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Differences in tone of ebony

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by gruuv, Aug 19, 2005.


  1. gruuv

    gruuv

    Jan 23, 2004
    Tennessee
    For those in the know. . . I'm curious as to whether Macassar ebony has different tonal properties than Gabon ebony? I'm speaking generally here, I realize that different pieces of the same wood will not sound exactly alike - so here is my "all other things being equal" caveat. It seems that the Gabon ebony boards I've heard have sounded a bit brighter and more "compressed," sometimes even brittle to the Macassar which has seemed somewhat warmer and more open, but I've had limited experience with them both.

    Any thoughts? Oh, and if this should be in a different forum please feel free to move it friendly moderators.

    Thanks in advance. . .
     
  2. gruuv

    gruuv

    Jan 23, 2004
    Tennessee
    I know somebody here has to have a thought or two on this. . . anyone?
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    :bag:
     
  3. spc

    spc

    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    Bump for a cool topic (I think)
     
  4. gruuv

    gruuv

    Jan 23, 2004
    Tennessee
    Aw man, you got my hopes up there... thought I was going to glean some wisdom from you! :crying:

    Thanks for the bump though. . . :cool:
     
  5. spc

    spc

    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    Sorry Gruuv... :)
    Not looking to hijack the thread either, but I'm wondering about Macassar ebony...
     
  6. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    It's my understanding that they sound the same, but I'm no expert, and I was hoping that someone more knowledgable would chime in first. Pete Skjold would know for sure. You could PM him or drop him an e-mail.

    Tom.
     
  7. Bump

    I'm kinda curious too...
     
  8. There might be some info for you on the Warmoth site. Check the neck woods section.

    www.warmoth.com
     
  9. Pete skjold

    Pete skjold

    May 29, 2004
    Warsaw Ohio
    Hey All ,

    This is a good question . In my exp. I have found Gaboon to be much more dence than Mac ebony . The difference in tone to my ears is gaboon is brighter and has a clanky tone when used on a fretless . Since good aged and stable gaboon is hard to get I have opted for bloodwood which is very close to the dencity and tone of gaboon. I prefer the less bright tone of the mac ebony which is often more stable . It has more of a compressed highend which adds clarity without harshness . It is also more interesting to look at ( verying stripes of brown , black , and tan ) .

    Most clasical instruments like the double bass and violins families used gaboon . It was said that they aged the blanks for some of these instruments for 50- 100 years . Nowadays , they cut it up put it in a cotainer and ship it of to us and when it gets here it is very unstable and not aged or seasoned . Many builders as well as wood dealers don't even touch it now because of this . I walked into a wood store in NH and what they had was so bad , that they were going to sell it at a loss . If you use gaboon that is not aged or seasoned on a bass you will have big problems . The fingerboard might shrink as much as 20% and that wood mean the board would crack and frets would pop .

    If you look at basses with gaboon from the early 80's you can almost always find hairline cracks . Many had to be filled with epoxy to stablize them .

    Pete
     
  10. gruuv

    gruuv

    Jan 23, 2004
    Tennessee
    Hey Pete,

    Thanks a lot for your input here. . . and thanks to Tom for suggesting that I contact you. I just got busy and forgot until Lokire revived this thread today - and you beat me to it. This pretty much confirms what I'd seen/heard as well. I haven't noticed the same types of problems with Macassar boards that I have with Gabon. Same goes for the tonal properties. I appreciate it. . .

    No pun intended, right? :p
     
  11. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    asia/australia
    I have Jerzy Drozd Prodigy LE with Gabon Ebony and FBass with Macassar Ebony. Gabon Ebony tone is more compressed while Mac Ebony is warmer and open. Gabon ebony is denser than Macassar and very black with less visible annual ring, while the Mac is the opposite. This is because a lot more rain down in Sulawesi island where the Mac ebony grows ( I was born in Macassar). I like both for different reason, but tonal wise I prefer Mac ebony
     

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  12. Sorry... there is absolutely no way to isolate the tonal properties of two fretboard materials (much less closey related materials) when you are comparing across bass manufacturers (IMO). I'm not even sure you can do it within manufacturer, since subtle differences in the exact pieces of wood will overwhelm the fretboard differences.
     
  13. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    IME, working with ebony i have found that mac is harder than gaboon and therefore may have a brighter possibly more brittle(for lack of a better term) tone. OF course we know that ebony dampens tone so who knows.
     
  14. gruuv

    gruuv

    Jan 23, 2004
    Tennessee
    Well. . . regardless, both your basses are B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!!!!! :eek:
     
  15. +1 :)
     
  16. Pete skjold

    Pete skjold

    May 29, 2004
    Warsaw Ohio
    You are right in regards to comparing the sound from bass to bass and fingerboard to fingerboard . My comments were ment in a very general comparison .

    To make it more general , Gaboon brighter , Mac warmer .

    They both are great woods and I too like each one for different reasons .

    One thing for sure is that they are different and grow differently even though they are Both called Ebony .

    Now you see why no one wanted to start the debate :D

    Pete
     
  17. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    asia/australia
    T h a n k Y o u :)
     
  18. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    asia/australia
    Amen! Pete , You make nice basses man!
     
  19. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    You are correct, but you can't dispute that there is a difference in density between the two woods and that the specific density of each wood will yield a particular tonal characteristic as a whole. I often wonder if it's even worth classifying wood pieces with specific tonal properties because wood varies so much from piece to piece and wood to wood that it hardly pays to even classify it, but I think if you use the densities as a general guage however, you'll be able to have a good guess as to the tone when plannig the build process.

    As a whole, as Pete mentioned, the Mac Ebony has been warmer than Gaboon Ebony in multiple cases that I've experienced. In fact I can safely say that Mac Ebony is probobly my favorite fingerboard material.
     
  20. +1 My original comment was more directed toward the post comparing the fretboard materials between two basses that were different in 100 other ways. I totally agree that each type of wood imparts its own special tone. That being said, from my experience, fretboard material is probably one of the least important decisions to make when you are designing a bass... not totally unimportant, but it seems to me the tonal variance in a bass's total sound that is explained by the exact fretboard material is very, very small when compared to body wood, body mass, neck size and density, strings, pickups, etc., etc.

    To me, if you really like the look of a particular fretboard material (whether it be maple, different Ebony's, RW, etc.), you are probably pretty safe going with it, even if the classic tone properties of that material aren't exactly lined up with 'your sound'. However, I will definitely let Pete Skjold have the last word on this :)