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Tone myths

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
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598
A recent thread here (and some others on my amp boards) got me thinking. (I know, I know, there's a first time for everything :rofl ).

I have a hard time believing that anyone can tell the difference in sound between a lightweight and standard tailpiece in a blind listening test. Same for a weight-relieved vs. solid body or even between NOS vs. new tubes (as long as both are of good quality and in good working order).

Speakers? Absolutely a tonal difference between them. Strings? Eh, I'm not so sure (although the gauge makes an audible difference). Capacitor brands? No freaking way. Cap values? Yes.

I would really like to do some a/b tests on these "tone myths" to see if they are myths at all. Has anyone done anything even approaching the scientific method on this stuff?
 

OOtim

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Jun 8, 2006
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44
Great question. It's so hard to be objective when you just burned off a few hundred$$$ on several up grades all at once. How many of us get a new tail piece and change the strings as well? Often times I feel like there is an audible difference between several packs of the "same" strings.
 

Sean French

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Jan 23, 2006
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4,166
I have a '99 R7 that I played stock for 6 years.I played the guitar often acoustically at home.So.I am very aware of the tonal characteristics of it.I've since at different times,swapped pickups and the tail piece.When I replaced the TP I immediately noticed and heard a very obvious tonal change.I had a new set of strings on the Zinc TP and put a new set of the same strings on the Aluminum TP.Acoustically there was more ring in the highs and the mids became softer but,more pronounced at the same time.The lows were tighter and overall the guitar had more clarity.Since I know this guitar so well,I heard a big difference.On a guitar I don't know well I may or may not notice.The tubes are kinda the same.However,there are not so great sounding NOS tubes and there a great sounding new tubes.So,I'll agree with you on that.However,if one would have a set of NOS Mullards(power and pre's)in a Marshall for example.If one listed and or played with the NOS first then the new tubes I am very confident there are going to be very noticable differences.
As for your other examples,I tend to agree with you.
A controlled A/B test would be very interesting.:hmm
 

LesterP

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May 13, 2003
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1,249
I swapped out a heavy tailpiece for a light one. The difference in tone was obvious.
By the way, in this particular guitar, I thought the heavier tailpiece sounded better.
 

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
Messages
598
While I don't doubt that you guys thought you heard a difference in the TP, scientifically, your "test" was bogus, for a couple reasons:

1. You were financially and emotionally invested in having the upgraded gear be "better" to justify the purchase, thus coloring your perception of the sound

2. You knew which TP you had on the guitar, which made #1 inescapable.

I'm interested, for example, in an experiment that at least minimizes the above bias.

I'd like to have the owner and at least 2 other listeners listen to someone behind a screen playing the guitar with the new and old TP. The listeners would not know which TP was being used, and would have to guess at least 20 times. Another person would do the TP switching, so that the player would also not know which TP was being used (and to create a scientific double-blind testing condition).

There may indeed be an audible difference, but without a scientific test like the one I just described, it's just an opinion.
 

ElfinMagic

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Jun 25, 2006
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506
The heavier the block (a heavy LP tailpiece or a strats' trem block, etc), the more resonance it will suck away from the guitar.

Normally, you would want to keep as much resonance tied-up in the wood, instead of the tailpiece.

Resonance is a contributor to the overall tone of the guitar.

I say lightweight TPs are the only way to go.
 
J

Jeff

Guest
You can tell the difference when swapping tailpieces.

When a string is plucked, it sends sympathetic vibrations throughout the entire guitar - everything "resonates" with these vibrations - EVERYTHING. It is a known fact that different materials will of course react differently to these vibrations, with some harmonics being absorbed and others reflected.

Obviously the body and neck woods are a huge factor, but so is the bridge, the TP, studs, etc. Now these may be to a lesser degree than the body and neck, but nonetheless, they ARE vibrating with the string.

So to sum it up, yep, I have no problem believing that an aluminum TP versus a slag iron one will make a difference in tone. Many people swear that older Grover tuners sound different than newer ones, and that may be true to some extent - their mass is certainly enough to cause a tonal difference on the end of a vibrating neck.
 

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
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598
Elfin/Jeff,

Please don't take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to be argumentative or slag you guys in any way.....

But both of your arguments are only opinions (well, theories) until they can be scientifically proven in a double-blind test like I described.

I don't own a lightweight TP to try it myself. Would either of you be interested in doing the experiment and scientifically documenting the results?

Again, I'm not saying that the lightweight TP doesn't have an audible effect on the tone, just that until you can prove something via a repeatable scientific test, it's only an opinion.
 

jon9

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Mar 9, 2005
Messages
243
There is a difference. You don't need science. I know my guitars and their sound. When I changed from the stock heavy tailpiece in my historic to the Pigtail lightweight it was pretty obvious. Some may not like the different tone but it is no myth in my case. I believe a lot of tone difference in the tweaks that some do is the response/feel/sensitivity of the guitar that may not be all that audible. Also I don't think you can tell one capacitor from another or tailpiece or hole in a guitar by listening always but there are differences in the playability of the instrument. No offense but maybe your ears suck or your approaching in in the wrong way. I've been in studios with "golden ear" types that could hear beads of sweat on recordings and be accurate.
 
J

Jeff

Guest
Elfin/Jeff,

Please don't take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to be argumentative or slag you guys in any way.....

But both of your arguments are only opinions (well, theories) until they can be scientifically proven in a double-blind test like I described.

I don't own a lightweight TP to try it myself. Would either of you be interested in doing the experiment and scientifically documenting the results?

Again, I'm not saying that the lightweight TP doesn't have an audible effect on the tone, just that until you can prove something via a repeatable scientific test, it's only an opinion.
I understand your opinion. I can tell you this - more than likely, if you were to try an aluminum TP yourself on a guitar that doesn't have one, you would notice the difference yourself. Preference is a different issue.

As to science, this is already a known proven fact that (though I don't have the inclination right now to locate sources) different materials react to a vibrating string differently.

How do you think an all aluminum guitar versus a wood guitar would sound? Different. How about a guitar made of stone? Different, I'm sure.

Bottom line - don't worry about the science. This stuff is supposed to be fun and way too many people are on this search for the elusive holy grail of tone. You can do your own science experiment! :biggrin:
 

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
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598
There is a difference. You don't need science.

Yes, you do. If you want to state that this is your opinion that there is a difference, then you're right, you don't need science. If you want to say that it's a fact, you'll need to prove that by a blind experiment.

As far as my ears "sucking," well, that's why you conduct the experiment with more than one person.

Enjoy your guitar however you like. But if you're so sure of yourself, what do you have to lose by conducting the experiment?
 
J

Jeff

Guest
BTW, this same argument has been beaten to death regarding Strats and their tremolo blocks, where people insist there is a tonal difference between a solid steel block (aftermarket, or older original) and the modern cast block, which is thinner.

In the overwhelming vast majority of cases, the people who claim it makes no difference never actually tried both to compare. I can tell you that this too did indeed make a difference, and for similar reasons - this is a large mass of metal that is in direct contact with a string that is vibrating and sending those vibrations through different materials and densities.

Try picking with a quarter or other piece of metal. Does it sound different?
 
J

Jeff

Guest
Yes, you do. If you want to state that this is your opinion that there is a difference, then you're right, you don't need science. If you want to say that it's a fact, you'll need to prove that by a blind experiment.

As far as my ears "sucking," well, that's why you conduct the experiment with more than one person.

Enjoy your guitar however you like. But if you're so sure of yourself, what do you have to lose by conducting the experiment?
Your the one wondering and we're telling you the easiest answer we can - try it. If you think it makes a difference, you can't tell anyone though, since you didn't use scientific means. :biglaugh:

Seriously though, unless someone has access to scientific equipment and wants to go through a test plan that would probably have to be approved by the target audience, than just playing around yourself is a better way.

If you want to experiment with an aluminum TP, you can pick them up pretty cheap and sell it if you don't like the difference (which you will hear).
 

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
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Hey, you're getting me wrong here.

I'm not saying that there is no difference.

I'm saying that I'd like to see someone test it out to prove whether or not there is.
 

Axel

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Jul 24, 2006
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I'm with JoeV here. There's science and there is "feeling"... and JoeV actually asked for scientific proof so arguing about "try it and you'll see" just doesn't do it. For example, writing a professors report based on personal taste and assumptions would never be taken seriously.

"Bottom line - don't worry about the science." Heh, gives me the religious creeps. :)
 
J

Jeff

Guest
Well, since there is not likely to be any experiment that anyone here will ever agree on, all you have to go on is your own experimentation and/or the word of people that have already done it. Otherwise, you'll never know.

And what if there was scientific evidence that different materials effect sound (which there already is), how would you ever know how it would effect your guitar without trying them?

Science only takes you so far. Actual experience speaks volumes.

Then you probably also don't want to believe that:

- Raising or lowering the TP makes a difference
- Topwrapping makes a difference
- Putting Grover Rotomatics on in place of Klusons makes a difference
- Nashville/ABR-1 makes a difference

All these I have experience with trying on my guitars, and they all make a tonal difference. I have also been told that TonePros hardware makes a difference, and I have no reason do disbelieve it, even though nobody has shown be a radiospectrograph.

Sorry, but unless you have actual experience with trying these changes, you don't have much to work with. 'nuff said.
 
Last edited:

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
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19,911
There is a difference noted by players. I doubt anyone could "hear" it. A "scientific" test using imperical methods would be difficult and likely not produce results that are conclusive. There are too many variables in the actual aparatus of the test that would need to be accounted for.

The problem with most of the discussions here at the forum are only semantic. SPecially in this case. Most of know there's a difference in how a guitar feels after changing the tailpiece (or other mods). What has been postulated here is a doubt
"that anyone can tell the difference in sound between a lightweight and standard tailpiece in a blind listening test."

Well, even that statement is hard to swallow as imperical method is quick to point out that are no absolutes. A more accurate hypothesis would be "I doubt that most people could tell the difference". There are likely foks out there who could hear it. Likely most couldn't.
 

jon9

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Mar 9, 2005
Messages
243
I'm with JoeV here. There's science and there is "feeling"... and JoeV actually asked for scientific proof so arguing about "try it and you'll see" just doesn't do it. For example, writing a professors report based on personal taste and assumptions would never be taken seriously.

"Bottom line - don't worry about the science." Heh, gives me the religious creeps. :)

Yeah, but, You don't walk into a music store w/a group of scientists in lab coats and a bunch of meters and college degrees do ya? You grab a guitar plug it in, say, Yo I'm gonna crank this ok? and hit a few chords. Right? sounds good? sounds like shit? grab another guitar, different amp, yada yada, say thanks and leave right?

Let the geeks to the geek work. The marketers sell the crap to me. Then I'll try it out for myself to see if I like it.
 

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
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598
Science only takes you so far. Actual experience speaks volumes.

Agreed. But so far everyone seems to be afraid of actually testing what's being preached as fact.

Then you probably also don't want to believe that:

- Raising or lowering the TP makes a difference
- Topwrapping makes a difference
- Putting Grover Rotomatics on in place of Klusons makes a difference
- Nashville/ABR-1 makes a difference

It's not that I don't want to believe it. It's that it makes no logical sense to believe it without some sort of proof.

All these I have experience with trying on my guitars, and they all make a tonal difference.

That's fine. But be aware that you believing it doesn't make it so, due to the inherent biases you bring to the experience. These biases are what a double-blind test attempts to mitigate.

Sorry, but unless you have actual experience with trying these changes, you don't have much to work with. 'nuff said.

EXACTLY. Which is why controlled testing is important. Otherwise, you're just spouting off opinion, which is fine, if you don't label it as fact.
 

JoeV

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Mar 14, 2006
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Let the geeks do the geek work. The marketers sell the crap to me. Then I'll try it out for myself to see if I like it.

Wouldn't you rather have the results of unbiased testing before spending your hard-earned cash on something that makes no tonal difference just because you were the victim of a slick marketing campaign?
 
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