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Ebony Vs. Rosewood.


Victory Pete

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Having added 4 new Gibsons and one new Martin to my guitar fleet, I was surprised to learn that Rosewood bridges transfers string energy better than Ebony. This seems to be confirmed as I find my Gibsons have more "pop" than my Martins. The Martin's attack seems a bit subdued. My Cordoba Classical has an Ebony fretboard and a Rosewood bridge, go figure.

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Ebony boards and bridges always seem to have more fundamental and more shimmering treble overtones, with a strong, direct and uncomplicated midrange.

 

Rosewood, to my ears, is lighter sounding, with more midrange detail, more bass breadth and that directness and uncomplicated quality moved up into the top end, with more of a bell-like treble.

 

Ebony is more susceptible to sounding dead with old strings, but with an attractive sort of thunky deadness in the bottom end rather than the woolly bottom end woof of dead strings on a rosewood board and bridge.

 

I only have Rosewood on my current flock, I prefer the feel and sound personally, but I'd welcome an Ebony board and bridge back into the fold in the future. I had a Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy for a while that had a Richlite board and bridge which I traded for my SJ200 and still miss like mad...Richlite is another question entirely!

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Ebony boards and bridges always seem to have more fundamental and more shimmering treble overtones, with a strong, direct and uncomplicated midrange.

 

Rosewood, to my ears, is lighter sounding, with more midrange detail, more bass breadth and that directness and uncomplicated quality moved up into the top end, with more of a bell-like treble.

 

Ebony is more susceptible to sounding dead with old strings, but with an attractive sort of thunky deadness in the bottom end rather than the woolly bottom end woof of dead strings on a rosewood board and bridge.

 

I only have Rosewood on my current flock, I prefer the feel and sound personally, but I'd welcome an Ebony board and bridge back into the fold in the future. I had a Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy for a while that had a Richlite board and bridge which I traded for my SJ200 and still miss like mad...Richlite is another question entirely!

 

The tweedy guitar is on my list of 'would really like'

I can't see that ever happening as they're kinda expensive

I'd have to let the 00015 go and I'd be scared that I'd regret that , and I'd also regret the big empty pocket making up the price difference

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Anyone who plays an archtop can attest to the difference between ebony and rosewood. I have always preferred the ebony floating bridges,

 

But again, on flattops the bridge plate comes into play as much, if not more, than the wood the bridge is made of. The bridge plate is another top brace. Too bulky or stiff (such as those Gibson used at one time) and it just deadens the energy passing through it.

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The tweedy guitar is on my list of 'would really like'

I can't see that ever happening as they're kinda expensive

I'd have to let the 00015 go and I'd be scared that I'd regret that , and I'd also regret the big empty pocket making up the price difference

 

My Tweedy left a big old regretful hole in my heart when it left. I love my SJ200 and it's a more "useful" stage guitar but the Tweedy was sweet as a nut and cute as a button.

 

Weirdly, I traded it in at a Southampton guitar store and, many miles away from Southampton at a gig I played last week, I met the guy who bought it from the store. He, like all of us here, was a fellow connoisseur of all things guitar, he came up to me between sets and asked if he could sniff the soundhole of my SJ200! We got chatting and he said he loved Gibsons but at the moment was in a Martin phase, and that he recently picked up a Martin Tweedy sig. I told him I loved my old one but had PX'd it for my SJ200, and after a few mins we both realised that he had bought my old Tweedy from the same store!

 

He was really pleased to have my old guitar and I was really pleased that it'd gone to such an enthusiast. I gave him my card and said "if you ever want to sell..." but in reality I know he'll keep it and I know I can't afford it!

 

I do need a great parlour to finish off my collection though, along with the great 12er I have in the works...and I've never played a modern parlour I prefer to the Tweedy.

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You gave me motion to search the tweedy

Talking 2,500 more or less. Which is just madness

 

I paid £1750 for mine, used but as new, with a Baggs Lyric fitted. I expect Martin to ship quite a few of them in the next year, as they sidestep all the CITES import/export strictures and are a great premium model, so deals will be out there to be had, I'm sure.

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Ebony boards and bridges always seem to have more fundamental and more shimmering treble overtones, with a strong, direct and uncomplicated midrange.

 

Rosewood, to my ears, is lighter sounding, with more midrange detail, more bass breadth and that directness and uncomplicated quality moved up into the top end, with more of a bell-like treble.

 

Ebony is more susceptible to sounding dead with old strings, but with an attractive sort of thunky deadness in the bottom end rather than the woolly bottom end woof of dead strings on a rosewood board and bridge.

 

I only have Rosewood on my current flock, I prefer the feel and sound personally, but I'd welcome an Ebony board and bridge back into the fold in the future. I had a Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy for a while that had a Richlite board and bridge which I traded for my SJ200 and still miss like mad...Richlite is another question entirely!

There is a 2015 on Reverb for $1650. Nice looking guitar

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Ebony boards and bridges always seem to have more fundamental and more shimmering treble overtones, with a strong, direct and uncomplicated midrange.

 

Rosewood, to my ears, is lighter sounding, with more midrange detail, more bass breadth and that directness and uncomplicated quality moved up into the top end, with more of a bell-like treble.

 

Ebony is more susceptible to sounding dead with old strings, but with an attractive sort of thunky deadness in the bottom end rather than the woolly bottom end woof of dead strings on a rosewood board and bridge.

 

I only have Rosewood on my current flock, I prefer the feel and sound personally, but I'd welcome an Ebony board and bridge back into the fold in the future. I had a Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy for a while that had a Richlite board and bridge which I traded for my SJ200 and still miss like mad...Richlite is another question entirely!

 

I think I understand your description. As far as dead strings, yes sir, they sure go dead on a Martin.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is it one of those "original" J45 Customs - made back 10 years ago before they stopped using ebony for the fretboard and bridge?

I have a 2002 J-45 Rosewood, with ebony fingerboard & bridge. Very full, strong, & dry tone.

 

I also have a 1973 Guild F-30R, and 2001 Martin custom dread, both similarly fitted with rosewood bodies & ebony for the board & bridge.

 

Interesting thread, but the initial Gibson/Martin comparison seems like apples & oranges. If you could take two absolutely identical guitars, except for a rosewood versus ebony board & bridge, I'm guessing the tonal difference would be minimal. Just an armchair opinion, based on guitars played over the years.

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I just love the ebony fingerboards on my Guilds.

Yes, the feel of an ebony board is really nice.

 

Along with the three acoustic guitars mentioned above, my 1922 Gibson & 2010 Breedlove mandolins also have ebony fingerboards & bridges.

 

On the electric side, there are three Gibsons in the house with ebony fingerboards: 1990 Tennessean, 2002 SG Faded, and 2011 ES-335 w/P90s.

 

Re Gibson's use of ebony, I guess the limited-run 2011 ES-335 snuck in just under the wire!

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I have examples of both ebony and rosewood bridges/fretboards, and I like all of them. I agree with Bobouz and tpbiii--there are too many other variables that are much more likely to affect tone, especially when we're talking different brands and models.

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Now to confuse the issue: Lowden usually use ebony boards with rosewood bridges. Here is Matt from Eddies Guitars explaining in the first part of the video.

 

 

 

 

Now I had a rosewood bridge split in half and fall off my 52 Gibson LG1 and when I took it to the luthier to repair, he said he had a 'really, really dense piece of ebony' if I would like to try it. Now the LG1 is my light body slide practice guitar but let me tell you - that ebony bridge is great for slide playing, making the notes dense and thick and that slide sings! Would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it! <_<

 

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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I have a 2002 J-45 Rosewood, with ebony fingerboard & bridge. Very full, strong, & dry tone.

 

I also have a 1973 Guild F-30R, and 2001 Martin custom dread, both similarly fitted with rosewood bodies & ebony for the board & bridge.

 

Interesting thread, but the initial Gibson/Martin comparison seems like apples & oranges. If you could take two absolutely identical guitars, except for a rosewood versus ebony board & bridge, I'm guessing the tonal difference would be minimal. Just an armchair opinion, based on guitars played over the years.

 

In my online research, somebody had replaced the ebony bridge on his D-28 with rosewood and said it was a dramatic improvement in sound. That there is pretty good evidence for this discussion. I have identical bridges in my workshop of ebony and rosewood, when tapped against my marble counter top the rosewood vibrates more robustly and the ebony is more dead sounding.

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In my online research, somebody had replaced the ebony bridge on his D-28 with rosewood and said it was a dramatic improvement in sound. That there is pretty good evidence for this discussion. I have identical bridges in my workshop of ebony and rosewood, when tapped against my marble counter top the rosewood vibrates more robustly and the ebony is more dead sounding.

I think the "transfer of string energy" as mentioned in your opening post, is being confused with "sound" as referred to above.

 

Historically, ebony was the bridge material of choice for many of the finest instruments ever produced, including Gibson's Loar-era mandolins, and Martin's golden-era guitars. Clearly, it must have been chosen because it is one of the finest woods available for the task at hand: To transfer string vibrations to the top.

 

While rosewood is clearly a wood with more inherent sustain, imho, that does not necessarily make it better in this application - it just makes it a bit different.

 

Turning this discussion to "sound" puts matters into a very different and subjective realm. The fellow who swapped out the bridge on his D-28 may be someone who plays with a pick & craves sustain, while I fingerpick with nails and crave short & bell-like notes. And quite possibly, some of the change in his tone could have come from improving the fit of the saddle in the new bridge (which truly can make a very significant difference). There are many variables to consider.

 

Tapping wood samples will clearly show a difference as noted in the Walker video. But the bridge is a firm, thick piece of wood whose primary function is to transfer vibration to the top, rather than providing a particular sound. It is of course the body's primary function to provide the dominant tonal characteristics.

 

Yes, every piece of a guitar has an impact, but again, my guess is that choosing ebony or rosewood for the bridge material is going to have a relatively minimal impact on what comes out of the soundhole of an acoustic guitar. And whatever that audible difference may be, the pros & cons of that tone will be in the ears of the beholder.

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