Identical guitars, one bolt-on neck and one set-in neck: differences?

davidrf

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Hi there, I have the opportunity of choosing between two guitars I'd like to buy. They are both Aria Pro II Cardinal series. One is the Cardinal CS-400, the other is the Cardinal Deluxe.



Both guitars are identical (ash body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, same exact electronics, about the same weight) but CS-400 is set-in neck and Deluxe is bolt-on neck.

What differences should I expect between these two guitars, in your opinion? I can only think of the bolt-on one having more attack... but I'd like to hear your opinion, good people. Thanks!
 

DoctorGonzo

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Generally folks tend to think a set neck guitar will have better sustain. Like most things with guitar I think a lot of it has to be taken on a guitar-by-guitar basis. You may get a dud of a set neck where the fit of the neck was poor but it was glued in anyways and the result is a poor sounding or sustaining guitar. On the other hand you could get a bolt on neck with a very tight fit that could sustain very well.

Another consideration would be that bolt on necks can be shimmed to adjust neck angle. Much more difficult to steam a set neck off the body to adjust neck angle. So I think a lot of it depends on the confidence you have in the guitar builder. If I thought the builder may screw up the neck angle or the fitment of a set neck I might opt to go with a bolt on neck so I could take it apart and fiddle with the neck pocket and angle if it wasn't working for me. Generally though a set neck is thought of as a step up from a bolt on neck because of the extra time required for fitment of the neck and gluing.
 

LtDave32

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People seem on a quest for "sustain for days"..

.. but nobody really plays like that. And I've seen strats deliver sustain far beyond what any song, improv lead, whatever calls for.

This all started in the 1960s, when the cheapie 'Thriftymart" guitars that hung on the ends of the isles for a tidy $39.00 out the door happened to have bolt on necks. Them, and all the other cheapie, oddball basswood guitars one saw at swap meets and garage sales.

Really, there's nothing wrong with them and it's all in the head.

Do they represent fine fitment, lutherie and craftsmanship? -perhaps not.

Are they vastly inferior to set-neck guitars? -So much as people believe.
 

vivanchenko

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I noticed that guitars with bolt-on necks are much more prone to the wolf/dead note problem. I am not saying that guitars with set-in necks are completely immune to it, but somehow none of the set-in neck guitars which I played were affected. About 60% of all guitars with bolt-on necks which I tried did have this problem. Some guitars dampen certain frequencies. Those frequencies won't sustain at all while a neighbouring note can sustain for days. I would never ever buy a guitar with bolt-on neck without having a chance to test each and every note. I know that Leo Fender was puzzled by this problem, but there is no good solution. Attaching a weight to the headstock will move the dead spot to the next , hopefully less frequently played fret, but the problem won't go away. Not to mention that having a weight permanently attached to your headstock sucks in itself.
 
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LtDave32

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In "real world" guitar playing, I've never encountered a non-sustaining note from a well-made, properly set-up bolt neck guitar.

As long as the instrument is set up right, good leveled and polished frets, they've always performed for me.

Scores of big-name artists play Strats and Teles in their toolbox, along with other set-neck guitars. Never seemed to bother them, so it doesn't bother me.

Page played a Tele exclusively on the first Zep album and more.

Clapton's 'blackie' ? Yeah, Eric can sustain a note or three.

Sometimes you've got ordinary Joe's looking for perfection, then you've got those who don't worry about what 'could or might be" and just play.
 

moreles

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IMO, the mechanical sustain enhancement of a glued-in neck, or, conversely, the bright snap of a bolted maple neck are not really that impactful or critical anymore since virtually no one has a signal chain or rig that can't be readily adjusted to yield the tone you want. You can get thick sustain from a Tele, easily; a LP with normal (not crazy hot) PUs can be bright and snappy. In my experience, the set-neck and bolt-neck tendencies are real, but rarely if ever critical. I make my choices based on feel and playability.
 

vivanchenko

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In "real world" guitar playing, I've never encountered a non-sustaining note from a well-made, properly set-up bolt neck guitar.

As long as the instrument is set up right, good leveled and polished frets, they've always performed for me.

Scores of big-name artists play Strats and Teles in their toolbox, along with other set-neck guitars. Never seemed to bother them, so it doesn't bother me.

Page played a Tele exclusively on the first Zep album and more.

Clapton's 'blackie' ? Yeah, Eric can sustain a note or three.

Sometimes you've got ordinary Joe's looking for perfection, then you've got those who don't worry about what 'could or might be" and just play.
I am not saying that all bolt-on neck guitars have dead notes. My Squire tele doesn't and it sounds fantastic. My MIM strat and SA series Ibanez were affected severely. Some notes didn't sustain at all. None of my set-in neck Gibsons were affected. Set up and fixing fretwork do nothing to address the problem. Attaching a weight to the headstock relocates the dead note to the next fret. This wouldn't happen if it was a fretwork or a setup problem. Getting intonation right doesn't help either.

The problem is absolutely random and unpredictable. It takes an unlucky chunk of wood and a bolt on neck. Higher end guitars get tested and the ones which have easily noticeable dead notes don't get through quality control. Mid and lower end guitars, such as the one in the original post, are not tested as rigorously and dead notes is a very common problem with them.

Also, it looks like heel thickness is also a part of the equation. Dead notes are very common with SGs.

The guitar in the original post is very likely to have this problem. Some people don't notice that their guitars have dead notes because sometimes they happen to be in rarely played spots.

Check out these threads:
https://www.bestbassgear.com/ebass/gear/hardware/tuner/treating-your-basses-deadspot.html ,
https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/obsessing-about-dead-spots.1327547/

Speaking of the original post, I would definitely get the guitar with set-in neck.
 
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LtDave32

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I am not saying that all bolt-on neck guitars have dead notes. My Squire tele doesn't and it sounds fantastic. My MIM strat and SA series Ibanez were affected severely. Some notes didn't sustain at all. None of my set-in neck Gibsons were affected. Set up and fixing fretwork do nothing to address the problem. Attaching a weight to the headstock relocates the dead note to the next fret. This wouldn't happen if it was a fretwork or a setup problem. Getting intonation right doesn't help either.

The problem is absolutely random and unpredictable. It takes an unlucky chunk of wood and a bolt on neck. Higher end guitars get tested and the ones which have easily noticeable dead notes don't get through quality control. Mid and lower end guitars, such as the one in the original post, are not tested as rigorously and dead notes is a very common problem with them.

Also, it looks like heel thickness is also a part of the equation. Dead notes are very common with SGs.

The guitar in the original post is very likely to have this problem. Some people don't notice that their guitars have dead notes because sometimes they happen to be in rarely played spots.

Check out these threads:
https://www.bestbassgear.com/ebass/gear/hardware/tuner/treating-your-basses-deadspot.html ,
https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/obsessing-about-dead-spots.1327547/

Speaking of the original post, I would definitely get the guitar with set-in neck.
Well my friend, you've got your world, and I've got mine.

I'm a guitar maker by trade. Of all the guitars I've made, both set-neck and bolt neck, none of them required some system of adding weights to a guitar headstock to fix a dead note issue. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing one guitarist in concert with weights fixed to the headstock of their instrument.

If I encounter a "dead" or short note, it has invariably been a fret issue. I level, re-crown and polish every fret on every guitar that leaves my shop, and before it leaves, I bend and check every single note that can be fretted and string that can be bent, looking for any choked notes, fuzziness or buzz or lack of sustain. If there is an issue, I fix it on the spot, even if it requires another fret level, recrown and polish.

It has never been an issue of neck tenon to mortise fitment. It has always been a fret level / fret work issue.

Now, I can see dead or choked notes being a problem with lower end guitars priced $300 and under, as they at that price are not made by craftsmen nor checked by experts. The fret work varies from adequate to atrocious. And I've also encountered plenty of people desparately searching for an issue, no matter how minute instead of simply accepting a decent assembly of strings, wood and metal and focusing on the playing of the instrument.

I've heard all sorts of wild claims over the years. One pickup ring dealer tried to sell his product at fantastically high prices, claiming his plastic was audibly superior to other MFG's plastics. Hard to prove when the plastic never touched the actual pickup. Ridiculous in any sense of the claim.
 

dcomiskey

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Buy whichever one feels and sounds the best to you. That's the only way you're going to find out. They're fairly low-end guitars, so it probably doesn't matter which one you buy, as the pickups are likely generic ones. Get whichever one feels better and slap some decent pups and pots in it.
 

Zeegler

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I've owned a bunch of Cardinals, both set-neck and bolt-on, and they were all fantastic instruments. All of them sustained very well, and none of them had any dead notes. If I were you, I would opt for the CS400 as they seem to be more desirable and therefore easier to sell should you ever decide to. Either way you can't really go wrong with any Matsumoku made guitars. Hopefully whichever one you choose still has the factory MMK45 pickups, as they are very good.
One thing to note with the bolt-on versions, the neck pocket is reverse tapered which means that if you ever decide you need to remove the neck for whatever reason, you must remove the neck pickup and push the neck TOWARDS the body and then up and out. If you try pulling the neck towards the headstock, it will not come out and may even crack the body if you force it hard enough.
 


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