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Mahogany vs. Ash

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jeff in TX, Feb 15, 2003.

  1. Mahogany

    61 vote(s)
  2. Swamp Ash

    68 vote(s)
  1. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    All other things being equal, how would you describe the tonal difference between a Mahogany body vs. Swamp Ash?

    Which would you prefer and why?

    Yes, I'm trying to decide on a body wood!

  2. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I'd have to say swamp ash because I like a warmer smooth sound. Mahogany is a more trebely and hard sounding wood. You get a thick boom with swamp as and clearer highs with mahogany I believe.
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I hear them the opposite way. Mahogany sounds more mellow and smooth to me, while swamp ash has a snappier, more brittle sound which lends itself to slapping. One man's green is another man's blue, I guess.
  4. my feeling is that swamp ash is acoutstically snappy with good balance over the whole spectrum, whereas mahogany is an all around wood which complements its laminates well (maple, walnut, etc). by itself, i don't believe mahogany gives the same acoustical response that ash does. kind of interesting.. i have two roscoe 6 strings now. one is made from spanish cedar, and the other has a swamp ash body. i talked with Keith on the phone, and he says the spanish cedar gives the same type of response as mahogany, but its lighter in weight. i will say that the swamp ash bass is heavier and has a very balanced tone. i can turn the bass control up without it getting too boomy. the spanish cedar bass is a little more open sounding, but the lows are pronounced - if i raise the bass control even a little past center i start to get excessive boom. weird.
  5. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    That's what I'm led to believe through my conversations with luthiers and lumber/wood companies.
  6. odie

    odie Supporting Member

    Ive never played a Mahogany bass that I liked they always sounded dull to me. Ive never owned one, but when I play them all I hear is a thud like sound.

    Not snappy at all, not even punchy.

    My experience might be lacking since I've never owned one.
  7. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    I really enjoy swamp ash and visually it's hard to beat a good, pronounced swamp ash grain for simple elegance!

    brad cook
  8. Sofa King

    Sofa King

    Aug 20, 2000
    Rowlett, TX
    From what I've heard is mahogany is a warmer and more mellow sounding wood. Swamp ash has a full, tighter sound to it. I'd go for swamp ash for the full tight sound and looks over mahogany. :bassist:
  9. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I am by no means a wood expert or highly knowledgeable bassists by any means. You guys are probably right, and I shoudl look into the info I have been gettting. That makes good sense, because swamp ash slaps very well. I am pretty sure swamp ash i quite punchy though.
  10. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    I have an Ash Fender Jazz and it is very lacking in the mids, to the point that it doesn't cut well fingerstyle, but probably better for slap (which I'm not much into,though).

    My Wal has a Mahogany core and it produces a lot more mids and cuts a lot better, but it's not all Mahogany, it has Walnut facings, I'm not sure what the difference would be if it were all Mahogany.

    Of course, both of these basses here have totally different electronics which has a lot to do with it.

    My vote still goes to Mahogany.
    If I were a slapper, I'd maybe say Ash but I'd have to make the comparison with two similar basses.

    When I play my basses unplugged, The Wal sounds better to me. Don't get me wrong, the Jazz still sounds very good, but it's just a bit too scooped and transparent sounding for my taste.

    I should note that my Ash Jazz has been stripped and finished with tung oil which I believe has a considerable effect on the resonance. I'm thinking about having it refinished in an effort to tighten up the sound, anyone please advise if they think this will help or not.
  11. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Mahogany, but with a maple top. As everyone is saying Mahogany is a warmer mellower sounding wood. I'm in the process of building with mahogany, but it has a maple top and its get a graphite neck. I'll let you know how it all turns out.
  12. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    depends on whose basses and electronics we're talking about. conventional wisdom says swamp ash/maple is a great combo for a modern sounding slap bass. however, the lull modern 5 i had with that combo was a honky,barky, midrangey,rock beast.
  13. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    Hi Jeff,

    Why limit yourself to those only two choices?

    There are others cool body woods ou there :D

    Peace, JP
  14. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    I think that mahogany and alder share the same basic tonal properties. If Alder had been a choice I probably would have gone with that choice.

    But two of my favorite basses are swamp ash and I love the tone of those basses. And I voted swamp ash.
  15. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I was going through a lot of the same questions when I finally picked the wood I did. What I found, when I played several basses with swamp ash (such as Elrick and MTD) vs. basses with mahogany (such as Elrick and Stambaugh), the mahogany bodies seemed to have a certain indescribable richness in the low mids that just sang! The swamp ash bodies had more brightness and snap. But, the richness I heard in the mahogany was unbelievable!

    In the end, I found a bass that was already made with a walnut body that had similar characteristics to the mahogany, which is why I ended up choosing it. But, for me, mahogany is a much better choice for what I'm looking for.
  16. I agree with RAM. I have a mahogany bodied P-Bass clone (maple/maple neck) that has a rich fat sound that I've never heard from an ash body.
  17. DarkMazda


    Jun 3, 2000
    the Zon thats coming to my house is a Mahogany core... the Zon i sent out had a Swamp Ash core.. hmm

  18. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    So, am I hearing mahogany is better for fingerstyle?
  19. odie

    odie Supporting Member

    Jeff- I would think the ash is better for finger style since it has more snap.
  20. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    With all due respect to our good friend, Odie...I've found...

    Having several ash, alder and one mahogany bodied basses, that the mahogany and alder is much more suited to a warm finger-style of playing.

    The mention that mahogany has that low-mid richness is pretty right on. My Imperial is my first mahogany bass so I do attribute a lot of it's tone to the HazLab and the Barts. But that bass is very resolute in the mids.

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