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Can we talk about cryogenic treatment for guitars?

edgie

Member
Messages
1,922
Hi guys! I’m made this thread for those guys who have experience owning/playing cryogenically-treated guitars. I’m hoping this would be a great place to talk about this. I tried to research on it here(found one thread in another section) and other sites but most of the negative comments are just some people being snarky without having any direct experience on the matter. Most of the positive comments are from known tonehounds(who happen to be great pro players too) and manufacturers.

I have also seen the article from Premiere Guitar where the writer whos is a bassist states he did not feel there’s a diff. In another Google result is a study paper on treating brass instruments and their result is still inconclusive even with the charts and all(although the title says no diff)

I’m intrigued because it is an option in Frank Deimel’s guitars and I’m planning to have a Firestar build with him in a month or two. The buyer has an option to have only the electronics and hardware or the whole guitar to be treated. In our email exchanges, I asked his permission to print his take on it and he gave the green light:
“The cryogenic treatment has a positive effect on woods and metals. On woods the even tiniest rest of moisture gets vaporized, so the wood cells themselves seem to become even more hollow. This mostly has to do with the fact, that the treatment dries out material in a very effective way, (minus 195,8 degrees). The metals are affected on a molecular basis, as the molecular structure of any metal ( copper in the pickups, solder joints, wire, magnets, steel, brass, etc in hardware) gets rearranged. The overall effect on the playing feel is very noticeable: Every note is much clearer, open in all frequencies, and a bit faster. The result is comparable to a very well played in guitar, of old age.”

From the email after that:
“I think, all those treatments help a lot, to achieve a remarkable instrument at the moment of purchase, but will not replace to play on them, as still this is a factor which makes good guitars great guitars, and especially your personal guitar. I strongly believe in the theory of material getting accustomed to its use. The treatments are helping to get there earlier.”

I happen to own treated guitars(3 Ruokangases) but of course, their method is on the opposite way of doing it which is thermo treatment. These thermo treatment is inclusive in all their guitars and some wood like ash cannot take it hence no ash Ruokangas Mojos. It also aims to give that broken-in feel and more stability of wood but for this, players and now other builders/manufacturers don’t seem to have problems accepting it.

Two of those guitars are now 5 and 4 years old and I only adjusted the truss rods(small 1/8-1/4 turn) once every two years. I stay in a tropical country and quite near the beach so humidity is quite punishing but these guitars held up to the climate and room airconditioning.

So that’s all for now, hoping to hear your take on a fascinating but controversial topic.
 
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Jazzandmore

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,768
You have 3 of Juha’s beauties?! You know you better throw down some pics brother! :D

I’ve got a Mojo myself.

Oops sorry to derail thread (not really as I want to see your Ruokangas’). ;)
 

jads57

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,309
As far as wood it definitely helps on all the different brands of guitars that offer this treatment. And very noticible on a Gibson J-200 I tried in the Gibson Truck a year back or so.
 

edgie

Member
Messages
1,922
You have 3 of Juha’s beauties?! You know you better throw down some pics brother! :D

I’ve got a Mojo myself.

Oops sorry to derail thread (not really as I want to see your Ruokangas’). ;)

I’m not sure if it’s still in the Ruokangas appreciation thread because it’s in Photobucket and we all know about their new policy, etc. So I have to open an Imgur account. I’ll see if PM’ing you the pics would work too. :)
 

edgie

Member
Messages
1,922
As far as wood it definitely helps on all the different brands of guitars that offer this treatment. And very noticible on a Gibson J-200 I tried in the Gibson Truck a year back or so.

That’s some of the positive effect posts I’ve seen. Some players claimed they tried some Gibsons with treated frets and they liked the sound and feel but they didn’t articulate further.
 

'59_Standard

Member
Messages
541
When it comes to sound I'd like to see/hear a valid scientific study and not peoples opinions. People don't all hear things the same way so its most always subjective. The same amp can sound different on different days - to someone ears. My minds always open, though.
 

mrwolf

Member
Messages
348
Cryogenic treatment of wood ?
Are we talking about the trend for Roasted woods or the freezing process ?
I can't believe freezing wood has the same benefits as roasting.
Cryogenically treating pots and "solder joints" is snake oil as far as I'm concerned because there is absolutely no reason the treatment would have a noticable effect. Few can even tell the difference between a 470k and a 520k volume pot.
 

edgie

Member
Messages
1,922
When it comes to sound I'd like to see/hear a valid scientific study and not peoples opinions. People don't all hear things the same way so its most always subjective. The same amp can sound different on different days - to someone ears. My minds always open, though.

That's what a lot of people said in other forums too. They want to see a controlled environment for scientific study on its effects on sound and so far none has done it on guitars AFAIK. There's doubt because there are very few people known to have tried it and some positive statements are from companies offering the service. But like you, I'd like to approach it with an open mind. I hope someone will document a test of this with data from the same amp, room, recording gear settings,etc. I read the process takes up about 2 hours only if I'm not mistaken.

If I'm gonna do it(which will cost about the price of a Squier CV) on a commissioned guitar, I obviously won't have the chance to A/B it against its former state but I think how it compares to my thermo-treated guitars(which worked for me) in terms of stability in the long run and resonance can somehow prove/disprove its effectiveness.

Cryogenic treatment of wood ?
Are we talking about the trend for Roasted woods or the freezing process ?
I can't believe freezing wood has the same benefits as roasting.
Cryogenically treating pots and "solder joints" is snake oil as far as I'm concerned because there is absolutely no reason the treatment would have a noticable effect. Few can even tell the difference between a 470k and a 520k volume pot.

Freezing process. It involves gradually subjecting the guitar and/or electronics to extreme temperatures(about -200 degrees cel) which of course means that it's colder than what's possible with weather. I happen to work in aviation and in constant contact with parts that have been forged/assembled/disassembled using extreme temperatures. I believe these extremes can have permanent effects on a molecular level affecting durability and hardness of those metal parts so I don't see a reason why they can't work with wood. I mean people seem fine with the concept of heat changing wood properties permanently, why not on the opposite end?

Before reading up on this, I only know that there's Callaham cryogenically-treated bridge(which I never heard in any guitar I played) and Dean Markley Cryogenic strings(never tried too), which claim to be tougher and louder than average strings. Apparently, Callaham also offers it in electronics and there are some positive feedback from customers. They also can't articulate why but they like the cryogenic pickup sets they bought from the company. If that's placebo, we can't really tell unless we are in their shoes, I guess.

I hope I'm not sounding rude but that's what I mean why I'd like to bring it here in hopes of getting feedback from those who tried it and how it worked/didn't work for them. I'll be honest, I'm quite puzzled too. I don't know how just using your favorite pots(RS Guitarworks, Bournes, etc.) coupled with good soldering skills can still be improved in terms of sound and feel so I'd like to know more and won't dismiss the concept immediately specially if it comes recommended by an esteemed luthier.
 

willyboy

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,435
If you wanna find out if cryogenic treatment truly has an effect on the electrical properties of audio equipment then google search for actual scientific journals with published studies. And that does not include audio magazine websites or anyone else with an agenda to sell you a product or an idea, which includes your luthier. I think you'll find your unbiased answer there backed up by real data or not, if it even exists. Otherwise you are just falling victim to marketing and hype and spending money that has no benefits whatsoever.
 

Alex_S

Member
Messages
304
I think he probably will do the cryo treatment by George (https://georgeforester.de/Cryo-Tuning). He does this for some years now. I once heard a set of two “identical” guitars at a show from him, one treated and one not. Huge difference. There are also some videos by Oli from Session music in Germany you can watch (in German language but maybe the sound samples help). He is very convinced as well and offering the service from the same guy to their customers. So either he wants to sell or sells because he is convinced. Loads of discussions here in Germany. But I have to agree, that most people who are opposed never tried it and most (all?) who tried it like it. Could still be psychological effects of course. No reliable scientific studies on guitars as far as I know. (I have seen a frequency charts once in some magazine, but that of course was just one instrument and I don’t know if all other parameters have been stable enough)

I have never done that treatment to any of my guitars. I am convinced it impacts sound. I just fear that I could like it better before and it can’t be undone. But maybe one day I will try.

And as your builder says, it seems to have different impacts than playing or vibration treatment. More like pure getting older.

Very interesting topic.
 

Alex_S

Member
Messages
304
One thing I forgot: cryo treatment is a very accepted treatment for metals. From racing sports to medicine. Wood treatment (different molecular structure) seems to be little understood.
 

edgie

Member
Messages
1,922
Thanks for your inputs.

@willyboy - that’s the problem now, the technology is out there for quite some time but until now no one has published a study of it for guitars. So all the info I can gather are from those who tried it.

@Alex_S Can you articulate what differences have you noticed between the two guitars? Did you try them acoustically and/or amplified?
 

Alex_S

Member
Messages
304
Hi Edgie,

I wasn't able to play the guitars myself as they were a demonstration by a player.

And just to explain a little more what happened: George brought two "identical" guitars (strat type) from some no name vendor (I can't remember which "brand" but I also didn't know them). One was cryo tuned, the other untreated. Both were played one after the other by some (great) guitar player through the same setup. Meaning there are some things to consider:

- I didn't hear them before the one was treated, so I don't know how close they were.I assume they sounded close to identical, but I don't actually know for sure.
- As they were both quiet cheap looking, it might be the effect is larger on bad wood than on expensive already well dryed wood. So it might be the cryo tuning effect is "just" more drying to the wood.
- I don't know how much the player had influence on the result. I don't think so, but they knew each other.
- As the whole instrument was treated, I don't know which parts made the most difference (Hardware, wood, pickups, even strings or all)

Why all these disclaimers? Because these cryo threads have an unhealty tendency to go bad sooner or later as a lot of people think it is just voodoo stuff. I don't have the impression that Georg did anything to fool anyone or sell snake oil. Nevertheless the above limitations to me as a "witness" exist.

But enough disclaimer, coming to the answer for your question:

The cryo treated instrument sounded significantly different to my ears. Not like strat vs Paula but still obvious enough that any listener in the room agreed. The cryo tuned guitar had MUCH less harsh high end, fuller mids but also a little less bass. I often read these instruments become more "evened out" or balanced and would wholeheartedly agree to this description. I'd say less harsh is the many difference. Sound like stress would be taken from the instrument and everything is more laid back. I see why people describe it as more "vintage sounding" because I often hear that quality more in old instruments than new ones. So if you are in search of the most aggressive metal axe, it might not be for you. If you like wood and vocal tone qualities it might be worth a try. Overall the demonstration was very convincing to me.

I think most of this also can be heard in some of the videos George has on his page. Not that drastic as in the demonstration I listened to, but still (might be because in the videos the instruments are of better quality and the impact is less or because in the room you hear more details. Don't know)

Hope that helps. Sound differences are always hard to describe (even more in a foreign language)...

Ciao Alex
 

edgie

Member
Messages
1,922
Thanks Alex for the detail! I think your experience confirms that it has the same goal as thermo treatment where the aim is to give the instrument a broken-in guitar sound. Your description of what you heard is pretty much how I would describe a vintage-y tone too. That and being balanced in sound across the strings are the standout characteristics of a good guitar with vintage tone for me.

Just an aside, my Ruokangas guitars aged in sound further after years with me. Warmer but with note detail still intact and spongier in feel. So I think these treatments for guitars help in aging but doesn’t mean it stops there.

I understand about the voodoo stuff perception that’s why people are afraid to discuss and ask about this. No one wants to be “that guy”.

I have yet to check Oli’s vid as I would want to listen to it properly at home. Not sure if I’ll hear the diff given the quality of a youtube vid but I’ll still check it out.

Cheers!
 

Alex_S

Member
Messages
304
You are welcome. George says that there are two separate effects: one is the aging of wood, which he try’s to simulate by the cryo treatment. The other comes from constant playing. There are these vibration treatments to simulate that effect. Both work roughly in a similar tonal direction though.
 

grantaustin

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
206
As an amateur blacksmith, I can't fathom how cryo-treating metal _from room temp_ is going to do anything.

When cryo-treating steels you start at a high temperature where the internal structure of the steel is essentially in suspension. The controlled shock of the cooling sets the structure of the material in a desired configuration. Usually to achieve extra hardness. Some metals must be cryo-treated to reach adequate hardness for a given application. Like some stainless used in knife blades.

Some metals work harden (copper is a soft metal that famously work hardens fast), which I expect changes the acoustic response of things like brass parts. But does cooling from room temp achieve anything like that? I doubt it. Vibration under stress? Sure. I can buy that.
 

Alex_S

Member
Messages
304
As an amateur blacksmith, I can't fathom how cryo-treating metal _from room temp_ is going to do anything.

When cryo-treating steels you start at a high temperature where the internal structure of the steel is essentially in suspension. The controlled shock of the cooling sets the structure of the material in a desired configuration. Usually to achieve extra hardness. Some metals must be cryo-treated to reach adequate hardness for a given application. Like some stainless used in knife blades.

Some metals work harden (copper is a soft metal that famously work hardens fast), which I expect changes the acoustic response of things like brass parts. But does cooling from room temp achieve anything like that? I doubt it. Vibration under stress? Sure. I can buy that.


Just to learn something: do you speak about the “normal” hardening cooling or real cryogenic treatment (going down close to absolute zero)?

Because I understand on molecular level why heating is required for normal hardening not so much for cryo (as the molecular structure gets fix already at much higher temp, so the start point shouldn’t make a huge difference, does it?)
 




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