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Luthiers' Point of View on "exotic" Tops on Cheaper Instruments?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by wmcjhi, Jun 21, 2007.


  1. wmcjhi

    wmcjhi

    Feb 12, 2007
    Tempe, AZ
    Hello craftsmen and thanks for your time!

    A bassist friend of mine (he and I started at the same time, him on bass, me on guitar, but we're slowly trading places) who also likes to noodle on guitar is planning on picking up this schecter:
    http://www.guitarcenter.com/shop/pr...n_limited_edition_flametop?full_sku=102682234

    All the reviews of it are outstanding and the one I played in GC a week ago felt incredible for the price. What stumps me is the "flamed" top. From the pictures (I didn't really pay attention on the one I played), it looks likes there's a decent amount of figuring on the top. Am I missing something? I wouldn't expect to see something like that in a cheaper guitar. Would it just be an ultra-thin top? And I've heard sometimes it's basically just a photograph for a top on ultra-cheap figured tops? Or is flamed just more common than some others (burl, spalted, quilted)?

    Thanks for your help and please pardon my ignorance.
     
  2. flamed maple is cheap. You can get tops on ebay (pretty good figured ready to work with) at even $9.
     
  3. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    NY
    There are a number of lower priced basses coming out with fancy wood tops. I saw an LTD 6'er the other day with a great spalted top. However, the top on these basses are really thin, more like a veneer. I think the idea is to make them look more like boutique basses with fancy tops, so that people who gas for a fancy boutique bass but can't afford it can get somthing that kind of looks like it.
     
  4. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    NY
    Here is the LTD I was talking about. It is a pretty attractive bass and only cost about $450 IIRC. If this bass was out 10 years ago, I would have bought it.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. wmcjhi

    wmcjhi

    Feb 12, 2007
    Tempe, AZ
    Thanks for the answers!

    Is there any advantage, then, to a more substantial top? 1/4"? 1/2"? I assume that a more substantial top helps change the overall tone more significantly than an extremely thin layer?
     
  6. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    NY
    That is a whole can of worms you're opening right there... There are a number of threads that can be found that talk about that.
     
  7. wmcjhi

    wmcjhi

    Feb 12, 2007
    Tempe, AZ
    Undoubtedly, I've seen the way they often devolve. Rather, what I mean to ask is, that's the IDEA of a more substantial top, right? That it would change the tone?

    Disclaimer: I will not hold your answer against you nor take it to mean that you believe that is does or does not change the tone in any substantial or insubstantial way, rather that you are communicating to a lesser-informed poster the widely or not so widely help idea and/or theory/marketing idea of such tops. ;)
     
  8. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    NY
    I've heard many explainations. Some say it tightens up the lowend, others say it is just for looks. I just think they're pretty, and if they bass sounds good as well as looks good, that is all that matters to me. People can debate this stuff all day long.
     
  9. wmcjhi

    wmcjhi

    Feb 12, 2007
    Tempe, AZ
    Makes sense. Because the obvious question if they WEREN'T intended to in some way alter the sound would be "well then why aren't they all just thin to save money?" I believe you've answered my question though, so thank you very much for your time and knowledge!
     
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Agreed. What I find amusing is that many guitarist will go gaga over flamed or quilted Maple that most of us take for granted.


    People tend to have a skewed view of what wood actually costs.
     
  11. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Most are thin IME.
     
  12. wmcjhi

    wmcjhi

    Feb 12, 2007
    Tempe, AZ
    Thanks for the input Brad. So the real expense (custom shops charging $200+ for the top) are when you're getting into the AAA/AAAA/AAAAA stuff? Which is just more extensive figuring?
     
  13. that would be for the top plus the actual work involved in putting it together. It's quite a bit more work. Flamed maple is cheap, but really nice, dense and deep figured quilted maple can get quite expensive.
     
  14. eleonn

    eleonn

    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    The more A's you got on you bass, the less $$ you will have in your pocket!!!
     
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    The expense can be for more figuring or how far from the norm the wood is, it can also be tied to how difficult a wood is to work with.

    A lot of the wood we covet used to be in low, if any, demand AFAIK.
     
  16. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    IMO people like thick tops because people don't like the idea of veneer. We're all used to crappy furniture made out of cheap wood with a veneer on top and some folks don't like to make the mental connection.

    It depends on the wood, of course, but burls and spalted woods are usually spongy and really no good for tone. So, I'd say it's mostly psychological.
     
  17. tribal3140

    tribal3140 Inactive

    Nov 9, 2004
    near detroit...uh
    very true, for example:
    a 4A quilt maple with some color and maybe a burl cluster can be 1/10
    of perfect 5A white and flawless these are highly coveted and theres no roof on the price sometimes.

    and i saw a $150 gutar with a flamed top it was stained a semi trans wine color to hide the fact that it was a 3 pc body with uneven seams and 1/72 veneer on top and the dark stain covers the truth , that veneer would cost only $9.00 at most.
     
  18. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Jan 19, 2021

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