Bolt on vs. set neck on same guitar- tonal difference?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by freedom's door, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. freedom's door

    freedom's door Supporting Member

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    If i were having an LP style guitar being built, what would the tonal difference be between it being bolt on vs. set neck, all other things being equal?
     
  2. stormin1155

    stormin1155 Member

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    Very little if any. But a bolt LP style just doesn't look right IMO. Also, set necks aren't THAT much harder to build than bolt on. I've done both. If I were going through the effort and expense of building one, I'd stick with a set neck.
     
  3. bismark

    bismark Member

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    Sustain. A set-neck usually has more of that.

    But a poorly built set-neck would not give you much sustain, as compared to a well built bolt-on.
     
  4. freedom's door

    freedom's door Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the replies- appreciated.
     
  5. samtay6

    samtay6 Member

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    I like what Paul Reed Smith said about set neck v. bolt-on.

    I don't remember the exact wording but the gist of it was, if the next time you take off your Strat neck you put some super glue on the heel and bolted it back up, would it sound any different? I really can't see how it would.

    I think the differences would be so negligible, it would really be impossible to isolate the difference to the neck construction.
     
  6. galibier_un

    galibier_un Supporting Member

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    There are some who would contest this sustain superiority of set necks as being mythology. I can't say for sure.

    At one point, I was able to find the source document from the Guild of American Luthiers on the topic. The best I could turn up was a reference to it in this thread:

    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=361506 (scroll down to David Collins' post).

    Here's the link to the reprint: http://www.luth.org/backissues/al89-92/al91.htm (check out his test rig in the photo).

    Now, as a turntable manufacturer, I can say (and my local luthier has verified its relevance to guitars) that whatever glue you select will enter into the energy transfer equation - it will affect the tone, and you might or might not prefer it.

    So, I'd look at the whole set neck/glue thing as a tuning element. The problem of course is, that you can't continually remove and re-glue (different glues) to find your favorite :eek:

    Also, what's with the shim sitting between the neck plate and the body of my Suhr Tele? Of course, I can see where it would protect the finish, but I wonder its effect on tone. I hate to mar the finish by removing it to hear the difference. It's located in a seemingly innocuous position, but in my analog experiments with turntables, I've found that a similar shim at the cartridge mount (to the headshell) has had fairly dramatic tonal effects).

    Cheers,
    Thom
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  7. gtraddict

    gtraddict Member

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    I had an Ibanez Les Paul from the 70's that was a bolt on neck, it performed and sounded more like a run-of-the-mill set neck Les Paul than a lot of other companies put out
     
  8. overunderdrive

    overunderdrive Senior Member

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    I think there is more too it than that.

    When you think about it, screws are actually exerting a pulling force in both directions, so assuming the two pieces of wood being screwed together are unfinished and perfectly flat, there will be both better wood/wood contact and a more solid adhesion with screws.
     
  9. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    I'm thinking a set neck would have a little more sustain. Because it's held together by glue as opposed to four wood screws. But a bolt on is great for tweaking the neck angle and action.
     
  10. galibier_un

    galibier_un Supporting Member

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    Without having the tools to validate the experiment published by the Luthhier's Guild, I would argue in agreement with them. All of my experimentation with vibration transmission in turntable design has had very strong parallels with what we see in guitars.

    A glue layer is essentially a lossy layer which would have a damping effect, and kill sustain. People underestimate the strength of mechanical bonding. I've had discussions with aerospace engineers - an industry which pioneered the use of high tech adhesives. They're still using high-tech composites (the big a$$ carbon fiber plane Boeing is working on), but are coming to the conclusion that there is a place for mechanical fastening.

    There are certainly other reasons why someone would want a set neck - from aesthetics, to upper fret access.

    Cheers,
    Thom
     
  11. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    When you're playing an old, bolt-on Ibanez les paul copy, you can't tell the difference between it and a set neck. You can't hear the difference. And the audience (if there's one) won't be able to tell the difference. The only difference is in your MIND.
     
  12. Flogger59

    Flogger59 Member

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    I had the opportunity at least 25 years ago to compare two Spector basses (US ones) that were identical except one was a bolt neck and the other was set. On those two basses the set neck had more mids and was better for lines, while the bolt neck was the scooped mid slap king.
     
  13. dazco

    dazco Member

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    to me the sustain on set necks is very different. Much more to be exact. In fact, i have a fender scale length set neck and it sustains unlike any strat i've ever played. The difference is NOT SUBTLE, and thats an understatement.
    But that said, i also think the LACK of sustain on a strat is also a good thing. they both have thier place, but IMO too much sustain takes away some of that acoustic organic quality fenders have.
     
  14. freedom's door

    freedom's door Supporting Member

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    So the consensus seems to be that other than maybe some sustain difference, the method of joining the neck has no affect on tone.
    Thanks everyone, for the input.
     

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