“Tonewood” comparison, Rosewood vs Ebony fretboard sound clips.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Manton Customs, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. Rosewood, Ebony, Rosewood, Ebony

    13 vote(s)
  2. Ebony, Rosewood, Ebony, Rosewood

    0 vote(s)
  3. I can hear no difference

    7 vote(s)
  1. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    This subject comes up fairly often, but it’s not very often that people actually get to compare two (damn near) identical basses back to back. So, I thought I would put this sound clip up. Both basses are the same, except for the fretboard wood. They both have the same hardware, pickup, body/neck woods, setup and they both have the same strings. Both basses were recorded the same way and I did my best to play consistently (but there will always be a human element).

    To ensure we are not ‘hearing with our eyes’ I’m not going to reveal which one is which until the threads been open a sufficient period. There’s a poll too, but that’s more of a bit of fun as there’s a 50/50 chance of being right even if you just guess blindly (deafly!?).

    In the soundclip each bass is separated by the clicks counting in, whenever you hear those clicks the bass is switched. So the options are -

    Rosewood, Ebony, Rosewood, Ebony

    Ebony, Rosewood, Ebony, Rosewood

    Or a third option- I can hear no difference

    This thread is not to prove anything once and for all, or change anyone’s mind, just some (possibly!) interesting sound clips of two basses with as close as possible specs. Again, this is mostly for fun, so lets not get into any serious debates!

    Have fun!

    EDIT: Answer on page two, post #28

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
    shojii and saabfender like this.
  2. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    A bump for more votes!
    shojii likes this.
  3. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    Answer to the poll tomorrow.
    shojii likes this.
  4. Abner


    Jan 2, 2011
    Gotta love it... mention the tonal properties of fingerboard woods, and you get pages and pages of opinions. Ask somebody to prove it, and you get crickets. :)
  5. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    I can hear a VERY slight difference between the two instruments. The second just has a very slightly more immediate attack and clarity, the first is just a bit warmer. So, I’m going with rosewood then Ebony.

    Won’t be too surprised if I’m wrong. The effect of fingerboard wood is subtle, really more of a playing feel thing, and very hard to discriminate on recordings.

    FWIW, here is my recent post in a thread on this topic:
    Does fretboard wood make a consistent difference in tone that you can hear?
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2018
  6. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    I will take a shot rose eb rose eb
  7. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    The first problem with your test is that no two basses are the same because each piece of wood is unique by it's very nature.

    Swapping the necks on the same body with the same setup and strings might seem to be a better start, but even then isolating the effect of just the fingerboard is not really possible since the neck wood of each neck is the primary component and makes it's own contribution to the tone and are, again, different pieces of wood.
  8. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    Both neck blanks and body blanks came from the same board, so they are going to be about as close as you're likely to get with two basses. You'd need many more basses than two to do a proper experiment though, this is more a bit of fun and something which people may find interesting.

    I may swap the necks and record again at some point. But I wanted it to be two different basses in this case.
  9. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    all those tests clearly show -at least to me - that the differences are so minimal that they are irrelevant -at least to me...

    so i can buy my instruments based on looks and build quality and if anything swap the electronics...
  10. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    A couple of years ago I made two bass bodies using the same plank. As an exercise I swapped the same neck, strings, pickups, hardware, everything between the the two bodies set them up identically and they sounded very different. I was actually surprised to find that the different cuts from the same plank resulted in quite a difference in tone.

    In spite of being cut from the same board the necks will still not be the same. The necks and bodies will still introduce their own variables and interfere with the isolation of the fingerboard variable. As a career test engineer, I'd have zero confidence in the results of the comparison.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
    TrustRod and MattZilla like this.
  11. Difference is quite significant if the way OP played hasn’t influenced the sound of what we hear...

    For me:

    Rosewood ebony rosewood ebony if it’s true that ebony is able to enhance high frequencies
  12. The usual extreme demolition man ... zero confidence ... bah ... so results are always unpredictable 100% of the times? Are luthiers always in the hands of God? Come on ...
    birminghambass likes this.
  13. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    When using a material as inherently variable and unpredictable as wood for the primary structural components, yes, the results are a crapshoot.
  14. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic Designer: Yorkville Sound
    What I've learned from TB is that nothing really matters, you can change everything, it all sounds the same... except for the strings all basses sound the same LOL

    This has been a heated 'debate' on TB for years. LOL
    Your experience is interesting as I was wondering how much body-wood makes a tonal difference compared to the influence of the neck... then, of course what's the difference between a straight maple neck and one that has a nice piece of rosewood on the fingerboard. In MY experience, when I swapped to a rosewood fretboard from a fully maple neck, there was a noticeable difference (people argue with that).

    I look at the instrument as a system with each component contributing to the timbre and tone, albeit some would be minimal contributions.
  15. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    The influence of the pieces depends on the actual pieces. I've been working on instruments for decades and I've swapped a lot of necks and bodies. Either can change the tone but I've found the most variation when necks are swapped on the same body. That makes sense since the neck is cantilevered and under considerable tension which creates stress and how the piece handles the stress and vibrates/resonates depends on the characteristics of the woods used, the number of pieces used, and how they are constructed.

    Exactly, the entire instrument must be treated holistically.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
  16. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    Only able to listen through a set of Air Pods, but I hear Rosewood, Ebony, Rosewood, Ebony.
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    that's my experience as well. the instrument is made to produce low notes. every bass i've ever played or owned did that. low notes are cool. cooler than high notes, IMO.
    GrapeBass likes this.
  18. Yeah ... do you live in a timber house? I’d gladly suggest to leave it immediately ... it may suddenly collapse ;):thumbsup:
  19. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    I hear a difference but to my ear it's negligible. Do another set of recordings if you can with a full ensemble; bass, guitar, drums, keys etc. and see how much difference it makes. ;)
    dralionux likes this.
  20. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    That makes no sense. ;):thumbsup:
    lz4005 likes this.