a alley cat. But I don't mind.
        "The wisest man I ever knew taught me something I never forgot. And although I never forgot it, I never quite memorized it either. So what I'm left with is the memory of having learned something very wise that I can't quite remember." -- George Carlin

        --Member of The Reasonable Fellers Union, established 7/20/04--

        Be kind.


        • #6
          I have both, and don't give a darn one way or the other.
          You have the right to free speech, as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it. -- Joe Strummer


          • #7
            Martin GT16 . six years old. gloss top. satin back and sides.
            still gorgeous. the finish is not a problem.


            • #8

              And how does the gloss sound compare to identical guitar in satin finish?
              What kind of effects does it have to the tone and sound of the guitar?

              There is much argument about this, but I'm firmly in the camp that they sound the same. I just prefer the look and feel of the satin finish, but if my Epiphone Masterbilt EF-500r came with a glossy finish, I still would have bought it because I love the sound.



              • #9
                remember, the inside of the guitar is unfinished. a lot of sound and tone comes from in there.


                • #10
                  Here's a link to a couple of pics that I put up for someone asking a similar question...


                  The other guy was particularly interested in the neck, but the pic doesn't really show anything. The spot on the top is quite obvious, though.

                  The guitar is a Martin DC-15E with a satin finish. About a year and a half old now. I think the shine is more of an issue with oils on your skin rather than sweat, but that's really irrelevant. The bottom line is that it will get a shine in spots where you touch it, regardless of how religious you are about wiping it down when you're done playing (ask me how I know).

                  It used to bug me, but I got over it. Actually I kind of dig it now. Mojo and what-not.

                  Stop anthropomorphizing things. They don't like it.

                  StewMac Ukulele
                  StewMac 000-R

                  SAWG Society


                  • #11
                    I usually prefer a gloss finish for purely personal aesthetic reasons. But I've played enough gloss and satin finish guitars to know that one can sound just as great, or as bad, as the other.
                    Last edited by Fred Fartboski : Today at...


                    • #12
                      i have to utter a small prayer before I say this...

                      I'm sorry Freeman, but I don't absolutely agree with you (ducks and runs away).

                      An other than gloss finish is only a price point issue in relation to guitars in a certain price point i.e., all other things being equal.

                      In absolute terms of which finish enables the production of the ultimate sound I believe that the situation is rather more complex, with factors including timber choice, proportion of organic materials, style of playing of end user etc. having major weight.

                      Ultimately, to encapsulate the debate in terms that I can understand, I am inclined to run with the "It's all a matter of taste , as the man said when he kissed the cow" maxim.

                      Backs away genuflecting imho fwiw ymmv etc
                      Please give me talent and patience - lots and soon.

                      HCAG Civil Posters Society Charter Member 005. Ignoring yer man permanently.


                      • #13
                        What I am trying to say is that at a certain price point each manufacturer has to juggle a whole lot of things - lets say you are building in the old US of A (so you have certain labor contraints) and you want to hit, lets say the $700 to 1000 market. You are balancing sound, appearance, and a whole lot of things - if you make the back and sides solid do you move down one level in the tuners? If you use a laminated fretboard maybe you can make the rosette a little fancier. If you use a decal on the headstock maybe you can make the nut out of bone. If you don't polish the finish maybe you can use rosewood instead of ovangkol. Is a three piece neck as good as one? What if you use "select" hardwood instead of mahogany? Do you take the time to ream and fit the bridge pins or do you let a cnc mill just punch the holes? Do you include a case? If so how nice? Coated strings?....

                        The actual effect of finish on sound are debated a lot, but it does seem like the thicker it is the more it will deaden it. Some glossy finishes today are really thick - I recently saw a $900 Carvin that looked like it was covered by a sheet of glass. It sounds pretty good plugged - personally I thought it was rather,er, lackluster unplugged. But here is a shinny guitar (with a bunch of pearl trim and built in electronics) but it has a plywood back and sides and doesn't sound as good as my $100 Yamaha.

                        A shiny guitar with a thin finish is a lot of work to make. My home made ones have 18 coats on the top and 24 or more on the back. It takes me a month to finish by the time I do all the sanding and buffing. They look and sound OK, at least for a guy working in his garage but there are as many hours in finishing as building.

                        My point is that somewhere around $1K for US built guitar you start to see the shift from satin to gloss, yet on many overseas built gits it is at 300 or so. Most builders think the best finishes are the hand applied shellac dissolved in alchohol called French Polishing - OMG is it labor intense. Martin now has robots doing their buffing on the mid priced gits (still by hand on the premium ones), but an industrial robot can set you back a million bucks.

                        It is all a trade off. Personally I don't like satin finishes but if it means the difference between solid wood or laminate, give me satin. I think some of these are the best bang for the buck gits today - the 15 and 17 Martins, the 03 Larrys, my 314 Taylor.

                        Wow, that was sure rambling - sorry. Did it make any sense?


                        • #14
                          Yup, I can understand your take on this. I think it is simply that you have a perspective developed from the guitars you've experienced and I from mine. Proper and healthy sez I.

                          I rather suspect, however, that we would both agree that a great horse is never a bad colour...
                          Please give me talent and patience - lots and soon.

                          HCAG Civil Posters Society Charter Member 005. Ignoring yer man permanently.


                          • #15
                            Technical and tonal debates aside, I'm simply too lazy to buff fingerprints and smudges off a gloss finish every time I play. Satin for me. But yes, I do wipe down with a soft, microfiber cloth after each use. I'm not that lazy.
                            Two years in remission - Yay! Damn, it's good to be alive!!