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Macassar Ebony fingerboard

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JayJay, May 16, 2004.

  1. JayJay


    May 13, 2002

    Lately I have been intrigued by the frequent use of macassar ebony being used as fingerboard material over 'traditional' ebony. I am wondering whether if there is any tonal difference between macassar ebony and the 'traditional' ebony which is all black (I think it's called Gaboon ebony).

    Of course the grain figuring of macassar ebony is particularly impressive.
  2. As with all fingerboard Materials...there is very very little difference tonally between any woods...As Jon Shuker and Bernie Goodfellow (of shuker and GB) said...

    Because people prefer the look of maple, rosewood, Ebony etc etc..the percieve it to be either bright...warmer sounding..this is not true IMH

    On a blind test with identical basses with different F/B there is no difference.!!!...

    Maple has to be coated usually so under the finger it feels difference..but since you fingers dont come in contact with the wood just the string and frets (unless fretless) this isnt aproblem..

    The finishin of the fretboard and fretwork pay a huge role in the playablility of the bass..but since the F/B has a small surface area compared to the neck and body its effect are very minimal...

    If you like the look of M/Ebony (my GB is M/Ebony) then go with it..the charactistcs of the bass will not change....

    I believe JP thinks this as well.!!! :)
  3. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    It's a quality thing. Higher end builders will use Macassar because it is generally considered better looking...or...er...more exotic.

    I'm just guessing that it may be slightly more slick in some instances than dyed ebony--the Macassar fingerboard on an older bass I had was rather similar in texture to Pau Ferro.
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Is there a difference in durability?

    Where are normal ebony (gaboon?) and macassar ebony from?
  5. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    If your playying fretted, I don't think tehre is a tonal different in fretboards unless you use something really soft. If your playing fretless, I really doubt that there is a noticable difference between massacar ebony and gaboon ebony- they are both quite hard. Personally I prefer the look of the traditional gaboon ebony. BTW a quality piece is naturally black, not dyed.
  6. JayJay


    May 13, 2002
    IMHO, I think there is tonal difference between the different fingerboard materials. If not there wouldn't be so many choices for us bassists to make right :p

    A friend of mine is so certain about this fact that when blind folded, he could tell the diff between a bass with maple board over one with ebony/rosewood!

    Anyway, to iterate my question, I was wondering is there really any significant tonal difference between macassar and gaboon ('traditional') ebony...well on a fretted bass.

    Maybe if there are some luthiers who happen to drop by this thread can post some comments too.
  7. JayJay


    May 13, 2002
    Well, probably to give some sort of a reference, I am wondering will there be a significant tonal difference between a F Bass with maple board vs. a F Bass with macassar ebony!! Of course with the rest of the components remaining constant. :)
  8. pistoleroace


    Sep 13, 2002

  9. Fretless5verfan


    Jan 17, 2002
    :eek: LOL
  10. I have to really disagree with you on this. If there truely is no difference sonicly between woods, then the densities of wood would have no revalence to the bass, and that isn't the case. Wood varies so much from piece to piece that I think it would be hard to even classify woods with certain specific tonal qualities. As an example, I've had basses with Maple boards ranging from dull to overwhelmingly bright, even within the same brand and electronics packages.
  11. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Good point halftooth, but a few things to think about:

    1 The body and neck woods are much larger factor, and are also subject to the variations you speak of, which can account for the tone difference from "piece to piece"

    2 Woods of different species do follow expected norms- a piece of ebony is ALWAYS going to be denser than a piece of Alder, for example.

    3 High-end wood distributors and luthers check woods for quality and consistency so that they know what they are using.
  12. I completely agree with you! I was going to get into the aspects of the body and neck in the initial post, but I didn't want to sound short winded. ;)

    In general, wood does follow specific norms in terms of density, ie, Wenge is denser than Buckeye Burl. This would be the case probobly 99.9% of the time. I also believe that the density of a piece of wood can vary quite a bit from piece to piece, resulting in sonic differences. Have you ever played two basses with the exact same options that sounded exactly the same? I would say that they probobly would sound similar, but there would definitley would be a noticable difference. I have played Ken Smith basses with the exact same options that to me, sounded noticably different. At the same time though, there were certain qualities of those two basses that were very similar, and that' why Luthiers can catagorize woods by having certain tonal properties.

    To get back to the question at hand, there has to be a density difference between the two, and that density difference will have a result on the sound difference between the two. Typically, the more dense the wood, the brighter and tighter the sound. In this specific case, my guess would be that the two would have very similar densities without researching into it too much.
  13. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    Both are the name of the place where those ebony comes from. Macassar is a province capital of South Celebes/Sulawesi located in Indonesia while Gabon is in Africa.
    You can only find Macassar Ebony in the forest in the area not in Macassar itself, but anyhow that's why they call it Macassar Ebony. If I remember in my old days at wood working school the latin name is Diospyros Celebica , Celebica comes from Celebes , the name of the island.

    Ebony fretboard is the best I think, [I have Sadowsky with maple , ebony and brazilian rosewood]. Ebony and Rosewood need no maintenace while maple without coating get dirty easily. Maple has a sharp /brittle high while ebony to my ear has a very smooth and sweet high/treble. It is very audible when I plug it into Glock preamp.
    For fretless I believe Ebony is more durable and better sounding than Maple .
  14. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    Off the top of my head, macassar ebony is less dense than gaboon ebony and is closer to the density of the rosewoods; builders use it for acoustic guitars sides, some say it bends well some don't. One builder I know used it for a few FBs and didn't like the way it finished [i.e. it took him longer] compared to rosewood, but the results looked and sounded great.
  15. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    well, i definitely think there is a big difference between fingerboard woods. An F bass is a perfect example, the maple board , which i prefer, has a snappy top end that works really well with the Ash, F basses with ebony boards ( usually maccassaer for fretted and gabboon for fretless) sound decidedly different to me, This has been confirmed by George Furlanetto who builds them. More compressed ton that lends itself more for fingerstyle, not to say you cant get a great slap tone out of an ebony boarded F bass.
    Also, i believe Gaboon Ebony is harder than Macassar and more stable , for one thing, the figuring on the mac ebony makes it more prone to move, and you may be more likely to have to maintain frets more than gaboon ebony. But as Brad said, I could be wrong....
  16. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    Macassar would be MORE stable than gaboon and less prone to cracks and chips.

    Also it's easier to find macassar in important widths.

  17. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    JP, as i said, i may be wrong, i am only going by what i have heard. Keith Roscoe warned me against using mac ebony because my frets would lift- sure enough, i had to have frtes
    filed, etc... also, Andre Ballard traded a gabboon ebony fretless F bass for one with a mac ebony board and says the mac ebony is wearing faster than the older one. I will have to ask them again.You are building the things, so i will certainly not argue with you... :D
  18. JayJay


    May 13, 2002
    Wow, I learnt so much about ebony fingerboard from this thread. Thanks to all who contributed.

    After reading, I think still old-school gaboon ebony works the best. I would rather sacrifice the captivating grain pattern of the macassar for the elegant black gaboon cause I have a feeling the macassar ebony sounded toward the tone of rosewood. Well I can't confirm that as I have never tried one with the macassar board.

    Adrain, you have to tell George not to use macassar now that it's such a 'problem' wood yeah :D

    Amazingly, most of Alain Caron's signature fretted F Bass uses ebony fingerboard over maple and the slap tone from it is nothing short of killer, stellar!! This fact was pointed out by a friend of mind and I was still misled that you need a maple fb to get that killer Caron slap tone :p

    Wait a minute, anybody knows if Caron's ebony fb is gaboon or macassar on the fretted? Time to write to George F :D
  19. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    i have asked George about possible instability, he tells me his macassar ebony is stable because it has dried properly. I have not heard of any problems with F basses with mac board.. then again, the majority i sell are maple. Also, the mac ebony Keith Roscoe used on my bass was supplied by me, so that could have a bearing in it. I would certainly listen to JP more than me on this issue, i just commented from what i have heard in the past. :)