Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Manufacturing variations | J45 Standard


Jesper Andersen

Recommended Posts

Hi,

 

I have read from several forums that each guitar from a production line sound a little different and I am wondering how much this is true for Gibson Acoustics?

In this case I am referring to Gibson J45 Standard but this post could be relevant for any Gibson acoustic I guess.

 

After watching videos in Youtube showing the manufactuing processes at Gibson I do see some degree of manual work and of course we are dealing with organic materials here.

This could indeed lead to the instruments sounding different.

 

The question is how much?

 

I have read people categorizing J45s in shops from being “a dog" to "excellent" on their quest to find the perfect one.

I find this hard to believe, first of all, the “acoustic memory” of human beings is down to seconds - after a very short while you don’t rely on facts anymore and would Gibson really ship products with such a big variation?

 

My question is how much of this variation can be pinned down to different strings, old strings, difference action, temperature and humidity?

What’s the true variation in sound of products right of the production line where above parameters are equal?

 

What’s your opinion and experiences in this?

 

Thanks ;)

 

Br Jesper

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was hanging out with a friend who used to be a pretty good builder - he started out making fiddles and then moved into guitars. His take on why mass produced guitars can sound different has nothing to do with dead strings. You can take two evenly cut pieces of Sitka and there still can be as much as a 25% difference in something like stiffness. Ideally the thickness and bracing of the tops should reflect this. But the company has a set of specs that they stick to if they are going to meet their production quota. So I guess based on the law of averages out of any batch of guitars a few will sound exceptional while a few will be sound not so great.

 

Not being much of a guitar spec geek and more of a tone wood - schmone wood kinda guy it sounds reasonable to me. On the other hand it could be a bunch of malarkey.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guy Clark, songwriter supreme, is also a guitar builder. On a set of album liner notes (I think the CD is "The Dark," maybe "The Craftsman,' if it's the one where the liner notes are in a booklet) he talks of building two identical guitars. They are as exact to each other as he could make them. Both with splendid workmanship, yet one guitar is a "killer" and the other is a real dud. He said he does not know why one guitar sounds so much better. He took the guitars to a top notch builder and the guy couldn't find any differences in the guitars that could explain the difference in sound...........Regarding Gibsons: I'm glad they don't all sound alike. There are plenty of very nice "cookie cutter" guitars being made, but I don't want one. I don't want my J45 to be identical to all the other J45s. That's one of the things that draws me to Gibsons: they're consistent at being different.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I bought my first expensive guitar in 1991. A new Martin HD 28 for $1200. I played 5 or 6 of them at the store. They all sounded good, but one sounded better (to me, that day). Since then I have bought a few more new guitars both Martin and Gibson and never found two that sounded the same.

 

I have a D18GE I bought new in 2004. When the D18 Authentic came out I went to the dealer to trade up. I played my GE and the Authentic and both I and the guy with me couldn't tell the difference, so I saved a few thousand dollars. With another GE or Authentic the story could have been different.

 

Rich

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding Gibsons: I'm glad they don't all sound alike. There are plenty of very nice "cookie cutter" guitars being made, but I don't want one. I don't want my J45 to be identical to all the other J45s. That's one of the things that draws me to Gibsons: they're consistent at being different.

 

The argument though is that they lack consistency because they are cookie cutter guitars. The sound different because they are made on an assembly line with a rigid set of spec'd out parts which are in reality anything but consistent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

if it was built on Monday... they could of missed something... to tired to work... if it was friday.. who cares how its done.. get it done quick... its just about home time... oh,, and every day you have to have a minimum of 60 guitars pass through your station.. so... yup every guitar will be different... doesnt matter what Production Company..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As it was explained to me once: two pieces of wood--one dreams of being a guitar and the other a coffee table. It's important to pick the right stuff for the right stuff.

 

Maybe tpbiii will see this. If so, could you explain the concept of "acoustic memory?"

 

When I used to sell high end audio, and with my 'Bird, I've notice an acoustic learning effect. It's where you think a cheap pair of speakers sounds as good as an expensive set. But as you listen to them over a few weeks the scales drop off your ears and it's like you've been schooled in what good audio sounds like. The same thing happens with guitars. Good gear teaches you to hear.

 

FMA

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Heaven knows different ex's of the same model can sound like day and night, , , or maybe 'various shades of the same sunset' is a better expression.

 

You'll find tons of stuff on this topic here and there on the pages. Look up 'inconsistency'.

 

Some of it just small-talk, other highly qualified, almost scientific reporting.

 

I find this hard to believe, first of all, the "acoustic memory" of human beings is down to seconds - after a very short while you don't rely on facts anymore and would Gibson really ship products with such a big variation?

 

Eeeeehhh, , , this depends. Some can train their ears to incredible nuances - and levels of sonic memory too.

People are inconsistant like the guitars when it comes to that, but ask a pro person with decades of studio-experience. . .

 

At the other hand, yes - it IS a diffuse skill and one have to be hyper-aware of possible mental tricks played on the inner ear now and again - don't take nothing for granted.

So many factors can chime in and the chance of psychological mini-trolls must be counted.

 

Still, , , who'll ever forget the sound of a superb acoustic met back on the life's river, , , it remains there as the echo of a kiss. . .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Youre not gonna try and tell us all that kisses are all different too em ?!

Geez , guitars are different , kisses are different.. Crazy!

 

This has to stop , next thing we'll all be expected to believe that women aren't all the same !!

 

Highly trained ears .... Pphht

 

Oooouuuhhh, , , the sound of highly trained lips - 'ave a nice weekend bbg, , , and don't you get bold over that other-threadly thophy over there. . .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love the 'special ears' guys... they can almost always be duped by something as straightforward as Hog Vs RW, then you get in to strings, tonerite, etc.... their special ears are never quite on the money. and come with longwinded disclaimers about recording variables etc... But still, if telling other people across the internet as a form of convincing yourself you have some kind of super-duper hearing charge on, tally ho an all that.... the downside of it is you can probably hear these people facepalming on the other side of the connection.... can't be good for confidence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote: "could you explain the concept of "acoustic memory?""

 

 

Hi FMA. Usually, when Audio Equipment Manufacturers and Instrument Builders want to prove something they indulge in a bought of what is known as ABX Testing. Its intended to be a scientific method of establishing, reliable feedback, regarding Sound Quality.

 

However, the truth is that such methods are fraught with all kinds of difficulties and anomalies, and so, some Manufacturers prefer to rely upon a handful of well known "Golden Ears" for feedback. These are folk with Unassailable Professional Qualifications, highly and widely well regarded globally for their accomplishments, who know what to listen for, can recognize, define and importantly for a Manufacturer, properly interpret what they are hearing, and probably even give the best solution to problems or at least point the way, from an Audio Design perspective.

 

Anechoic Chamber Measurement with Measurement and Analysis using B&K Scientific Microphones can also tell you an awful lot, and Companies I have "an interest" in, have a great many such Chambers of differing types for various purposes that are used continuously. Sometimes we even hire specialised Chambers for particular reasons. The Huge Benefield Anechoic Chamber at Edwards Air Base belonging to the American Military, is one we have used fairly recently for Scientific Analysis.

 

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=benefield+anechoic+chamber&newwindow=1&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=NuAqU_nOK5PwhQfIqICwCg&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1680&bih=933

 

 

 

Here, I will try to scale away all the usual points of debate and discussion however, and tell you what I believe it is most important to understand, hopefully in a way that everyone can easily comprehend.

 

The first point is, the fact that Guitars are made from Material that is highly variable from Guitar to Guitar, even with the strictest Production Controls in Material Selection, so they naturally will express clear differences from Product to Product.

 

Secondly, everyone's Ears are Different, so individuals can hear the same thing, but perceive it somewhat differently. The shape of the Pinna (Ear Lobes) and the Auditory Canal, mean that Sound enters the Ear itself, with highly individual equalisation differences from person to person. So the same Sound, can be perceived, slightly differently.

 

Thirdly, the Frequency Range of Sensitivity of individual's Ears, and the level at which differing Frequencies can be detected by those individuals, has a tremendous degree of variation from person to person, because of a degree of damage over time. So their Ability to Hear particular Aspects of Sound, can be highly variable and may both sensitise and de-sensitise particular aspects.

 

Fourthly, some people simply have a tremendous amount of Hearing Experience that has been built over a Lifetime, and by virtue of their Professional Experience are highly trained to detect Aspects of Sound that most people will simply miss completely, or fail simply to be able to understand what they are hearing, even though they might suspect, or even know that something is different.

 

In addition, the Data Bank of Stored Information in the individuals Brain, can differ from person to person because of entirely different Life Experiences. These are including or excluding many differing Sonic Phenomenon's that may or may not have been experienced. They may involve Building Materials and the Sonic Differences that reflections from these environmental surfaces may alter Sound with. Comb Filtering etc.

 

When you see a Large Format Recording Console in a Recording Studio, with Small Monitors sat on the Meter Bridge, all the sound that reflects from the surface of the Console (especially if the Console includes a Computer Screen), Re-Filters the Equalization of the Reflected Sound from the Direct Sound of the Monitors, and alters perception as the reflections then recombine at the Ear.

 

 

This is why Mastering Engineers (usually the best Ears of All) have almost NOTHING in their Studios.

 

Just the Direct Reference Monitors to Ears experience with a very small Console with a tiny footprint. For instance.

 

The smallest difference in Sound Pressure Level the average person can detect is 1 dB. However when Mastering Recordings, I can detect 1/10 th and 2/10 of a dB differences in Level over Frequencies Ranges.

 

So the point is, not only is the Raw Material every Guitar is made from different that Vibrates the Air to Create the Sonic Performance, the Ears and Brain and Experience of every Listener is also usually somewhat different from person to person, so as well, that will influence how we Experience the Performance.

 

 

 

Here's where it gets very interesting indeed.

 

When we hear Sound, we perceive the Speed of Transient Attack, the Rate of Sonic Decay, The Fundamental of the Notes, and all the concomitant Harmonics and Overtones that are involved in making up that Sonic Experience.

 

The Sound is Stored in our Brains Short Term Memory. Here's the thing, it stays there for a matter of Milliseconds, and then is automatically transferred to the Brains Long Term Memory. The thing is, our Brain are predisposed by Design to prioritise Visual Stimuli.

 

Because of this, Auditory Information stored in the Brains Long Term Memory undergoes an entirely subconscious, Reprocessing Operation during the Memory Transfer, where many aspects of the Full Sonic Experience initially encountered, especially Harmonic Information are forever stripped away, to enable the Sound to be Stored in the Brain, in a kind of more Basic, and Compacted Format. As the Brain juggles with and sorts out all the Sensory Information it is continuously receiving from every one of the Body's Sense's.

 

This is a bit like MP3's versus C.D's, where the Programming of the MP3 Software strips away certain aspects of the Full Original Recording, enabling more efficient use of the Available Storage Space. This is why, sometimes when you first try an Instrument, it might instantly strike you as being a certain way Sonically, but when you try it again a short time later, it can seem a little different to how it seemed you first experienced it, but you don't know why? And then quite naturally you can feel a little unsure about the Instrument. The Long Term Memory, (greater than a few Milliseconds) has subtly altered what you know you experienced, but you know, it now "Sounds", not quite the same as you remember.

 

You never get a second chance to hear anything for the first time.

 

This is why I Totally Trust my Initial Sonic Impression.

 

But validate that by Repeatedly Testing.

 

Over many, many hours indeed.

 

Completely Relaxed.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I used to sell high end audio, and with my 'Bird, I've notice an acoustic learning effect. It's where you think a cheap pair of speakers sounds as good as an expensive set. But as you listen to them over a few weeks the scales drop off your ears and it's like you've been schooled in what good audio sounds like. The same thing happens with guitars. Good gear teaches you to hear.

 

 

I went that route working in a very high end audio store for a bit as well. Our secret weapon was a room which was designed to bring out the best acosutics. Maybe the reason it was not uncommon to hear from a customer that the stuff sounded so much better in the store than at their home.

 

But I am still waiting for somebody to explain to me why everybody who owns a Norlin-era Gibson has found one of those few fabled elusive gems to sneak out of the factory. Reading enough posts on enough forums leaves one with the impression that the most consistently good guitars ever to come out of Gibson were made in the 1970s.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You never get a second chance to hear anything for the first time.

 

This is why I Totally Trust my Initial Sonic Impression.

 

But validate that by Repeatedly Testing.

 

Over many, many hours indeed.

 

Completely Relaxed.

 

 

What a great post! My own approach to evaluating guitars is expressed very well by the quoted text, but now I understand the technical reasons much better.

 

Thanks!

 

-- Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

This is why I Totally Trust my Initial Sonic Impression.

 

 

Hi Anthony,

 

What a great post!

 

I completely agree with you - I build speakers as a hobby and I work with voicing and development of earphones in my professional life.

Even though I'm not a great guitar player I can hear when a guitar sounds great (to my liking)

 

Regarding the "memory" I actually take notes when listening to headphones - I have a certain way to rate them but even with this system I make mistakes.

There's so much to judging audio - your mood of the day for example.

 

The J45 I have now sounds great and maybe I will find one that sounds even better some day. I am convinced that they can sound quite different and this thread definitely confirms that.

 

Until then I will just enjoy the lovely guitar I already have ;)

 

Jesper

 

PS

Great explanation of "acoustic memory" btw

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've discussed instrument design with many guitar and violin makers - I trained as one and deal with them through work on a regular basis - and the number of luthiers telling me the story about how they made two guitars as close to each other as possible and they sounded totally different is well into double figures by now. The truth? If you make to a template, without responding to the subtle differences in the components you use, then you will end up at the mercy of your materials and your instruments will never be truly consistent. The ability to properly read the materials, to know how exactly how stiff the soundboard and each brace needs to be to get the sound they're looking for, that to me is what separates the great from the good. Inevitably, those are the guys with a lengthy waiting list - so if you want one of their instruments you're going to have to put your money down and trust them to get the result you want!

 

As far as instruments made in a factory environment are concerned, inevitably manufacturing tolerances are set and there are going to be differences from one to the next. Some manufacturers seem to be more consistent than others but I also suspect people over egg the differences and that, setting aside genuine quality control issues and the obvious set up and strings problems that might affect an out of the box guitar, the 'gems' and 'dogs' comments that follow the big brand guitars around say as much about the psychology of guitarists as much as they do the manufacturers. The dealer I work for sells a lot of Martin guitars for example, and there are certainly small differences between examples of the same model, but each model always has broadly the same tonal characteristics. Some I prefer to others, but the one I think are the best examples rarely sell any quicker, and the ones I find a bit 'meh' sell though just as easily. So, either my ears are a terrible judge of sound, or a fair number of customers have no idea about what constitutes a good guitar and only buy for the name on the headstock - or it's all subjective and most of these guitars finds an owner who loves it for what it is. My money's on the latter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is being talked about here tends to be the erason folks give for having a guitar custom built or buying from one of the smaller shops like Collings or Kopp. The claim is these guys take the time to carefully select the wood and then even more time to "voice" the guitar neither of which you are going to get with the larger builders who buy wood in bulk and have a fairly hefty production quota.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...