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Aged timber tone

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by aussie_gear_maestro, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. cutaway

    cutaway Supporting Member

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    No such thing as identical. Otherwise, every old Strat would sound close to the same as would new ones. We all know that's not true.
     
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  2. rollyfoster

    rollyfoster Supporting Member

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    I've heard a lot of ****** old guitars and a lot of ****** new guitars. Age is no guarantee of quality.
     
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  3. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    Yes, but given the reasonable variation range for a particular type of guitar, if old was no better than new, we'd expect the new guitar to sound better than the old one half the time. But that doesn't seem to be the case in general, and it's certainly not the case for me.

    And before you say "Yeah, but they built them better, better woods, blah blah blah", is that true of every manufacturer? Are there no companies that have ever learned to build better guitars over time? Nobody whose new manufacture is superior to their well-loved vintage classics? Because the experience of aging seems to cut across manufacturers. And it seems to hold true for manufacturers that have never gone through a sad middle-period cheapening, like Fender/Gibson/Martin did back in the '70s.

    And the structure of wood alters as it ages. We know this. It dries and changes texture. If that doesn't affect tone, then wood really wouldn't matter, would it? All wood would sound equal, and the sound of better guitars couldn't be explained by better quality woods.
     
  4. cutaway

    cutaway Supporting Member

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    Well, and the other thing: dudes who listen to old recordings of these Strats and Les Pauls, going on and on about that tone. Those guitars weren't that old on those recordings. In 1975 a 1958 LP was only 17 years old. So by that logic, a 2002 LP must sound heavenly now.
     
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  5. Raygun Gothic

    Raygun Gothic Member

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    Also:

    1. Isn't there a possibility that you have a better amp that you did 16 years ago?
    2. Are your pedals better quality?
    3. Are you maybe better at dialing in said amp and pedals now than then?
     
  6. rollyfoster

    rollyfoster Supporting Member

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    Wood is just a part of a larger puzzle that includes electronics, hardware, amplification, recording methods, etc. It's already undergone most of its physical changes by the time it's cut and becomes a guitar.

    How many incredible 335s have you heard? They're basically plywood.

    What about all that shellac'd on finish most guitars have? The wood is wrapped in a coffin.

    Old can be better than new. New can be better than old. Old can be better than old. New can be better than new.

    If you get into companies like Suhr and Collings who really pay attention to the details then those gaps close exponentially.
     
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  7. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    Hence my observation from the start, that this is much more audible with acoustic guitars than electric guitars. Acoustics are much more dependent on wood quality, and it seems reasonable they're more sensitive to aging. They also have large unfinished surfaces (the interior) to let the wood "breathe" and interact more with the atmosphere, and the wood itself vibrates a lot more when played.

    fwiw, I've been playing the same ply-top acoustic guitar regularly for 30 years now - it was about 5 or 6 years old when it came to me. Its tone has changed very little over the years, although I've changed a lot. It did, however, go through its own "awkward phase" in the past decade that lasted several years. Now it's bounced back and I think it sounds better than it did before.
     
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  8. teleluvver

    teleluvver Supporting Member

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    I believe that wood matters, but it's one contributor in several factors that "matter". If all guitars get better with age, then all vintage guitars should be superior to anything new. The problem with that is that I've played some vintage guitars that were just not good, and some new ones that were killer. There is variation among wood, and thus guitars, but I feel like if its a good guitar to begin with, then it always will be. An un-inspiring guitar will not age into a great guitar.
     
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  9. rollyfoster

    rollyfoster Supporting Member

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    I agree. An acoustic is essentially a speaker so the top will definitely undergo some physical changes as it's played more and the top takes on vibrations and string tension.
     
  10. MisterBoh

    MisterBoh Member

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    I feel like I have an acoustic that has changed over 7 or 8 years. Could be it changing or could be me being a better player or hearing changes. Not sure. It seems different to me and I use the same string brand and pick.
     
  11. Voxshall

    Voxshall Member

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    For me the certain aspect of sound differences in old guitars to new guitars is separate from the overall quality of the guitar. That certain aspect is a sound that isn't as tight and hard that older electrics have over new ones.
     
  12. KiwiRocker

    KiwiRocker Member

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    My '91 strat sounds so much better to me now than it did when new - I'm the only owner. More sustain and much better tone.

    I attribute this to my personal playing development over those years - learning how to get the best out of it.

    The guitar itself basically feels exactly the same now as it did back then - according to my memory at least.
     
  13. dwoverdrive

    dwoverdrive Supporting Member

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    I think guitars can sound different 20 years down the road but its because pickups get dirty, coils loosen, caps drift in value, etc. Not sure I buy the old wood thing. Maybe. Old guitars have a thing happening thats hard to explain. Maybe it's the old methods. There is really no way to know for sure without extensively testing the same instrument over time i guess.
     
  14. Ps28

    Ps28 Member

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    Calm down mate. It's gonna be ok.
     
  15. aussie_gear_maestro

    aussie_gear_maestro Member

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  16. grumphh

    grumphh Member

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    On the internet it is a natural law that tone changes over time can only ever be for the better.
     
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  17. dazco

    dazco Member

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    Absolutey. I have had new guitars that were not great but became great. It seems like it takes about 8 years minimum before i notice it. This is why i generally don't like to buy new and look for one thats a good 10 years old. Especially now at my age. But i do buy newer at times depending on various factors. I'll give u 2 example tho i have seen many more. These are the most amazing ones. I had a late 90's MI classic 50s that was one of the first ones made. Beautiful wood, but i got it home and before long i was just so disappointed in the tone it went in the closet and i was going to sell it. But I really hate the process of selling guitars and i gave u after a time because i got no bites and I simply never got around to it again and it just sat in the closet for 7 or 8 years. One day i pulled it out and lugging in and was surprised to find it sounded quite good. No mistaking it. The other one was an acoustic and it was a radical change. Same scenario...stored for about the same amount of time tho this wasn't mine. I had these friends i used to jam with for years on acoustics and one of them bought a new guild. We'd sit around with about 5 acoustics and pick which one we wanted to play and would trade off and we went along. No one ever wanted to play the guild. It just sounded dull and lifeless. He threw it in the case soon after we decided it sucked and it went under his bed and stayed there for 7 or 8 years. Then one day after it had not been touched for all that time we pulled it out for the first time since it was stored away and we all loved the thing. Sounded great.

    So for many years i went along finding most new guitars i would buy sounded "green" to me and when i bought used and 7 or 8 years old or more i rarely had that issue. For whatever reason however, in recent times i notice this much less. I don't know if they have found better ways to age the wood or what. But even with a lot of cheaper guitars they sound good new. Not all tho. Some of them still do but in general this seems to have changed for the better and i don't know why. Anyways, this is IMO the one reason vintage guitars are at times said to sound magical. Not all do and a lousy sounding piece of wood will sound lousy even after decades, and a good example of that are old gibson acoustics. You can play 10 of em and probably more then 1/2 will be uninspiring while 2 or 3 will be amazing.
     
  18. cutaway

    cutaway Supporting Member

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    It’s funny though, it’s the ‘things were better before’ crowd who insists that
     
  19. grumphh

    grumphh Member

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    Don't even try to be rational about this. That sort of misguided approach to the mysteries of tone will get you nowhere...

    ...have faith, brother. Faith is the way to enlightenment TGP style.
     
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  20. bobcs71

    bobcs71 Member

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    I thought my peavey guitar & bandit sounded awesome. Home videos show they did not!
     
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