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blazar

Differences between Nato & Mahogany

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Trust me, Mr. luthier, after 10 years of bias controlled listening tests I know exactly what I'm talking about but I'm not going to overcome common belief systems. OK, I'll get out of this thread. My input is obviously not popular. Take care.

 

Your input is always more than welcome, but isn't it common courtesy for professionals to listen to what colleagues from other specialist fields have to say? I've certainly read your views and impressions and yet you decry facts concerning guitars as they're laid out for you by specialist professionals.

 

Trust me MR Audiologist? Audio Technician? Sound Technician/Engineer? (There has to be a professional title for a bias controlled listening tester) I know what I'm talking about when it comes to luthiery and listening to the before and after results after 30+yrs building musical instruments professionally and 38+yrs playing the things. ;)

 

Acoustic instruments aren't solid state, or valve driven audio devices and are almost as organic as acoustic sound production devices come.

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Please, people. I didn't say I had any expertise at luthiery. I didn't say that input from a luthier wasn't valuable. All I said was that, contrary to what someone said, I do know what I'm talking about because I have done 10 years of testing and I know how bias ridden human hearing is. It is really amazing, actually. I meant nothing as a personal attack. Everyone's hearing is bias ridden - including mine. The responses I'm getting I've heard before hundreds of times. They don't move me. Sorry. Been there done that. If someone wants a demonstration of how bias ridden human hearing is, just drop by. I would be happy to provide one. I'll buy the beer and you can play my instruments.

 

I didn't say guitars all sound the same. I didn't say the elements that make up a guitar aren't important or all sound the same. What I said is that I read a lot things that I interpret as deriving from bias and preference rather than whatever the writer has ascribed to it.

 

The reason I interpret them in such a way is that there is little logic to it and, since there is little logic to it, someone ought to test these things to see what really is and isn't important. I feel pretty comfortable in the knowledge that country of origin has a lot less to do with sound quality than it does with price. I'm open to a demonstration but I haven't seen or heard one yet.

 

Guitar A sounds different from guitar B. I don't have any problem with that. Guitar A sounds different from guitar B because of the material from which the sides are made or because of the bridge pins in use. Now I have a problem. That's guess work. Why do I say that? Because it is illogical and hasn't been tested. It's opinion and bias. I don't mind it. I'm just pointing it out. You shouldn't mind my pointing it out.

 

 

Opinions vary all over the board. Why not nail it down? I would think a large manufacturer would have the facility to do it but it has never been done probably because nobody has been motivated to do it. Obviously, I'm not going to motivate anybody to do it either. Apparently nobody but me cares about it.

 

I'm not trying to criticize anybody. I'm just providing some input based on my experience. I think everyone else is doing the same thing. My experience, however, is less popular than that of others. I can live with it. Like I said, been there done that. Let's go play a tune and stop this argument.

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I guess the bottom line of all of this is that all that testing has taught me that I can't trust my ears when it comes to subtle audible differences and neither can anyone else. Gross audible differences aren't a problem. Subtle ones and non existent ones are often nothing but bias. Why would a musical instrument be any different than a D/A converter in that respect? Why would the organic nature of the product make bias disappear for subtle audible differences? There is certainly no evidence of that anywhere.

 

Don't take this as a slam against your craft. It isn't. I can appreciate fine craftsmanship and fine musical instruments as well as the next guy. Don't take it as a slam against your hearing. It isn't. It is simply some information that I believe and understand firmly because I have tested it to death.

 

I've seen beliefs that are held by 90% of a group of people be dead wrong when put to the test. Many, many times. And I didn't say anyone was dead wrong. I just said I'm skeptical because it hasn't been tested in any way that I would consider valid. OK. I'll stop now. Again, sorry.

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Trust me, Mr. luthier, after 10 years of bias controlled listening tests I know exactly what I'm talking about but I'm not going to overcome common belief systems. OK, I'll get out of this thread. My input is obviously not popular. Take care.

I suspect the "issue" here is that you've spent so much time in a scientific lab environment that you can't accept anything that isn't scientifically proven to within .00000001 of a percent. I understand that and don't think less of you for it.

 

But... out in the real world of guitars there's an allowance made for "imperfect thought" and it allows for "non-scientific conclusions". It's your call as to whether you can put a foot into this world without having a brain haemorrhage.

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This again. Where does all this kvetching come from? It's only a guitar. It's not like it's a real musical instrument or anything.

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Please, people. I didn't say I had any expertise at luthiery. I didn't say that input from a luthier wasn't valuable. All I said was that, contrary to what someone said, I do know what I'm talking about because I have done 10 years of testing and I know how bias ridden human hearing is. It is really amazing, actually. I meant nothing as a personal attack. Everyone's hearing is bias ridden - including mine. The responses I'm getting I've heard before hundreds of times. They don't move me. Sorry. Been there done that. If someone wants a demonstration of how bias ridden human hearing is, just drop by. I would be happy to provide one. I'll buy the beer and you can play my instruments.


I didn't say guitars all sound the same. I didn't say the elements that make up a guitar aren't important or all sound the same. What I said is that I read a lot things that I interpret as deriving from bias and preference rather than whatever the writer has ascribed to it.


The reason I interpret them in such a way is that there is little logic to it and, since there is little logic to it, someone ought to test these things to see what really is and isn't important. I feel pretty comfortable in the knowledge that country of origin has a lot less to do with sound quality than it does with price. I'm open to a demonstration but I haven't seen or heard one yet.


Guitar A sounds different from guitar B. I don't have any problem with that. Guitar A sounds different from guitar B because of the material from which the sides are made or because of the bridge pins in use. Now I have a problem. That's guess work. Why do I say that? Because it is illogical and hasn't been tested. It's opinion and bias. I don't mind it. I'm just pointing it out. You shouldn't mind my pointing it out.



Opinions vary all over the board. Why not nail it down? I would think a large manufacturer would have the facility to do it but it has never been done probably because nobody has been motivated to do it. Obviously, I'm not going to motivate anybody to do it either. Apparently nobody but me cares about it.


I'm not trying to criticize anybody. I'm just providing some input based on my experience. I think everyone else is doing the same thing. My experience, however, is less popular than that of others. I can live with it. Like I said, been there done that. Let's go play a tune and stop this argument.

 

Why does a Maple b/s sound different than a Mahogany b/s guitar then, if as you say, the back and sides make no difference? They are materials of different densities.

 

Again, you have no "real world" experience or hands on experience to base any of this on. Believe me, when tonewoods are being tap tuned, and if you can't hear a difference, then it's time to go and make bowling balls. They are facts, not "opinions". I wonder, do you argue with your doctor, about what they hear, when they listen to your heart? :facepalm:

 

I have dedicated most of my life to building guitars, and this is becoming somewhat annoying. The mis-information you are promoting here, only further confuses beginning guitarists.

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We have this argument a lot.

 

I wonder why CF Martin even bothered

to use different B&S woods way back when?

 

I wonder why Stradivari built with Red Maple?

 

B&S may be over-rated as a factor. It might be under-rated sometimes too.

My ears have always been able to distinguish the difference

(without any visual reference) between a Maple B&S guitar

and any other tone wood.

 

I might mistake some other woods though. Likewise, a Cedar

top I can generally pick out by listening instead of looking.

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We have this argument a lot.


I wonder why CF Martin even bothered

to use different B&S woods way back when?


I wonder why Stradivari built with Red Maple?


B&S may be over-rated as a factor. It might be under-rated sometimes too.

My ears have always been able to distinguish the difference

(without any visual reference) between a Maple B&S guitar

and any other tone wood.


I might mistake some other woods though. Likewise, a Cedar

top I can generally pick out by listening instead of looking.

 

Those of us who build guitars for a living, don't argue about this. It's just a fact of life. Those with no experience in this craft, and who don't know what they are talking about, are the only ones who want to "argue".

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I kinda understand the scientific method and it's use to produce or describe a process that can be trusted, proven and repeated. However, when I try to apply it or even a minor part of it to the process/art that I believe luthiers practice I fail the minute they pick up a piece of wood. I believe something like a guitar top that is cut just above or below a previous top from the same plank may differ enough that the custom build luthier never really gets to follow the same exact process from build to build. Each piece is unique enough that the only process that can approach documentation is maybe the order in which you perform certain tasks. Tap tuning I have never even witnessed, beyond having had it described on this forum many times. I assume that when a luthier tunes he is embarking on one of those journeys that differentiates a custom built guitar from the factory assembly line jobs (and yes I understand that some better assembly line guitars exit the line for a little custom work at times).

 

Again, I think you can document the process of tap tuning to a point. But nowhere approaching a scientific control because a human ear is the determining factor about where and how much wood to remove to make the tap at that particular point sound like what you want. This is where 30 years of craft has trained a luthier to tap here, listen, remove a certain amount/size/shape and angle of wood to move the tone they hear into a range they know they can live with.

 

Now even if you could follow a luthier closely enough to document where they tap, have them explain what sound they would like to hear and then somehow put into words where, how and why they would shave wood to change that tone (realizing that any shaving they do would also possibly affect all previous tapped spots), the minute you pick up the next guitar top and you hear a slightly different tone (which my guess is always the case) your previous carefully documented procedure is now nothing more than a rough outline.

 

A guitar is many different pieces that all act in unison to produce a tone. Neck, finger board, top, back, sides, all the inside braces, bridge, saddle nut, pins, tuners, the diverging, converging and parallel angles and actual size and locations of pieces and holes. These pieces are never the same wood even on a guitar with the exact same specs. Density, moisture, weight and grain characteristics of the chosen woods all differ each time the luthier goes to work.

 

So in summary, although some of a guitar build process could be scientifically controlled, the numerous variables involved would change the finished product enough to render the results un-repeatable. This is exactly where a luthier comes in and uses analog skills learned over the long haul to make changes that only they (and maybe sometimes not even they) fully understand to make a musical instrument out of a vibrating box.

 

Guitar creation practiced by a luthier, is an art form where the raw material used and sometimes even the tools required differ every time they sit down to work.

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FMW: "I guess the bottom line of all of this is that all that testing has taught me that I can't trust my ears when it comes to subtle audible differences and neither can anyone else. Gross audible differences aren't a problem. Subtle ones and non existent ones are often nothing but bias. Why would a musical instrument be any different than a D/A converter in that respect? Why would the organic nature of the product make bias disappear for subtle audible differences? There is certainly no evidence of that anywhere."

 

Ah. I get it. Your position is that human hearing cannot be trusted to detect "subtle audible differences".

You may have a point there. But the difference between a Maple B&S guitar and any other tone wood I've heard is not a

subtle audible difference. It's what you might call a "gross audible difference". It's apparent without visual confirmation.

 

Yeah, I suppose a Maple B&S guitar could be modified or screwed up to such an extent by other factors,

that it no longer sounds like a Maple B&S guitar. But I haven't heard a guitar like that yet.

That's probably because (1) luthiers want Maple to sound like Maple and (2) screwed up guitars

tend not to make it very far into a very competitive market.

 

The difference between other tone woods may be more subtle. And the influence of B&S tone woods may be over-

estimated by some. To my ears though, there is one tone wood that has a very distinct sound - Maple.

People either like it or they don't. But it's definitely something they can hear.

 

But I'm just speaking from my experience. I'm not a luthier and I'm not a scientist.

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The last time science was applied to guitar building was in the 70's with Gibson's Mark Series. I own one, and it is not impressive at all. The series was a flop. Sometimes you cant replace an ear with an oscilloscope. I work for a company that manufactures amplifiers. After all of the lab development the bottom line is how it sounds.

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Here is a small-scale controlled experiment by a luthier. It's very interesting reading.

 

He made two experiments with three guitars he constructed of identical

design except for B&S tonewood (in one case) and bracing in one case.

Thus, 3 guitars, 2 different B&S tonewoods, 2 different kinds of bracing.

 

"
The second experimental setting had a rather more elaborate agenda and involved three guitars, again all made by me. However, the protocol actually constituted two separate experiments. One was designed to compare the effects of backs made of Brazilian rosewood and Indian rosewood. The second test was designed to compare two different soundboard bracing patterns: Pattern A, which I have used on all my guitars virtually unchanged for several years, and Pattern B, which is a modification of pattern A.


Experiment 2: If wood density and thickness are held constant, backs of Brazilian and Indian rosewood will produce the same tone results; guitars 165 and 166 compared.


Experiment 3: Bracing B will produce a tone which is "darker" and "mellower" than Pattern A; guitars 164 and 165 compared."

 

Guitar 164 Brazilian Rosewood/Cedar top - Bracing pattern "B"

 

Guitar 165 Brazilian Rosewood/Cedar top - Bracing pattern "A"

 

Guitar 166 Indian Rosewood/Cedar top - Bracing pattern "A"

 

(emphasis added): "
In Experiment 2 listeners were in unanimous agreement that 165 and 166 had a different timbre,
and there was consensus that 165 was slightly warmer/darker than 166, although no one thought 166 was a notably bright guitar. Two of the listeners thought 166 sounded slightly louder; no one thought 165 was louder.


In Experiment 3 listeners were unanimous that there was a small difference in timbre, but no difference in apparent loudness, between 164 and 165. However, there was no consensus that terms like "dark" or "bright" described the difference, and no other suggested metaphors attracted a consensus. Opinion was also divided on which instrument listeners "liked better" on a global, subjective basis."

 

This was a small-scale experiment. And comparing Brazilian Rosewood and Indian Rosewood might yield "subtle audible differences".

But listeners in this experiment were unanimous that the guitars sounded different, where the B&S wood were the only variable.

 

Same luthier. Identical bracing. Same tops. Same design. Listeners agreed that BRW & IR B&S tone woods had different timbres.

And this defied the luthiers hypothesis, BTW. He thought that BRW & IR would yield the same tone in otherwise identical guitars.

 

With Maple I suggest, the results would have been even more stark. But it's hard to get more stark than unanimous.

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The last time science was applied to guitar building was in the 70's with Gibson's Mark Series. I own one, and it is not impressive at all. The series was a flop. Sometimes you cant replace an ear with an oscilloscope. I work for a company that manufactures amplifiers. After all of the lab development the bottom line is how it sounds.

 

Amen bro'

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I'm gonna challenge that....With no disrespect....a good song is a good song just like a good sounding guitar isn't always an expensive one...the ear likes what the ear likes...the intro to Led Zeppelin''s "Babe I'm leaving you" was played on a Yamaha acoustic, the solo to "Stairway to Heaven" was played on you'll never guess, a Danalectro guitar. Go back and listen to that solo and in my estimation, that's the last guitar I would pick but amazing sound on that solo and everything else. Sound is everything, it doesn't matter how you get it, you just get it (aka...the 70's) unfortunately or fortunately we have amazing computers and recording programs and now you don't have to do nearly half the work, I think it takes away some of the natural creativity people have in their own being, but everybody's gonna have to embrace this and keep trying to make great music in spite of this so called progress. Ability? (YES!) Progress? (Not necessarily convinced) I actually believe it's fundamental to learn how to play things you want to play and do things you want to do, it helps you in life to know you accomplished something you set out to do with some real effort towards your goal.

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There's so many things that can affect tone....

I have a yamaha FG700-s.  Sounds better then a lot of Martins and Taylors when match the strings and compare.

Problem is the frets and fingerboard can make a huge difference.  The low E on the yamaha was weak....I thought it was the bracing.  Until I refretted the guitar.

Now it booms.  On the cheap nato guitar the fretwork is usually lacking.  It can screw up your comparison.

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