Thick layer of polyurethane basswood body VS. mahogany with a very thin finish?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by NoiseNinja, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    I am wondering how big a difference, and what the difference will be in tone between a bass equipped with a body made of basswood with a very thick layer of polyurethane (we are talking several mm) and a bass with a body made of mahogany with a very thin finish.

    The reason I ask is that I got an Ibanez Mikro, which I use as my main, equipped with a set of P/J EMG Geezer Butler pickups that has a basswood body coated with a really thick layer of polyurethane, and has a second Mikro on the way with a mahogany body which has a very thin finish.

    I really like the tone of my old Mikro, the one with the basswood body and thick finish, kind of a really snappy and punchy mid heavy sound, but am thinking about swapping the Geezer Butler pickups into the new Mikro and making that my new main.

    However I am concerned that the fact that the new bass has a body made of mahogany and with a much thinner finish will make the tone much darker and not as snappy and mid heavy.

    Here's a picture of the finish of the two basses to give you an idea:


    Would I possibly have any need to worry, or will the tone difference probably be very minimal.

    Both are equipped with maple neck and rosewood fret board.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
  2. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008
    Hello. I understand that you are asking for reports or opinions to help you predict the sound of your new bass in comparison to your old one. But: only when you swap into your new bass the same model of pickups as those in your old bass, will you be able to play them side by side and hear what differences there are, if any. You just can't know until you play 'em. :)

    As for the finishes, I would think that the heavy finish on basswood bass was a practical design decision: basswood is a soft wood, better protected by a thick finish. Likewise the mahogany: much denser than basswood, it needs less protection, so the instrument benefits from the weight savings of a thinner finish.
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  3. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Mahogany wins IMHO
    I've got a similar situation with two of my basses
    same pickups in each, but one is basswood & the other is mahogany
    in my case mahogany wins, great timbre, but it's heavy

    mahogany can be plenty bright, check out Angus Young's SGs, all mahogany
    Warhawk and NoiseNinja like this.
  4. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008
    Agreed! Another classic is some of Frank Zappa's super-twangy SG sounds; for example, in "Village of the Sun" from "Roxy and Elsewhere".

    One of my main basses has a mahogany body with an ivorywood top (which is supposed to be sonically neutral). Its neck and fingerboard are maple and Indian rosewood. When I first got that bass early this year, I was struck by what I heard as a harsh high end.

    Eventually I heard it instead as an aggressive high end, which is dynamic, too: from the highs down into the upper midrange, it responds to the intensity of your playing, subtly, but actually sounding like an amp or a pedal saturating.
    NoiseNinja and Killed_by_Death like this.
  5. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    If I want mid-range growl, I grab the basswood bass
    clank & stank, I go for the mahogany

    stank = a guttural sound that I can't describe
    NoiseNinja and Snaxster like this.
  6. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    Thanks for the answers.

    Sure didn't make it any easier to get an idea in beforehand which will be best for my application.

    At least according to your description, mahogany doesn't seem to sound like it has as dark and mellow character as I feared and imagined it would from the descriptions I previously read.

    Guess I will just have to try out and see what I like the best for my application when I get the new bass.

    I have no doubt both basses will be useful, just hope I will be able to use the new mahogany one as my main.
    Wisebass and Killed_by_Death like this.
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