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Why do Strats Sound Different?

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JKHC
 JKHC
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Today, i bought a Mexican Standard which was a floor piece. Got around a $100 off because it was the display. Its a beautiful sunburst. I was debating either this or a black one which was $40 cheaper than the one I bought. When I tried them out, the sunburst sounded alot clearer, richer and more distinct. So, I went with that.

The black had a maple neck while the sunburst had rosewood, so that affects the sound a little. Why do they sound so different? :?

When we started the band, it was because we were waiting for a sound that never happened. We got tired of waiting, and we decided to just do it ourselves. - Mike Shinoda


   
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s1120
(@s1120)
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Two of the exact same guitars can sound totaly diferent!!! Slight diferences in the wood its self, slightly better[ or worse I guess] fitment of parts, better setups, etc etc... Also a black painted body will probably have a little thicker finish then the burst finish. I would chalk it up to mostly the fact that diferent guitars sound diferent then others. one reason its always good to try a guitar before you buy.

Paul B


   
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notes_norton
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I don't think the wood makes more than 1% difference.

I have a Gibson ES-330 and a Epiphone Casino (almost identical guitars). They are full hollow archtop electrics. Acoustically the Gibson with the superior tonewood sounds better. Plug them in and the Casino with the Duncan pickups sounds much better. Tonewood makes the sound in an acoustic guitar, but pickups are electromagnetic devices, not acoustic devices. If they are acting like a microphone, they are defective.

Possibly the main difference was setup, especially the distance from the pickups to the strings and the pickups themselves.

After that, age/condition/gauge of strings, and pots/caps which are probably 10% tolerance components at best.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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JKHC
 JKHC
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I don't think the wood makes more than 1% difference.

I have a Gibson ES-330 and a Epiphone Casino (almost identical guitars). They are full hollow archtop electrics. Acoustically the Gibson with the superior tonewood sounds better. Plug them in and the Casino with the Duncan pickups sounds much better. Tonewood makes the sound in an acoustic guitar, but pickups are electromagnetic devices, not acoustic devices. If they are acting like a microphone, they are defective.

Possibly the main difference was setup, especially the distance from the pickups to the strings and the pickups themselves.

After that, age/condition/gauge of strings, and pots/caps which are probably 10% tolerance components at best.

Notes ♫
It was probably the setup then, because the strings and the condition were the same. They were both dated 2009/2010 and there were no changes to the strat during that time period.

When we started the band, it was because we were waiting for a sound that never happened. We got tired of waiting, and we decided to just do it ourselves. - Mike Shinoda


   
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notes_norton
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I modded an ESP replacing the pickups with GFS Mean 90s.

I e-mailed Guitar Fetish asking the preferred distance between the pole pieces and the strings, and the answer was "whatever sounds best to you".

I googled to find the generally recommended "window" of string heights and proceeded to go to work. I found that within the window of decent performance moving them closer to the strings gave them more bite and edge moving them away from the strings gave them less edge and better midranges, too far away made them weak and muddy.

I settled somewhere near the upper 3/4 of the recommended average range. It gave me the attack I wanted but without too much bite.

A couple of turns of the screw head on the P90 pickup can make a lot of difference.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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Anonymous
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were the tone knobs and switches in the same place?


   
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Chris C
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I googled to find the generally recommended "window" of string heights and proceeded to go to work. I found that within the window of decent performance moving them closer to the strings gave them more bite and edge moving them away from the strings gave them less edge and better midranges, too far away made them weak and muddy.

+1

I haven't done much adjusting, and when I did it was on pickups which could be raised or lowered as a unit, by turning the two screws at either end. The difference was exactly as Notes says, and easy to hear. It was also possible to raise or lower one end more that the other and affect the balance between the lows and highs. I even had a cheapo mandolin that I couldn't hear through the amp at all until I raised the pickup as high as it would go!

The only recommendation I would make to anybody who is trying it for the first time would be to count the turns that you do, and even jot it down somewhere (same with adjusting truss rods or anything else). That way, if you aren't pleased with the results, or change your mind later, you can at least put it back to where you started from! Once you've got some experience under your belt (like Notes has) you'll have the ear, and the confidence, to trust what you're doing. But when you're a newbie at it it's easy to doubt what you've done and then get a little confused about where it should have been. :?

Chris


   
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JKHC
 JKHC
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were the tone knobs and switches in the same place?

Yep, I tested the switches in different positions(and did likewise with the other one, making sure switches were in the same positions). Well, even if it was because of the setup, I like my sunburst better than the black :mrgreen:

When we started the band, it was because we were waiting for a sound that never happened. We got tired of waiting, and we decided to just do it ourselves. - Mike Shinoda


   
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CitiZenNoir
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Hey everyone (%

Well, while I totally *agree with Notes/Chris on the pup adjustments.... I have to say that on a Strat at least, the woods are pretty important as far as tonality is concerned.
(*I fiddle with my pup adjustments all the time.... Especially if you change amps. Though I consider amps and pups to be part of the ELECTRIC sound of the instrument. Which is entirely different than the acoustic sound where the woods make all the difference. Strings come somewhere between electric and acoustic sound.)

If you play a Strat clean, then it has a very wood impacted sound.
Even on the less expensive models (MIM's), the paint job will make a difference in sound. And that's not really cos of the paint itself as part of the tone chain, but rather because they are forced to use much better wood on see-thru finishes (Blondes/Bursts/Naturals). Solid painted guitars will usually always use inferior wood for the bodies. Sometime (in the less expensive models, I've noticed), it seems that they may not even use the SAME wood. I've played the same two guitars - one with a see-thru Walnut finish and one with a solid black finish where the black guitar felt like a toy compared to the walnut one. Sounded like a toy comparatively as well, with a super lightweight body on it.

And now I venture into the dreaded fretboard controversy :twisted:
As far as I'm concerned, if you want that classic STRAT sound, you really need to have a Maple board.
IMO, it DOES make a tonal impression.
Maple is used on higher end hollow body electrics quite a bit.... and the more Maple that's used in the body, the DRIER the tone. Check out something by T-Bone Walker to hear that dry Maple hollow body tone. On his guitar, the Top/Back/and Sides are all Maple. VERY DRY Tone.

Strats are the solid body version of that hollow body WOODY tone. So, adding the Maple board to a Strat gives it a drier, woodier tone. These are the guitars that have that signature Strat QUACK. The maple boards lend a heavy pick-attack to the sound. The fret hand can be heard a lot more as it moves around, too. It's almost 'Plucky' sounding.

Where-as the Rosewood board smooths a lot of that sound out: Smoother feel on the fretting, less of a pick-attack noise, drastic reduction if not elimination of the QUACK. Not nearly as woody, Rosewood board Strats are a lot slicker sounding.
Which isn't a bad thing. Many people want to tame the Quacky nature of the Strat.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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Vic Lewis VL
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Interesting insights from CitiZenNoir. Speaking from my personal viewpoint, my ears aren't good enough to distinguish subtle variations in tone - I'm old school rock'n'roll, I grew up listening to AM radio with all the whistles and bells and squeaks and squeals that entailed. Any British bloke of my age could tell you what a nightmare it was trying to keep tuned to Radio Luxembourg after dark once Radio 1 had gone off-air at 7pm! So after that, anything that sounded fairly clear without the hiss and crackle was a huge improvement!

I don't think I could tell any difference, tonally, between two otherwise identical guitars - be they Strats, Teles, Lps or SGs - with different fretboards, one maple, one rosewood or mahogany. Maple is more pleasing to the eye for me, and, more importantly, feels a little easier on the fingers - a little slicker, a little less rough. But that's just me.....I know I prefer my MIM Telecaster (cost £330) with a maple fretboard to my friend's MIA Strat (Cost around £550) with mahogany (or rosewood? I know it's a dark wood.) fretboard. He likes to swap guitars when we're jamming - I do NOT!

I do like cnev's white Strat with the maple fretboard, though - that looks like a really nice guitar, even though I'd rather have a Tele!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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Anonymous
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trees, metal. builders.


   
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notes_norton
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I must respectfully disagree with CitiZenNoir.

Why?

According to guitarnuts who explain it better than I did:
Any time a ferous material is placed within a magnetic field, it will "warp" the magnetic flux lines. Therefore, when our steel guitar strings vibrate within the field of the fixed pickup magnet, they cause the magnetic field to "vibrate" as well. This creates motion of the flux lines relative to the coil of copper wire and generates an electrical signal.

Notice they didn't say anything about a microphone. I can mute the strings in my solid body guitar (Parker Dragonfly "Super Strat") and nothing comes out of the speakers. Because a magnetic pickup is not a microphone. Sound waves in themselves do not warp the magnetic flux lines. If I could sing into my pickups and use them like a microphone, I would consider the pickup defective in some way.

Now I do realize that the vibrating body of a solid guitar will move the pickups in relation to the strings but that movement would be less than 1% of the movement of the strings and therefore for all practical purposes zero.

The resistors and capacitors in your guitar are most likely rated at 10%, which will make the cap 10X more influential than the wood.

Add the 10% components in your pedals, amp, speakers, etc, and you can see that the 1% (at best) vibration of the guitar isn't going to make a negligible difference in tone.

The wood does contribute to the sustaining properties of the guitar, but that's another issue entirely.

If the wood makes a significant difference why does my Epiphone with Duncan pickups sound better than my Gibson which sounds better acoustically?

I admit that I could be wrong about this, but until someone explains just exactly how the wood affects the electro-magnetic properties of a magnetic guitar pickup, I cannot believe that the wood makes a significant difference in the sound.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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CitiZenNoir
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Hey, Notes (%

Well, the way I see it the acoustic properties of the guitar (Fingers, woods, hardwares, strings) work together to produce the note/sound. The pickup is the electronic translator of that sound. And we hear this interpretation thru the amp speaker.

I mean.... You can hear a guitar without pups/amp, right?
Which means that the strings interact with everything else that is the guitar, minus the Electric Pups, right?
That is the sound of the guitar. And the pups just translate that acoustic sound into an electric sound :wink:

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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Blue Jay
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Your relative constants on a store-bought Strat are going to be the electronics and the hardware, including bridge and sustain block. As responses have alluded to, or stated, the variables are in the wood mainly, each one is different, and likely the set up. I strive to create my own sound, by combining the pieces that I choose or like, still own 30 Strats or more, in spite of my problems and recent giveaways. I usually mod a Strat but occasionally find one off the rack that is just magic and must stay stock! What the heck, Jimi didn't modify, and he could play! Clapton and SRV did both. 8)

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


   
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JKHC
 JKHC
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LOL, because of what you do, you don't really have to bother if "That strat sounds better than mine" etc. You can have the best of all of them. :D

Nice pics, love the white with red pickguard in the second pic.

When we started the band, it was because we were waiting for a sound that never happened. We got tired of waiting, and we decided to just do it ourselves. - Mike Shinoda


   
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