Difference in LP tone with and without maple top.

JDZ

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I'll put on my nomex for this post...

My brain would be oatmeal comparing several hundred guitars, but I do back to back guitars often to understand what I like and don't between different guitars.

I had several customs, one of which has an all mahogany body black beauty. Never gave it any real thought, but for whatever reason, I really liked the sound of that one over others, which were different brands and had different pickups.

I happened to buy another guitar that was the same year, same manufacturer, same pickups and same all black nitro finish, but a standard with maple cap and mahogany back. Fretboard was different as well, ebony vs rosewood. Both all original.

Playing them back to back, over and over with same settings, the all mahogany bodied custom sounded warmer compared to the maple cap, mahogany back standard.

I trust my ears over what I'm 'supposed' to hear, but YMMV
Or maybe it was just the gold hardware and bourbon.

I don't have the standard anymore, but these are the guitars

'81 Tokai LC-100 BB

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'81 Tokai LS-80 BB

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AdrianDSMer

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Comparing a T-top equipped guitar and a modern PAF (attempt) is probably most of the difference you might hear. Need a like for like.
Plus (if I read it correctly) the OP is wanting to know what the slab body version is like compared to the full thickness guitar.

The slab body construction tends to be a little more focussed in the true mids. The low mids are a little softer. People call it 'barky' - as you get a lot of snarl. The SG goes even further here as the doublecut nature makes for less low end reproduction generally.
Add in the maple top, and the added mass as well as the wood species combination makes for a greater low mid 'authority'.

Of course there are individual guitars you could pick that might reverse this. But this is what you tend to find on average.
I know that pickups make a difference but you can slightly notice the maple brightness in the video, both sound like Les Pauls obviously. Slab Specials, Juniors, etc will be pretty much the same as a 50s custom for example since both have complete mahogany bodies.
 

efstop

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I have never tried to compare my guitars against each other, aside from the fact that I know they all sound differently. I just don't try to justify a tonal difference based on wood or the shape of the wood. I just don't care enough about it.
 

JDZ

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I have never tried to compare my guitars against each other, aside from the fact that I know they all sound differently. I just don't try to justify a tonal difference based on wood or the shape of the wood. I just don't care enough about it.

I do it all the time, not to compare different types of wood but to decide what guitars I want to keep vs let go.

Those two Tokai's I ordinarily wouldn't have bothered comparing since they are so similar.

But I had kept that Tokai Custom with Gotoh PAF's after comparing it to a Greco BB Custom I had with DRY Z's, which is 'supposed' to sound better. So I was curious if the wood made any difference and some time after the Greco was gone I had the opportunity to compare two much more similar guitars, and did.
 

Christosterone

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My lp recording is mahogany with a mahogany top…
i wish they made more models with this wood option…custom or goldie I’m thinkin

mahogany on mahogany sounds so good…with whacky pups too

id also love an all maple lester

-chris
 

PAPADON

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I would aver that there is no such thing as "The Les Paul" sound. There is a Telecaster, a Stratocaster and a Gretsch sound because of the distinctive pickups that are most often associated with those guitars but because the Les Paul has traditionally been associated with PAF humbuckers its sound designation rightfully falls under that general category which includes many designs and brands other than the Les Paul. Does the wood make a difference? Well like they say if you repeat the myth enough times maybe it will come true.
 
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irocdave12

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Well I don’t know about you guys but I have so finely tuned my ears and exquisitely trained my hearing that wood no longer challenges me. I can detect if a singer has dental veneers or not.
 

Force235

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It's a stiffeness difference, a maple top is stiffer than the mahoganey body, so a solid ONLY mahoganey body will resonate a little more than a mahoganey body that has a maple top glued to it; is it enough to notice, probably to the really descerning ear.
That all said, each piece of wood is slightly different, density, grain stgructure, which would give every guitar a slightly different resonance profile, is it enough to matter once plugged into a tube amp, probably!
 

Sirstringalot

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A flat slab of mahogany without a maple cap can be many different things.

Why do some people think all Les Pauls are single cuts?

full


An LP Junior or Special has a thicker body than an SG. The necks are also substantially beefier on the 50’s LP Juniors and Specials compared to the necks on any SG.

LP Specials have the neck pup further away from the bridge compared to an SG which makes the neck pup on the LP sound darker compared to an SG.


full
I never knew that, thanks.
 

v-man

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Our problems with these discussions come down to the horribly unscientific anecdotal ways of comparing.

Rarely are the guitars in question similar enough, and often we are hearing the difference in pickups as much or more than anything else. I like JDZ’s comment, which is about as close as our kind gets to a fair comparison, but the reality is we not only need the same two guitar builds, and the same pickups/strings, as well as the measured pickup heights, we also need multiple examples of each to discount the possibility of an anomalous build in the sample.

Realistically, you would need some guy like Trogly to pick up a good dozen of each for clickbait revenue to make something like that happen. Until then, we’ll all have our unshakable but unscientific anecdotal convictions (and I have been guilty as well A/Bing rosewood vs ebony in identical guitars w different pups).
 

InTheEvening

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Our problems with these discussions come down to the horribly unscientific anecdotal ways of comparing.

Rarely are the guitars in question similar enough, and often we are hearing the difference in pickups as much or more than anything else. I like JDZ’s comment, which is about as close as our kind gets to a fair comparison, but the reality is we not only need the same two guitar builds, and the same pickups/strings, as well as the measured pickup heights, we also need multiple examples of each to discount the possibility of an anomalous build in the sample.

Realistically, you would need some guy like Trogly to pick up a good dozen of each for clickbait revenue to make something like that happen. Until then, we’ll all have our unshakable but unscientific anecdotal convictions (and I have been guilty as well A/Bing rosewood vs ebony in identical guitars w different pups).
This.

If I ever win the lottery or have the resources, would love to hire a cheap but consistent builder to churn out several hundred identical guitars with wood type being the only variable that changes and do some comparisons between them. Would also need a consistent way to measure any tonal changes. Would have a machine do the strumming so it’s a consistent strum on each guitar, and may need to survey lots of guitarists and have it be a blinded study so those listening and doing the survey aren’t being biased in what they hear. Would also get some objective quantified measurements based on the recorded sound waves themselves. I’m surprised no one has done this, but I guess any big guitar company with the money and resources wouldn’t have any reason to care, if anything they benefit from all this tone wood talk. And most scientists are busy with more pressing issues.
 
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Christosterone

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This.

If I ever win the lottery or have the resources, would love to hire a cheap but consistent builder to churn out several hundred identical guitars with wood type being the only variable that changes and do some comparisons between them. Would also need a consistent way to measure any tonal changes. Would have a machine do the strumming so it’s a consistent strum on each guitar, and may need to survey lots of guitarists and have it be a blinded study so those listening and doing the survey aren’t being biased in what they hear. Would also get some objective quantified measurements based on the recorded sound waves themselves. I’m surprised no one has done this, but I guess any big guitar company with the money and resources would have any reason to care, if anything they benefit from all this tone wood talk. And most scientists are probably busy with more pressing issues.

id get Rob from Andertons…that dude can hear things I could never

‘I love the blindfolded videos where he nails it Pretty much every time

-chris
 

InTheEvening

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id get Rob from Andertons…that dude can hear things I could never

‘I love the blindfolded videos where he nails it Pretty much every time

-chris
Well said! I’m genuinely shocked at how good he is in those. I’ve heard Paul Reed Smith has very fine tuned ears as well.
 

Der_Kaiser

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Whether we can hear the difference or not Les and Ted McCarty must have heard something or why else would they have bothered?

Surely making the lp from one material is easier than adding a maple cap, latterly a book matched piece of maple.
 

InTheEvening

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Whether we can hear the difference or not Les and Ted McCarty must have heard something or why else would they have bothered?

Surely making the lp from one material is easier than adding a maple cap, latterly a book matched piece of maple.
I could see the book matching being done more for aesthetic purposes than tonal. The 59 looked pretty with that flame top. But they were plain maple tops before then. So who knows.

We also know the original Les Paul Customs were made to be all mahogany and I would be curious to know if they did that just out of convenience or for any tonal benefit. With most guitar makers, I find these changes are usually done based on what’s most cost effective or will lead to more sales rather than a tonal benefit.
 

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