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A Little Experiment.....

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One of my friends has this thing he says when ever someone has bad tone. ''You might as well be playing a chipboard guitar!'' - refering to the chipboard guitar having aweful tone.

So.....One night, we were bored, and decided to actually make a guitar out of chipboard. We intended on making some recordings of it, along with some other guitars using the same pickup, same amp settings and same microphone position etc. Then we would compare the recordings to see if the material/quality of material used to construct a body had a big difference in the overall sound of the guitar, or if the choice of pickup played a greater role in colouring the sound. I'm sure you will find the results quite interesting.

Chipboard is the brittish name for particle board btw. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_board This is the stuff we used. The stuff you use for kitchen work tops. We doubled it up to get a body around 6cm think.

Anyway, on with the test!


This fine specimen of a guitar is the chipboard 'Tone Bringer' as it is known to us.

It features a squire neck, hardtail bridge and a Seymour Duncan JB. The 5-way switch and f-hole are marker pen...

Other guitars in the test include an Epiphone Les paul standard with Seymour Duncan JB, and an Epiphone Gothic Explorer with Seymour Duncan JB.

The amp used was a Vox AC30 CC1, and the mic of choice was a Shure SM57. The only thing being changed during the test was the guitar.

We make a clean and dirty recording:

Clean Recording

Dirty Recording

The three guitars appear in a random order, and a different order in both recordings. See if you can guess the order in both recordings, and say which you think sounds best from each recording. I'll post the correct order later on.

I think you might agree that the recordings sound pretty similar. Certainly a lot more similar than we expected. Does this suggest that the choice of wood has little effect on the tone of the guitar, or is it just that the pickup has a greater influence? I'll let you decide.

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Wow, none of them sounded bad.

I think the second and third sounded better, so I'm thinking, for both dirty and clean: 1. chipboard, (2. LP?, 3. Explorer?).

Really a lot closer than I would have expected though.

The "dirty" recordings were a lot harder to tell apart. I thought #1 seemed a bit thinner though.

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clean: #1 Chipboard, #2 Explorer, #3 Les Paul...preference is number 2

dirty: #1 les paul, #2 chipboard , #3 explorer...preference is 3

whatever guitars they were I think that Clean#1=Dirty#2, Clean#2=Dirty#3, Clean#3=Dirty#1.

I prefered the sound of Clean#2/Dirty#3 as it seemed to have a punchier, more resonant, mahogany set-neck kind of sound.

Clean#1/Dirty#2 sounded a bit shrill to my ears with both settings & seemed to lack much depth.

The 3rd guitar was somewhere in between which is why I went for the Les Paul, assuming that the explorer would have the most resonant, middly sound & the chipboard would lack much bass response.

probably way out but that's my thoughts.

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actually,what it means is that the amp and the recording equipment play a more important role in percieved tone than the guitar used.

but i have not listened to the recordings...i found out a long time ago that after all of the recording and processing,the guitar used is only a small difference...but in person it is more noticeable.

you see,i have many guitars,all with the same pickups and strings,and all sound different...some are very noticeable.

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HAHAHA This is soooo wicked!! come post this on the shredder http://mcs.acidpit.org/ , Neal would love this


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Wes is right

i have JB's in all my guitars

one is maple body 1 peice maple bolt on neck another is all mahogany set neck

and a korina neck thru. all have Floyds and recorded i dont realy here a differance but live i do

and i have hearing that picks up every thing up to a mouse fart in china but i cant tell them apart on a recording tape or digital

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I will be honest and tell you I wouldn't expect to be able to tell a difference in body wood alone. I thought in both recordings #3 seemed to be either played softer or the sound was dampended a bit. #1 and #2 seemed similar in both recordings. I could hear slight changes but to be honest I know I could make the changes on a single guitar with my playing technique(so as far as I could tell these could all have been played on one guitar).

Peace, Rich

Nice work :D It will be cool to see which was which.

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Well - I might aswell let you know the actual order since nobody got it right :D (not completely anyway)


Les Paul - Chipboard - Explorer


Explorer - Chipboard - Les Paul

Interesting to see that there were quite a few people favouring the chipboard 'tone bringer' over the more traditional models. Maybe there's something in the name afterall :D


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ok cool.

It might actually say more about the way that guitars sound with different amp settings than anything. When played clean I prefered the chipboard guitar over the others by a lot, it sounded head & shoulders above the rest to me...of course this is all personal preference :D . But when played through a dirty amp it sounded awful. I doubt that the guitar suddenly lost it's sound so I expect that it was due to a poorly matched amp/amp sound. That's the problem with running several guitars through the same rig with the same settings, they will all react slightly differently (which was the point of the test). That's not to say that X-guitar sounds bad through X-amp, rather X-guitar sounds bad through X-amp with X-settings. I've had similar experiences with guitars & FX pedals, some combinations sound great & others don't...it's not a problem with any particular component just that they're not working together in an optimal way.

thanks for taking the time out to do the test :D

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Here is a test for you. Play one guitar(I don't care which). Play the guitar picking in three different positions. You obviously will notice a huge difference. Then for curiosity sake do the same test this time vary the intensity of your picking in each of these positions. How hard you pick and where you pick makes a huge difference in the overall tone of a guitar. I would imagine different body designs tend to make certain positions feel more natural(although everyone will be a bit different), but that may be part of the reason behind why we associate the tone we do with some instruments.


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  • 3 weeks later...

There is a curious fact in the test results. Both LP and Explorer have short 627mm scale lengths, while the chipboard guitar has a standard strat 647/649mm scale. The chipboard guitar should sound quite brighter and more twangy for that reason(like a strat), but it doesn't. Does that mean that chipboard absorbs more treble?

If you, Pete and your friend, happen to be bored for another night, it will also be interesting to build a chipboard neck for the guitar :D .

Edited by Evtim Djerekarov
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One thing I will say is that tone is largely phychological, and some people really don't have any idea what tone is. People say that any amp made by Fender or Marshall or Vox and has real tubes in it "sounds amazing", and while that usually is the case- it's not always. I made a guitar body out of yellow pine that somebody on my street was throwing out, and after putting on a neck, i ended up selling my epiphone les paul, because i preffered my home made guitars tone. I'm sure someone with more experience could find problems with it, but its deffinitley passable if not perfectly fine.

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  • 6 months later...

Aren't Epiphones made of chipboard anyway? :D

Well, I managed to at least get clean and dirty matched up, but I thought the chipboard sounded best and hence pegged it as the LP, thought the Les sounded average like an Explorer, and thought the Explorer sounded like a bit of chipboard.

Great little experiment, and a humbling experience for those of us with a hard on for tone.

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I had forgotten about this thread!

The 'Tone Bringer' still gets taken out at parties just for the comical value! If only it were lighter, stayed in tune, and didn't have those incredibly sharp edges where the laminate finish joins the chipboard, I would play it more often....

I'd also say that by choosing to keep the amp settings the same isn't going to be perfect, although gives a direct comparison. Had we adjusted the EQ settings for each guitar to optimise the sound, we would probably have a better idea about which sounded better, but then it wouldn't have been a comparison of the guitar on its own, but a combination of guitar and amp. To compensate for this we tried to set the amp so that all three guitars sounded pretty good.

As for epiphones, I can only speak for my les paul, but it definately isn't made from chipboard and the maple top is full thickness, not laminated as often thought about epiphones. When you have the pickups out and look through the lacquer, you can see the wood type - same for inside the electronics cavities so it's definately mahogony.

Anyway, good to see some folks like the thread - we had a good laugh making the guitar!

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