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Torrefaction...what does it add? Snake oil or magic potion?

#1 User is offline   Jinder 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 07:20 AM

Hi all,
I'm intrigued by torrefaction...baked wood, basically. I gather the baking advances the curing process and dries the tonewoods, causing the sap in the wood to crystallise in the same way as age does in vintage instruments.

I've not played one of the baked Gibsons, but I recently played a little torrefied Ibanez parlour guitar, modelled after the old Washburns et al from the early 20th century. It was terrific-light, punchy, dry and stacked out with mojo for spooky blues or celtic stuff. Only 300ish too...I was tempted. Having said that, I didn't have a non-torrefied example to compare it with.

So, my question is, what do YOU think/hear/find that it adds? Does anyone have a baked guitar and a similar non-baked example who can get down to the nitty gritty and describe the tonal variations between the two?

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts.
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2015 SJ200 Standard
2011 Dove
1990 Hummingbird
1967 J45
2014 SJ100 1941 Reissue
2014 Epiphone IB '64 Texan
2001 Epiphone EL-00 (early L1 shape model)
2003 Takamine EAN20C
1978 Hohner Leyanda 12 String
1998 Fender Classic Series '60s RI Telecaster

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#2 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 07:49 AM

Oooooh, we had a lot of talk about this when the wave started - recommend you to look up the pages.
The Board even had a whole squad that converted to fried Birds back then. The discussions flew hot and passionate.

I've tried a handful of these. Birds, a 200, a couple of J-45's and a Martin D-35 (plus more), , , and they all offered what you'ld expect =
Dryness, lightness, fast response, a very lively rather clear, but also slightly more porous voice.

You of course already have checked them in the cans on the Tube - and as an experienced musician thus listener probably got your clues by now.
But you have to go out and feel them face to face - it'll tell you the rest and what you need to know. Eeehh, 'cept one thing, which was up in the previous debates also :

How will it age ?
Will they over-open, will the respective components grow older under different conditions and kind of end up out of sync - and will that have a quality of its own.
Things got pretty deep when they were under the spotlight - the scientists here began to talk about wooden structures and the poets babbled.


Good fun - Exciting theme
You just can't keep coincidences down. .
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#3 User is offline   Buc McMaster 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 08:43 AM

I had a cooked Hummingbird and still have the baked J-45 Vintage. One of the issues in trying to make comparisons: the cooked top versions are red spruce while the others are sitka.......a considerable tonal difference between the two without consideration of the torrifaction. So it's not really fair to draw direct lines between them. I know my J-45 Vintage is very dry and fundamental, aggressive and raw sounding with an immediacy to response relative to other non-baked tops I've played. Some of that is the difference between sitka and red spruce but I also believe that some of it is string choice. The Martin Retros I use certainly add to the fundamental character of tone. Lots of variables in acoustic tone and it's difficult to isolate just one for descriptive purposes.

As for the how will a cooked top age question....... There must be a point of diminishing returns tonally for a cooked top or a 50 year old top on a vintage guitar. There's only so much change a piece of wood can go through before it hits a ceiling........that's it, no more crystallization, no more molecular changes.......it becomes fully mature structurally and tonally. Torrifaction is, to my thinking, a method of hastening this maturation process.
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#4 User is online   ThemisSal 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 09:12 AM

My reference is the Hummingbird Vintage that I owned, and I felt it was at least one positive factor, alongside light weight in general, that contributed to an amazing tone.

I am a believer in torrefaction.

Now will a torrefied top attached to non torrefied other partsies make for maintenance headache down the road? No idea.
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#5 User is offline   Hall 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 09:34 AM

I have a J-45 Vintage. While there is for sure something to the process with results just as folks are describing, I am certain it will always be to the ear and the mindset of the individual. I too find the Martin Retros really bring out the character of the torrefied J-45. The one I own has a 'crisp' punch to it that makes it a keeper for me at least. I walked into it by chance the day they came on market and liked what I heard enough to purchase. < if you knew me, you'd know that says something for the process.
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#6 User is offline   gfa 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 10:32 AM

I'm another happy J-45 Vintage owner. I didn't buy it because it was baked, I bought it because I loved the sound. Chose it over standard and TV models. I don't pretend to know enough to "answer" your question.
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#7 User is offline   fsharp 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 12:02 PM

View PostJinder, on 27 September 2017 - 07:20 AM, said:

Hi all,
I'm intrigued by torrefaction...baked wood, basically. I gather the baking advances the curing process and dries the tonewoods, causing the sap in the wood to crystallise in the same way as age does in vintage instruments.

I've not played one of the baked Gibsons, but I recently played a little torrefied Ibanez parlour guitar, modelled after the old Washburns et al from the early 20th century. It was terrific-light, punchy, dry and stacked out with mojo for spooky blues or celtic stuff. Only 300ish too...I was tempted. Having said that, I didn't have a non-torrefied example to compare it with.

So, my question is, what do YOU think/hear/find that it adds? Does anyone have a baked guitar and a similar non-baked example who can get down to the nitty gritty and describe the tonal variations between the two?

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts.


I'm afraid I have nothing at all to add about torrefaction, but I spent 30 minutes or so just yesterday googling the same Ibanez parlour guitar you are talking about. I've been kind of, sort of, half looking for a relatively inexpensive small guitar I can travel with. I tried the Guild M20(US) and M120(China) small mahogany models and liked them both very much. I'm afraid it may come down in the end to a composite because this thing might have to live in the trunk of my car for a day or 3 if I do any extended trips after I retire. You apparently liked the sound - was the playability also there? Sorry for changing the intent of the thread.
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#8 User is offline   scriv58 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 02:31 PM

i bought the 2016 j45 vintage 15 months ago, and it gets played at least an hour a day, sometimes more. I have owned 3 other brand new red spruce topped guitars, and never cared much for what i call a "glassy" or perhaps harsh tone. This one had only a tiny bit of that tone straight out of the box, and it has matured into a rich sounding instrument. However, i believe "vintage" is a misnomer, for it is NOT old wood, as are my '46 SJ, '48 LG2 and '57 CW. Nowhere near, sorry folks. But it does sound like a very good example of a j45, with all the headroom for the heaviest of hands...and it actually has what i can best term as a "toasted" fragrance, me being an unrepentant soundhole sniffer.
If for some unseen reason i could only keep one, it would definitely be the '46 sj, no need for further consideration.
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#9 User is offline   JuanCarlosVejar 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 03:09 PM

I have played the J 200 vintage at NAMM 2017 and the Prototype Hummingbird Vintage at NAMM 2014 and honestly I do see the value in torrification ... It's not for me .I prefer to age stuff on my own



I have also played torrified martins and was unimpressed .
Martin even has a 1937 D 28 torrified and beat up at this years namm and it looked bad and didn't sound very good (I am not a rosewood guy)

In my opinion it's not snake oil (there is value) but it won't sound like a naturally aged guitar in that sense it ain't a magic potion either.


And like any guitar some with be better than others even after baking


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2000 Yamaha FG720SL
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#10 User is offline   BluesKing777 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 04:20 PM

View PostJinder, on 27 September 2017 - 07:20 AM, said:

Hi all,
I'm intrigued by torrefaction...baked wood, basically. I gather the baking advances the curing process and dries the tonewoods, causing the sap in the wood to crystallise in the same way as age does in vintage instruments.

I've not played one of the baked Gibsons, but I recently played a little torrefied Ibanez parlour guitar, modelled after the old Washburns et al from the early 20th century. It was terrific-light, punchy, dry and stacked out with mojo for spooky blues or celtic stuff. Only £300ish too...I was tempted. Having said that, I didn't have a non-torrefied example to compare it with.

So, my question is, what do YOU think/hear/find that it adds? Does anyone have a baked guitar and a similar non-baked example who can get down to the nitty gritty and describe the tonal variations between the two?

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts.





I'm replying from a fingerpicking point of view.....

(I have the Martin OM18 Authentic 33 VTS mahogany with torrefied Adi top - a slightly different price point than the guitar of concern. [mellow] )

So the spiel is that the 30s version of the OM of mine are supposedly close to divinity, but the Adi top has been played for all those years and is broken in. Now the new adi tops can be hard to break in for fingerpickers, I have another from 2002 that still feels new, so I went for the torrefied top and it was still too stiff at the beginning for my bare flesh fingerpicking, so I gave it the week on a Tonerite then some new strings. It was wonderful sounding before but after it sounded.....vintage, still does! And it is one of the very, very best guitars I have ever owned/played for my fingerpicking......a couple of years on.

But now I know that we fingerpickers are probably swimming upstream a bit playing with tight adi tops - I have discovered 2 other tops absolutely perfect for fingerpicking straight out of the box - Cedar and Italian Spruce!


So today, now, this moment in time, I would not order Adi anything, so would not need the torrefaction - I would buy the Cedar top version - oh, oh, they don't have one.

Like I said - a fingerpicker's reply.


BluesKing777.







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#11 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 05:42 PM

Dana Bourgeois swears by it so I would not be so eager to dismiss torrefied spruce tops. What I have heard from people who know about such things though is that the torrefied wood is more brittle. So long term stability might be a factor.
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#12 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 06:56 PM

View Postscriv58, on 27 September 2017 - 02:31 PM, said:

However, i believe "vintage" is a misnomer, for it is NOT old wood, as are my '46 SJ, '48 LG2 and '57 CW. Nowhere near, sorry folks.


No, , , for nothing can stand in for time.
But like the visual virtues of the vintage-theme-guitars only become a loyal and well-meant picture of the real thing, the torrefied sound too only represents a sonic portrait of a genuine oldie.
Which in fact is the reason I have avoided the fried tops so far - simple to enjoy the old guard of the herd more.
Magikk often lie in differences - new - old - new - old - G - M - G - M.
That said, the frieds aren't counted out as a rule. Would be too square as some of them are magnificent.
You just can't keep coincidences down. .
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#13 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 06:21 AM

View Postscriv58, on 27 September 2017 - 02:31 PM, said:

However, i believe "vintage" is a misnomer, for it is NOT old wood, as are my '46 SJ, '48 LG2 and '57 CW. Nowhere near, sorry folks. But it does sound like a very good example of a j45, with all the headroom for the heaviest of hands...and it actually has what i can best term as a "toasted" fragrance, me being an unrepentant soundhole sniffer.
If for some unseen reason i could only keep one, it would definitely be the '46 sj, no need for further consideration.


Bwahahah. There will be more than a few of us who will be loathe to admit that these newfangled guitars can take on our cherished ""vintage" instruments with their old growth red spruce tops and Forbes PPG lacquer finishes. I do do not have a clue how close these terrified guitars come to my old guitars in sound. Ain't played one. But from everything I have heard, this additional kiln process can gel and solidify the sap wood in a matter of hours. I guess I could argue that the guitar will never "open up" as the decades pass. But I will never know as I did not own the guitars I do when they rolled out of the factory. Would I replace say my 1930s Depression-era special Capital or 1942 J-50 with a guitar with a roasted top. I would not bet the ranch on it. But would I choose one of the new guitars over a old guitar in the future? Ahhh, never say never.
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#14 User is offline   BluesKing777 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 06:50 AM

View Postzombywoof, on 28 September 2017 - 06:21 AM, said:

Bwahahah. There will be more than a few of us who will be loathe to admit that these newfangled guitars can take on our cherished ""vintage" instruments with their old growth red spruce tops and Forbes PPG lacquer finishes. I do do not have a clue how close these terrified guitars come to my old guitars in sound. Ain't played one. But from everything I have heard, this additional kiln process can gel and solidify the sap wood in a matter of hours. I guess I could argue that the guitar will never "open up" as the decades pass. But I will never know as I did not own the guitars I do when they rolled out of the factory. Would I replace say my 1930s Depression-era special Capital or 1942 J-50 with a guitar with a roasted top. I would not bet the ranch on it. But would I choose one of the new guitars over a old guitar in the future? Ahhh, never say never.



To be realistic, ZW, the new guitars will NOT replace your vintage guitars. Not in a million years!

The new ones with torrefied tops and braces etc, are for guitarists that don't have the price of a special vintage like say, the original 33 OM18 or 61 Bird or Banner J, or especially the vintage D18/28.........for a fraction of the cost, still expensive, but a fraction of a Bone, say.



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#15 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 10:54 AM

View PostBluesKing777, on 28 September 2017 - 06:50 AM, said:

To be realistic, ZW, the new guitars will NOT replace your vintage guitars. Not in a million years!

The new ones with torrefied tops and braces etc, are for guitarists that don't have the price of a special vintage like say, the original 33 OM18 or 61 Bird or Banner J, or especially the vintage D18/28.........for a fraction of the cost, still expensive, but a fraction of a Bone, say.



BluesKing777.



Of course not. I was just thinking that now that we can get guitars that not only look old but sound old (at least in theory as I have not played one) it will be a bit harder push to rationalize owning the higher priced vintage stuff. For whatever reason a picture of Nigel Tufnel popped into my head - "but this one goes to 11." I am sure not going to hold my breath awaiting the return of the X braced archtop with their "two hump" tops. As you say the question is not would I dump what I have for a new fangled terrified top guitar. Not going to happen. But do I keep waiting to stumble upon a 1930s J-35 with a reasonable price tag or jump on some future J-35 Legend with the nuked top that will sail me right up next to the original but still at a cost of 1/3 or so less. I can only wait to see the answer to this one myself.
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#16 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 01:22 PM

View Postzombywoof, on 28 September 2017 - 10:54 AM, said:

As you say the question is not would I dump what I have for a new fangled terrified top guitar. Not going to happen. But do I keep waiting to stumble upon a 1930s J-35 with a reasonable price tag or jump on some future J-35 Legend with the nuked top that will sail me right up next to the original but still at a cost of 1/3 or so less. I can only wait to see the answer to this one myself.



You've hit the nail on the head here, especially when it comes to high-priced vintage--say, a pristine J-35, a 1943 SJ, or a good late 1940's D-28. If torrefaction gets you closer to that vintage tone for a fraction of the bucks, that can't be a bad thing.

At my age, I can't afford to wait for newer guitars to age themselves.
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#17 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 02:44 PM

View Postzombywoof, on 28 September 2017 - 06:21 AM, said:

There will be more than a few of us who will be loathe to admit that these newfangled guitars can take on our cherished ""vintage" instruments with their old growth red spruce tops and Forbes PPG lacquer finishes.


That line was like dropping a nickel in a jukebox for me. It was the word newfangled.
Made me hear a song for the inner ear the second I read it.
Took some brain-spin to find the tune, but it emerged rather fast.
Been listening to it since the mid-70's, but never knew what it actually meant. Fixed that.

Now it's your turn. So QUIZ -

Which epic golden-age rock-album presented this word within the first 1:30 minutes ?

No need to say "no googling".


And almost sure Mr. Threadhost will allow a little music-game here in post #17


You just can't keep coincidences down. .
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#18 User is offline   BluesKing777 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 04:15 PM

View PostE-minor7, on 28 September 2017 - 02:44 PM, said:

That line was like dropping a nickel in a jukebox for me. It was the word newfangled.
Made me hear a song for the inner ear the second I read it.
Took some brain-spin to find the tune, but it emerged rather fast.
Been listening to it since the mid-70's, but never knew what it actually meant. Fixed that.

Now it's your turn. So QUIZ -

Which epic golden-age rock-album presented this word within the first 1:30 minutes ?

No need to say "no googling".


And almost sure Mr. Threadhost will allow a little music-game here in post #17







Jethro Tull?



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#19 User is offline   BluesKing777 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 04:27 PM

View Postzombywoof, on 28 September 2017 - 10:54 AM, said:

Of course not. I was just thinking that now that we can get guitars that not only look old but sound old (at least in theory as I have not played one) it will be a bit harder push to rationalize owning the higher priced vintage stuff. For whatever reason a picture of Nigel Tufnel popped into my head - "but this one goes to 11." I am sure not going to hold my breath awaiting the return of the X braced archtop with their "two hump" tops. As you say the question is not would I dump what I have for a new fangled terrified top guitar. Not going to happen. But do I keep waiting to stumble upon a 1930s J-35 with a reasonable price tag or jump on some future J-35 Legend with the nuked top that will sail me right up next to the original but still at a cost of 1/3 or so less. I can only wait to see the answer to this one myself.




Well, it would be great if you (ZW) headed out to a music shop this fine day and tried a torrefied top Gibson, Martin, Huss and Dalton, etc, even Yamaha have some...and tell us the honest thoughts on it after. My guess would be that you would say it sounded, felt like a brand new guitar....

Now to me, YMMV, my Martin OM18 Authentic VTS drowned any GAS for a real 33 model, but with the prices of the vintage, aha, it was never going to happen anyhow! But we have a toe in the water. UMGF'ers have dissected this guitar to an inch of its life and probably found it - I don't know what the result was because I had already bought it - but one of the people in the forums somewhere has the saying at the bottom of his posts: "Don't ask the elves for they can say yes...and no" from The Hobbit..... [mellow] This sums it up.

Another point or 2 from previous discussions that have appeared - one being that if you copy exactly the old guitars, you are going to have the same problems those old guitars had! The other point made is that the guitars like the Martin Authentic series may have futzed the vintage guitar prices.


So will I change the strings on my OM18A? Urgently needs it but new strings sounds just don't go with it. [smile] [smile] [smile]


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#20 User is offline   E-minor7 

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 04:44 PM

View PostBluesKing777, on 28 September 2017 - 04:15 PM, said:

Jethro Tull?


Bingou - it's the third verse or word-block of Thick as a Brick.

Half a point your way ^ but a big one.

1972 ~
You just can't keep coincidences down. .
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