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Different finishes


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I recently started a job at a large guitar store. During training, my head was pumped full of "facts" on how much better a nitro finish makes the wood sound than a thick, cheap poly finish. How nitro lets the wood breathe, and allows the grain to loosen with age, making the guitar resonate more freely the longer you play it. Since we've opened, i've had plenty of people turn down plugging in a guitar in favor of just listening to the sound the wood makes when they play it unplugged. One guy went so far as to tell me that he NEVER plugs a guitar in until he gets it home. I decided that some people are real tools.

But at the same time, I can't help but wonder... All my guitars that have poly finishes on them... How much better would they sound if they DIDN"T have poly finishes? My Casino that i love and cherish... how much more could that sing? Would my mexican 50s reissue strat open up if the finish was different?

I don't want to strip down these guitars to find out. I also don't want to refinish them, because frankly i like the color they are now. I was thinking though, on my strat specifically... could i sand down the clear coat and make things sound any better, or would the remaining poly still smother the sound of the guitar? Is the finish really doing that much to affect the sound of my guitar?

I have no good way to compare at work... If i try to compare the sound of, say, a gibson les paul with nitro finish for $2300 and an epiphone les paul with poly for $500, there's a great chance that i'll be hearing a difference due to more than just the type of paint on the outside. I guess i could try a Highway One strat against a mexican standard or something, but even then I think there's a difference in pickups that i'll be hearing instead of the sound of the wood.

So yeah, everyone give me your opinions. I'm curious.

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I'd be surprised if it makes that much difference to the sound, to the ears of most mere mortals. (speaking as someone who doesn't own a nitro finished guitar, but likes to poke his nose in all the same)

It's a bit like that whole "different woods sound different" debate - there's probably a fair number of people who can't easily tell the difference but there's going to some that can. And I guess the same is true with the finish - perhaps 0.01% of guitarists can hear a difference and if they want to be fussy about it good luck to them.

I know nitro looks a helluva lot better to my eye anyhow.

And what kind of dimwit would try, and buy, an electric guitar but not plug it in til he got home?? Next time you see him coming give him something with no pickups in it :lol:

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And what kind of dimwit would try, and buy, an electric guitar but not plug it in til he got home?? Next time you see him coming give him something with no pickups in it :lol:

he said that pickups are the easy part to change... I said, "ahw, man, i'd STILL want to hear the pickups in a guitar before it took it home, you know?" and he kept playing his unplugged strat, and goes, "i don't care."

Whatever, man. Just give me the comission for that great sounding block of wood and i'll never bug you again.

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I've got four Strats. Three smothered in poly: 2 MIM Classics and a Standard Fat. The fourth is an American assembled Highway 1; with the original formula thin satin coat. The HW1 has identical Mexican wound pickups to the two Classic models, yet the Classics sound slightly sweeter and more mellow to my ears. Strangely, the Highway sounds closer to the Standard with its stock neck and middle ceramics selected. :?

If that thin coat is allowing the wood to sing out more - then great! However I can't detect anything significant that would make me say, 'Hey these crap poly finished models have got to go.' Maybe when the wood has finished drying out in decades to come... Think I prefer the resilience of poly to nitro anyway - maybe I'll have a change of heart when I gets me a Les Paul?

Please don't attempt to sand through the clear coat on your Strat - you'll wreck it! Just compare various guitars at work when you have a quiet moment. Try identical models as well; as the eventual sound of any guitar is more than likely going to be dictated by the sum of its parts rather than the type of finish used.

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FDP "mojo" bollocks, I refuse to believe something like that makes difference to people other than anal retentive middle management weekend warriors who spend more time worrying about #### like that and less about how good a musician they are.

If you buy an ELECTRIC guitar and only play it acoustically in the store, you're a frucking moron and don't deserve to play music.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 5 months later...

I know this is an old post but I couldn't help myself.

The original Fender finishes in the 60's...you know the guitars like the strats that are now cherished and are going for 25 ~ 55K were painted with Poly car paint! The only ones that have any nitro on em were only clear coated over the poly. In fact if you wanted to be really anal about reproducing what Leo really did in the golden age you would only shoot poly.

I paint and clear coat a lot of guitars and like nitro as much as the next guy. However, I know of no scientific proof that it makes any difference on a solid body guitar. It would be very difficult to test and would require an expensive spectrum analyzer and some pretty carefully setup test fixtures and experiments.

I have my bias when it comes to acoustics and classical guitars, but then again I use mostly French polish there anyway.

Cheers,

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