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Poly vs. Nitro... the Great Debate!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Gbass75, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Houston, TX
    I don't know if the finish makes any difference in tone, but I am not a fan of the "guitar-under-glass" or that "encased in plastic" look. And that is not to say that I don't care for a poly finish that is done well.

    If you want your bass to look "nice" years down the road, and you actually play it, then go with Poly. I don't mind a road worn look, which Nitro gives you thru natural and regular use... Don't think I would buy a road worn model though. But I also like my jeans to be blue and without whiskers and "vintage wash". I'll wear that **** in myself.
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Wood is affected by environmental factors regardless of the finish. If this wasn't the case a poly finished neck would never need adjustment. The whole nitro lets the wood breath thing is a bunch of nonsense.
  3. frankieC

    frankieC A swell guy from Warren Harding High

    Jul 21, 2012
    I'm not overly concerned, either way. I have a 45 year old bass, a 44 year old, a 42 year and 40 year old, a 7 y/old, a 5y/old, a three bass less than a year old. They all look great to me.
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    My take is that poly is a much better finish than nitro. It is more protective, more durable, doesn't check or crack, can't be damaged by guitar stands, and if you spray the stuff like I do, it dries much faster than nitro.

    I think people like nitro for the same reasons people still prefer their basses to be wired with cloth covered wire and paper in oil caps. It's some weird desire to do things the way Leo did it even though the new stuff is much better. That being said, I much prefer the look of a thin urethane clear finish vs a thick polyester finish.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  5. Moe Monsarrat

    Moe Monsarrat

    Jul 30, 2006
    Austin, Tx.
    Endorsing artist:Regenerate Guitar Works Carvin, Micheal Kelly Guitars
    I prefer nitro but not for any sentimental reasons. Over the years I have played many instruments both nitro & polyurethane finished. I am able to get my tone out of either. What I am not able to get out of most polyurethane finished basses (and especially Fenders) is a vibration I can feel in my chest while playing. They sound great, but they feel dead in the hand. I'm only talking about solid body basses, you understand. My nitro & natural wood basses feel alive when I play them. Those encased in polyurethane do not transmit the vibration near as well. I agree it's much more durable and all and I have many finished that way, but when I feel the big vibe in my chest, that's what turns ME on.

  6. My McCarty is urethane, but unless they've stopped in the last year or so, they offer various higher grade instruments in nitro.
  7. svtb15

    svtb15 Banned

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig. Q+
    I prefer the look and aging of Nitro. I like the way the clear with yellow.. I have both Poly and Nitro basses.
    Nitro allows the wood to breathe and over time it seems that basses become more resonant... Where as Poly , no matter how thin is like encasing the wood in glass.
    I have Alleva Coppolo basses that are both poly and Nitro.. And poly and nitro on the same bass.
    If Jimmy gets me a real light piece of Alder I dont mind a poly finish.. It wont chip as easy as poly.. Some people that means alot.. I really dont care too much about that.. But , if thats your thing then keep it pretty and polished up.. Poly will polish up nicely.
    One of my Alleva basses has a poly body on ultra lightweight Alder, and a Nitro neck.. The nitro feels great and not as cold to the touch, and the poly body )super thin paint) is nearly chip free.
    What ever floats your boat..
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    Wood does not breath, wood is dead. If a nitro body will continue to let moisture escape then it will also let it absorb moisture. Like I said before, If a poly finish completely seals it off from the atmosphere, then a poly finished neck would never need adjustment when it suffers a climate/humidity change. This whole thing is a myth, I don't know who cooked it up but it is total nonsense.

    I also don't understand the colder to the touch thing.
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    You may be right, but I watched the video of a PRS factory tour and they pretty much said they use urethane exclusively.
  10. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Your opinion on this matter is duly noted - however, some people might not agree with it... I definitely believe that nitro finished instruments age differently than poly'd instruments do - "breathe" might not be an accurate term, but something different happens with them...

    "If a nitro body will continue to let moisture escape then it will also let it absorb moisture"

    Probably so - for example, if you left a nitro'd and a poly'd body in an extremely damp environment, the poly'd one would probably absorb less moisture than the nitro'd one - it's not unreasonable to conclude a similar relationship during "normal" conditions... However, most instruments aren't kept in damp environments - so, maybe they do "dry out" over time, if allowed to do so...

    Just because *you* don't care for nitro finishes, doesn't make your *opinion* any more valid than those who do like them - just sayin'... I have both nitro and poly finished instruments, and like both - but prefer nitro...

    - georgestrings
  11. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Same here...

    - georgestrings
  12. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    My preference doesn't change the fact that the whole breathing wood thing is nothing but misinformation. Of course it ages differently, because the nitro wears, checks, and cracks. Fact is the wood should have been dry before the instrument was built, the whole thing about wood breathing is just the regurgitation of some nonsense that someone cooked up along time ago to make nitro seem like its the superior finish.

    If you like the way nitro ages and wears then that's a valid reason to prefer it. It will never sound differently, vibrate differently, or breath in a way that poly doesn't
  13. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars

    Fender switched over to poly in 1968...
  14. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
  15. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
    Nitro sounds better. Think about it. Nitro...unstable, volatile, explosive.

    Poly...want a cracker?
  16. msaone


    May 13, 2012
    I play a poly finish bass, but the nitro wears, kinda shows where ya been. To me it's like a battle scar, it's a real road worn.
    My poly has some wear but nothing like a nitro body would.

  17. I absolutely love this post.

    My favorite so far... hands down.

    And, come on kids! Let's play nice!

    I didn't want to start a fight with this thread... just spark up a healthy debate!

    And... Continue!
  18. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147

    Ka-Boom! :bag:

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