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Thread: Wood Density, Tone, And Other Intangibles

  1. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    But maybe not so much. Here's wikipedia:
    Above all, these instruments are famous for the quality of sound they produce. However, the many blind tests from 1817[9][10] to the present (as of 2012[11] ) have never found any difference in sound between Stradivari's violins and high-quality violins in comparable style of other makers and periods, nor has acoustic analysis.
    What these studies prove to me is not that different people like different things (they do), but that the Strad isn't "better". What it is is "as good".
    Wikipedia? I would caution that the people who edit Wikipedia sometimes have agendas and are not objective. I know this to be true in a few errors I have tried to correct over the years which get edited back to incorrect by the end of the day. It seems that certain people like to 'own' certain entries and militantly re-edit any changes to their 'understanding' of the 'facts'.

    I have quoted Wikipedia myself on occasions, but I resist using it for non-settled science. One giveaway in the above entry is the use of the phrase " ...have never found... " .
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  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post
    Either way it's a representation. Film -- like analog tape (or vinyl!) -- or tube amps -- has its own characteristic flaws. It's just that those flaws tend to "feel better" to a lot of us, and that the end result has a sort of texture that is more agreeable and more analogous (!) to how we experience things in real time/real life.
    It is, ultimately, a personal choice....

    Digital deletes or averages information that does not exactly match the gradation of the digital steps, however fine they may be. Analog devices, whether they be for images or sound, may have their own losses, but they are rarely across the board as is the case with digital. It is easier to manage the known losses in your selected analog medium and accept them or choose an different analog medium which is better suited.
    Last edited by rugerpc; 06-03-2013 at 09:49 AM.
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  3. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post

    A flat frequency response and maximum flexibility aren't necessarily good things when it comes to guitars, even in the context of a player who is doing a whole lot to the signal after it leaves the guitar and before it leaves the speaker.


    I'm not really following you here. You can always remove frequencies later, but if they're not there to begin with you lose flexibility.

    If you want to make a specific sound like say the sound of a strat going into a deluxe reverb, then it's certainly going to be more difficult starting with anything but a strat. But a strat sound is a strat sound. Hard to make it heavy and thick sounding if those low frequencies are not there to begin with.

    All I'm saying is that a broad frequency spectrum gives you additional possibilities, and I still don't see that that isn't true.


    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post

    Again, this may or may not be a good thing. Some people may very much prefer the personality (texture? vibe?) that other cameras impart, because it suits their purposes. (or agrees with their sensibilities)

    But that's the point of post-processing. I can create any effect I want in software. The camera doesn't make this decision for me. But if I start with a point and shoot camera that tries to make all shots pop, those images are often blown out and if I want to try something different, well, it's too late.

    If you always want hot, saturated photos and have no interest in manipulating your digital images, then by all means buy a point and shoot. But few serious photographers do. At least for their main commercial work.



    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post

    I think that, in order to understand expert listening and expert listeners, one is going to have to come to grips with the fact that "feelings for the [whatever]" are part of the picture and need to be accounted for -- not just as a confounding variable that needs to be eliminated but as part of "what's actually going on."

    And I would argue that double-blind testing is very limited in its applicability because it doesn't help understand how professionals in a certain pursuit decide what really matters. Often, it's just used by non-professionals to make a sort of "Emperor's new clothes" judgement which often completely misses the important stuff and doesn't serve any useful purpose within the professional community.


    Everything humans do, including scientific analysis, is by definition "subjective." Science is done by humans, even when supposedly "objective" machines are involved. Some human designed that machine. Some human decided what it was going to measure. Some human decided what the measures mean. Some human designed the statistics that are used to decide that the results are meaninful, i.e., "statistically significant." That's a whole lotta subjectivity, which gets glossed over because of the high degree of inter-rater reliability within the tribe.
    I don't really understand the antipathy to double blind testing here. None of your objections have anything to do with the methodology of double blind testing. The whole point of using it is to capture the judgement of human beings about what really matters. If we knew what made a guitar better, for example, we would just test guitars for that. The whole point of doing a double blind test is that we do not know, so we rely on people's judgement for this. Double blind testing is just a methodology for getting the best unbiased opinions from people.

    And I would argue that many scientific experiments are fairly objective. If I ask you to put one stone into an empty bowl, then put another one there, then I asked you to count the stones, I'd be very surprised if you came up with a different number than two.

    But I will agree with the larger point that subjectivity is crucial in many of the kinds of things we're talking about here. On this topic I had an interesting experience a couple of years ago. After the flu, I came down with bronchitis and my doc prescribed a round of antibiotics. These particular antibiotics really messed with me. Tasted like sucking on pennies for a whole week.

    But the really crazy thing is it changed the way I tasted things for about a month. The most dramatic thing was just how little I could handle spice. Very mild curries were almost inedible. It helped me understand why other people can eat corn which makes me gag, and why I can eat lots of pepper that others would choke on. And why my mother-in-law complained that our favorite Thai food was too hot when it just tasted flavorful to me, not spicy at all. But it did that month!

    And I suspect all of our sensing organs probably change slightly every day. One day you get up and one thing sounds great. Next day you wonder what you could possibly have been thinking. Same music, different sensing.

  4. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post

    This is sort of taken as obvious within much of the guitar-playing community: that the more dynamic and responsive guitar is the better guitar.

    But...

    ...I've learned a lot of innaresting stuff from our mutual friend, Kimock. One bit that has prompted some serious "thinking about things" on my part is based on my experiences sitting in his barn playing a bunch of different guitars: his guitars, my guitars. Specific case: he has a 1970 (
    ish) L-5CES. It's a bit of a dog, acoustically, and overall, you might use it as an example of how Norlin-era Gibsons just aren't up to the standards of their 1950s forbears. I have a 2001 L-5CT, built by James Hutchins, the top dog at Gibson in terms of building that particular model and others like it. Its acoustic (and electric) sound is noticeably more responsive and vibrant than Kimock's L-5, and it has the kind of responsiveness that experienced players would associate with '50s models. I'd bet that the vast majority of guitar players who played 'em both would say mine is "better," no question whatsoever, and I know for a fact that my guitar (prior to my owning it) has been borrowed by at least a couple of noted jazz players for recording because it has that classic jazz guitar sound. So I left feeling great about my guitar, right?

    Well, a good while later, I happened to spend 3 consecutive nights with SK and band while on a mini-tour of New England. SK was, at that point, really favoring his L-5, i.e., he was playing it a lot on the gigs. It sounded really good to me, as in: "Damn! I sure would like to have that guitar!"

    Wait, what gives?

    Of course, it's all in the context-of-use. Given the specific music SK was playing, the way he was amplifying the guitar, the overall level (in dB terms) at which he was playing, and the physical relationship between himself, the guitar, and the amp (i.e., their relative locations in 3-dimensional space), the relative deadness of the guitar was a good thing. Whereas in that specific context-of-use my guitar would have caused all kinds of trouble with feedback, woofing, and out-of-control harmonic information. Even though mine has a thinner body! Also of note is, SK's guitar still conveyed that characteristic L-5 voice -- it didn't sound like a solidbody and the usual "ping" of the spruce was readily apparent.

    So much of the time on these boards, it's all about "the best" guitar -- so many of us get obsessed with getting "the best" out of 37 examples of the same guitar, or, for those of us who play in the more one-of-a-kind world of Private Stocks and custom builders, getting "the best" out of that particular context. It's easy to lose sight that "the best" is always a matter of context, and while that context for a lot of us denizens of these boards is mostly "playing by ourselves at home" it looks really different for someone whose context is "recording music for clients every day" (like Les) or "playing music on the road for an audience" (like Kimock). In order to understand the choices of a professional, it's critically important to take into account the professional's internal criteria, subjective as it may seem on the surface.
    This is really an important observation! I completely agree!

    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    And I suspect all of our sensing organs probably change slightly every day. One day you get up and one thing sounds great. Next day you wonder what you could possibly have been thinking. Same music, different sensing.
    I agree with this. I'm unfortunately aware of how my body chemistry works, because I'm diabetic, and my blood sugar levels affect my senses (the brain's main power source is the glucose it receives from the blood). One thing I learned is that even folks without diabetes have their blood sugar levels fluctuate during the day, especially after meals, etc.

    I'm really enjoying this discussion, and the exchange of ideas in this thread. This is what I hoped would happen, that all points of view would be explored!

    Thanks so much for carrying it forward!
    Last edited by LSchefman; 06-03-2013 at 01:20 PM.
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  5. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    But my guess is that maybe we just aren't measuring all of the variables that certain people can hear. I really don't have a scientific explanation for it.

    I am often told that I hear things in mixes that other people don't hear. But I don't think it's a matter of hearing acuity. I don't think I hear better than anyone else.

    I think it's the elements of sound that I somehow concentrate on that most people aren't listening for.

    Boy, I would say that we have a pretty good handle on sound. It may be for certain kinds of sounds there is a precision to human hearing not available from most test equipment. And there are all manner of perils in going from analog to digital.

    And part of what you are talking about is simple knowledge. When I first started playing guitar there were lots of distinctions I could not make because I didn't now what I was listening for. The more you know what to listen for the easier it is to hear.

    And every so often (probably more than we think) it's possible to listen for something that isn't there and hear it!

  6. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    Wikipedia? I would caution that the people who edit Wikipedia sometimes have agendas and are not objective. I know this to be true in a few errors I have tried to correct over the years which get edited back to incorrect by the end of the day. It seems that certain people like to 'own' certain entries and militantly re-edit any changes to their 'understanding' of the 'facts'.

    I have quoted Wikipedia myself on occasions, but I resist using it for non-settled science. One giveaway in the above entry is the use of the phrase " ...have never found... " .
    What can you mean?

    I found it on the internet, so I know it has to be true.

  7. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    The misconception you have here is that Les Paul wanted to eliminate all vibration in the guitar body itself. Have you ever heard a hammer strike an anvil? Do you really think that Les Paul's railroad track guitar body didn't vibrate at all? The real lesson here was that the soft pine guitar didn't vibrate enough! That bears some thought.
    I didn't say not at all, but I would say very much less.

    Here's an interesting experiment you can do yourself. While you are playing some chords on your guitar, have your significant other wrap smartly with her knuckles on the body of your guitar and ask yourself if you can hear anything at all. Last time I tried it, the sound a sharp rap made was either not audible over my playing or barely audible.

    Which tells me that the significantly smaller vibrations (20-30 db down) from my playing are more than inaudible.

    Or do this: take one guitar and plug it into an amp. Then take another guitar and put them back to back so they are touching. Now strum the second guitar. It will vibrate the body of the first guitar since they are in contact. The question is can you hear anything and the answer for me the last time I tried it is "no" unless maybe you crank it really high at which point I would suggest that it would get completely drowned out should you actually play a real note at that volume.

    Suggests to me that the wood is a relatively insignificant part of the sound.

    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    I'm going to make a dangerous assumption that your Nikon is digital.

    What better argument for analog VS digital? Digital, by definition, is desecrate steps. You can increase the gradation but it will still be steps. Analog has a smoothness that digital only attempts to match. I love my digital SLR, but I have found many areas where it simply cannot match Kodachrome 64.

    On the off chance your Nikon is not digital - The art of photography lies in the manipulation of your camera and different methods to push the film in processing, not in digital computer manipulation.
    Well, I've been taking pictures since back in the day and even had my own color darkroom for a while. And what you may not know unless you really get into it is that photography isn't analog in the way we usually think of that term. When I think analog, I think continuous. But color slide and negative film has always been "digital" in that it is based on grains of silver. They are not evenly spaced, but you cannot continuously zoom into a color photograph and continue to see more and more detail.

    My job years ago took me to Kodak's research lab where I saw some really cool stuff that I probably still can't talk about. One thing I asked was how much information was there in a Kodachrome slide (64 I think) and they told me 10-13 megapixels. Which is pretty much the resolution we are now getting from bog standard digital cameras.

    Film photography is largely dead except possibly for a few large formats. This would not happen if film was appreciably better. I think it's not.
    Last edited by bird_droppings; 06-03-2013 at 01:45 PM.

  8. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post

    I'm not really following you here. You can always remove frequencies later, but if they're not there to begin with you lose flexibility.


    Sure, you can remove frequencies all day long, but that doesn't necessarily result in something that sounds good.

    All I'm saying is that a broad frequency spectrum gives you additional possibilities, and I still don't see that that isn't true.
    And all I'm saying is, for some people, additional possibilities aren't useful if they don't sound good-right-pleasing-whatever.

    But that's the point of post-processing. I can create any effect I want in software. The camera doesn't make this decision for me. But if I start with a point and shoot camera that tries to make all shots pop, those images are often blown out and if I want to try something different, well, it's too late.

    If you always want hot, saturated photos and have no interest in manipulating your digital images, then by all means buy a point and shoot. But few serious photographers do. At least for their main commercial work.

    That's not what/who I'm talking about -- I'm talking about friends who are pro protographers who choose certain digital cameras over others specifically because they have a visual/textural "signature" -- i.e., they are not neutral -- that they find agreeable and suitable for their specific purposes. It's just a way of thinking, sort of like what is going on with someone like Kimock in the example I gave. Either way works, you just have to understand your own way and do what you need to do to manage the process.


    I don't really understand the antipathy to double blind testing here. None of your objections have anything to do with the methodology of double blind testing. The whole point of using it is to capture the judgement of human beings about what really matters. If we knew what made a guitar better, for example, we would just test guitars for that. The whole point of doing a double blind test is that we do not know, so we rely on people's judgement for this. Double blind testing is just a methodology for getting the best unbiased opinions from people.
    I don't object to double-blind testing at all -- it's a very, very useful way to find out a lot about a lot of things. I just think it has often-unacknowledged limits in its ability to tease out what really matters in some human applications, and there are times when it seems to tell us something but it's done in such a way that some essential element of "what's actually going on" is missed or overlooked. I would never say, "don't do it" or "it doesn't mean anything." We just have to be careful about our conclusions regarding what it does tell us.

    And I would argue that many scientific experiments are fairly objective. If I ask you to put one stone into an empty bowl, then put another one there, then I asked you to count the stones, I'd be very surprised if you came up with a different number than two.

    There's some philosophical stuff underlying this, but the "two-ness" is, in essence, simply a matter of wide-scale inter-rater agreement. In order to get stuff done, it's very useful that lots of us get together and agree that 1 + 1 = 2 and all that structural stuff that's part and parcel of mathematics. Define our terms, agree to them, and we can get a lot done. And it seems to work, it's consistent within our three-dimensional, earthbound frame of reference. Is objectively true? Hmmm, well, I'm not prepared to go that far. It's like classical Newtonian physics. It works, but only under certain conditions.


    And I suspect all of our sensing organs probably change slightly every day. One day you get up and one thing sounds great. Next day you wonder what you could possibly have been thinking. Same music, different sensing.

    In my experience this is sooooo true!

  9. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    Boy, I would say that we have a pretty good handle on sound. It may be for certain kinds of sounds there is a precision to human hearing not available from most test equipment. And there are all manner of perils in going from analog to digital.

    We may have a pretty good handle on sound, and probably on how the human ear processes sound, but my own experience tells me there's something missing from the scientific understanding of how we experience and process sound. Here are a couple ideas that I think need to be explored seriously before I'm willing to concede that our scientific understanding is adequate:

    1. That we process sound not just through our ears, but through our galvanic (skin) response. Why is the experience of hearing music through speakers in an actual room so different from the experience of hearing music through ear-bud type headphones? Even when the quirks of the reproduction gear and the room acoustics are set to "equivalent." To what extent are some of those anomalies where people hear stuff that science says our ears/brain don't process a matter of some non-aural aspect of sound perception? And yeah, I'm well aware that studies have purported to show that we don't actually perceive sound anywhere else, unless it's so loud as to provoke a measurable tactile response. I think they are missing something important. How else could Evelyn Glennie [
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU3V6zNER4g ] do what she does? How else could my molars be one of the most important parts of my process of judging a guitar? (seriously!)

    2. The extent to which what's going on in the supposedly-inaudible upper frequencies impacts what we hear in the supposedly-audible frequencies. The word I use for this is texture. Sounds have texture. My intutive sense of that is that the texture has a lot to do with what's going on in that beyond-the-threshold-of-audible part of the frequency spectrum. I think the whole question of "Why do sounds that exist in purely analog form sound/feel different from sounds that exist in a digital form? Under what conditions and to whom are those differences apparent? Why?" This is not entirely unrelated to the "tests" you invented to show that "wood doesn't matter that much." It's a big stretch to go from "I can't, or can hardly, hear them" to "they don't matter" or even "they don't exist."

    And part of what you are talking about is simple knowledge. When I first started playing guitar there were lots of distinctions I could not make because I didn't now what I was listening for. The more you know what to listen for the easier it is to hear.

    And every so often (probably more than we think) it's possible to listen for something that isn't there and hear it!

    Sure, no question on both counts. My guitar-shop-owner friend has a deep supply of experience and knowledge that is, essentially, simple and available to anyone who's willing to go out and acquire it. And he may well sometimes hear "things that aren't there" although in my experience, he is not easily fooled. Of course subject him to a full hour of Les-Paul-through-a-cranked-Marshall and I bet his accuracy rate will dip!
    Last edited by kingsleyd; 06-03-2013 at 02:11 PM.

  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    But that's the point of post-processing. I can create any effect I want in software. The camera doesn't make this decision for me. But if I start with a point and shoot camera that tries to make all shots pop, those images are often blown out and if I want to try something different, well, it's too late.

    If you always want hot, saturated photos and have no interest in manipulating your digital images, then by all means buy a point and shoot. But few serious photographers do. At least for their main commercial work.
    Who said anything about point and shoot? (more on that in a sec) I thought we were talking about SLRs here… A careful photographer chooses the right lens, blocking, light, etc to get the photo as close to what he wants in the camera. Software manipulation is a crutch for poor technique or impossible conditions. It should be be used sparingly, if at all.

    I believe it was Popular Photography that gave a bunch of professional photographers little single use cameras and sent them forth. The images they returned, under all kinds of conditions, were stunning. That should settle the debate about software...


    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    I didn't say not at all, but I would say very much less.

    Here's an interesting experiment you can do yourself. While you are playing some chords on your guitar, have your significant other wrap smartly with her knuckles on the body of your guitar and ask yourself if you can hear anything at all. Last time I tried it, the sound a sharp rap made was either not audible over my playing or barely audible.

    Which tells me that the significantly smaller vibrations (20-30 db down) from my playing are more than inaudible.

    Or do this: take one guitar and plug it into an amp. Then take another guitar and put them back to back so they are touching. Now strum the second guitar. It will vibrate the body of the first guitar since they are in contact. The question is can you hear anything and the answer for me the last time I tried it is "no" unless maybe you crank it really high at which point I would suggest that it would get completely drowned out should you actually play a real note at that volume.

    Suggests to me that the wood is a relatively insignificant part of the sound.
    Neither of your experiments proves your point. In your first, there would obviously be induced vibrations due to the rapping on the surface resulting in additional vibrations of the strings. Anyone who has accidently bumped their guitar while it was plugged in to a live amp, or has bumped an acoustic will agree. The vibration of the strings and the body are necessarily coupled. But strumming random chords over the sound is just that - random - you have no way of knowing if the rapping and the chords are reinforcing each other or canceling each other or both and at what frequencies.

    In your second example, unless you truly connect the guitars so that vibrations are passed unimpeded from guitar to guitar, you cannot account for losses due to imperfect contact, etc. Meaningless.

    I love pop science experiments for this reason - they appear valid at first until you start to dig at real causes and effects….

    I suggest you look at the videos for Paul's Rules of Tone. Lots of little things, each may even be imperceptible by ear by itself, add up to make any one guitar's signature tonal voice.

    Back to the railroad track body. There is a whole class of percussion instruments based on metal bodies being struck and their vibrations making music. The science of the alloys used rivals the alloy research for jet turbine parts. Les Paul was an innovator. But guitar making technology did not end when he sandwiched maple to mahogany.

    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    Well, I've been taking pictures since back in the day and even had my own color darkroom for a while. And what you may not know unless you really get into it is that photography isn't analog in the way we usually think of that term. When I think analog, I think continuous. But color slide and negative film has always been "digital" in that it is based on grains of silver. They are not evenly spaced, but you cannot continuously zoom into a color photograph and continue to see more and more detail.

    My job years ago took me to Kodak's research lab where I saw some really cool stuff that I probably still can't talk about. One thing I asked was how much information was there in a Kodachrome slide (64 I think) and they told me 10-13 megapixels. Which is pretty much the resolution we are now getting from bog standard digital cameras.

    Film photography is largely dead except possibly for a few large formats. This would not happen if film was appreciably better. I think it's not.
    What you may not know is that even though there are a finite number of grains in a given area of film - each individual grain is NOT necessarily either fully exposed or not. That variance from grain to grain cannot be duplicated by digital all on or all off for individual pixels. Digital does not allow for individual 'grains' to be only partially exposed.

    Film may be dead for you, but not for other serious photographers. What is truly inexorably working on killing film is the idea that digital is just as good (opinions either way - no FACTS) and the mass migration to lazy photography. Why light your portraits properly when you can remove red eye in software? Why use the right f stop and shutter speed when you can alter contrast and saturation in Elements?

    Large format film will be around for the foreseeable future because even for just a 4x5, the equivalent digital camera would need a resolution of approximately 150mp (the last estimate I saw) to compete. Film isn't just better - it's an order of magnitude better.

    I can give one huge nod to the digital, though. It makes it much easier for me to work with nudes. When I used film for those studies, I had to send it to large national labs who understood nudes and photography. You couldn't just take it to the local drug store. Now that I do those studies with my digital, I don't have a nanny processor looking over my shoulder.
    Last edited by rugerpc; 06-03-2013 at 03:12 PM.
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    Wow, lots of words since I last checked in.

    I'm not so convinced of my "correctness", and in any case, I'm waaay too lazy to disect and parse the last couple of pages.

    All I can say is that with respect to the original post, I'm still not convinced that natural variations within a specific species of wood make a real difference amongst guitars of identical design.

    That's part of why I personally like PRS. The designs are great, they are made with tremendous consistency, they look fantastic, and you can be pretty much assured that if you buy...say...a DGT, it's going to consistently sound great like a DGT does. No clunkers in the bunch. Consistency in construction, and consistency in the electronics. Not necessarily so with some of the iconic guitars still being made, but I don't personally attribute that to the fact that some Les Pauls have better maple tops than others, or some have denser body wood than others.

    I'm aware that PRS doesn't probably share that opinion. I don't care if they believe that it's magic dust or rain dances performed during the construction process that makes the difference. Usually it's the most passionate amongst us have some of these notions, and they are usually the ones to go on and start a company making great instruments.

    In the end, it's only of academic interest to me, because even though I wouldn't be able to pass a blind test with my guitars, I don't play them blind. I enjoy them for lots of reasons, and some of those don't have anything to do with being objectively better. Because of some of the work I did, I ended up with a couple of really neat vintage '54 Les Pauls. Other than the fact that the necks are shaped differently, the frets are thinner and I can actually smell the difference, I'm pretty sure I'd fail a blindfold test with my R4 from a purely tonal perspective. There isn't even a contest though in terms of which I get more of a kick out of playing. Same goes for many of the PRS I have. I have a DC Ted for example that I love way more than any other DC Ted I've ever played. I probably couldn't pick it out of a lineup blindfolded, but it's the whole package (including looks) that somehow make playing it more enjoyable.

    Anyway, it's always fun to get into these good natured arguments with Les. You never know where it will lead, and somehow you end up on things like nudey pics (thanks Ruger!!!)

  12. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by aristotle View Post

    In the end, it's only of academic interest to me, because even though I wouldn't be able to pass a blind test with my guitars, I don't play them blind. I enjoy them for lots of reasons, and some of those don't have anything to do with being objectively better.
    I think this sums up this thread nicely!

    Quote Originally Posted by aristotle View Post
    Anyway, it's always fun to get into these good natured arguments with Les. You never know where it will lead, and somehow you end up on things like nudey pics (thanks Ruger!!!)
    My pleasure, I assure you!
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  13. #53
    Quote Originally Posted by aristotle View Post
    All I can say is that with respect to the original post, I'm still not convinced that natural variations within a specific species of wood make a real difference amongst guitars of identical design.
    Spend an hour in my friend's shop playing all the different Historic Les Pauls with Mark in the other room accurately identifying them by each one's unique sound and you might feel differently. Or talk to Paul Smith, or anyone who has built a lot of guitars out of wood.

    It's sort of like the farmer and his sheep: a casual observer watched a farmer let his sheep in through a gate. When the farmer closed the gate, the observer asked, "how do you know they're all in? You didn't count them." The farmer replied, "I know each of them by sight. They're all in."

    For the most part, it's a matter of (a) having enough experience, and (b) paying attention to the truly relevant details of that experience. Pretty simple, actually.

    That said, if you can't hear the difference between two different DGTs and both sound "excellent" to you, then it's all good! (I've played a fair number of DGTs. I can't think of one I've played that was less than damn good, sonically speaking, but I sure think they all sounded different from each other, and I definitely liked some better than others!)
    Last edited by kingsleyd; 06-03-2013 at 04:37 PM.

  14. #54
    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    Lots to read here. I certainly agree that different guitars of the same model can sound and feel different.
    Plank Owner

  15. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    Neither of your experiments proves your point. In your first, there would obviously be induced vibrations due to the rapping on the surface resulting in additional vibrations of the strings. Anyone who has accidently bumped their guitar while it was plugged in to a live amp, or has bumped an acoustic will agree. The vibration of the strings and the body are necessarily coupled. But strumming random chords over the sound is just that - random - you have no way of knowing if the rapping and the chords are reinforcing each other or canceling each other or both and at what frequencies.

    In your second example, unless you truly connect the guitars so that vibrations are passed unimpeded from guitar to guitar, you cannot account for losses due to imperfect contact, etc. Meaningless.

    I love pop science experiments for this reason - they appear valid at first until you start to dig at real causes and effects….

    Sigh.

    One simply does not know what to say at such a revealing post.

  16. #56
    Quote Originally Posted by jfb View Post
    Lots to read here
    Yup. And lots of good, old fashioned, statements of belief. And this makes us alive!

    As John Cleese's character said in "A Fish Called Wanda":

    "You see, Wanda, we're all terrified of embarrassment. That's why we're so - dead. Most of my friends are dead, you know, in these piles of corpses to dinner. But you're alive, God bless you, and I want to be, I'm so fed up with all this."
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  17. #57
    Quote Originally Posted by aristotle View Post
    All I can say is that with respect to the original post, I'm still not convinced that natural variations within a specific species of wood make a real difference amongst guitars of identical design.

    That's part of why I personally like PRS. The designs are great, they are made with tremendous consistency, they look fantastic, and you can be pretty much assured that if you buy...say...a DGT, it's going to consistently sound great like a DGT does. No clunkers in the bunch. Consistency in construction, and consistency in the electronics. Not necessarily so with some of the iconic guitars still being made, but I don't personally attribute that to the fact that some Les Pauls have better maple tops than others, or some have denser body wood than others.

    I'm aware that PRS doesn't probably share that opinion. I don't care if they believe that it's magic dust or rain dances performed during the construction process that makes the difference. Usually it's the most passionate amongst us have some of these notions, and they are usually the ones to go on and start a company making great instruments.
    I'm with you, but this is a VERY unpopular opinion around here. They take wood more seriously around here than the Pope takes Catholicism.

    As it happens I had occasion to ask PRSh this exact question. I showed up at one of his guitar center visits early and he was standing around in the fancy guitar room all by himself playing one of his Paul's Whichever guitars that cost almost as much as my car. I introduced myself and asked him how much signal processing they did in the factory. Did they scientifically test their stuff? Oh yes he said. Very much so. How similar do your guitars come out of the factory? Very similar. You play one Custom 22 you play them all. So then I asked him if his Paul's guitar was really that much better than one of the guitars on the wall.

    And Paul smiled.

    At this point I am definitely speculating. I took it his smile was part "all right you caught me", part "smart-aleck", and part "but I'm going to wiggle out of this, just watch me".

    And he did. Over the course of the next 2 or 3 minutes, he had it both ways. It was a kind of tour-de-force worthy of a politician. Now, I don't mean to imply that Paul is dishonest or a bad guy. In person I was quite impressed. And you just have to admire that kind of verbal adroitness.

    Then I asked him if he had ever considered making guitars out of other materials like carbon fiber. He told me that he'd thought about it, but he felt that his wood library and his long cultivated contacts in the wood industry really gave him an advantage in the making of high-end wood guitars and that was the space he was going to work in.

    Then he put that fabulous guitar in my hands and walked away.

    And you know what?

    It sounded pretty damn good!

    Quote Originally Posted by aristotle View Post
    In the end, it's only of academic interest to me, because even though I wouldn't be able to pass a blind test with my guitars, I don't play them blind. I enjoy them for lots of reasons, and some of those don't have anything to do with being objectively better.
    Can't argue with that!

    I bought my first acoustic guitar recently. My final choice was down to a couple of Taylors, a couple of Martins, and a Breedlove. I went back and forth playing them all. I could hear minor differences between them, but had difficulty deciding which was actually "better". In the end I went with the Breedlove because it was so purdy.

  18. #58
    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    So then I asked him if his Paul's guitar was really that much better than one of the guitars on the wall.

    And Paul smiled.

    At this point I am definitely speculating.
    Here's the thing: you asked Paul if his Paul's guitar was somehow better. And you interpreted his grin as being sly.

    I can't speak for Paul Smith of course, but how do you explain to someone who really doesn't understand via playing the instrument that it's not a question that can be answered, except to hand the person the guitar and say via that gesture, "why don't you play one yourself and find out?"

    When someone asks me a question about what I do for a living that demonstrates they just don't understand the processes involved in what I do, I'm not going to tell them why it's not a great question. So I often just smile patiently, and do my best to get out of the situation.

    Sometimes a smile doesn't mean "I'm wrong and I'm hiding it." Sometimes it means, "This guy is not going to get it."

    I was also surprised at first that you only hear minor differences in those acoustic guitars; they're all substantially different sounding, especially the Martin and the Taylor. To me, it's not a small difference. I'd say there's a chasm between the two guitars. I'm not saying the choice between them is necessarily easy, but the differences aren't minor if you're into acoustics.

    But since this is your first acoustic, as you state, this may explain why you're not able to appreciate how different these are. Yet. I've been playing acoustic guitars since 1967, so I've become much more attuned to their sounds. Once again, it's a question of knowing what to listen for.

    And I've got no axe to grind against either brand, I've had both. But they're quite different!

    Different ears, different experience, different understanding of the capabilities of the instrument, that will generate discussions where people express disagreement for sure.

    Am I correct in recalling that you mentioned earlier you've only been playing a few years? That may explain part of our disagreement here.

    I know a LOT more about the sound of wooden instruments today than I ever did after only a few years of playing. And I'm still learning. I wish I had another lifetime to keep learning! There's so much more out there to know.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 06-03-2013 at 09:20 PM.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  19. #59
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    Here's the thing: you asked Paul if his Paul's guitar was somehow better. And you took his grin as being sly.

    I can't speak for Paul Smith of course, but how do you explain to someone who really doesn't understand via playing the instrument that it's not a matter of "better," it's a matter of pursuing different tones, using more selective woods, etc.

    All you had to do was play one, instead of asking the question.
    My first guitar was a Mexi Strat. And it had issues. It took three luthiers to turn it into a useful guitar.

    My second guitar was a PRS Mira. And that guitar was better. Yes the tonality between my Mira and my Strat was different but it was more than that. The Mira was simply better.

    If Paul's expensive guitar was "better" I'm pretty sure he'd have said that. Yes it may generate slightly different tones than his other guitars, but it isn't "better". It's "every bit as good". People buy those guitars because they like the way they look, they like the exclusivity, they like the personal attention that Paul gives them. But they're probably not objectively "better".

    Can't prove it because I don't have one.

    These guitars remind me of a tea house I read about in the northern part of Japan. They sold two cups of tea. One cost the usual dollar or something. But the other cup of tea cost something like $100. And the difference was only the price. The two cups were identical. And this was no secret. Everyone knew. But people would come from long distances and buy the $100 cup of tea. What they would tell you is that the act of paying that much for a cup of tea changed the experience.





    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    I'm also surprised that you only hear minor differences in those acoustic guitars; they're all substantially different sounding, especially the Martin and the Taylor. To me, it's not a small difference. I'd say there's a chasm between the two guitars. I'm not saying the choice between them is necessarily easy, but the differences aren't minor if you're into acoustics.

    But since this is your first acoustic, as you state, this may explain why you're not able to appreciate how different these are. Yet. I've been playing acoustic guitars since 1967, so I've become much more attuned to their sounds.

    And I've got no axe to grind against either brand, I've had both. But they're quite different!

    Different ears, different experience, different understanding of the capabilities of the instrument, that will generate discussions where people express disagreement for sure.

    Am I correct in recalling that you mentioned earlier you've only been playing a few years? That may explain our disagreement here.
    Would it help if I told you I could hear clear differences? I called them minor because all of the guitars sounded good.

    By the way, what IS our disagreement? I THOUGHT we were having a conversation.

  20. #60
    Name Manglin' Putz alantig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bird_droppings View Post
    My first guitar was a Mexi Strat. And it had issues. It took three luthiers to turn it into a useful guitar.
    I have a Mexi Strat that only took one luthier to turn into an excellent guitar. And I'm not sure how much I'm at liberty to say, but the guy that fixed it has close ties to PRSG. That's the quality of people you're dealing with who are making these instruments. And I've asked employees about certain improvements and adjustments and what effect they have. And when I've asked "Does it really make a difference?", I've had employees say, "I can't hear it. Other guys can, but I can't."

    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    Sometimes a smile doesn't mean "I'm wrong and I'm hiding it." Sometimes it means, "This guy is not going to get it."
    And sometimes a smile means, "Oh you brave boy, struggling through life with such diminished capacity."

    Wait...come to think of it, that's how my wife smiles at me!
    Alan

    "I watched approximately 45 seconds of 'Rock Of Ages'. It was like getting punched in the soul." - Abby Krizner

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